[on New Year's Eve of last year, I wrote a post about a rough season in my marriage and how the Lord taught me to endure through trials. This is Kevin's side of the story. He is so gracious and amazing to write out each of these important words. You must know that he is not a wordy guy, and so his words here are quite valuable. Because I know him, I know he's selected them carefully. I'm impressed and humbled. And I feel honored to share them with you. Show him some love today...but not too much. He's mine.]
I didn’t realize it at the time, but I thought pretty highly of myself. In a word I was capable. I could climb mountains, build boats, play the guitar, and cook. I could carry on a conversation with almost anyone. I had a deep appreciation for nature and cultural things. I was creative and a romantic. I excelled in work and had always been rewarded for it. I trusted in God and knew my Bible. I desired to be a good husband and father. I was a good catch.
Then, a certain redhead caught my attention. She was feisty. She was smart. She was passionate. She was creative. She was fun. She was beautiful. But she had way too many words. So eventually I broke up with her. Months later, I couldn’t get her out of my mind, so I pursued her again and we dated for another year or two. Unfortunately, she still had way too many words, so I broke up with her again. After a year apart, I still couldn’t get her out of my mind, so I asked her to marry me. I was 23 years old. She said yes. And for the first time in my life, I discovered just how incapable I truly was.
I was her husband. And I guess I thought that as her husband I was principally responsible for her well being in every way. I was responsible for practical things like shelter and food. But I was also responsible for her heart, and in this I was ill-prepared. I wanted her to be happy. I needed her to be happy. I had no idea how to make her happy. I wanted her to be content. I needed her to be content. I had no idea how to make her content. I wanted her to think highly of me. I needed her to think highly of me. I had no idea how to handle it when she didn’t think highly of me.
Looking back, at least ten of our nearly 14 years of marriage were marked by my feelings of inadequacy, which led to resentment, which led to feelings of entitlement, which led to isolation. This cycle repeated itself so many times in our relationship that, over time, it became harder and harder for me to break out of it. Eventually, I was stuck there. I was detached. I was alone.
The thing is I really didn’t mind feeling alone. Often times the only catalyst for our arguments was the fact that she wouldn’t let me stay there. That’s the thing about being “independent” or “introverted” or “the color green” or “a waffle” or “a beaver” or any of the other creative ways people like to define it. Most days I was OK with feeling alone. It was safe. It was predictable. And I was “capable,” so I really didn’t need anyone else.
A few years ago, Leslie and I were driving home from a weekend together in the mountains. It had snowed the whole weekend. It was an amazing trip. We were connected in a way we hadn’t been for a long time so I guess she felt like it was probably a good time for some not-so-casual conversation. She asked me a simple question. “Do you feel like anyone needs you?” Almost instantaneously and without question I said NO. She was surprised by my answer, but in hindsight, I think I was even more surprised. My family loves me. I have close friends. I know that I’m valuable to my employer. I know that if I died today I would be missed. People would grieve. But am I NEEDED? My interpretation of this question was more like – am I irreplaceable to someone in some way? No. That was my answer. That was how I felt. And realizing it made me angry. Really angry. After all, I had so much to offer, and I believed nobody really needed it. That’s when things really hit bottom for us.
My anger was right under the surface for the next six months. I couldn’t get that question out of my head. I thought about it all the time. The more I thought about it, the more resentful I became. My anger turned toward God. I felt like He had abandoned me. I was tired of feeling alone in my marriage and I was convinced that it would be better for us to be apart. I told myself that it would be really hard at first, but eventually it would be better for everyone.
Fortunately, our story doesn’t end that way. It easily could have. At one point, I did ask my wife to leave with the kids. The practical solution was for them to stay with her parents until I could figure out something more permanent. She calmly refused, and shortly after I started counseling.
It took time for me to surrender to the idea that I was the problem. Leslie had her issues. But I was the one who was holding us back. I remember vividly when my perspective began to change. We were in the heat of an argument when I heard God’s commanding voice say to me, “When you fight against her, you are fighting against Me!” She is His daughter. She is my gift. And I was destroying it. Little by little, God gave me the wisdom and the discipline to look at myself and take responsibility for my actions and my role as the leader of my home.
There is no tidy ending to this story because the story isn’t over. In many ways, the story is just beginning. In some ways, our story begins new every single day. Yes, in countless ways, grace has swept in and filled our home. In this grace, I’ve learned that there is someone who needs me. There is someone who considers me irreplaceable. It’s Jesus Christ. I’m so irreplaceable that He chose to die for me. My responsibility as a husband, father, and a friend is to spend each day trying to be more like Him. My job is to love like He does. And a beautiful and surprising thing happens when I do that. I realize that people do need me, because I have something irreplaceable to offer them.