Yesterday I explained how I used to be a wonderful Christian husband who loved my wife but also wanted to leap from a moving vehicle to avoid being with her.
It all boils down to love, they say, but nay—it all boils down to one’s definition of love. I’ll explain it this way: draw a heart on paper, like so. Done? Great. Now you’ve got a heart, right? No, you’ve got the outline of a heart. The edges. The boundaries.
My definition of love included things like duty, commitment, and loyalty. I wanted to be a good husband, and I wanted Shauna to agree with that assessment. So I washed the dishes, vacuumed the living room, picked up the kid’s toys, took my turn in the middle of the night. I bought her flowers, made her cards, took her out on dates, kissed her on the cheek and told her I loved her. And all too often, did just enough to keep her from getting mad at me again.
But that’s just the outline of love, the edges, the boundaries. Don’t get me wrong, love must be held in place by duty, by commitment, and loyalty. But that’s not what love IS.
Floating along somewhere in the soup of our seven year itchfest Shauna and I attended a marriage workshop being offered at our church (another admirable, husbandly thing for me to do with her). Things were going splendidly… until the blasted speaker somehow managed to get to the heart of the issue.
“Okay,” he said. “Husbands, I want you to turn to your wives there in your seats.”
So we did. Hey, hon. Lookin’ good.
“Right. Now lean in closer. Like, I want you within six or eight inches of each other’s faces. Closer, closer. Great. Now… look into each other’s eyes.”
A little uncomfortable, I’ll admit. But it’s a marriage workshop, so I went with it. Looked straight into her eyes. What’s she thinking?
Then the idiotic speaker tossed a live grenade right into the lap of our marriage:
“Husbands, keep looking. You will see in her eyes what you have withheld from her.”
The human face is a wondrous thing. The eyes in particular, right? The windows of the soul, they say, and whoever the mysterious “they” are, they’re right. Now, it’s true that we can put a mask on. We can pretend to be happy, sad, mad, or indifferent, sometimes pretty convincingly. But only as our second reaction. Our first reaction is our real face. It may only register for a millisecond, but when you’re six inches away from your spouse, looking intently into your wife’s dilating pupils, you see what’s there. Or not there, as that day would have it.
I saw it. Not anger, not bitterness, not a wall. Sadness. I saw what I’d withheld from her. Saw her ache to be truly loved, to be my princess, and to feel like one. Saw the withered part of her I was supposed to have nurtured and celebrated. Her eyes, no matter what excuses I could level at them, were unyielding. And more to the point, truthful. I thought I was being a good husband, and perhaps I was one. But suddenly that wasn’t the point.
And it wasn’t only her eyes that registered our problem. Mine did, too. Sometime later Shauna held up our engagement photo and practically shoved it into my face. I didn’t know what she wanted.
“Your eyes are sparkling in this picture,” she said, choking on a sob. I looked. She was right.
“You don’t look at me this way anymore. The sparkle in your eyes is gone.”
My mouth gaped, counting on my errant brain to launch a smart comeback. It never came. She was right. And my silence only drove the lacklustre knife deeper. Her heart was bleeding out. Mine sank like a exiled stone, embedding itself in the humiliating silt at the bottom of my gut.
I had the edges of love marked out by the numbers, but I’d missed the heart of it all. Wonderful.
The question was, where to find it…?
Tomorrow: BURIED TREASURE.
“…lacklustre knife…her heart was bleeding out” and “Mine sank like a exiled stone, embedding itself in the humiliating silt at the bottom of my gut”
I was squirming just reading it, I can’t imagine what kind of introspection and prayer you had to do…
Thanks for your honesty.
Wow- Such a strong message. Has me in tears this morning. This will definitely be in the back of my mind today.
Wow! That’s an important post. Looking into the soul of our wives is something we should do daily, but unfortunately we usually only do it once every seven years. You’ve given me something to attend to shortly!
Beautiful words, amazing depth, brave self-reflection. I once spoke to a gathering of men & the talk was, “What a Godly Woman Wants From Her Husband” – I have never felt so “listened to” by any audience. Men want to “get it” for sure. I imagine men (& women) who read this will be challenged to search their own lives and “fess up” – I know will.
beautiful brad. i love the whole look in the eyes thing and see what you’ve withheld.
keep writing, friend.