The Weakest Reed

He will not crush the weakest reed or put out a flickering candle.


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We had one of those fights yesterday that was based on an old theme in our marriage.  It sent us down a well-worn path,  the soft, grassy buffer of newlywed naivete had long worn away from it.  It’s a path that’s we’ve trudged many times before, choking on kicked-up dust or getting entrenched in the deeper muck when it rains. Ruts have been worn and on darker days one or another of us might get hurt tripping and falling into one. Exhausted by the end of it, sometimes it doesn’t feel worth the effort to clean up again all the way before we get on to the next thing.  We think we’ve washed clean enough, forgiven enough, but the time is too short before we’ll put on those dirty, wet walking sneakers again and blisters result. And then we’re rubbing against raw on our next trek.

This thing is not something that is about a difference of opinion and I don’t even know that it’s totally about a particular sin either (though it certainly is true that without sin we wouldn’t feel this disunity).  We’re coming up against a fundamental difference in who we are and how we see the world. Talking about it doesn’t seem to help and ignoring it doesn’t seem to help either.  I’ve prayed about it (a lot)  and we still don’t seem to be able to find unity.  SO, where does that leave us?

I’ll tell you where it left me at about 4am this morning when I woke up after something fell off our bed to clatter loudly on the floor: feeling hopeless. Wondering if he’ll ever really get me.  Agonizing over how to live a life of one flesh with a person when it feels like the only way to fit together is to kill off some part of me.  But maybe then without that gangling part of Me, could we at least be a more neatly fitted We?

I try it sometimes, just  kind of a light neglect, not exactly starving that part that doesn’t seem to fit but maybe putting it on a rigorous diet.  It doesn’t work. Instead the opposite seems to happen. The more I ignore it, the more it demands to be seen.  It takes on a life of its own over there in the periphery to which I’ve relegated it.  Flashing all sorts of colors and morphing into shapes and dimensions unexpected, it’s impossible to kill it.  It’s so alive.  It’s even kind of winsome, doing its own charming thing in the corner.  Like a toddler in a time out after I’d forgotten I’d put it there too long, it starts singing some beautiful song to itself and I just want to join it.  It’s no use.  It’s just an inextricable part of who I am.

So what now? Does this mean I chose the wrong life or that God dealt me a harder hand?  I honestly don’t know.  Theology is tricky like that.  But I know that the more married women I connect with, the more I realize that this kind of marital imperfect-fittedness is not rare.  In fact, I think it may be the norm.  There always seems to be something that husbands and wives don’t get about each other, even in the best of marriages.  And we learn to live with them, hopefully appreciate the differences even, because we’re committed and because we chose love and we continue to choose love every. single. day.

But what about that pain?  What about wondering if we’ll ever be understood, appreciated, “gotten?”  What about the deep and fulfilling intimacy that we think marriage should be?

The answer was made undeniably clear to me this morning. It’s nothing new, but it’s the kind of bread I need to eat daily in order to be sustained by it.  I subscribe to a service called Go Tandem.  It’s awesome and it makes it really hard to ignore Truth in the midst of my busy life.  It sends me mini, individualized devotionals throughout the day.  I get texts and emails and voice messages and calls at times I’ve chosen.  It’s just the right amount of intrusive.  (And free.  Sign up now, I know you’ll love it).

Anyway, usually I get one automated call in the morning around the time I get out of bed.  And then if I don’t answer, it sends me the same message via email.  Well today, I got this same call THREE times in a row.  And then I ALSO got the same email THREE times.  Now that’s just weird.  Actually, it’s just God.  The message was clear and the Messenger was beautifully and faithfully relentless in His pursuit of me, like the most devoted of suitors.  I could barely hang up the phone before the call came through to me again.  And then appeared in my email.  Again. Ok, that may seem a bit stalkerish.  But sometimes I need that because I’m dense when it comes to feeling loved.

I pasted it below, but basically it was a reminder that my husband isn’t meant to totally get me.  He’s not meant to fulfill me.  He’s not meant to complete me.  If he could, I might be too easily satisfied and neglect to go after the real prize:  a profoundly deep, intimate, fulfilling relationship with God.

You Can’t Complete Me

Hear from God

Listen to today’s CallIt’s so easy to look to other people to satisfy our needs. Let’s be honest, they’re here, human, tangible. But don’t fall for that junk! Jeremiah explains that only God can truly meet our needs–and he will! 

Jeremiah 17:5-8
This is what the Lord says:
   “Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans,
      who rely on human strength
      and turn their hearts away from the Lord.
 They are like stunted shrubs in the desert,
      with no hope for the future.
 They will live in the barren wilderness,
      in an uninhabited salty land.
 “But blessed are those who trust in the Lord
      and have made the Lord their hope and confidence.
 They are like trees planted along a riverbank,
      with roots that reach deep into the water.
 Such trees are not bothered by the heat
      or worried by long months of drought.
 Their leaves stay green,
      and they never stop producing fruit.”
Satisfaction only comes from God.
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Your Kingdom Come to My Water-Logged, Mortgaged, Suburban House

Disappointment has been an aggressive and mean-spirited stalker who relentlessly pursues me. His only goal in life, it seems, is to be present every single time I let that majestic hot air balloon of hope start to lift me into the sky. He is there before I barely get off the ground, plunging the cold, hard needle of reality into the billowy fabric of my dreams.

I made choices too that tethered me, keeping me bound to the ground at times. Sometimes because a tether seemed like the safer choice and other times because a life without the ties of commitment is one without impact. And that kind of life seems like a waste, too ephemeral to be worth the breath. So commit I did, allowing the ties to be strung around me, pulling down on me with ever-increasing strength. I had always imagined something involving More. More views awe-inspiring. More exposures breath-taking. A life aloft. Alight. Transcendent. Luminary. But those are not so much the defining characteristics of my life as a stay at home mom living in suburbia with a mortgage and a water-logged basement and a husband who has the gift of being more easily contented.

I try to keep the fire ablaze, glorious balloon filled, ready to soar. But the ropes that I bound to myself strain against the effects of the burner, and the basket remains grounded. The more tethers I accumulate the more self-defeating and exhausting it feels to keep stoking that little fire on the chance that it might someday blow me aloft. There are some tethers I’d be willing to let go, cut even. But others are just too precious. So rather than strive to keep the light glowing, I feel like I’m slowly letting that magnificent balloon of hope lay, slackened and deflated, behind me.

It’s a lovely basket I’m living in, but it feels like only a small part of the life I’d thought would be mine. In fact, that basket sans balloon seems sometimes almost like a mockery of the life that might have been. I can be painful, even shaming somehow, to look at that impotent artifact too closely. It seems more merciful to just forget that the balloon of hope ever might have been something I connected to the basket of my real life. Maybe it’s better to resign myself to the idea that the hope of More is just an demanding, hungry balloon, better left unfed by that energy-sucking fire I’ve been stoking. Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but perhaps if I could just deflate my hopes a bit, it’d all be a little more manageable.

There’s a message I hear a lot lately and it’s one that I think is helpful. The message is that we should focus on the positive. That if we set our thoughts, our consciousness on what we do already have then we will be more content. We will be less dissatisfied. I believe there is truth in this. Enough truth that I have been battling for a full week over this same piece to decide if I should even finish it and post it. Is the answer to my restlessness and my disappointment with the world to have an attitude of gratitude? If I could just change my patterns of thinking to get me to arrive at a place marked “Opportunities” rather than “Challenges” then maybe I’d be more content.  I know there is science to support this and more important that it is the truth that I need to give thanks in all circumstances.

So I try to make my lists of all the things for which I’m grateful and whip my synapses into submission to make them travel on paths more positive.   But the moment I pause to breathe, I can’t help but think this: Yes, it’s not all bad. But is it as good as it should be? Is it good enough to be worth all of the pain and the toil of life? Is it good enough to satisfy the hunger of a human soul?

I identify a lot with the author of Ecclesiastes lately. “All things are full of weariness; man cannot utter it: the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.” The book of Ecclesiastes expresses the same sense of restlessness and disappointment I too often feel. There’s a lot on this earth with which to fill a life: work, pleasure, relationships, discoveries, wisdom. But is this really all there is?

Is it wrong to dare hope for more than what I have here?  I have asked myself if my disappointment is sin. I have wondered if I have done something to attract this stalker Disappointment. Have I left out the welcome mat of my heart for it? I have mulled over the distinctions between disappointment and discontentment. I have explored sermons about the sin of discontentment or ingratitude. I’ve wondered over and over again what is wrong with me that I can’t be more easily satisfied. Is the deep hunger I feel my own fatal flaw?

Yes, there are times when I blame my restlessness or disappointment on not having been given something specific here on earth; on a perfect job or dream or marriage or family life that I pined after and didn’t get. And I need to get over that because it’s a lie and because it robs me of the appreciation I might feel for the gifts God has given me. They truly are wonderful gifts. But they were never meant to fulfill me. Perfect satisfaction won’t come from anything I’ll find here on earth. So should I just ignore the hunger I feel, blaming it on brokenness, chastising myself for not being satisfied with the things I have on earth that are good enough?

This thing, this longing, it’s a persistent bugger. It is something that I can’t seem to just wish or gratitude-list away, this desire for More. There is a hunger in me that simply refuses to be satisfied with all that I experience in this world, even all the best of the things here on earth….

….And when I look at the Bible, I’m not sure that there’s anything wrong with that hunger. In fact, I think there’s biblical support that confirms that we were not built to be satisfied by this world.   1 Corinthians 15:19 says, “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.”

When I read in Hebrews about ” a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain” I begin to realize I’ve gone wrong imagining hope as a balloon that would lift me above the circumstances of my life.  In fact, I may need to bring the precious balloon I manufactured myself to the cross and give it up altogether.  But maybe that’s not such a big sacrifice for a hope that is an anchor that tethers me to a heavenly habitation. One that relentlessly draws me up instead of pulling me down.  One anchored in a love from which I can’t be separated.  One that has been secured by Someone who promises immeasurably more than all that even I, perhaps the loftiest of lofty dreamers,  could ever ask or even imagine.

If we follow that rope all the way up to where it leads us behind that veil, we find that the anchor has been tied to the throne of God by Christ himself by His work on our behalf on the cross.  He did this because we were actually created to be in relationship with that God. We were designed to long to be in Him who is the source and fullness of all radiance, power, awe, might, majesty, light, life, glory, grace, truth, justice, mercy and goodness. No wonder I am disappointed with all I find here on earth!

So the hunger is not the sin. In fact, it is this hunger that causes us to reach out to taste and see that the Lord is good. There is a blessing in hungering. Because those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for being in that perfect state of relationship with God, will be satisfied. The truth is that if we were not afflicted by this hunger, we might not be motivated to seek the perfect food. Being easily satisfied, we might stop short of seeking and finding and filling ourselves with the Bread of life.

So yes, I have to be careful that I don’t deceive myself into thinking that this plague of disappointment I feel will end when the circumstances of my life change. But rather than beating myself up every time I feel it, could I use it as a reminder that there is a reality of More? And pray that I could see and smell and taste and feel some of it, of Him and of His Kingdom, here on this earth.

Please Lord, let your Kingdom come.  Let it even come here and now in my water-logged, mortgaged, suburban house with my kids screaming at me in the background. Within the boundaries of this habitation and the ordinary life I live, as I grope, let me find You. Because I know then that this soul, yes even this ravenously hungry soul, will be satisfied.

” …and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us;  for in Him we live and move and exist”  Acts 17:26-28