Tuesday, April 8, 2014

hello. i am a screw-up, married to a screw-up.

 One of the beautiful and miserable aspects of walking with Jesus is knowing you are completely and utterly loved, while also knowing you are a complete and utter screw-up. Sure, you can gain a good deal of knowledge and growth over the years walking with Him, but as soon as even the slightest bit of pride enters into your stride, you find yourself tripping over your own feet, saying, "Shit! What was I thinking? I really need Jesus to guide me in this life!"

 For whatever blessed reason, Jesus has really made sure that my husband and I stay in a place of needing Him, or better stated: a place of utter and complete writhing in desperation for Him, our faces smashed and bleeding on the cement.

 My early life before marriage was kind of typical. I spent my first eleven years in the suburbs of Pennsylvania, close to extended family members and had a close-knit group of friends. We attended a local church, I sang in the choir, and I adored Jesus. Then, my family was suddenly uprooted and dropped down into the hell flames of Boca Raton, Florida, and everything changed. The culture in Boca was nothing like what I had known. The school was four times the size of my previous school, there were clicks, rich people, poor people, diverse cultures, and teachers had no time or interest in the lives of their students.

 Within six years of living in Boca, I was drinking, doing drugs and having sex. I had been beaten, raped, abused and molested. I believed God existed, but I also believed I had let Him down too much, was too far gone and trapped in a lifestyle I could not change.

 At eighteen, I moved away to Tallahassee, Florida to attend college, and during a couple of years I found myself overwhelmed by God's wooing. I found a wonderful church, made Christian friends
and a year later I met my husband-to-be. Jeremy was 19. He had grown up in a Christian home, and the church he had attended was what you might call legalistic. From an early age he realized there was no one in his church he could relate to, plus being bullied and smacked around by older kids in children's church didn't exactly give him the impression that Christianity was a religion about love.

 So he found his group, as all children do, and it was with the broken boys, the ones he would grow up with and drink and smoke pot together. He eventually got a DUI. Then he moved away to college and roomed with a rich cocaine dealer. Coke became Jeremy's drug of choice. He did so much one night he looked in the mirror and could see his heart beating in his chest. So Jeremy prayed, drove back home, high, on the highway, to his parent's house, knowing he needed Jesus.

 Jeremy was just a good six or so months into his walk with Jesus when we met, and we married three months later, got pregnant three weeks later --and during that time a strange physical problem I had had on-and-off for the past year, decided to kick in and never leave. We had a beautiful baby boy three days before I turned 22, and six months later, Jeremy was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.

 We had no idea what the hell we were going to do, or why Jesus gave us these great things along with such horrible ones.

 I would have to write a very long memoir to contain the crazy story that God has taken us through over these 19 years, but the proof of Jesus working in our lives is undeniable, although it has (and continues to) hurt like hell.

 With regret I can tell you that it wasn't until our son was about 15 that Jeremy and I stopped having screaming fights. Ugly, cursing fights were a norm in our home. In 2006, Jeremy's father died and Jeremy's drinking became the worst it had ever been. Then, in 2007, after my father killed himself in our front yard, we sought the help of a Christian marriage counselor, and Jeremy and I learned (finally!) how to communicate honestly, without yelling. Our fighting slowly decreased, and now it is extremely rare --so much so our son noticed and made the point to tell us a few years ago.

 Never mind the large amounts of past hurts Jeremy and I have brought along with us into our marriage (separate counselors are there for that), the tragic loss of our fathers, our being hurt by many Christians, or our financial struggles, for there remains two huge problems in our lives: for me, it is this untreatable, chronic condition that has, from the get-go, made me suicidal (I was hospitalized twice before my son was 3). For Jeremy, it's been the struggle of wanting to withdraw, and who can blame him? There's my debilitating disorder and depression he has no real power to heal (although he sacrifices every day to help me) and during the past couple of years he injured his lower back, so now he has daily pain, plus his blood sugar levels are a constant battle. At the end of the day, he just wants to retreat and watch YouTube videos of guitarists rocking out while he eats a bowl of cereal.

 Neither one of us has the best ingredients for a "happy marriage", but we have been there for each other, even when it has seemed the other has not. Even when we complain about one another. Even when we avoid each other. Even when we are fearful to be honest with the other, but eventually are.

 We could have thrown the towel in a million times, but even so, we have continued to keep Jesus as our hope. Otherwise, why would we continue to pray, to study His word, to seek counsel, to pray for one another, to even take chances to confide our pain in Christian friends, despite the dozens of times we have been injured by doing so?

Overall, Jeremy and I have learned there are two important ingredients to apply every day to sustain our secure, fumbling marriage, and the first is to say "I love you" as often as possible, and the second is to say, "I'm sorry you're not feeling well, is there anything I can do to help?"
In the end, isn't that where we find Jesus: loving and caring for us, utterly and completely, as screwed-up as we are?