I made a major mistake tonight. One I’m not proud of and one I’ll be sure to try and never make again. And while mistakes happen all the time, this one made me truly wish I could have started that conversation all over again.
As someone who has been a Young Life leader, who has trained Young Life leaders, who has worked with students, mentored students, loved on students, and in general tried my best to point them to Christ, I think a lot about what Paul wrote in the book of 1 Corinthians. In Chapter 11, verse 6, he said “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” A very short verse, but oh what a verse. Follow me, as I follow Christ. Essentially, what we as Young Life leaders or mentors of any sort are saying to any of our friends who are looking to our example as they begin their faith journey and sometimes even continue their long obedience in the same direction. However, for the leader, the mentor, the one who’s being followed or looked up upon it may seem like a lot of pressure. Follow me? No. Really. Please, don’t. I’m kind of a mess. And I make mistakes. And I’m not perfect by any means. Let me find someone better suited for you.
But, in my bible, that verse is underlined and in the margins I have this written: “Stumble after me as I stumble towards Christ.” Well, I don’t know about you but I can actually take a deep breath if I read it like that. Stumble with me. Know that I might take a nose dive or walk straight into a bee hive and that doesn’t mean to follow me into what ever disaster I happen to be stupid enough to get caught up in the middle of, but be aware, although my intentions are of the straight and narrow, I stumble, I stub my toes, and I sometimes even stop to look around like I think I’ve got a better way figured out- but I don’t. So brother, sister, come with me and we will stumble together on our journey towards Christ.
Tonight I sat down next to Nate on the couch, it seemed like I hadn’t seen him in a week. And while I have actually “seen” him- this week has been particularly rough for me physically and emotionally. I can’t be certain of why that is but the adverse effects of my menopause has been making my sleep an issue and my physical pain coupled with my emotional heartache was making it also hard to find actual rest. Anyways, we decided to watch a movie and about 10 minutes into the movie I paused it and asked him to come sit closer to me. I told him I couldn’t guarantee how long it would be until another hot flash would take over and I would want to flee from the room and spread out like an exasperated dog back from the longest run, on the hottest day, panting like I’d never had a sip of water. But I did know, in that moment I wanted him near. And I know that my poor husband yearns for physical touch, something he has been seriously deprived of since my surgery.
We pushed “play” and as the movie began again I quickly pushed paused. I knew something wasn’t right. I looked at Nate. With his face, just inches from mine, I asked him what was wrong. I couldn’t place if he was mad or upset. but I knew something was wrong. Exasperated he said, “you know, everything.” (Cue tears as I type this)
Me: “What do you mean?”
N: “I’m just so tired. This whole thing is just a vicious cycle. And I’m so sad we can’t have kids. And we are just barely getting by… “
And on it went. I sat there silently, holding back my tears as my husband told me he was depressed. That since he’s met me he’s silently watched me suffer physically and now is the worst it’s ever been and it’s really taking a toll on him. He said no one understands like him because he’s knows me most intimately. He wanted me to know that he wasn’t okay, that he wasn’t over his sadness- that he still was yearning for kids of his own. That watching me in physical pain and suffering was hard for him. He actually said he was depressed. For the sake of our marriage and our privacy I will leave it at that. And as I sat there holding his hands, looking at him, my silence rattled him. Pressing me for words, hot tears rolled down my face and I said the last thing I ever wanted to say, “this isn’t good because I need you to be the stronger one.”
As our conversation evolved he said the “manly” things like of course the man is always the stronger one and I stopped to correct him because that isn’t what I had meant. You see in the midst of this horrible place Nate and I are in neither one of us is required to be stronger. Nor should one of us have to be. What I’ve realized and have vocalized to a few of my friends is that we are both in our own pits, in our own dark places and neither one of us knows how to climb out of our own misery, let alone save the other person. Normally, Nate keeps from falling too far down the rabbit hole and when I mistakenly said that I needed him to be the stronger one it was that I thought he needed me to keep him from falling too far.
But I immediately thought of 1 Corinthians 11:6 and I told Nate that I had this vision, this perfect picture of he and I. And we were on a battlefield, badly wounded. Almost wrapped up like zombies from how badly we’d been injured, but we had our arms wrapped around each other’s shoulders and together we were limping forward. And it may have been the slowest limp you ever did see but I was holding onto his wounds so he did not bleed out and he was nursing mine. And while neither one of us could have stood on our own, with our arms wrapped around each others shoulders and necks, we had enough balance to become one- just as God had designed us and we were stumbling after Him together. I honestly don’t know who reads this blog, and I know this entry is a long one but if perhaps you’re a couple that’s like us and you’re in a tragic place- maybe you’ve lost a child or a loved one, maybe one of you has been laid off or you just can’t make ends meet, or maybe you just have found yourselves so far from being that couple who first fell in love---no one has to be the stronger person. Find each other out on the battlefield and limp together, towards Christ.
Nate and I wrapped up the movie and one of the final quotes of the movie I find quite fitting for my marriage and friendship with Nathan. It said, “You are my dearest friend, my deepest love, You are the very best of me.” For any of you that know my Nate, you know this to be true. He is the very best part of me.
As the movie ended, as Nate and I often do we decided to dance. The first song was to a song called “Hold On,” and during the song Nate whispered that no matter how hard life gets we would always have each other and that choosing me to be his wife is still and will always be the best decision he has ever made. The first song faded into the second, a song my friend Marty introduced me to called “When a Heart Breaks,” and as we swayed, I began to weep. For the heartbreak before us, the mounds of pain we are enduring, and for the overwhelming love l have for this man, the very best of me, and the ability I have to acknowledge that he is God’s greatest gift to me and although I am broken, confused, and ruthlessly hurting I refuse to ever quit stumbling toward Him.