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I hadn’t made him breakfast.
It was a Sunday morning last summer, and I was frustrated. I had been trying to get ready with a toddler underfoot. Sunday is the one day of the week that I take the time to apply makeup and curl my hair. It’s time for me.
But it kept getting interrupted.
This time it was my husband, who always seemed to wake up anxious on Sunday, and he was frustrated that he hadn’t had anything to eat yet.
I zipped my mouth shut to keep the phrase “You’re a grown man, you can make your own breakfast!” from flying out of my mouth. I huffed to the kitchen, slammed a bagel into the toaster, and marched back to the bedroom to finish my makeup.
Somewhere between the last application of mascara and the front door of the church, we started fighting.
He had tried to hold my hand before we had even made it out of the neighborhood…when I was still fiddling with my belongings and searching for my lipstick. He made a joke about me not loving him, and I blew up at him.
I don’t remember all the details, but I know that I was angry. Not because he expected breakfast, but because I felt guilty that I had forgotten. Not because he wanted to hold me hand, but because I hadn’t wanted to at the moment…and the joke felt so real.
For four years of marriage, I based how good of a wife I was on my performance. How many meals I cooked, how many mornings I got up early to hug him at the door before he left for PT, how many times I bought him unexpected gifts, how many times I stayed up way past a healthy hour to watch a movie with him.
I do all these things for him–and the one time I forget his breakfast and don’t want to hold his hand in the car I risk losing his love!
You see, that…that fear…was the real motivator.
What if he stops loving me? What if he finds someone better at this or that, or prettier, or sexier?
He had told me that he would never cheat on me no matter how much a beautiful woman threw herself at him…because “…no one can treat me as good as you do!”
Unknowingly, I had based all of my actions in our marriage around that declaration…that I had to treat him well to keep him faithful.
That morning, fighting in the front seat, it all came pouring out of me. The fear that I was going to lose him if I forgot his breakfast too many times…the frustration and resentment that I wasn’t doing enough no matter how hard I tried…the guilt over all the times I failed.
The whole way he tried to reaffirm to me that it’s not the bagels and the hand holding that keep us together…it’s who I am, not what I did or didn’t do for him.
My mind refused to accept what he was saying. It just wasn’t true. One wrong move or oversight of my wifely responsibilities and I was going to lose him. And yet somehow there was a part of me that believed that all of the guilt I was feeling was HIS fault. He makes me feel this way because of how much he praises me when I do things for him! And how sad and mopey he acts when I don’t!
We pulled into the church parking lot. I was late for choir practice, and my hand was already on the door handle so I could hurry my way in and try to do at least ONE thing right that morning.
I sat in the choir loft singing, still frustrated and upset…still guilt-ridden over a bagel…still scared that I was a total failure at wifedom. Then, the words to the “good Baptist song” that was coming out of my mouth caught my attention:
The longer I serve Him,
the sweeter He grows,
The more that I love Him,
more love He bestows…
I stopped singing and shook my head at the irony, as I realized that this problem I have extended far beyond just my marriage. It originated in a faulty view of God that I had believed since childhood.
The more that I love and serve God, the more He’s going to love and accept me.
That morning, I stopped believing that lie. I told myself… “this isn’t true and you know it!” I even took my music down to Russ to show him that the very belief that he told me wasn’t true about our marriage was being perpetuated as gospel truth in church about my relationship with God.
I knew that I was saved by grace…that there was nothing I could do to earn my salvation, nor to keep it. It was all a work of Christ. But beyond that, grace was forgotten and I had to “be holy” to be accepted…to be loved…to be “right with God.”
Realizing that this was a lie was me finding the door in the wall that had existed between me and God for a long time.
Two things had happened. 1) When I tried to live right, I was doing so out of guilt and fear…which are horrible motivators. They kept me on “the right path,” but my resentment grew day by day. 2) In a lot of areas I had just given up, stopped trying…because I was tired of living out my guilt and fear.
Now, almost a year later, I’m free of a lot of that guilt. I have found the beauty of grace. Of loving and serving God…not in hopes of earning His love, but because I already have it all! I never could earn it, but He’s given it freely anyway.
How can God possibly bestow MORE love on me than what He did for me through the work of the Cross…the work of grace? And who am I to think that I could earn more of His love by loving and serving him more?
Now, almost a year later, I find myself having mental relapses. This belief, no matter how much I can SEE that it’s erroneous, still has a stronghold in the recesses of my mind.
This morning in bed I was being squeezed to death by my husband.
Russ: I just LOVE you!
Me: What did I do???
Russ: You are the wifey of me!!!
My first thought at his declaration of love was “What did I do to earn this…what do I have to do to keep this?”
And I hadn’t done a thing. I simply WAS.
I wonder how long it’s going to take to reprogram my brain to believe that I’m loved for who I am…not for what I do?
At least now, I’m recognizing it sooner. Now, on Sundays, my husband is waking up happy. Last Sunday he fixed MY coffee, grabbed his own breakfast, and got Ezra dressed for church…because he knows Sundays are busy for me. I applied my makeup in peace while looking forward to the service.
I held his hand willingly in the car. I wasn’t stressed about getting to church in time to “serve.” I was going to worship. We slipped into the pew and held each other while singing praises about God and His unearned loved and forgiveness…not about how we have earned His love.
At the end of the sermon about the prodigal son, the congregation rose and sang:
You are good, you are good
When there’s nothing good in me!
You are peace, you are peace
When my fear is crippling!
You are true, you are true
Even in my wandering!
Oh, I’m running to your arms!
I’m running to your arms!
The riches of your love
Will always be enough!
The tears welled in my eyes and my throat caught, my voice sounded horrible as I sang as loudly as I could through the emotion.
And I rested in God’s love…the love that is always enough.