“One of the first important truths is, you’re crazy. Not you, as it were; all of us, that all of us are deeply damaged people. The great enemy of love, good relationships, good friendships, is self-righteousness. If we start by accepting that of course we’re only just holding it together, and in many ways, really quite challenging people . . . . I think if somebody thinks that they’re easy to live with, they’re by definition going to be pretty hard [to live with] and don’t have much of an understanding of themselves. I think there’s a certain wisdom that begins by knowing that of course you, like everyone else, are pretty difficult. And this knowledge is very shielded from us. Our parents don’t tell us, our ex-lovers—they knew it, but they couldn’t be bothered to tell us. They sacked us without . . . [Krista: by the time they tell us, we’re dismissing what they say anyway.] That’s right. And our friends don’t tell us because they just want a pleasant evening with us. So we’re left with a bubble of ignorance about our own natures. And often, you can be way into your 40s before you’re starting to get a sense of, ‘Well, maybe some of the problem is in me.’ Because of course, it’s so intuitive to think that of course it’s the other person. So to begin with that sense of, ‘I’m quite tricky and in these ways.’ That’s a very important starting point for being good at love. So often we blame our lovers; we don’t blame our view of love. So we keep sacking our lovers and blowing up relationships all in pursuit of this idea of love which actually has no basis in reality. [Krista: This right person, this creature does not exist.] And [this idea of love] is, in fact, the enemy of good enough relationships.” Alain de Botton in a conversation with Krista Tippett
“Cast all your anxiety on [God]
because [God] cares for you.”
1 Peter 5:7 NIV
Moving From the Head to the Heart
- Are you just “holding it together in many ways?” Does your partner know that you know this?
- Do you assume that “sheltering in place” would be easy if not for your difficult partner?
- Can you take a deep breath and consider how difficult you can be? . . . how complicated your partner may be (how needy, broken, well intentioned)? . . . how skewed both of your ideas of love may be?
Abba, help me to understand, and remember, how tricky it is to live with me–and love me.
For More: The Course of Love by Alain du Botton
Thanks for reading, following, and sharing these Daily Riches. I hope in these difficult days you can find some help and encouragement here. If you find these riches helpful, please check out my book: Wisdom From the Margins: Daily Readings.
“Marriage . . . is not all magic. Husband and wife must work hard at it. If one is making no effort, the other must work twice as hard. Love helps, though it is precisely love that is in danger of losing its elan with so much to depress it; prayer helps tremendously. But, in the purely psychological order, nothing helps so much as the reverence that flows from a right vision of what man is–that this loutish man, this empty-headed woman, is God’s image, an immortal spirit, loved by Christ even to the death of the Cross: whatever the surface looks like, this is in the depth of every human being, this in him is what God joined together with this in her. The realization that there is this welding of two into one in the depths of their being, below the level that the eye of the mind can see, is the most powerful incentive to make that union in depth effective through every layer of personality. This reverence is a safeguard against one of the great dangers of family life–the tendency of one partner to form, or re-form, the other . . . in his [or her] own image. There is a sort of imperialism to which the self is liable, the desire to impose its own likeness. As we have already seen, one should not lightly try to re-make another: but, if re-making there must be, assuredly the only image in which any one should be re-made is the image of God in which he [or she] was made.” Frank J. Sheed
“Above all, love each other deeply,
because love covers over a multitude of sins.”
1 Peter 4:8 NIV
Moving From the Head to the Heart
- Do you have a “right vision” of who you are? . . . of your spouse? Take some time to picture your spouse as God’s beloved image-bearer, as one treasured by God.
- Prayer and loving like Jesus (Ephesians 5:25) will also be necessary. Are you praying God’s blessing on your spouse? How does your love for your spouse resemble God’s love for you?
- Do you have an “imperialistic” attitude where you’re insisting on what you know is best for your spouse? Can you humble yourself instead, and allow God to work in your spouse (and in you) in God’s way and time?
Abba, I need your work in me. I’ll leave my spouse to you. Help us both.
For more: Marriage and the Family by Frank J. Sheed
Thanks for reading, following and sharing these Daily Riches! Look for my upcoming book–Wisdom From the Margins: Daily Readings for more meditations like this. Coming soon!
Sheed, Frank J. Marriage and the Family. New York: Canterbury, 1953.
“We marry to make a nice feeling permanent. We imagine that marriage will help us to bottle the joy we felt when the thought of proposing first came to us: Perhaps we were in Venice, on the lagoon, in a motorboat, with the evening sun throwing glitter across the sea, chatting about aspects of our souls no one ever seemed to have grasped before, with the prospect of dinner in a risotto place a little later. We married to make such sensations permanent but failed to see that there was no solid connection between these feelings and the institution of marriage. Indeed, marriage tends decisively to move us onto another, very different and more administrative plane, which perhaps unfolds in a suburban house, with a long commute and maddening children who kill the passion from which they emerged. The only ingredient in common is the partner. And that might have been the wrong ingredient to bottle. The good news is that it doesn’t matter if we find we have married the wrong person. We mustn’t abandon him or her, only the founding Romantic idea upon which the Western understanding of marriage has been based the last 250 years: that a perfect being exists who can meet all our needs and satisfy our every yearning. We need to swap the Romantic view for a tragic (and at points comedic) awareness that every human will frustrate, anger, annoy, madden and disappoint us—and we will (without any malice) do the same to them. There can be no end to our sense of emptiness and incompleteness. But none of this is unusual or grounds for divorce. Choosing whom to commit ourselves to is merely a case of identifying which particular variety of suffering we would most like to sacrifice ourselves for. …It might sound odd, but [it] relieves the excessive imaginative pressure that our romantic culture places upon marriage. The failure of one particular partner to save us from our grief and melancholy is not an argument against that person and no sign that a union deserves to fail or be upgraded. The person who is best suited to us is not the person who shares our every taste (he or she doesn’t exist), but the person who can negotiate differences in taste intelligently—the person who is good at disagreement. Rather than some notional idea of perfect complementarity, it is the capacity to tolerate differences with generosity that is the true marker of the ‘not overly wrong’ person. Compatibility is an achievement of love; it must not be its precondition. Romanticism has been unhelpful to us; it is a harsh philosophy. It has made a lot of what we go through in marriage seem exceptional and appalling. We end up lonely and convinced that our union, with its imperfections, is not ‘normal.’ We should learn to accommodate ourselves to ‘wrongness,’ striving always to adopt a more forgiving, humorous and kindly perspective on its multiple examples in ourselves and in our partners.” Alain de botton
“Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another,
because love covers a multitude of sins.”
1 Peter 4:8
Moving From Head to Heart
- Have you made it your partner’s job to save you from your “emptiness and incompleteness”, from your “grief and melancholy?”
- Do you expect grace from your partner to cover your “multitude of sins?”
- Can you embrace your union of imperfections as “normal”–even unavoidable?
- Will you commit yourself to working towards “compatibility” rather than demanding it as a precondition?
Abba, teach me to love.
Thanks for reading/following my blog. The length of this post is a rare exception. Debotton’s article was just too important to pass over due to my self-imposed rules on length. – Bill
“Shame lies at the core of our resistance to knowing and embracing our brokenness. It arises in response to a profound sense of vulnerability. It is being caught in God’s garden with your pants down and a half-eaten forbidden fruit in your hands just at the moment when you hear God calling your name and walking toward you. That’s naked vulnerability–something that is so intolerable and unstable that it quickly resolves into shame. What the Genesis story of the Fall tells us is that our fundamental problem lies in the fact that we want to be a god, not human. We hate the vulnerability that comes from being human. And when we experience it, we grasp anything available to try and cover our nakedness rather than embrace it. Shame and vulnerability make us want to run and hide. …The vulnerability I am speaking of is intentional, never circumstantial. It is a choice, a willing allowing of ourselves to remain undefended at a point of acute rawness and fragility. It is choosing not to run and hide from our nakedness. This is why it is a spiritual posture, not a personality trait…. It is choosing openness and trust. It’s a vote for our true self and is always, therefore, at the expense of our false ways of being in the world. …This [relates to] Henri Nouwen’s notion of the wounded healer–our capacity to help others not despite our own brokenness but precisely because of it. Wholeness doesn’t come from eliminating brokenness but trusting openness to life in the midst of it. In the same way, we don’t come to God by eliminating our sin but by receiving the joyful news of our acceptance by God in the midst of it. Paradoxically, our sin is a gift because it makes us aware of our need for God’s grace. In the same way, our wounds are a gift because they make us aware of our lack of wholeness and can be a threshold to healing and further wholeness. …paradoxically, we have to embrace our brokenness if we are to avoid being stuck in it. That embrace is not an embrace of resignation. It is an embrace of acceptance.” David Benner
“They sewed fig leaves together
and made coverings for themselves.”
Moving From the Head to the Heart
- Is your goal to be vulnerable before God–”to remain undefended at a point of acute rawness and fragility” rather than hiding or blaming?
- Are you learning to be “undefended” in other relationships as well?
- Could accepting or embracing your brokenness be the next step to God’s healing you?
Abba, I renounce my disguises and excuses. Work your healing work in me.
For More: Surrender to Love by David Benner
Thanks for reading/sharing my blog! Bill
“There’s an old rabbinical story about how the spot was chosen for God’s holy temple. Two brothers worked a common field and a common mill. Each night they divided whatever grain they had produced and each took his portion home. One brother was single and one was married with a large family. The single brother decided that his married brother, with all those kids, certainly needed more grain than he did, so at night he secretly crept over to his brother’s granary and gave him an extra portion. The married brother realized that his single brother didn’t have any children to care for him in his old age. Concerned about his brother’s future, he got up each night and secretly deposited some grain in his single brother’s granary. One night they met halfway between the two granaries, and each brother realized what the other was doing. They embraced, and as the story goes, God witnessed what happened and said, ‘This is a holy place — a place of love — and it is here that my temple shall be built.’ The holy place is that spot where God is made known to his people, ‘the place where human beings discover each other in love.’ Marriage can be that holy place. The site of a relationship that proclaims God’s love to this world… Notice what makes this story so moving, two individuals who had greater empathy for the difficulties the other faced rather than their own. Selfish marriage is the opposite: each partner feels their own pain more intensely and are either unaware or calloused in regards to their spouse’s pain.” Gary Thomas
“I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment…. If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive.” Brené Brown
“Above all, clothe yourselves with love”
Moving From the Head to the Heart
- If you’re married, do you see your marriage as a “holy place…where God is made known?”
- If you’re married, you know how decidedly painful this process can be. Are you willing to submit to it?
- Imagine what your spouse can do for you if you are “seen, heard and valued” – if he or she responds to your vulnerability with “empathy and understanding.” Imagine what you can do for your spouse.
Abba, make yourself known in the dailyness and difficulties of our marriages.
For More: Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas
These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek God and he seeks you. I hope you’ll follow my blog, and share it. My goal is to share something of unique value with you daily in 400 words or less. Thanks! – Bill (Psalm 90:14)