Toxic

I see a lot of stuff out on the internet about how ridding yourself of the toxic relationships in your life will make you a happier person. I guess I understand how that could be true. I have some relationships that others would probably consider toxic, and I guess in a way they are. I sometimes daydream about what it would be like to be able to just completely wash my hands of certain people and situations. The outlook would be a much more peaceful life.

But cutting people out of your life is a two edged sword, at least for me. I think that a lot of the time, we are predisposed to thinking of everything in black and white. For example, I have a person in my life, we’ll call her Donna, whose temper is just completely out of control. This is a big issue for me, especially when it comes to her spending time around my son. I grew up in a house with a lot of screaming, cussing, and yelling, and it did a lot of damage to me emotionally. It’s taken a long time for me to heal, and I’m determined that my child will not be around that type of behavior. But at the same time, Donna’s  poured a lot of good into my life. I’m the person I am today, some good and some bad, because of her influence in my life. She would (forgive the cliché) give me the shirt off of her back, even though she’d probably cuss me out for it later.

I can’t just cut her out of my life. For one, it wouldn’t go over too well with some other people I know. It would make certain get togethers and formal functions really uncomfortable and weird. And secondly, and most importantly, God has called me to love Donna. (A little disclaimer here: I am not advocating for anyone to stay in an abusive situation. Just in case I’m not being clear, I am only talking about difficult relationships.)

There are others in my life that have cut Donna out, and they are clueless as to why I make an effort to have a relationship with her.   Does her temper bother me? Yes. Do I think she gets out of control sometimes? Absolutely. When people ask me how I stand it, I simply tell them that I’ve learned to set boundaries. When Donna gets all crazy, I get up and leave. I appreciate the good that she brings to my life, and I forgive her for the ugly. I try not to let her angry outbursts get me down too much, but when it does, I look to the One who can heal Donna. I say this a lot, and I think it may be turning into my life slogan: Christ is enough. And how’s Donna going to know that if someone isn’t being there for her, telling her and showing her?

We’d all do better to remember that down at our very core, we are all dark and twisted. Sin makes our heart a toxic wasteland. That’s why we need a Savior.

Verb Love

My husband and I have been together for nine years. Nine years. It’s flown by at a breakneck pace, at least for me. My husband may tell a different story. Sometimes we’ll be sitting around in the evening reminiscing and laughing about something, like how we got into a knock down, drag out fight over a crooked piece of wall art in our first apartment, and it will hit me all of a sudden that we have so much history together. I can’t believe we have so many memories to share.

I was twenty when we met and he was twenty-three. I look at pictures from way back when, and my eyes get all misty and I get this funny tickle in my throat. We were just a couple of kids, so young looking. We thought we had it all figured out, when in actuality we were only on the cusp of adulthood. I think back on that time quite fondly. The night we met. The long distance relationship angst and the euphoria of finally seeing one another.  It was wonderful and exciting. It was fight and chase each other into the rain. It was intense, in a way that makes me feel exhausted now.  It was so easy to love each other, in spite of the turmoil we sometimes faced (and caused) in our relationship with one another because we didn’t know our Holy Father.

Things are a bit different now. We’re older. We’re more stable, both financially and emotionally. We bought a home and we have a child. While I sometimes look back on our earlier days wistfully, I don’t think I’d want to go back and relive them. There is a lot less turmoil these days, but sometimes it’s more difficult to love one another. It’s hard to divert time to just spend on one another. And our definition of love has changed.

Love isn’t just a feeling anymore, the highs and lows of infatuation. The world believes that infatuation is love, and they sell it that way through television and magazines. They use the two interchangably, but it’s not true. Love is a verb. It’s something you do. All you have to do is crack open your Bible and take a peek to find out where this kernel of truth came from. It’s there, from the front cover to the maps. Verb love is Christ like love.

See, if you’ve been married for a good chunk of time, you know that marriages go through seasons of struggle, apathy, or even straight up dislike. It’s normal and to be expected, although the world will tell you differently. The world tells you that you should get up and leave the moment you feel unsatisfied or if things get a little tough. But there’s beauty in sticking it out. There’s satisfaction and growth. And you get to see real love, in action; The kind of love that says, “I’m going to do this thing for you, even though you’ve been really selfish lately. Even though you’ve been neglecting our relationship this month. Even though you’re a tootie head. I’m going to go out of my way for you. I’m going to do something that I’d rather not. I’m going to make sacrifices. Even though you don’t deserve it.”

That’s the kind of love that Jesus gives. It saved my soul. It’s kept my marriage afloat.  Let me practice it more like You, Lord. More and more and more.