“Hi,” I reach across the bottom of the slide to shake her hand. “My name is Marian.”
I know we’ve only talked for 15 minutes, but are you a potential friend?
I chide myself for sounding so desperate and keep talking about a little bit of everything and yet nothing at all. It’s all surface. Kids, job, relocating, school, community. Good stuff, but we just scrape the surface.
About halfway through the conversation I realize that I’m hungry. Not for food. I glance over at the remains of my kid’s McDonald’s and my stomach churns.
No, my hunger is even deeper.
I’m hungry for girl talk. I’m hungry for the let’s-meet-at-Starbucks-and-close-the-place-down-while-embarrassing-ourselves-because-we-laughed-and-cried-all-within-10-minutes-of-each-other kind of talk. I miss those talks.
Still standing at the bottom of the slide, I sigh as I rattle off the ages of my children and talk about my husband’s job. Disaster strikes when my youngest screams that “HE’S DONE!” because the older two boys aren’t playing with him.
I dismiss myself from the slide and go set my boys straight.
“You will play with each other and you will like it,” I hiss under my teeth, not bothering to look back and see if my new potential friend is waiting for me by the slide. I just popped my own bubble of perfection in the mom-department. The real me has surfaced, slightly frazzled, a little impatient, and definitely tired.
My new potential friend has quietly slipped back toward her oversized SUV, nervously waving. “It was –- er –- nice to meet you,” she stammers across the playground as she quickly buckles car seats.
She’s gone, and so is today’s hope for finding a new connection in this wild world of relocating.
Even as I type this, my bottom lip is sticking out a little further than what’s acceptable for an almost 30-year-old woman. I would stop, but I really want to pout. My children pout when they, too, are hungry.
I sigh and turn back to the playground, letting the kids play until it’s time to go. I feel my heart shut down as we head back home.
As we pull in the driveway, I stare at our new house with resentment. I think of our old place and miss being able to hop on the bike and ride to my favorite hang-out. I miss my friends and the joy that came from sharing life together.
By the time I get home, I’m in a total funk. My husband asks if we had a good time at the park and I jerk my head toward him in response, giving him a “How dare you ask such a question!” look that sends him back upstairs to his office.
Instead of talking to him about my feelings, I stew over them –- alone.
On these days, we have talks that sound like this:
My husband: “Why can you talk to everyone but me? Why can you be deep with all your girlfriends or with complete strangers, but not me?”
Me: “I don’t know. I just can.”
My husband: “See, that’s exactly what I’m talking about.”
He’s right, and so am I.
I really don’t talk to him the way I talk with my girlfriends, but I really don’t know why. Is it because so much has happened in seven years of marriage to undermine the intimacy of our relationship? Have the busy schedules, the constant flow of motion, and the stress of always starting some project that is so big that we have to ride through the entire thing always on empty? Battling for safety of one child, watching another child battle for his life, and running 100 mph in opposite directions — have these things really taken a toll on our ability to be in authentic relationship with one another?
Thinking back over the last several years, I can hear the message I have sent to my husband multiple times: “This woman over here, the one who is hurting and feels abandoned, she is more important than you.” Of course, I never said this aloud, but when I stayed out two hours longer than I told him and returned home emotionally spent, this is what it sounded like to him.
As I listened to him say that he was tired of getting my leftovers, I would look at him in disbelief. “But it’s for ministry!” I would say. “She is hurting and just needs someone to listen to, someone to talk to.” And I would schedule another meeting later that week just to check in and see how everything was going.
Before our big move, I was so involved in so many different activities and meeting with so many women whom I loved dearly, that my husband was getting even less than leftovers. He was just being allowed to co-exist with me. As I returned home, energized by the stories these ladies and I shared, awed by the way God was orchestrating my life, I needed my husband’s input less and less. I didn’t run to him for advice or approval. I saved it for my girlfriends. I justified it because –- after all –- this is what he had been doing with youth ministry for the last 5 years. My niche had finally been carved for me, as well.
Except that this nearly destroyed us.
A year ago, we woke up and realized that we had chipped away at the foundation of our marriage for so long that we were standing on crumbled rocks completely disconnected from one another. Catastrophe hit every morning when we opened our eyes to look at one another. We were strangers sharing the same house.
Thankfully, God had a godly couple in mind to come in and do some crisis accountability. The stories they shared were real, their transparency authentic, and I am convinced today that these two literally saved the godly heritage we had hoped to leave our children that day my husband and I made our vows to one another.
So, a year later, how are we? Are we pricelessly authentic with one another? No, as per the wonderful conversations mentioned above! However, we are working on it, and God is continuing to teach me a very important lesson: “Thou shall have no other Gods before me, and no other best friends before thy husband.” It’s in scripture somewhere, I’m sure.
As I put together my mantra for authenticity, I wanted to write down the things I am really hungry for. At first, it was rooted in a hunger for authenticity from a friend. As God would have it, it has been reworded to speak of the hope I have for my marriage. Until this is fulfilled, we wake up each morning and place one foot before the other –- trusting we are still a match made in heaven.
I’m hungry for you to know me. Really know me. I’m hungry to be accepted. I know that you have accepted when we laugh over absolutely nothing at all because it’s funny to both of us. Nothing makes us both laugh.
I’m hungry for godly advice with abandon. Unleash it on me, please. Our marriage needs it. Our children need it. I need it. I need you to quote scripture and speak truth into my life. Why would you do that? Because you love me the way Christ loves me and you desire to see me stand for the things He stands for.
I’m hungry for purpose. And I feel valuable when you share your struggles and ask me for advice. I don’t feel alone when you admit that you, too, are imperfect. I find companionship in knowing we recover under the same grace of Jesus. I want to know that I am useful to you and that I offer insight you can’t find elsewhere.
- I’m hungry for safety. Can we be so transparent with one another that there are no impressions, that there is no competition so we simply live side by side with one another in a way of encouragement? I am tired of the small things, those “foxes” Song of Songs talks about, that steal away our ability to be a refuge for one another.
I’m hungry for peace. A peace that stems from balance in our lives because we have talked through our visions, our passions, our ministries and have decided that while they are all good they are not all beneficial and we have chosen those to leave behind. I hunger for the ability of both of us to say, “Here, I want you to pursue this one freely, but please leave this idea alone for today.” And when we are real with one another, we can have peace, knowing that these aren’t demands, but authentic concerns for the balance in one another’s life.
Authenticity, let it flow. Let it be real and raw and full of God. But I also have a new prayer and a new hunger: Let my husband have the first portion of my thoughts and attentions. I love my friends, but they are going to have to settle for my leftovers. I can offer the same authentic ingredients, just a smaller portion of me.