Behind it all
I devoted last month to talking about the things I’ve learned about shame and vulnerability and grace. I mentioned the impact of actually experiencing grace and love and belonging but I didn’t go into detail about it. When I wrote about my experience, there was always something in the back of my mind, a fact always present, but I didn’t realize that I hadn’t articulated it. It has had the greatest influence in my experience towards knowing grace and love and belonging.
It’s my husband.
Without him, I wouldn’t know half of what I do about grace, love, acceptance. It has been Leighton’s constant grace for me particularly when I dive into self-berating that helps me believe that it’s okay for me NOT to beat myself up. I am learning to have grace for myself as I experience grace from him. For me, a large part of the “beating myself up” tactic is a learned protective measure – if I blame and beat myself up first (before someone else has a chance to) it won’t be as painful. Which, of course, is not actually true. Damage is done, it’s just at my own hands and not at someone else’s. As I live with Leighton (it’s been over 10 years now) and he doesn’t berate me when I mess up, I’m slowly unlearning this really unhealthy pattern.
While no one’s love is perfect, my husband’s love for me is unconditional. He has always maintained that he loves me and he affirms that particularly when there is tension between us. Leighton understands me and knows I will immediately go to the dark place of self-hatred and believe that he must hate me, too. He makes a point of telling me that isn’t true. In addition, he gives me daily affirmation – telling me that he loves me, that he believes in me, that everything will be okay… I need to hear these things over and over again. It helps override my internal tapes that tell me that I’m not lovable, that I’m a screw-up, that everything is all my fault.
I didn’t experience unconditional love when I was growing up – it felt to me as if there were always strings attached, that I needed to be perfect to be loved. In experiencing unconditional love, I am learning more about what God’s love is really like. He has much grace for us – but I wouldn’t really know that unless I experienced it with other human beings. The reason I know this to be true is that the opposite is true – if we experience the opposite of unconditional love, if we don’t experience acceptance and grace, particularly from the people we are in closest relationships to, we grow up living in a tremendous amount of shame. And when we’re living in shame, we don’t understand grace.
So my husband has been a significant influence behind it all. My journey would look very different without him. We are shaped by the people in our lives and I am a better person for my relationship with Leighton. I have learned so much and am incredibly thankful that I get to experience this life with him.