I want to know how your heart is doing, at this very moment. Tell me. Tell me your heart is joyous, tell me your heart is aching, tell me your heart is sad, tell me your heart craves a human touch. Examine your own heart, explore your soul, and then tell me something about your heart and your soul. –Omid Safi
This post is not an easy one. I always want to come across as someone who has it all together. Good family. Good marriage. Good life. And, the truth is, I do have those things, but I’m not perfect. I don’t always have it together. I struggle, just like you. Life has shaped me; molded me into who I am. And if I don’t take off my mask, how can I ever expect you to do the same?
One of the goals I have for this blog is to provide a place for real, open, vulnerable conversation, so I’ll start.
I often take our dog for walks, and this past fall, I decided to start using this time for prayer, instead of running through my to-do list. My prayers started out very mundane: “Please watch over my kids while they’re at school.” “Be with my husband while at work.” “May this day be productive.” Honestly, it was kinda blah. I was praying with my mind, and not my heart; checking off some sort of mental prayer list. Then, one day, I decided to keep my mouth shut and listen for any prompting that might come my way, and boy did it come…
My husband often tells me that I’m missing the mark in showing him love. My love language and my husband’s love language are totally opposite. English and Chinese. I speak Quality Time and he speaks Gifts. My husband has worked hard to learn my language, taking time to understand it, speak it; even when it feels unnatural. I, on the other hand, make a lot of excuses for my lack of Gift-speak. I’m too busy to learn. The kids don’t allow me time to study. I’m too tired…
On this particular day, on this particular walk, God started to reveal something to me. This “inability” to show love went deeper than a language barrier. I was scared. I was scared that if I fully loved, I would get hurt.
My youth leader, a man I adored, admitted to an affair when I was a senior in college. The news was heartbreaking, and I thought, “If this man could enter into an affair with another woman, anyone could.” Two pastors I know (one more closely than the other) were caught up in prostitution. I once attended a wedding for some friends of mine, and actually said (out loud), “It’s so good to go to a wedding where you know they’ll be together forever.” A couple years later, an affair tore their marriage apart… and the list goes on. I began to believe it was only a matter of time until my husband would do the same.
Don’t get me wrong. My husband is a loving, patient person. His morals are high and ethics beyond question. This was a problem with me. I generalized these events as something that just happens… to everyone. I didn’t really think to look at the countless examples of wonderful, faithful marriages in my life; instead I focused on those that fit my fear.
I had started laying bricks to build a wall to guard my heart. Each time I was hurt in a relationship, a brick; each time I heard a story about a couple’s divorce, another brick. And brick by brick I built this wall. I was protected. I was safe. Even if my husband were to have an affair, I was ready. I wouldn’t break because I had this great, big wall of protection.
Funny thing about walls. They keep you safe, but make relationships impossible. Can you imagine having a conversation separated by a wall? Can you imagine kissing your partner through a wall, or reaching out for a hug? Not so easy.
This wall was preventing me from being able to love, truly love. I built it so thick and so strong that I was unable to fully give and receive love. I thought, that if I accepted love and actually let my heart fully feel the wholeness of love, I would hurt all the more when it left.
This revelation took my breath away. How could I not have known this? How could I not see that my own fear was holding me back from experiencing all my marriage could be? Perhaps the barrier to speaking a language my husband understood was this gigantic brick wall.
Now that I had the knowledge, what was I going to do? How was I going to fix this?
I took a deep breath and started letting my husband love me. I didn’t remove my hand when he held it, instead I focused on his touch. Closed my eyes and allowed myself to feel love. Instead of quick hugs on the run, I started to embrace with intention. I worked hard, slowly chipping away at the wall. Some days it was easier. Other days, I would get scared and start to rebuild. The exposure of a vulnerable heart is not easy. I felt like a soldier going to battle without armor, without weapons to protect myself.
As I allowed myself to love, and be loved, I realized how desperate I was for love; starved. It was like I’d been wandering in a dry desert, and all of the sudden someone brought me a cup of cool, refreshing water.
I wish I could say that this wall has been demolished into a pile of dust. Slowly being blown away by the wind, but I still struggle. I still start the rebuilding process. I sometimes forget that this wall is the problem, and blame other things. I have to really stay focused on the demolition, or I forget; forget how good love feels, how good marriage can be.
Many of us build walls in some form or another, trying to protect ourselves from pain and hurt. But something amazing happens when we start to tear down those walls, allowing others in. We experience life more fully, love more deeply, feel more intensely. When we allow ourselves to be vulnerable, healing begins.