April 7, 2010

Crash and Burn

Ok, I have officially "crashed and burned." I was hoping to avoid this fate all together, but it seems as if life has a will of it's own, and it [life] doesn't really care whom it takes along for the ride.

I have been dealing with so much upheaval the past eight months (really uncertainty for the past 20 years), but I had a handle on it. I had created self-imposed boundaries to keep everything in check. This is not uncommon, and is often the only way to stay sane in and through difficult times. By shutting down extraneous outlets and focusing on the minimum (only that which is most important), you are able to control some of the areas of your life. Psychologists call this process simply coping. The manner in which you cope, and the behaviors and patterns you form to help you cope are called "coping mechanisms."

We all have coping mechanisms. These are the specific behaviors we pull out of the closet when faced with difficult or dangerous situations. Typically, we don't rely on them for a quick fix. No, these behaviors are critical for long term stability, so we only use them when we are faced with a long process, a long journey, a prolonged period of stress. Widows/ers as well as men and women who find themselves suddenly divorced will use one or more coping mechanisms to get through the massive changes taking place in their lives. People either living in or coming out of prolonged addictive behaviors or abusive relationships will also develop mechanisms to help deal with the change in their lives.

Coping mechanisms come in all shapes and sizes. Some are actually good, healthy, and can propel a person forward, through the trial and into stable life. Some are not good, are developed without thought to long-term use, and can actually do more harm than good. I have developed both kinds over the course of my life. Some have been good, some have helped me make it through tough times. Some have simply provided an escape for me, a fantasy world whereby I simply got lost in time. Some were replaced by others, more significant ones. Others just faded away due to non-use.

I am now at a point where I am forced to develop new coping mechanisms to make it through the next period of my life. I have to come up with a way to handle all the stress and uncertainty that has suddenly appeared at my feet. It wasn't that the stress and uncertainty weren't there before this time, because they were. This stress and uncertainty is new and it is different from the old stress. You see, I had developed a system for dealing with the stress (not a very good one, but it worked). I had a way of handling my days, and my nights, and my future. I might not have liked the outcome, but I had developed a system to keep me sane and focused and functioning. My strong point, my center was my husband. I placed my needs upon him, and he functioned as the stable influence in my life. Like I said, I might not have liked everything he did or chose to do, but he was dependable and accountable. I could count on him being there for me. I knew he would always be there.

My mistake, my bad (as they say now) -- sorry-- I am too much an English teacher to let that one go--my bad judgement and my bad determination that this was a good idea. You see, no one can function as a strong tower except the One whom the Word calls: Our STRONG TOWER. I am not saying that I didn't rely on God, because I did. I am just saying that I relied on God for the big picture (salvation, over-arching plans, etc.) and I relied on my husband for the practical and reality of my daily life. I placed far too much reliance upon human flesh. The Word says it this way:

Ps:146:3: Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help.

The Bible clearly warns us to be careful where we place our trust. The one who receives our trust must be trustworthy. Over and over again, the Word tells us that man, that horses, that princes, that wealth will not last, that these people and things will not survive and that we should not place our trust in them.

I am sure that the Lord likes it when wives trust their husbands. We are called to respect and honor our husbands, and trust is the beginning of all respect. It is natural for women to trust the men who share their homes. Likewise, in any relationship, there must be mutual trust for the relationship to flourish. This is natural and normal, and to be expected.

What we are cautioned against in the Word is to take our trust which is to be reserved only for God, and give it to another person or thing. In essence, we are committing idolatry. We are placing all our hopes and dreams and security in another man-made thing, be it a person or a place or a thing (such as wealth.) God desires to be the recipient of all our worship, and He is the only one who is TRUSTWORTHY.

As I am dealing with discovery, self and truth as revealed through my past experiences, I am seeing just how much I have relied on my husband for everything. I started out being a pretty independent person (at age 18). I ended up being totally dependent upon him for everything, and I mean everything. In the process, I lost my self. I lost everything about me. I no longer saw me as separate from him. I took the Word literally where it said: AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH; so they are no longer two, but one flesh. (Mark 10:8 NASB)

Over the course of time, I gave up more and more of myself to become more and more united with my husband. This is not God's ideal in marriage. No where in the Word does it say that the "two become one soul -- one personality." No, they are two individuals living as "one person." The two are unique, individual and separate, yet they are bonded/joined together as though they were one person. No one is supposed to give up their God-created and God-given identity for another person. This never was and never will be the Lord's plan for His people.

I did it, and I don't really know why. I guess I did it because I was so deeply devoted to my husband, and I thought that it would make him happy. I learned that this was not the truth, and that no matter of devotion would ever do that (it simply is not my place to make him or anyone else happy). The reasons I chose this type of behavior, I think, stem from my need to "cope" with uncertainty in my life. The more uncertain things became in our marriage, the more I coped by becoming attached to my husband. The more attached, the more I was able to hold on and handle the stress of my life.

I don't blame my husband here, please know that. I don't believe that he set out to have a wife who was so completely devoted to him, that I would lose myself in the process. No, not at all. It was just a fact, just the outcome of a number of unresolved issues in my own life (pre-18 years of age). I had learned to cope by putting my trust in other people (my parents) and then in a boyfriend, and then in a husband. It was the way I developed to help me keep from losing my life (literally).

Over time, I became very accustomed to living a certain way. It was comfortable for me to live in my self-imposed boundaries. I found them to be friends. When the truth of my husband's feelings for another person came out, I was crushed beyond measure. I was literally devastated at that news --after all --I had made him my source of support and stability -- and now he was choosing the affections of another person. I saw the end of my life, the end of my coping mechanism right in front of my eyes. I saw him walk away from me, and leave me stranded without any source of support, source of hope, or source of security. The very thing I needed most was walking out of my life and leaving me behind to "figure it all out, to pick up the shards and remnants of my life." I was left with broken pieces of a relationship, and left to discover new ways to cope.

Thankfully, over the last few years, my relationship with the Lord had grown and deepened to the point where I was placing my trust in Him and not anyone else. I had already begun the separation process, slowly and carefully, with the Lord's gentle guidance. I had begun to live again, not as some weird and twisted person, fused into the soul of another, but as my own being. I began to rediscover my own self, my own thoughts, my own feelings. In the process, I had to accept a lot of truth, truth of my own doings, truth of sin in my own life. I also had to confront some truth in my marriage. I began to develop new methods for coping with this truth. I trusted the Lord. I relied on Him for His comfort and care. I looked to Him for my security and every need.

Though I had begun the process of self-identity, of separating myself from that of my husband (in a whole and healthy way), I wasn't ready to be ripped away from him in one fell swoop. No, I wasn't ready to find out all the truth, all the sin. I wasn't ready to accept it all, to deal with it all, and to live with it all. I still was a babe in trusting the Lord. I was still coming to terms with my own person, and learning how to live in relationship with Him.

All of this sudden news took me by surprise and I was forced to deal with it immediately. I will admit that I didn't do that well. No, that is truth. I did what most women do, I lashed out. I cried, I screamed, I demanded, I pleaded. I did everything I could to: 1) make the pain stop, 2) take vengeance out; and 3) try and put things back together (like Humpty-Dumpty). In my total confusion, I wanted everything to go back to where it was or had been; I wanted the truth to be told; I wanted others to know what was going on; and I wanted to hide from the shame of it all. It was a mixed up, weird way of dealing with everything -- I know. I cannot hide the truth, I did things I wish now I would not have done. I had never been in this position before, and my emotions were so suppressed, that when they came out, BAM did they come out.

It has been eight months since this all came to light and I am still dealing with the ramifications of the truth. I think I am over it, I think I have it covered and handled. I think I am ready to move on. Then...Something happens and I am right back to where I was in the beginning. No, I am not crying anymore. No, I am not yelling and screaming. I have accepted the truth, I have accepted what is what. I am in the "living it out phase," the phase that is simply this: it is life. It is the rest of my life. It is today, and tomorrow, and ten years from now. It is moving on, one step at a time, and learning how to be single and totally self-contained.

I am now my own person, completely separated from my husband (physically, emotionally, mentally). I am not separated legally -- that is to come some day soon. I am my own person in the sense that I have regained my identify (both in Christ and in the person He created me to be). I have become independent, making decisions and choices that are in my best interest. I am looking forward and trying to figure out what the future looks like. I see glimpses of it, I see hope on the horizon...I am just not there yet.

I have had to develop a new set of coping mechanisms to get through each day. I can no longer rely on any of the old ones because they were faulty, not healthy, not God-honoring. I have to have a new set, a new set that will keep me focused and sane (in one mind), and will bring about the result that He wants for me. Now, my coping skills are tuned toward Him. He knows what is best for me, He knows how to get me from "point A to point B." The Lord knows me best, and if I will just trust Him, He will lead me through this difficult place and on into the future He wants for me.

Psalm 23

1 The LORD is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
3 He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.
4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell[a] in the house of the LORD
Forever.

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