Sweet and Sour, Edition IV | Stripping the Layers
A huge benefit to all of these plane flights that Jeff and I have found ourselves on lately is the enormous amount of hours I am able to spend disconnected from 3G and internet. So I am left to occupy my time with a handful of hobbies – drooling on Jeff’s shoulder while I catch up on my four hours of sleep from the night before, writing, listening to NPR podcasts, munching peanuts, wiping drool off of Jeff’s brand new shirts, and reading.
Let’s forget those other hobbies and concentrate on reading, shall we? Alrighty then.
I finished another book a few months ago on my treasured new reader, Mr. iPad, and this book has still got my brains in a twist. I read Elizabeth Gilbert’s follow-up to her smash hit, Eat, Pray, Love, entitled Committed. This book centers around the institution of marriage, something in which I am deeply interested for two reasons: (1) I’m married and (2) my job kind of centers around marriage.
Jeff and I celebrated our four-year anniversary this past June. The road to four years of marriage has been winding, bumpy, and even, at times, pot-holed. It’s been wonderful, but it hasn’t always been easy. We got married young – I was 21 and he was 24 – and when you get married young you still have to grow up. In these short years, I have already changed in ways that I never thought possible at 21. I have changed in that I have become more self-aware, and mostly in that I have become more painfully self-aware of my faults and my shortcomings. Marriage does that to you. When you’re constantly rubbing against another person, the outside walls that you put up to conceal your core self from the world get worn away until all that is left is the bare bones of your inner-self. You become a skeletal figure of your core faults and your core strengths. You get revealed, and everything virtuous and dreadful within you gets revealed right along with it.
They say man sharpens man like iron sharpens iron. Well, spouses reveal spouses like, I don’t know, stripping a piece of furniture reveals the horrible layers of paint that have been slathered on over the seasons of life. You know what I’m talking about. That layer of mustard yellow paint you're scraping off of that china cabinet right now? Just think of it as that horrible high school boyfriend you endured the summer after graduation. Big mistake. And that terrible layer of periwinkle spray paint? That's when you let go of your best friend to try and fit in with the cool kids as a painfully shy 14 year old. And now, years later, it takes a bottle of harsh chemicals and thick plastic gloves to scrape that guilt and shame away from the innards of your life. No I’m not saying that my husband is the bottle of harsh chemicals... but you know what I mean. Right?
Anyhoo, all that is to say that I am as faulty as it gets. I’ve always known that, but only now as I get older are my annoying and harmful personality flaws becoming more clear, and it's in this time of my life that I'm having to deal with them head on. Because if I don't begin dealing with them, I have a lot to lose - friendships, intimacy, joy. But here’s the thing – to be loved truly, wholly, and without question by another faulty human being is simply miraculous. I have so many flaws. In fact, most of the time I feel like my shortcomings outnumber my pitiful list of strengths and virtues. I create these endless circuitous and fickle needs that I force my spouse to mercilessly navigate, and he has no road maps or guides to the valleys and canyons of my heart and personality. He has no hope of actually fulfilling my needs because (to be truly honest) he is not meant to fulfill them. Put simply, I am not perfect, and to be loved wholly in spite of those many imperfections is the most wonderful and true love that exists. If my husband, in all of his own flawed humanness, is able to love me wholly, how much more does God love me unconditionally? I don’t want to get too church-y on you peeps, but I’m being completely honest when I say that God reveals something truly astonishing through the institution of marriage. The fact that we are able to know each other so intimately and still love each other fully really makes everything else ok. It means that I am ok. That someday I will finally break through all of those false layers of paint and reach the gorgeous wood that the craftsman originally built with. And I'll be able to color it with a rich, deep stain that only enhances it's beautiful features.
But for now, I'm still scraping away. I'll let you know when I reach the next layer, but only if you promise not to make fun of the totally emo black accents from my college years.
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