My wife, Lou Ann, is a wonderful person.
If I threw a party and invited everyone that thinks she is wonderful, my house would be standing-room only. There might even be a line out the door.
This large crowd would tell you that Lou Ann is friendly, helpful, kind, caring and easy to talk with. They would list her many endearing qualities and attest to her honesty and compassion. And I would have to agree because I’ve seen that in her innumerable times over the past 45 years. In fact it sometimes intimidates me because she seems so good at it (that’s another topic…).
Despite all of this evidence, there are times when I feel my wife is my enemy.
I know that’s not the right thing to believe about such a wonderful person, and I feel a little self-conscious mentioning it. But over the years I’ve truly struggled with this feeling.
At one time I was so deluded that I was fully convinced that she was my enemy in every way, but God showed me that was foolishness.
So why would I think she could be my enemy?
First, Lou Ann was the person most likely to argue with me, disagree with my opinion, question my motives and ask questions that were none of her business. She would disagree on what I should spend money on, how much I worked and when I came home from work. She had an opinion on everything.
Second, most other people didn’t do all of those things to me. My best friend would usually say “Go for it!” when I wanted to buy something. And that felt really good. But Lou Ann wasn’t a “go-for-it” kind of girl.
Instead, she managed the budget, cooked my meals, loved our children, volunteered, made sure I had clean clothes and did a thousand other loving things for me.
Even while I felt she was my enemy.
Then God cleared my vision. She wasn’t my real enemy.
Satan was my enemy and it was his purpose to shift the attention from him to her. I had believed the lie he offered and now I had the choice to accept or reject it.
I began daily choosing to reject that lie and believe what God has said, that she is a blessing to me.
And that’s the underlying issue that needs to be brought into the light here.
It was never really about Lou Ann being an enemy but about me being unwilling to allow her fully into my life.
I was insecure. I was fearful that she was trying to control me. I was selfish and independent. I wanted to do what I wanted to do and logically, she couldn’t always agree.
So, why do I embrace this “enemy” thing? I believe the root issue is that I have a lot of past hurts and they continue to impact my life.
Here are four evidences in my life.
1. I am overly sensitive to criticism.
It goes back a long way in my life (decades) and here is how it happens.
When I interpret something as criticism, I react.
I fear being inadequate, so I paste my past emotions of past rejection into the present conversation. Which is why we need help such as the kind I’ve found in Celebrate Recovery, re|engage or Re-Generation.
2. I strive for perfectionism in many areas.
I somehow believe that I can be perfect and then no one will criticize/hurt me. But I have found that doesn’t work, in real life.
Perfectionism may reduce some hurt but it creates a host of other problems. Plus if we are honest, we realize it is rooted in pride.
Perfectionism is a symptom of my pride.
3. I value my independence too much.
Self-sufficiency has always been something I have valued.
I had to grow up fast because of problems in my family. I am sure we each need a certain amount of independence to be healthy, but when we take pride in it and struggle to let others in, then it is a problem.
This leads us to not take (or ignore) advice, reject counsel or rarely ask for help. We see ourselves as the battered and bruised pioneer battling our way through life. And that is prideful too.
4. I’m a world-champion at negative interpretation.
Negative Interpretation is my tendency to re-interpret things said/done in a negative way, because of my past experiences.
It is all about me filtering out some things and filtering other things into the situation. It doesn’t happen with everyone but with Lou Ann it is a real struggle for me.
Fortunately, she points it out and that helps me understand what I’m doing.
As you can see my pride, my past hurts and my habitual coping mechanisms continue to negatively affect my marriage.
Paul refers to this, in the Bible, as our “flesh” or “old man”. It is the dying ember of who we were, before Jesus saved us and we received the Holy Spirit.
So there is hope for me.
At one time, my life was dominated by anger but God has restored me in this area. The Holy Spirit has taught me, over and over again, the value of accepting God’s will, despite my selfish desires. And He has shown me the value of examining my anger.
For my anger reveals what is concealed in my heart.
So how do I continue to get free from these old sinful patterns I still struggle with?
We need to grow through our past hurts, not let them control us.
I must humble myself.
To obey God’s word.
You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesian 4:22-24
To continually renew my mind.
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will. Rom 12:2
To ask for and receive help.
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. James 5:16
To allow God’s power to incrementally change me.
God gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
So, as I submit daily, the Spirit of God is changing my heart and mind. I find that I walk more in the truth and experience true freedom from my past mistakes.
My prayer is that you too will benefit from God’s great love and power toward you. That you will find increasing freedom from the past.
- What symptoms do you see in your life from past hurts and how have you tried to cope with them without God’s help?
- How are you now letting God restore you to Him?
- Do you know your spouse’s areas of struggle? Where they feel fear, doubt or discouragement? How can you support them more fully?
- If Anger reveals, then what does your anger reveal about you? What is your anger reacting to?
- What next step could you take to let God heal you?
- Our efforts to disconnect ourselves from our own suffering end up disconnecting our suffering from God’s suffering for us. The way out of our loss and hurt is in and through it. – Henri Nouwen
- You don’t become a Christian by acting like one. You are not on a performance basis with God. He doesn’t say, “Here are My standards, now you measure up.” He knows you can’t solve the problem of an old sinful self by simply improving your behavior. He must change your nature, give you an entirely new self—the life of Christ in you—which is the grace you need to measure up to His standards. – Neil T. Anderson