Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Words that Stick

Have you ever had someone say something to you that was so true that it just stuck on your heart like a thumb tack on a cork board?  I have.  It was years and  years and years ago.  That third "years" just made me feel a little old.

It was the summer after my freshman year in college.  I was driving with a friend to meet other friends at a coffee shop and we started arguing.  I honestly don't recall the details, because honestly, the details weren't all that important.  It must have had something to do with me having an expectation and him not meeting it because what he said next, well, actually, what he yelled next, was, "You're always keeping score, Danielle." There were other words about nothing ever being enough but keeping score pierced my heart.

In the moment it pierced it in a hurtful way.  In the moment of this conflict I felt small and angry.  In that moment of driving in his beat up car, on the expressway on a cool summer night the lies that had long lived in my head pierced my heart, too.  "It's always you.  You'll never be cared about the way you want to be.  Your own friends don't really even love you."

Thirteen years later and that night is as vivid in my mind as ever.  Though I've long since lost touch with this friend his words that night still pierce my heart.  But they pierce my heart in a life giving, God has redeemed me kind of way.

Let me share.  I never did feel like people loved me the way I needed.  The truth that I later came to realize was that only God could and the freedom of that truth set me free to love and be loved in a healthy way with healthy expectations.  And I did keep score.  I still have a roladex in my head and can remember way too many things but nowadays that roladex is less about keeping score and more about just remembering.  Because, the truth that my friend communicated to me that night was a truth I would need to learn for every relationship in my life.  And it's a truth that has helped me to have a better marriage.

Ryan and I had a rough weekend.  I was really sick and when I get sick I seem to be a less effective communicator.  Instead of asking for things I think he should just automatically know.  When I'm sick, why doesn't my husband become a mind reader?  So, we had it out on Sunday.  And those sweet, truth filled words spoken to me 13 years ago rang through my head as they tend to do whenever Ryan and I fight.  Those words have become a boundary for me to not bring anything else into the ring except the current issue at hand.  Ryan not being a mind reader is not grounds for me to list the last 10 times he's failed to meet my expectations.  The truth of those words combined with the work God has done in my own heart and the power of forgiveness I've experienced through Christ set a boundary for me.  And they release me from living in a really ugly place of keeping score and feeling as if people need to meet a certain score.

And the real issue obviously isn't that my husband can't read my mind.  It's that I failed to communicate.  Communication is so important.  I know you probably know that.  I know you probably don't have communication issues in any of your relationships but man, I need that reminder sometimes!

It makes me smile because my friend from long ago has no idea that those words he yelled at me have pierced my heart in a positive way.  And I love that in the moment I did not know that God had a plan for those words, for that truth and that He would ultimately redeem that in me.  Mmmph, isn't that just like God?   He's not a God of keeping score.  When He forgives, He forgives.  He takes the sin away.  He doesn't condemn.  And when he deals with an issue in us, He doesn't dredge stuff up just to make us feel bad.  Or just to make a point that yep, we're not good enough.  He only brings up the stuff He will deal with.  The stuff He wants to free us from.  The stuff we're settling for that's less than Him.  And He loves us through it with all the grace of a Savior that took our place and never looked back.  With all the grace of the One who created heaven and earth and then humbly came, put on some skin, lived among us, God with us, died on a cross and conquered death does.

Let's not keep score today.  Let's love as people who have been set free.  Let's forgive as those who have been forgiven and didn't deserve it.  Let's choose to live today humbly and gently with hearts pierced by the truth of who God is and how much He loves us.