Marriage is hard. And not just kinda. Word on the street is that eventually you figure some stuff out, if you stay together long enough. After 10 years, Husband and I know a thing or two. Maybe three things. But that’s it. The rest is still a mystery wrapped in an enigma. We are doing the work, making the investment and believing by faith that one day the light bulb will go off and we will finally know how to do all the things and not have to work so ding dang hard.
I mean honestly, I am waiting for his light bulb to go off. I see so clearly how his issues and his habits and his hang-ups keep me from having the marriage that I want. So I will be the gentle, mostly-patient wife and cheer him on while he gets his crap together so our marriage can finally improve.
(Insert God’s holy laughter at my precious little self.)
Until this week when, in His loving kindness, the Lord pulled back the veil on my insanity and began to reveal the part I play in this whole mess. Over the course of a week, what began with a dream began to unravel me to my core. I don’t have the marriage I say I want because I won’t receive it. I don’t give it a chance. I don’t walk into the arena of real connection in my marriage because that requires too much. It requires vulnerability. It requires risk.
There it is. That word: risk. I don’t like it. I don’t like it one bit. I will take a calculated risk with a probably chance of a favorable outcome. No bigs. But to go all-in on a deal that has very few data points and a whole lotta possible downside doesn’t sound appealing in the slightest. But that is what marriage asks of us. It requires us to give ourselves over to another person without any guarantee of getting anything in return. It’s also what life with Jesus requires. Not because He needs us to do it, but because He did it. Love always requires risk. If it isn’t a risk, it isn’t love.
Jesus took a risk. Romans 5:8 tells us:
"But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."
He agreed to give up heaven, enter the world as an infant, do life as a human and go to the cross to endure an excruciating death with no guarantee that anybody would take Him up on His offer of eternal life. He became the ultimate sacrifice to bridge the gap between God and man with no promise that anybody wanted to take the trip. Talk about risk. It all makes my little cocoon of self-preservation seem pretty silly.
Self-protection is a constant theme in my life. Most of the lack in my world is usually rooted in it. But on a warm Thursday night, something shifted and the Lord began moving me into a new season. One where my old ways don’t work anymore. One where self-protection and security must give way to vulnerability and risk. It is no longer an option to stay hunkered down in my comfy chair with my fuzzy blanket and salt and vinegar chips, and be a commentator to what’s wrong in my world. I no longer get the luxury of the cheap seats. It’s time to take risks, no matter the result.
We humans were created for connection. Risk is the only way to get there, but not all connections are created equal. Dr. Henry Cloud does a fabulous job explaining the differences in his book “The Power of Other.” Just like anything God intended for good, the enemy wants to distort it. The first place we can go is actually the opposite direction. Out of our pain, we can isolate and do life alone. Or sometimes we settle for bad connection. This is the kind that leaves you feeling bad about yourself. We also can opt for a fake good connection. This type of connection makes us feel good, but it is actually just self-medicating. Addictions live here. Then there is the real deal. The only way to get to the real connection with God and other people is to walk thru the door marked “need” and that, to me, feels like a pretty big risk.
So what if I take the risk and don’t get the reward I so desperately desire? Where do I land if I go all-in, and fall flat on my face? I land at the feet of Jesus. Here, He picks me up, wipes my tears, holds my heart in His hands and reminds me again that I am enough. I was worth the risk for Him. After all, love is risky business.