Finishing the Edge of the Puzzle

I am not much of a puzzle builder. Takes far too much patience. I really like activities in which progress is steady and noticeable, not hunting for something that may or may not have the color/pattern/shape/shading that you are looking for only to be continually disappointed when things don’t fit. The one part of the process that I did enjoy was the edge. As a kid, I was good at sorting through, finding all the flat pieces and building the frame. Progress. Then I’d leave the interior for my mom and sister.

On my spiritual journey, I am sometimes forlorn that progress in me is not quicker. More noticeable to me. That I am still so bad at being a husband and abandoning my passivity. A friend of my, in a moment of encouragement that worked, told me that I am like a person who has been miraculously spared from a medical condition, like a stroke. Now, though, I am doing the tough, painful, exhausting job of rehabilitation. Learning new behaviors, moving beyond the awkwardness of thinking through every decision, and breaking the mold that was the old relational system that I was comfortable with.

The past couple weeks, things have really been starting to fit together. It’s like something I read or was counseled a few months ago suddenly clicks into place and I’m able to actualize it, not just understand it in theory. Things like sharing my inner life. Expressing my vulnerability and what God is doing with me. Being an encourager. Not being demanding, but communicating my needs and desires. Not walking away from the conflict, but making attempts to lead through. Other stuff. All of which may seem simple to you. But for a passive guy who fears rejection and disappointing others, these are monumental steps. This is my Wall. My journey to strength is taking me through my Wall.

When I was a kid, I had this Atari game (by the way, the Atari 2600 rocked. one button. one controller. hours of fun shooting tanks, racing cars, swinging on vines, slaying dragons. i would love to have an Atari 2600 with Pitfall! and Adventure to go home to. and a cup of hot chocolate. and three feet of snow so i could stay in and play………..) Sorry, retreated back to my childhood there. Anyway, the game was called Yars’ Revenge. In it you were a bug shaped space ship and you had to kill the mother ship which was behind a wall. Two ways to destroy the wall, shoot it or (since you were a bug) eat it. Well, I could never figure out how to kill the mother ship, so for me all the fun was eating the wall. Kinda lame. Now that I think of it, why didn’t the mother ship die when I shot it or ran into it? There was literally nothing else you could do in the game.

Anyway, I’d eat the wall. Piece by piece until I could get through. That’s how my Wall is now on this journey. Ignoring it helped lead me to my place of downfall. Only way to deal with the wall is to take it apart, piece by piece. You can’t leap over it, ram through it, go around it. The Wall is the Wall and you have to either deal with it or run away from it. Before I didn’t have the tools to deal with it or someone who could lead me on the journey. Now I have both.

(Lots of tangents today. If you are reading this, and struggling and wanting to know what to do. Begging for a step, something to relieve the pain. My suggestion, in love, is to go see a counselor. Put the pride on hold and get some counseling. Either professionally or a well trained lay person. Issues don’t just magically go away. They come back and bring seven friends.)

The latest part of the wall that I am removing, a remnant from the people pleasing pattern, is differentiating between loving/accepting and indulging. Acknowledging crises as they pop up, empathizing, strategizing, but not giving into the demands. It takes effort and truth to change a system, especially one that has had 15 years to cement itself. In the past, giving in has felt to me like I’m loving her, and it has felt like love to her. But it isn’t. It’s enabling (how come I can identify that in every other person on the planet, but think it is healthy in me?).

People naturally resist change. Change is uncomfortable. Resistance to me, to my new, healthy behaviors is going to make me feel like I am unloving. Which takes me to puzzle piece number two for the week – proceeding through. That’s the piece of the wall. Maybe the biggest piece yet. Maybe the biggest piece there is. Not backing away passively from resistance. But continuing through, having compassion for my wife’s woundedness, loving her by walking alongside through her struggles, but providing a path. Being her guide. Helping her see around the corner when she cannot.

I’ve never said this on my blog, always thought it was assumed – but, I love my wife. A lot. I love being with her. I always loved her before I went crazy, but after my miracle it was like the Grinch’s small heart grew three sizes that day. And I had all the love of ten Grinches, plus two. I love my wife. And I am so sorry that I wasn’t better equipped to be her husband. That is changing, better late than never.

What’s on the other side of the wall? What happens when the pieces of the puzzle fit together? I am told the life of love awaits. I don’t mean that in some romantic, Hollywood, fairy tale, happily ever after kind of way. I mean life of love in that loving others well without thought of myself is just the natural expression of who I am. It is Jesus not just living in me, but through me. It is channeling God’s love for me to other people. The overflow. It is being a light and no one can see the bulb.

I’m not there yet. But I’m closer that I was last week. Maybe I’ve finished the edge of the puzzle.

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