When Another’s Actions Affect My Moments
It took me about six months and many outbursts to settle into really trusting my husband. Trusting that he loved me. Trusting he wouldn’t leave me. Trusting he didn’t regret marrying me. Trusting that he finds my physical beauty as stimulating as my spirituality and love for deep, theological discussions. My fear had always been that I really wasn’t really worthy of the unconditional love of another human and when that fear was inadvertently touched because of my skewed lens, there were no warning signs for Chris to know the rage was headed his way.
You see my husband was bearing the weight of someone else’s actions. Someone he would never meet, who decades ago wounded a part of me that lay festering and rotting deep within my heart.
I had thought that it had been fully healed because God has done so much and I thought I was walking in emotional freedom. But being married, and no longer having the option to run or hide, brought those tiny remnants of brokenness to the surface.
I totally didn’t see it coming. When we got married I had delusions of grander that all of my self work the last fifteen years had prepared me to enjoy our relationship fully from the get go. I mean I had dug deep, read the books, taken the classes and was ready for wholehearted living with the man of my dreams.
I never imagined running to the bathroom in tears trying not to say something I’d regret. I mean, we made an agreement never to yell at each other and I promised to never cuss at him. I heard Will Smith and Jada made the same agreement and they swear it was key.
Well as a recovering potty mouth who still had shame and insecurity hiding in her heart, it didn’t take long for me to break both of those promises. My husband on the other hand, not once had a problem holding fast to these promises that he values so deeply. Not only does he not cuss ever, but even when I have pushed him farther that either of us thought possible, his voice barely ever rose above his normal, soothing speaking tone.
Some nights he just held me, knowing once the rage was gone, shame and brokenness would be at the surface of my heart and there was nothing he could do other than be present. And it worked. One morning after he lovingly pointed out how I was acting, I had a “come to Jesus moment” as I saw my pride for what it was. I saw how I had been projecting past experiences on Chris and apologized as I sobbed in a gas station parking lot.
He lovingly and instantly accepted my apology, never to mention it again. And I sank deep into the fact that not only does my Creator see me as worthy of unconditional love, but so does my husband. And despite sorrow being my constant companion because I haven’t been able to see my mother for four months (she has been in ICU), I have experienced a joy I didn’t think possible.
I started this post early this morning, before Chris and I headed to the gym. I had been reading and was reminded of communal sins. As a follower of Christ I think back to the prophets the the Old Testament who lamented for their people’s sin against The One Who Put The Stars Into Place. I am reminded of in 2 Kings 22 when King Josiah was shown The Book of the Law for the first time, he tore his clothes in mourning over how far he and his people had strayed.
But like many white American Christians, I didn’t have an ingrained understanding of communal sin. I was under the impression that what I did individually was of utmost importance. Looking back I just didn’t understand bearing the weight of other people’s actions.
And while it is an area I am still growing in, I was reminded this morning that not only do we have to bear the weight of other’s sins in relationships, like my husband has done so beautifully for me. But communally we are held responsible for what other’s have done.
Working in childcare the last few decades, I know there was a decline in kids learning the joy of doing the right thing simply because it is the right thing. So many people wanted to focus on positive reinforcement that I’ve worked with a lot of children that think they should be rewarded every time they make a right choice. But this has robbed them of the sense of accomplishment of simply doing the right thing especially when it is hard.
This morning as we drove to the gym I was again reminded of this principle. There was only one other car on the road and it happened to be a police office. My husband was driving our new car and I had shaved his head yesterday so he had his hoodie on to protect his scalp from the cold morning air.
As I saw we were going to be stopping next to the police officer at a red light my heart sunk and I said a prayer thanking God for keeping my husband safe as he drive. I believe that thanking God is as powerful, if not more powerful, than asking God for something.
As we started to slow Chris slipped the hood off of his head as we came to a stop. We commented on how we’re glad we got the tags for our new car yesterday.
Once we were in the parking lot I asked my husband if he gets nervous at situations like that and he explained that he is used to it. If you are reading this on my website and are wondering why my husband would have to take his hood off in his own car when stopped next to a police officer at 3:45am, my husband is black.
And because he has to bear the consequences of the sins of those who have gone before him, he has to adhere to a strict code of conduct around police. What I consider a routine traffic stop, asking for my license and being told my infraction, has not once been the case for him.
Some people reading this may think I am referring to the sins of others in the black community. The notion that if “they” would just stop stealing and committing crimes, “they” would be fine. This is based on the false notion that racial stereotyping began as a result of higher crime rates within the black community.
I hate to say I used to believe this lie. The false notion that everyone in America has the same opportunity if “they” just work hard. A notion that has been perpetuated even as of late largely by many in the white evangelical church. By many in my tribe wrongly speaking on behalf of all of us who are followers of Christ.
No, the sin I am referring to, that my family must bear the consequences of everyday, is the sin that was committed before our country was every a country. When Native Americans were murdered and tricked by white settlers.
The sins of founding fathers who thought that those with whiter skin have more intrinsic value. The sins that took the tradition of slavery to a deeper evil than any other culture had before.
The sins of leaders who established a police system to capture runaway slaves which led to a system that statistically is harsher on POC than on those of us who are more pale. Sins that have never been fully addressed by the country as a whole and sins that hide, lurking in the systems that govern us all unequally.
My husband again had to deal with the consequences of that sin on our ride home from the gym in the form of feeling like I was criticizing his driving and trying to tell him what to do. I saw another police officer in front of us and panic seized my heart. I quickly told Chris to slow down, even though he was just at the speed limit.
Panicked but realizing what had happened I took a breath and apologized. I reminded Chris I trust him and his driving. I admitted I was still on edge because of something so normal to him that he hadn’t thought twice about.
If we are going to love those in our lives well, we all must deal with the consequences of the sins of others. Sometimes it is our spouses like when my husband has to love me through brokenness from past experiences. Or college professors instilling deep values in their students that grew up on social media, no one aware of the lasting affect it would have on their anxiety levels.
The Christian community is having to bear the weight of the sin of culture war Christianity of decades past. A false view of Christianity which casts judgement on certain sins they believed morally worse while making light of sins they deem lesser like gluttony and greed.
It could be with your coworker who is always short with you and you’ve never been able to figure out why.
The more I dive into more fully love, the more I learn to rest in its depth whether with my husband, father, or friends. The more I realize so much has to do with bearing the weight of the sins of those who have gone before us. Maybe this was what Jesus was alluding to in Matthew 16 when He told us we must take up our cross daily. After all, the cross He carried came as a result of our sins. Not as a result of anything He did. And since we are to follow Him, surely this must be a part of our sacrificial loving.
For me this means training myself not to get my back up so quickly, whether I am offended by friend or stranger. I am learning more and more to breath through my dark emotions and as my pastor says, ask “What does love require of me?”
Sometimes love requires communal repentance. Apologizing for what someone else in my tribe did. It always looks like listening without denying the other’s experience, even if it contrary to our own.
Sometimes it requires confrontation in kindness like when my husband lovingly pointed out I had been seeing the world through a lens of pride and self righteousness.
And sometimes it is simply showing up, giving a hug, or just sitting in the room while the other person feels the pain.