Sunday, October 29, 2006

Salt and Light

I wrote about my husband and his motor scooter accident in the last entry. But I didn’t mention much about the person my husband is. I felt it was time to introduce my better half.

Ben and I met two days after I became a Christian. I had interviewed for a telemarketing position at a bank, and he was outside smoking. I didn’t think much of him because I was so euphorically in love with Christ that nothing else really appealed to me. But we talked a little, I honestly don’t remember what about, and smoked a cig or two before I had to catch my bus, and he had to return to his job, telemarketing for the bank. He said he hoped I got the job.

I got the job, and got to know Ben a little better. I had a curfew because I lived at a rehab house in Oak Cliff and later lived at the Salvation Army in South Dallas, where I also had a curfew. So I couldn’t really date Ben for a couple of months. But the day that I got my own place, walking distance from the bank, Ben asked me out. We got coffee after work, and I showed him the very bare inside of my apartment. Very bare meaning I had a pillow, a comforter I had won at rehab, an alarm clock that played CDs, a few CDs, and a pair of shoes and a couple of nice work outfits that the ladies from the rehab house had let me take when I left. That’s it. No toilet paper. No plates or cups or silverware. No shampoo or shower curtain. Nothing else. But I was ecstatic to have this space to call my own.

We stayed up talking and listening to a few of his CDs. We stretched out on the comforter that was spread across the living room floor and just enjoyed each other’s company. Then he had to leave to board a plane at 6am to fly to California and fix some company’s computer system. When he returned, we resumed our dating.

Now, I’m painting a pretty picture. But it wasn’t all that pretty.

I was used to manipulating people to get my way. GASP – NO! SAY IT ISN’T SO!

Oh yes. I was the greatest.

For whatever reason, I used to love to create crises to bring attention to myself. I think I was trying to figure out whether you were willing to put up with large amounts of drama for the opportunity to be with me. I guess I thought if you were willing to jump through hoops for me, that you wouldn’t hurt me, and I could trust you. I don’t know. I’m a psycho, not a psychologist.

So anyway, we went through a few of those crises. And Ben stayed. In fact, Ben sort of got annoyed with them pretty quickly, and one day while writhing around on the floor waiting for him to look up from his computer game and notice me, I realized that if I didn’t get up and cook dinner, that we wouldn’t eat. So I got up. And that was God’s way of teaching me that I was a fool and that I didn’t need to do all of that.

And even though we were Christians, and we knew what was right and wrong, one month into dating, we discovered that we were pregnant. We decided right away that we were going to get married and that we needed to abstain until marriage. I figured “What’s the worst that can happen? Ben is a Christian!” We were married 10 days later, just 2 months and 5 days after our first date.

Ben is also bipolar. I had been depressed for years so I had dealt with many psychiatrists and counselors. I figured I knew all there was to know about mental illness. In my mind, mental illness was what they said you had when you acted like a doofus because you were dealing with stuff that was too difficult to deal with in a normal manner. And in my case, that was probably accurate. But Ben is different. He actually IS mentally ill. He actually has this switch in his brain that, when switched the wrong way, causes him to behave in ways that are far from normal; in particular when he is manic. I’ve had to deal with more issues in our short marriage than most couples deal with in a lifetime.

I’m not about to bash my sweet husband’s reputation and give in to the temptation to describe to you readers what exactly we’ve been through to give this little entry credibility. Just trust me on this one.

Trust is a word that is really hard for me to mention in the same sentence as my husband. We’ve had our secrets, and we’ve made our mistakes, and I’ve offered forgiveness and grace. (Another inaccurately painted picture – in actuality, it takes me far too long to let go of my right to pout and withhold sex and act like a martyr.) And I unfairly compare him to people I’ve known in the past who didn’t change, and I assume Ben never will either, and then I hold that against him, even though it hasn’t happened yet and probably never will. Ugh.

Regardless, we all have our issues. We all have our little buttons that, when pushed, send us looking for the exit sign. And I’ve threatened divorce more times that most hearts can take. But Ben is strong and realizes I’m an emotional, rash, fickle little doofus, and he’s graciously forgiven me for giving up so quickly so often.

I’m saying all this to paint a picture. A beautiful picture that I am seeing for the first time myself. It is a picture of my husband. It is a picture of a guy that I didn’t think I had met. This guy looks like my husband and sounds like my husband, but because of my harsh criticisms, didn’t resemble my husband. Because of my predisposed hesitancies toward feeling completely in love with my husband (or anyone for that matter), I've missed seeing this wonderful man that God Himself chose as my partner in this life. I am finally lifting the veil, removing the assumed characteristics from my husband's person, so that I can see him for who he actually is.

Ben is slightly manic right now. In fact, I panicked a few months ago when he started talking faster and hanging out with neighbors more often because I was sure he was going manic. Manic equals panic in my book. So I planned all these escape routes, places to stay until after the storm quieted, people to call, things to do. But we got him in to see his doc quick enough that we heeded off the storm. He’s still quicker than he’s been for the past year, but it hasn’t affected his decision-making in a negative way. In fact, it’s given him the needed ‘umph’ to start the long process of getting certified in several different computer ‘things’ (I know, I know. I’m revealing my complete ignorance about computers). And he’s doing it. He’s getting certified in so many things, getting so many letters after his name, that he will soon need to use a 4 X 6 note card as a business card! I’m so proud of his hard work and am trying to support him by encouraging him go to Starbucks and study when what I really want to just sit and watch TV with him.

The thing with the neighbors is that Ben is attracted to alcohol-drinking, cigarette-smoking guys who work on cars or tattoos and don’t go to church. (The fact that I describe these sweet guys this way shows how shallow my “love-thy-neighbor” bucket truly is.) Ben tends to be friends with the kind of guys that nice Christian girls would not want to bring home to her parents, and I usually get nervous about them being around our kids. I always huff and puff when Ben asks if it’s ok with me if he goes and hangs out with them because I want him to subconsciously know that I worry that they will influence him, and he will end up drunk and stoned, in the middle of some highway, tossed out of their getaway car that they drove away from the bank they just robbed in order to have money to buy drugs and hookers.

Can’t you just smell the judgmentalism? I know, it reeks.

But it isn't like that. Ben is the one influencing them. See, Ben isn’t like me. Thank God. Ben sees these guys as just guys. He doesn’t care what they’ve done in the past. He doesn’t even really care what they’re doing with their today. And he might not even know what they’re going to do in the future. But he sure does know if they believe in God and whether or not they go to church. And it’s not like he seeks out people he doesn’t know in order to share the gospel with them. He just meets people, and it comes out naturally in a conversation with him. They speak openly about their beliefs (of lack of belief) and/or frustrations with the church. They do this because they sense NO judgment from Ben and no pressure to agree with him. They don’t fear that he won’t accept them or like them or that if they have a need, they can’t come to him. They share their struggles with him so easily, and he’s become most peoples ‘only Christian friend.’

I LOVE that about my husband. It is sooo not me, and for that I am ashamed. I am doing something really wrong here. But at least God knew that about me and paired me up with someone who gets it, and from whom I can learn how to show God’s love and grace to others. I imagine most of these people don’t go to church because of people like me, and my eyes are so opened to that right now. I am seeing something real here that I pray will change me and make me a better ambassador for Christ.

So this is my husband. This is my Ben. And I am proud of him and adore him and am thankful that God paired us up to be partners in this life. God knows I need him!

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