I'm not really into Lent.

Winter is a hard time of year for me as it is and I don't need penance, fasting, and deprivation on top of Seasonal Affective Disorder.

In this post, I explained that I am part of an evangelical gathering of believers who worship in a very modern, culturally-relevant way, but that as an individual I rely on more contemplative and traditional practices from varying faith traditions to connect with God.

Observing Lent falls into the personal practice category. Although a world-wide body of believers is in that space right now, the community of believers I belong to (not in "membership", but in relationship) is not. Therefore, it's easy for me to heartily embrace Advent but duck out of Lent, according to my own needs, as there is no accountability around me, no community pressure, for better or worse.

this photo is from a short working vacation
we took to the Gaspe Peninsula the end of February,
where we stayed at our friend's chalet

I don't like pressure, obligation or holier-than-thou attitudes around spiritual practices and I made a conscious choice, many years ago, to reject that model of faithfulness. Freedom is my rally cry of faith.

That being true, there is something to be said about how a culture - a family culture, church culture, societal culture - can encourage an individual in certain, not by pressure (the evidence of faith in self, not God) but by providing structures and supports, a framework that the individual can lean upon.

This year I am observing Lent, or my version of it. Joining with the body of believers who are doing likewise.

Considering my aversion to unnecessary discomfort during late winter, it's interesting how this came about.

I have anxiety and one of the ways anxiety affects me is that it muddies the waters of truth, making it difficult for me to discern the right path. And when I make mental or emotional space for lies about my identity, or the present reality, this can set me on a mental trajectory or chute that takes me from the starting point of discomfort, pain, or confusion (normal things) to "the world is ending" catastrophic thinking.

What this means is that if I'm in an anxiety-prone period of life or season I can be easily overwhelmed and derailed by outside messages and agendas.

This is why I have to limit the kinds of media I consume during certain life periods, and in general. I can go from 0 to overwhelm in record speed.

Outside messages and agendas come at me from all over the place. I think you probably can relate. We live in world of marketing and media. And as I've analyzed why my anxiety has bubbled to surface of my life now, in my late thirties and early forties, I think the pressure and prevalence of media (all forms) in my life is part of the picture, along with some serious insecurity issues triggered by longish periods of transition and perceived instability. As a Enneagram type 6 I am going to struggle with anxiety. The issue is not if, but how.

I am weary of being marketed to. (And everyone markets these days. Church's market, for heaven's sake.) I am weary of fighting against outside agendas and messages. Not all of these messages are bad, some are very good and necessary for me to hear but, the sheer number of them in my life makes it hard to discern truth. Even the fact that the waters are muddied so I can't find that clear water of truth easily, makes me anxious. My soul is weary of this battle - the vigilance required to discern truth (and how that tires me out) and the inevitable anxiety-response when I am not vigilant. I am sick of it. I am sick with it.

When I encounter people trying to sell me on their message, whether it's a sermon, a Facebook share, an impassioned opinion, or a cleverly written blog post, I wonder if they understand what it's like to experience anxiety in the context of that message. And what especially sickens and demoralizes me is that some messages are engineered and delivered with exact precision to trigger my anxiety - fear and scarcity-based marketing.

I have to be cautious, even with the benign messages, even when I'm fairly certain the intentions of the other person are not to manipulate me into action.

"Do you understand what I'm going through inside right now to filter what you're saying through what I know to be true for me. Do you understand the effort it takes for me to stay open to hear you while still guarding myself against an anxious response to this message?"

Guarding myself, while still remaining open. What a draining effort.

It's taken me a while to understand what's been going on, to give words and meaning to the scary sensations I feel. It's been a journey.

In January, while journaling one morning, laying out all my angst in this regard - what do I do with everyone else's agendas and ideas, the things people want me to get on board with, to see as they see - the Spirit spoke to me.

God, help me. God helped me.

Here's what I heard and wrote down: Be open to the work of the Holy Spirit in your heart.

Now, this may not have comforted others, but it provided immediate comfort to me because I trust the Holy Spirit. I have personal, familial, and spiritual history that I can lean on in this regard. Not everyone does, and some people may have baggage around this, but this was a message for me that made sense and gave me a place to stand, for the moment at least.

What came to me immediately was relief, release. I can do this. I can be open to the work of the Spirit. This feels safe for me.

That got me through that day. As the week progressed and January became February I felt it impressed upon my heart to understand the work of the Holy Spirit in my heart.

If my one directive here is to be open to the work of the Holy Spirit in my heart - heart in the Hebrew sense of the word as the seat of my intellect and my emotions, the center of my being - I need to know what I'm looking for as the manifestation and movement of the Holy Spirit.

So I set out to do a Bible study of the Spirit.

Last year, well before January's impression be open to the work of the Holy Spirit in my heart, I was meditating on this passage of scripture:

Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?
I Cor 2:12

It's something I need constant reminding of so I wrote it on a card and posted it to my inspiration board above my desk and when the year was over and I cleared the board for new inspiration, I pasted the card into my 2016 Journal as a remembrance of God's word for me.

The Spirit of God lives in me.

So if the Spirit lives in me, as the Bible tells me so, and I am to be open to the work of the Spirit in my heart (the center of my being), this means I can follow an inner compass, which is the Spirit, as I navigate my way through the world. As I filter the messages, media, and marketing, I can trust my inner-self of God's spirit in me, to find the right response to such things. This is the framework, the safe place, the standard I can use to discern every other message in my life.

I'm currently studying the scriptures about the Spirit to know how I can recognize the Spirit in me. How does the Spirit lead? What does the Spirit point us to, or rather who does the Spirit point us to? How will I recognize the Holy Spirit? What will it look like for the Spirit to move in me? How does the Spirit speak? I need to know what I can trust, what will be the standard for me.

This is how and why I was led to observe Lent this year. I felt the Spirit gently guiding me this way, inviting me, and I said yes.

This is the reason I haven't published anything to the blog for weeks because I feel the Spirit asking me to let go of the practice and discipline of blogging for Lent (or a modified Lent, the month of March), and to instead spend that time, which is the early morning hours (before 9 am) in scripture, prayer, and journalling. And lest this sounds too disciplined, I'm also sleeping in some days because... freedom from striving.

This list is from Pilgrim Year

A couple years ago my self-confidence was severely undermined by a disconnect from true self and the resulting anxiety, burn-out, and breakdown from that disconnect. This loss of confidence affected my blogging. On the positive side of things, I believe my writing has developed a depth of experience and honesty that it never had before. However, as I dig for the beauty, truth/honesty, and kindness to share from my experiences, writing takes a long time; nothing comes fast, quick, or easy. My posts are fewer and longer.

My blog readership dropped, maybe because of the change in writing, change in the content (less how-to homeschool, how-to make soap), and because I'm just not into marketing myself.

After I lost my confidence I had no vision except to find my footing, to find self and be true to her.

This has started to happen, slowly. It's a two steps forward, one step back kind of movement.

I have a re-growing, and hopefully true to self, ambition for my writing and direction for my blog.

Stepping aside from writing for a time, laying down my striving towards these aims while also accepting past losses, is an act of trust, an act of release. I'm trusting the Spirit to steward and lead this next stage of my writing.

Part of me is deeply uncomfortable sharing this because I am suspicious when people are public about their lenten sacrifices and about lenten practices in general. I often wonder, what is the agenda behind sharing such things?

Obedience, sacrifice, confession, repentance these are deeply personal spiritual practices, best shared in a trusted community. Unfortunately these practices and postures of the heart can become yokes that people are pressured into bearing. But condemnation, fear of failure, inadequacy is not how the Spirit moves us into spiritual discipline.

Fear is not of the Spirit, period. The Spirit invites, and sometimes persists in the inviting, but never coerces. And we have complete free will in how we respond. And we are loved regardless and we stand free of condemnation, regardless.

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
II Cor 3:17

So, that's what's going on. And that is why, after this post, you probably won't see another post till April.

My new blog is almost ready to roll out and I may interrupt this break to make that announcement. That is a project set in motion months and months ago and is not something I feel called to set aside right now as it is a joint endeavour with Damien and is not about my morning writing time, but a different part of blogging all together - "the platform" and structure that supports and publishes the writing.

Before I started this blogging fast I spent over a week writing a piece that just wouldn't ring true and so it never did get published, so it's been really quiet here for almost a month and I wanted you to know that this quiet is not because I'm laid low with SAD or anxiety, though some days I am fighting these for all I'm worth.

I'm using Pilgrim Year as my reading guide for Lent. And something I've gleaned from those readings is the re-orient and re-order intention and purpose for a Lenten fast.

And this is what I want in my life right now. A re-ordering of desires, a re-orienting of myself towards a life led by the Spirit.

I could write so much more about this time but I think that would move me beyond the ken of what I'm supposed to share right now. I have given myself some hours this weekend to write this update and now I'm done.

Love, Truth and Freedom, friends.

I'll be back soon.

Comments are now closed on this post as we are migrating all my blog content to the new platform.

This is the first post in a three part series of year-end reflections.

  • Words & Movements - Our stories are both an expression of an experience and the lens through which we view that experience and future experiences. In this way, our stories, our words, have the power to manifest things in our lives.
  • Growth (in community) & Tools - Where I want to grow this year and one of the tools I use to make the connection between the struggles and triumphs, responsibilities, tasks, and to-do's that facilitate that growth.

I turned forty-one this month, and like any birthday, this one invited reflection on the past year, both the calendar year from January to December, but also my "birthday year" which happens to follow the same cycle as the calendar year.

My parents had a thing for December babies, or rather, they knew how to beat those March blues, as my younger brother was also born in December.

My December birthday is wrapped up in everything that the holiday season and end of year means to me.

In this last month of the year, amongst holiday activities, Advent meditations, and the general good will and cheer (and busyness) of the season I am also mentally preparing to put closure on this year and anticipating and planning for the next. I am pondering the things I've experienced in the last 12 months and thinking about guiding themes and directions for the year ahead. It's a lot of reflection for one month, but to be lost in that kind of thinking, and then writing those thoughts is one of my deep pleasures, so lucky me in December. It's like a birthday gift.

The end of one year, a new one coming, my birthday, the holiday season they all conflate into this month, that for me, is defined by contemplation and celebration.

I'm supposing, though I honestly don't really remember, that I may have always been bent this way - to reflect a lot on the past. I think it expressed itself differently when I was younger, in my desire to carry forth traditions, which probably influenced my career path as a homemaker.

As an ESTJ I concern myself with how things have been done in the past and generally try to find some kind of successful example to follow in my life. For many of us, myself included, life has veered from a path that we can follow, by choice or by circumstance (who we marry, where we move for work, the stuff that happens to us beyond our control).

It feels like the modern age gives rise to more of this off-the-path stuff (though maybe that's just an illusion on my part). Maybe this is why I have such a compulsive need to write the path, write the story; because my life doesn't follow past generations' experiences very well (who's does?!) and it's non-traditional (based on where I come from) and I have to reconcile that reality with how I'm wired - to align my life with knowns and keep things (relationships and resources) in safe boundaries.

There's got to be a path, and I'll write it after the fact if need be.

By nature, my first response to a problem or pain is to ask "what mistake did we make in our past to bring this upon ourselves? How can we learn to never make that error again."

I'm not saying this is necessarily healthy, and in many cases it doesn't help solve the existing problem, but it is an unconscious and deep-rooted response of mine. As an ESTJ I am looking to make systems and structures that work well and protect people (myself included), based on experience with past situations. And so it's very necessary for me to reflect and bring order to experiences, to dig up the truths to carry forward with me.

I move into the future based on how I process my past experiences.

Let's talk about ESTJ's

I am reminded here of a podcast I listened to recently on the ESTJ personality type by Personality Hacker. I love Personality Hacker, they are one of my favorite places to geek out on personality type stuff.

Because this is my "birthday post" I'm taking the liberty to expound upon ESTJ traits a little. As a "gift" for the ESTJ's in the crowd (though most of you who contact me and have formed relationships with me via the blog are very different from my type, go figure) and for those of you who love an ESTJ.

In that podcast Antonia and Joel talk about healthy and unhealthy ESTJ's (and all the other EJ types). I appreciate that breakdown because for me that's how you up-your-game in self-awareness: you identify and move forward into healthier ways of being. The purpose of self-awareness is to know your strengths and weaknesses, your ways of looking at things and processing information - to build healthier relationship with yourself and others.

The signs of a healthy ESTJ: (highlights from that Personality Hacker podcast)

  • Grounded in a sense that everything is going to be okay.
  • Many ESTJs may experience anxiety because they can’t find enough security and safety around them. The healthier an ESTJ gets the more that fear goes away.
  • Instead of frenetically attempting to force change upon the world, the healthy ESTJ will find a way to create change at the structural level – with institutions.
  • The stereotypical ESTJ is the supervisor, manager, civil servants, or local politician. Their desire to make sure institutions are running well really defines their health. They are grounded and focused.
  • A really grounded ESTJ is a protector. They are reliable. They are making things happen from a grounded place.
  • They can be very protective of their families and ensure the needs of their mates are being met. They secure the perimeter.

The word grounded in these descriptions is particularly interesting to me. I identify strongly with the need to feel grounded and before I had language for that I would have expressed that as resistant to change, not very spontaneous, comforted by routines, all of which is still an accurate description, but the reason for those things is because of what's underneath. My need to feel grounded and secure makes change, spontaneity, and open-endness threatening.

The unhealthy way to lower that threat is to resist change, become more controlling in an attempt to manage my environment. The healthy way to lower that threat is to root deeper in my true source of security.

One of the ongoing challenges of my adult years has been to find that grounding, that security, in a life-sustaining relationship with the Divine.

This three-part series of posts are reflections on the past year. I've been looking through my journal and my writings for dominant themes from the last year and possible directions for the New Year. The importance of being grounded is the theme that flashes neon red.

This is probably a foundational theme in my life because of who I am and what moves me. But this idea has become front and center in my life in the past two years because of the breakdown of 2014.

December 2014 was a very hard season for us, a difficult time in our marriage. My birthday that year was short on "celebration". The salve to that pain was that a new year was around the corner, and that we had 365 days before my next birthday to make changes for the better.

What I'm writing in these posts, my reflections, are the "two years later" to that birthday, and the "one year later" to last year's birthday post.


Two of the resources I used for healing in the past two years recommended making a list of my life accomplishments, as a self-affirming exercise, a list of evidence against false thoughts and wrong thinking (a CBT technique). According to The Wisdom of the Enneagram, type 6's forget their achievements and this is not surprising news to me. When I am in a bad mental space all past achievements are forgotten, or worse, trivialized. And it becomes hard to have hope for the future with such a bleak (& false) remembrance of the past.

But I do believe remembering our accomplishments is bigger than a personality type issue.

So many times in the Bible, the writer/speaker exhorts the reader/listener to remember what God had done for them in the past. Remember and tell, because when we forget, we don't just forget a detail of the past, we forget an identity. This is what testimony is, we bear witness to the hand of God, the work of the Spirit, the evidence of Grace in our life.

I see a list of life accomplishments as a kind of evidences of grace document.

Of course the narcissist could point all the glory to herself in a list of this type. Look at how great I am. But most of us are cognizant that so much grace has been given to us in our birth, in our every breath, in our family of origin or in our friendships. We see the grace in the time this terrible thing almost happened but didn't, or the terrible thing did happen but look where I am now, in the "stars aligning", or the "universe supporting" us, that we know that everything we accomplish in our life is made possible by unmerited grace.

And so my list of life accomplishments is really a document of grace in my life, it's a list of the "big things" that have transpired, written through the lens of grateful heart.

For this post I want to share two points of celebration from that list.

I am thankful for my close relationship with my three teenagers. I am privy to love and loss. Triumph and disappointments. I don’t know everything, there are secrets kept in hearts and amongst the three. (I adore that the three of them share things with each other that I don’t know.) But I don’t need to pry, beg, coerce, manipulate or otherwise use relational gymnastics to understand my children. I’m with them. I know them. I don’t have to ask “how was your day” and get a “fine” response from which I must tease truth. I know their friends. I know their mentors. I have relationships with people who are investing into my children. The structure of our days and our space supports positive and deep relationships with each other. I am a co-creator with my husband in making that space, in securing this perimeter, and my heart is beyond full with the satisfaction and connection I have with my children.

I am so deeply grateful for my evolving and deepening friendship with my life partner and love, Damien Tougas. We have come through some hard stuff but we are both committed to holding in our hearts and mind the best version of the other. We see truthfully what we are and what we aren't but also hope for things unseen and imagined. We are helping each other become the person each of us hopes to be. We are working to see something come to fruition in the other that is seeded and partially hidden, not yet grown, but is hoped for and believed in. Marriage is a kind of faith.

These two things I am most thankful for in my life. I have many, many more. The relationship with my parents, the closeness with my mom, dear friends who know and love me, the connections and community of church family and homeschool coop, experiences I've had, places I've lived, the ideas I have co-created and co-labored (with other people and the Spirit) into reality in the physical world, my list is growing and is more specific than I share here. What a rich, rich life.

The high holiday is almost upon us. My family's most significant holiday celebration of the year. I have two more posts in this series written and mostly ready to go. I will be posting those throughout the holiday, as I celebrate and contemplate the "things" most precious in my life.

If you have some reading and thinking time over the holidays (I hope you do!) I'd love to hear your thoughts.

First, do you know your personality type and what it looks like, internally and externally, to be expressing those traits from a healthy place?

Do you have a dominant life theme that arises from your personality and/or life trajectory?

What are your most precious evidences of grace in your life?

This is the third post in a series on vocation, marriage, and work.

So much of this story is hard to tell because of the deep shame I experienced when I made these discoveries about myself. And the pain we experienced as we made these discoveries in our marriage.

This next part is especially hard to tell because my deepest shame is in how I applied biblical teaching and interpretations of that teaching to my relationship with Damien. And I am hesitant to talk about it because I don't want to misrepresent the Bible to non-believers. But it's not up to me to filter and spin how people interpret my experiences and my failures. I am choosing to live in the freedom that allows me to recognize I clearly don't have my act together. I'm broken. I'm loved anyway. This is the gospel.

I grew up in and have spent my adult life in branches of the Christian faith that advocate complementary roles in marriage for husbands and wives, not related to the specific work we do (who earns the income, who washes the dishes, for example), but how we lead and/or submit to each other.

A simplified view of the complementarian interpretation of scriptures is that the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ is the head of the Church. And wives are to be subject to their husbands as the Church is subject to Christ. The relationship is to be mutually loving and submissive, with each spouse submitting to a different authority. Husbands loving their wives, as Christ loved the Church, even to death, and submitting to the headship of Christ. Wives are to submit to the headship of their husbands, and love their husbands as the Church loves Christ.

The complementarian viewpoint is based on several passages in scriptures, most notably Paul's letter to the Ephesians.

I have struggled here at this point in the narrative. I have researched and read different points of view, I have written many words and then deleted them as I've tried to figure out how to explain and justify this teaching.

I'm not up for that type of writing, it's not my gig. I cannot attempt to do justice to this teaching in this blog post, nor is that my intent. There are many books, bible commentaries and debate within the Christian community about this. Just as the Apostle Paul says in the passage I linked to above, "This is a huge mystery, and I don’t pretend to understand it all."

I don't want to get into any debate about this, though I'm open to respectful discussion. My purpose in this post is to share my experience. And the last thing I want to do is misrepresent the Bible.

Because "belief" (trust, faith, convictions, positions) is difficult for Sixes to achieve, and because it is so important to their sense of stability, once they establish a trustworthy belief, they do not easily question it, nor do they want others to do so. The same is true for individuals in a Six's life: once Sixes feel they can trust someone, they go to great lengths to maintain connections with the person who acts as a sounding board, a mentor, or a regulator for the Six's emotional reactions and behavior. They therefore do everything in their power to keep their affiliation going. ("If I don't trust myself, then I have to find something in this world I can trust.")
~ Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson (emphasis mine)

I am a traditionalist, an authority-respecting person. My nature is to value hierarchy and loyalty. These are my inherent ways of looking at the world. Unfortunately, one of the false beliefs I am susceptible to, that can drive my decision making, is the belief that I'll be ok (ie: secure) if I cover all my bases and do what is expected of me.

Throughout adulthood and marriage, I've held to the complementarian view of marriage. I grew up with that teaching, and to this day it has been the perspective of the (mostly charismatic) evangelical churches I've attended. I have read very conservative teachings on the subject as well as the more liberal interpretations that many Christians align themselves with.

As I applied this in my own life, my motives for following this teaching over the years were not so much to unravel the mystery of Christ and the Church in a marriage relationship as much as they were to "do the right thing". Respecting roles and responsibilities, managing and adhering to those is the way I naturally do things as an ESTJ. (Of note: I also have a strong rebellious, authority-questioning streak in me, especially against leadership that appears unjust and power-hungry.)

But as I started to feel more insecure in my world, my motivations to adhere to this teaching started to subtly shift, not that I could have verbalized it at the time but looking back I can see the change.

Remember, one of the largely unconscious forces in my decision making is the belief that "I'll be ok if I cover all my bases and do what is expected of me". So in a place of insecurity, if a complementarian marriage is what is expected of me (by God, by people I admire and trust, by respected Church leaders) and will achieve the outcome I want: security and safety, then I'm in. And I will work my ass off to do it well. I will hustle for that security.

Average Sixes want to reinforce their support system, to strengthen their alliances and/or their position with authorities. To that end, they invest most of their time and energy in the commitments they have made, hoping that their sacrifices will pay off in the increased security and mutual support.
~ Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson

The complementarian view of marriage, and no doubt, the dirty lens through which I understood it, encouraged me to step behind my husband and follow when I felt insecure. I'm not saying that is what is "supposed to" happen. I don't know what is "supposed to" happen, it's still a mystery to me. But that's what I did. And my misplaced allegiance, which you could call idolatry, made me look to Damien to reassure me that everything was ok. I could step behind him, follow him, and it would be all right. He would lead and I would follow. This was biblical, everything would be ok.

I'm not blaming the complementarian viewpoint for my errors and faults but how I interpreted and misinterpreted this teaching contributed to a breaking in my confidence and self-assurance. The way I applied this teaching to my life in the context of my inherent personality traits and my natural bent to insecurity and anxiety; in the context of our life circumstances and decisions; and in the context of my already weakening confidence and increasing reliance on Damien led me to conclude that when things didn't feel ok for me it was because something was wrong with me.

And of course, a lot of things were "wrong" with me by this point, in my mental and emotional health. But the essence of my personhood was not wrong, and that is where I was feeling mis-aligned.

I had come to believe that if it was ok for Damien, leader and captain of the ship, then it should be ok for me. And if it wasn't ok for me then I was flawed, deeply flawed. Not just flawed the way we all are flawed and recognize our private sins and inconsistencies in belief and action, but flawed in the very traits that make me, me.

I was so confused and hurt at this point because I do believe I was knit together a certain way and yet I'm called to growth and transformation, and marriage is part of that. And I wasn't sure where the line was in that process. I didn't know anymore which of my preferences, desires, and needs were essentially me, and what were attitudes, beliefs, perspectives that could and should be changed.

I needed things Damien did not need. I saw the world differently than he did.

And from there I jumped to the conclusion, not supported by biblical texts or interpretations (or reality), that I was the wrong partner for Damien, and that I would lose him. And that was the lowest point for me, and the most difficult part of this journey.

The reason Sixes are so loyal to others is that they do not want to be abandoned and left without support - their Basic Fear. Thus, the central issue for Type Six is a failure of self-confidence.
~ Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson

I reached this point in the summer of 2014, on the Appalachian Trail. No wonder I was so depressed that summer.

In my desperate attempt to do it right, to find security, I f&*($ it up, big time. That's what I thought.

The following metaphor provides a good picture for what happened. I imagine our marriage and family life as a ship and Damien and I are standing at the prow. We're on a journey and there are calm seas and stormy ones. And over the last few years, during the storms, instead of standing beside Damien, I tucked in behind him, again and again. And I would ask "how're we doing?", and he'd reassure me, "we're doing fine". And even when it was calm, I'd ask "how's the view?" And he'd say, "it's great!" And he, as captain, felt confident that we had what we needed to meet the challenges.

Now, to step behind each other every once in a while to take a respite and reprieve from the prow, that's a good thing. For one of us to be standing perpetually behind the other, trusting the other's judgement, perspective, and view of the situation, that's no good. That was us. That was me.

I needed to increasingly rely on Damien's sense of situations being "ok" because I had lost my confidence and my inner guidance. Because so much was unfamiliar and outside my comfort zone, over and over again (sometimes we make those choices and sometimes life brings them) I wanted someone tell me it would be ok. And I looked to Damien to be that person.

Earlier I talked about how my tendency is to find security in doing what is expected of me. Damien did not expect me to step behind him. He knew I was, both by my actions and my communication. But I was not doing so to meet his expectations. I was working to achieve a standard, a measuring stick, that I set for myself, based on a certain view of marriage.

Those holding to the complementarian view of marriage might say: you read it wrong, you did it wrong, you were really messed up woman (no need to remind me), Damien did it wrong, something was wrong here. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Was it a failure of understanding, a failure of application, a failure of interpretation?

I don't have firm answers, but I'm ok with the questions. I'm ok with the mystery.

I don't know what I think anymore about complementary marriage, but I'm not seeking clarity in defining marital roles right now. And I'm not seeking my security in doing the right thing, or what is expected of me. I'm seeking Jesus.

I am unclear about some things, but here's what I know. I didn't marry an idea of marriage. I didn't even marry a biblical idea. I married a person, Damien. And I am to submit to the work of the Holy Spirit in my life, with Jesus Christ as my example and my Lord. This is what I know and it's good enough for now.

Did we push ourselves too far outside my comfort zone? Probably. Did we bring this confusion on ourselves in some way? Maybe. Should I have listened more to the still small voice of the Spirit? Yes. But life, the choices we make and cards we're dealt, take us through circumstances that allow us to grow. And this path has allowed for much growth.

In the tradition of pilgrimage, those hardships are seen not as accidental but as integral to the journey itself. Treacherous terrain, bad weather, taking a fall, getting lost - challenges of that sort, largely beyond our control, can strip the ego of the illusion that it is in charge and make space for true self to emerge. If that happens, the pilgrim has a better chance to find the sacred center he or she seeks. Disabused of our illusions by much travel and travail, we awaken one day to find that the sacred center is here and now - in every moment of the journey, everywhere in the world around us, and deep within our own hearts.
~ Parker Palmer

A lot of my shame about what happened to us is around how I responded to Damien's awareness of the situation. Damien could see I was struggling, he's a loving husband. He could see that I was cowering, and he would ask me, is this what you want to do? Is this ok for you? Should we pull back, steer into calmer waters? But I was so blinded by my own sense of loyalty, to him, the idea of his leadership, and the course itself that I couldn't be honest with him or myself. I would say and write Yes but my actions and insecurities communicated No.

If we are unfaithful to true self, we will extract a price from others. We will make promises we cannot keep, build houses from flimsy stuff, conjure dreams that devolve into nightmares, and other people will suffer - if we are unfaithful to true self.
~ Parker Palmer

Remember that Who We Are list I mentioned in my previous post? It was the list I've been writing, post breakdown, which catalogues the core traits, needs, desires, etc. of Damien and myself. One of the few things we have in common on that list is our shared value of accuracy/truth/honesty. I was not honest with my husband, because I wasn't honest with myself, and this also is a point of deep shame for me.

It was the perfect storm of circumstance, choices we made, personality traits, deeply ingrained beliefs, and unconscious motivations. And as we found out, when I'm in an unhealthy place, once I've lost that sense of self and my confidence, I'm more inclined to go down with the ship than I am to change course.

We have named personality type Six the Loyalist because, of all the personality types, Sixes are the most loyal to their friends and to their beliefs. They will go down with the ship and hang on to relationships of all kinds far longer than most other types. Sixes are also loyal to ideas, systems, and beliefs... they will typically fight for their beliefs more fiercely than they will fight for themselves, and they will defend their community or family more tenaciously than they will defend themselves.
~ Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson (emphasis mine)

But with God's grace my husband had the courage to listen to his intuition (which he could no longer ignore anyway in the face of my anger, blame, ambivalence, and disillusionment) and I had the courage to admit I was wrong and bring all that shame into the open rather than keep crumbling.

We started to confess our faults and failures to each other, our immaturity, and the false idols that had crept in and damaged our relationship with God and each other. We choose to bear each other's pain in that awakening. And then we decided to change course, to learn from our mistakes and to choose self-awareness and individual well-being (spiritual, emotional, physical) as a key piece to a healthy "us".

I had rooted myself in my relationship with Damien, looking to him to be my "sure thing" in life, which included my income-earning work, instead of finding security in my identity in Jesus Christ, who dwells in me, and is the Essence of my life.

After The Breaking, as the light started to shine through the broken places, we decided to return to our original division of labor. I wasn't going to be working in the world until I knew what it was I was supposed to do, and until I had built up my self-confidence. It felt like going backwards, a regression in our story, but it also felt safe. It was known. I needed to heal and Damien, seeing how desperately insecure I had become, sacrificed some of his dreams and goals for me.

He put aside what he had been building, an income-earning dream he had invested huge amounts of time into, to return full-time to work that yielded a better immediate financial return so he could provide me with some measure of security.

This is one of the most loving things Damien has done for me, he sacrificed something of himself to care for me. Yes, we have our faults and we've failed each other, but we keep turning back to loving and serving each other, to knowing each other intimately and choosing to walk alongside each other, to be each other's number one fan and number one friend. Right now, this is how we keep our marriage growing, our relationship nurtured. Not by following a specific guideline of roles and responsibilities (though I tend to love those) but by choosing to love each other in the knowledge of self-awareness and the life-giving Gospel of Jesus Christ.

It's time for the story to return to my individual work, calling, and vocation, to come into the present. But first, I haven't yet defined these terms, which was an important goal for me in digging deep into this series. So the next post is a glossary of terms and why I define these terms the way I do.

Can't comment?

My sincere apologies if you have problems commenting here. Feel free to shoot me an email or engage at Facebook.