Monday, February 27, 2012

Lent: the plank in my own eye

I don't think I've ever mentioned here that Dean and I were separated for a year once.  It was when Nell was three, so we've now been together since the separation longer than we were together before it.  We spent many, many hours in marriage counseling and we both learned much, and we continue to learn much.  Marriage is hard.

But back then, there was a definite turning point for me when I decided it was time to move back in.  I was (am) very good at analyzing other people's faults.  Oh, Lord, am I good at it.  I've got this brain that likes to analyze whatever it can find to analyze, and picking out poor Dean's faults used to be one of its favorite activities.  There were some legitimate problems, I wasn't just making things up, but I arrived at our first counseling session loaded for bear.  I launched into a list of every single way he had failed as a husband.

I, on the other hand, had not done any of those things, so in my mind I was the innocent victim.  One of several lightbulb moments for me came when I was in a solo session with our marriage counselor and was once again virtuously declaiming all my righteous anger.  At some point I said something to the effect of "He doesn't have to put up with anything like that from me!"  To which she gently replied, "Well, he has to put up with living with someone who is constantly critical of him, and always looking for the ways he screws up."

Which was more or less like a bombshell, because DUH, but it had honestly never occurred to me.  I wanted to keep on spluttering about how truly awful his faults were, but what she said was just so patently, obviously true that it took all the wind out of my sails.  I was ignoring his willingness to work on our problems, his dedication to marriage counseling and fixing what he could, and instead concentrating on a continuous mental rundown of all the ways he didn't meet my standards.

I've worked very hard on this since, just as Dean has worked very hard on his end of things.  I'm learning to remember the whole person, and not just let my brain go into analytical mode-- and not just with Dean but with everyone I love. 

There's a post coming on how I felt about growing up with Jesus as practically a member of our household, so I won't start on that here, but I'll just tell you one story, one that I am definitely keeping.  One of my two or three favorite Jesus moments comes when he's talking to the rich young ruler (Mark 10.17-23).  The guy is enthusiastic and has good intentions, but he's hung up on being wealthy and powerful.  He asks Jesus, "Good teacher, what must I do to be saved?"

Jesus tells him that he must keep the laws and the commandments (the Jewish laws and commandments, almost all the followers of Jesus in the Gospels are Jewish), and the guy says that he does all that and he has since he was a child.  He was probably hoping for a pat on the head, the sycophantic response he must have become used to as a wealthy man: "You're awesome, man, just keep doing what you do!"  You know that he's going to get a put-down, because that's not the way it works if you follow Jesus.

But instead of the expected put-down, the story continues:  "And Jesus looked at him and loved him."

Which just blows me away.  Jesus didn't roll his eyes at the guy's faults; he didn't refuse to talk to him because he was asking a dumb question.  Jesus looked at him and loved him.  And then he also gave him an impossible task:  "One thing you lack," Jesus said. "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth."  It's a great story, and there are a number of other directions you could go here, but I'll just say briefly that I think the guy's mistake wasn't in not selling everything he had, it was in walking away.

But that's not what this post is about-- my main point is that difference in attitude between my hyper-critical-ness and Jesus's love and acceptance.  That's the attitude I want, that willingness to look at someone and just love them.  Most people, underneath the facade, have a quivering, tender heart.  It's easy to forget that. 

You may have noticed that I took this post down, edited it and put it back up again.  It would be a long story to explain why, but to keep it brief I'll just say that I had a bad moment of reminding myself of one of my least favorite aspects of my dad's personality; and what made it far, far worse was that I didn't even notice I was doing it until several hours after I posted this.  When I came back to edit it tonight, it wasn't nearly as bad as I remembered-- I've only edited it slightly.

It occurred to me as I was driving back from U-Town this afternoon that maybe I need to recognize that the unconditional love that Jesus shows toward the rich young ruler would apply to me, too.  I tend to see it as a moral example, and forget that if I stood before Jesus with my messy, panicky self, he would look at me and love me, too.


  1. Mr. Rogers of Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood wrote or said, I can't remember now which one, that he looked for Jesus in everyone he met. THAT'S looking at the world with the eyes of love. Kind of a high bar for me . . .

  2. You should be able to edit comments that went with the post before it got edited. Not that I want to change what I wrote, just add: That looking for Jesus in everyone you meet is, I believe, the analogue to Jesus looking at us with love. Or god, or the universe, or whatever you believe in, and even if you don't, there is great worth in trying to look at everyone with love.

    Yes, I know the grammar is all messy up there, just ignore it.

    1. grammar disregarded here, so don't worry about that. I get so twisted around between my East Texas colloquial roots and my convoluted thoughts that it's a wonder any of you can understand a word I write! ANALOG-- good word and fits perfectly here. good point.

  3. Where did my comment go?

    1. I don't know! I lost a comment over at Megan's the other day, too, so it's not just here. Maybe *dozens* of people are commenting and I never see them. *control freak self frets*

    2. Blogger ate your comment, but e-mailed it to me-- here 'tis.

      One, thank you for coming back to this, I won't even say we toldja so (and that's because we love you).

      B) Dan and I go the other way. Sure he annoys the ever livin' shit out of me, but I look at this entire three-solid-decades-plus-a-few-years as how blessed I am that he's not shoved my sorry, over talk-y, bitchy, and self-righteous ass out the damn door by now. Thankful every day, am I.

      Last, JC was the coolest guy. EVER! One of my favorite things about him is how he can be a teacher to so many, not just those who ARE (or call themselves) Christians, but pretty much anyone.

      (Those Love Eyes are truly something to strive for, but very difficult to keep up with. Awesome post.)

  4. Wonderful! I've read that bit in the Bible, but didn't remember/focus on that part. Will have to revisit. Excellent thing to remember.

    [It's happened to me occasionally that a comment went into spam--so I got the email, but the comment didn't show up. ...In case this happens again. Check the spam box.]