The Weakest Reed

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


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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The View from the Pit

To their credit, his jealous brothers didn’t kill him outright.  To his horror, they did strip his clothes off of him and throw him down into that slimy, waterless pit, leaving him for dead. It’s a chilling scene.  A voice from the bottom of an empty well; screaming, crying, begging his brothers not to let him starve there. He’s cold and it’s growing dark. A sizable group of men, perhaps gathered around a warm fire with the smell of roasting game causing their stomachs to growl, closing their ears and hardening their hearts as the flesh-of-their-flesh  pleaded for his life, his voice echoing up to them. These young men he had grown up with, who he had slept next to and broken bread with and shared all the intimacies of a large family living in close quarters, callously ate their dinner above and not a single merciful and repentant heart among the ten of those jealous brothers took a stand and said, “Ok enough is enough, brothers!  The joke is over.  He’s learned his lesson.  Let’s bring him back up.”

Instead, one of them looks up to see a caravan of spice merchants coming their way and adds greed to the list of their sins.  “Well, it doesn’t profit us at all if he dies in that well.  Let’s sell him as a slave instead.”  But maybe it wasn’t really greed that made him do it because they degradingly sold him for a sum which was less than that for which a slave was usually sold. Motivations aside, I can’t help but think that Joseph reached an even deeper level of despair when he realized that all hope had been lost that his brothers or anyone else might rescue him.  Instead he found himself ripped up from the well, probably shackled or tied so he wouldn’t escape, walking mile after mile as that caravan took him further from home and deeper into slavery.

I can imagine too well the thoughts and feelings he had at the bottom of that well and then crossing that wilderness.  Betrayed, abandoned, rejected, forsaken, exposed, vulnerable, insignificant, impotent, helpless, hopeless.  How could my own brothers do this to me?  How could God let them?

I wrote yesterday’s post months ago, not knowing exactly what would come next when I wrote down the rest of my own story.  I left myself staring down into that abyss and feeling forced to jump into it with no protection or safety plan in place.  And then today in our Bible study we talked about Joseph.  And we were asked to imagine what he would have felt like at the bottom of that pit.  The list of emotions rattled off of my tongue almost too easily and with yesterday’s entry fresh in my mind, I knew why.  Joseph’s pit and my abyss.  Finding myself abandoned, betrayed and rejected by the ones I loved and trusted the most.  Powerless and with no escape from the deep and dark consequences of someone else’s decisions looming heavily over my own life, pressing me relentlessly towards that hole.  No one and nothing offering to rescue me.  All that I knew and all that I was behind me.  Stripped bare of the covering and cloak of my family, my previous identity.  Staring into an unknown future that seemed unlikely to bear any resemblance to the bright one that my young mind had conceived would be mine.

And yet as we contemplated this story this morning, I could not help but think of a verse in Psalms:

He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along.

Of course, if you know the story of Joseph you know this scene at the well is not the ending of his trials but it is also not the death of his triumphs.  After he endures many more difficulties he eventually and miraculously ascends from slave to become established as ruler.  He ends up being able to save his people from death by starvation and reconciles graciously with his family.  God literally lifted Joseph out of that pit and then steadied his footsteps as he walked out his very difficult circumstances.  God didn’t spare him from suffering in his life, but that doesn’t mean that God had abandoned him or forgotten him. We know that because God also did not spare his own son from suffering. Isaiah the prophet tells us this of Jesus:

Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. Isaiah 53:10

And Joseph’s life in some ways is a foreshadow of Jesus’. Joseph was crushed and grieved beyond what seems bearable but God used his suffering to bring about redemption and a fruitful future for his people.  Every hardship was turned around for the good.

But it took a very, very long time.  For now, I am somewhere in the middle of that very, very long time.  And 20 years ago, after I walked into my mom’s living room and saw that baby on that couch I was just starting that very, very long time.

Have you ever found yourself in a pit?  Did someone rescue you? Did the place you found yourself “rescued” to look like a rescue at the time?