I Can Handle It!
I was looking for hand soap. You know, the little pump bottle that sits by your sink. Only, to show my love and support for my wife struggle with OCD, I was looking for the Lysol no hands soap dispensing system at Target. This was a surprise for her. My wife likes to wash her hands a lot. Although, this did involve a gadget thus my sense of manliness was heightened.
Trouble was, in the rows and rows of junk none of us really needs at Target, I could not find this little electronic device. Thought it’d be with the other hand soap dispensers – the low tech hand pumps. I actually went down the aisle twice, because where else was it going to be. Certainly not with the croc pots. Or the digital cameras. The primary purpose of this thing is to dispense soap. Where in the world was it.
Just as I was starting to feel like ‘no good deed goes unpunished’, I decided to do what men rarely do. Especially men who are looking for an automatic soap dispenser at Target (what, are you too LAZY to pump your own soap?).
I asked for directions.
The good lady in a red shirt and khakis walked with me to the liquid soap aisle, probably wondering why men couldn’t figure this out for themselves. (As an aside, why is it necessary to have an entire aisle for liquid soap? Excessive?) Apparently I had neglected to look behind the pole that was in front of the shelves. Great location. Right behind the support pole holding up the roof of the Target store was a single row of this new item from Lysol. Well, at least asking for directions paid off.
Actually, it was very freeing to ask for help. No longer did I have to manage the problem, it was someone else’s responsibility. If only I could have done that with the larger issue in my life. As I’ve mentioned before, my root sin was pride. Huge pride. Because of it, I couldn’t let anyone help me.
So I diligently wore my mask. Not letting anyone see the real me, the pain I was feeling, or how lost, alone, frustrated and discouraged I usually felt. That’s not how Christ followers are supposed to feel, right. I can handle it. No help or guidance necessary. Pride.
This was part of the wall I encountered that I touched on some in the last blog. In order to manage God, rather than letting him lead me in submission or realize my dependence, I worked. In my mind I equated my relationship with God with my performance and approval. My life was concealed behind the mask. Marriage had to be fine. I had to feign a connection to God that I rarely felt.
Only problem, was that underneath the mask, I was still longing for intimacy. A good desire. One implanted within us by God. We are to seek it first and foremost from Him. Like everything else, good things can quickly turn bad when we try to handle it ourselves.
That was my problem. So when I ‘became friends’ with a woman at church, I knew I could handle it. As boundaries that I had established for my behavior kept getting erased and redrawn, I knew I could handle it. As I continued to lie to God, myself, and others, I knew that I could handle it. As I hid my cell phone from the sight of everyone around me, I knew that I could handle it. As I made excuses to be out of the house, I know I could handle it. As my behavior got further and further away from Christ likeness, I knew I could handle it.
Behind my mask I had become what I hated. A pastoral cliche. Someone I had read articles about on ChristianityToday.com. Someone I had vowed never to be. (Peter replied, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.” More symmetry in my life with Peter.)
The mask was getting too tight. Unfortunately, I wore the mask pretty well. The Monday before I resigned, I was at a poorly attended prayer night at church. Everything was a mess and I knew it. I was starting to come to realization that I couldn’t handle the way I was. (Yet, even in this moment my desire wasn’t to submit my will to God, I knew how to solve the problem…another time for that one). So I asked another pastor to pray for me. All I told him was my life was a mess and I didn’t know what to do.
His response, “I shouldn’t be praying for you, you should pray for me, my life is the one that’s a mess.” (btw, he did pray for me, he wasn’t being callous, I’m just illustrating how ‘effective’ I was). In that moment, there was a part of me happy. Pride was winning.
Everything did fall apart soon after. In fact, ‘fall apart’ is gentle. Exploded is better. That’s a blog for a different day. Looking back, it is sometimes hard to know what I could have done differently. So many different things were wrong. It is easy to prescribe solutions from this side of growing strength and spiritual health. Bottom line is that I didn’t have to spiritual tools to deal with my marriage. I lacked humility and forgiveness. I was following my happiness rather than Jesus.
For whatever reason, I also lacked someone to talk to. Someone outside the work environment; strong enough to hold me accountable. Someone that wasn’t expecting anything from me. Maybe a professional, but definitely connected to God, the source of wisdom and life. If allowed only one change, that’d be the one I’d make.
I couldn’t handle it. Just like being in Target, it is very freeing to have someone to walk the journey with you.