I have seen a Mark who is not quite as innocent a victim as I have painted myself out to be. It was very easy to point outward to other things as the reasons why there was a lack of closeness in my relationship with my wife. She is tired from taking care of the kids all day. She has had a rough day. The kids are making me feel tired. It's been a long day of work. And on and on and on.
I played the martyr card early and often. I wasn't blatant and obvious about it, but it permeated the way I interacted with my wife, and to a lesser extent, my kids. I allowed myself to believe that circumstances were beyond my control, and that I would be the super-husband and super-dad, forever working and ever underappreciated. Even though I didn't see a way to change, I would be faithful to my covenants.
Now there is some truth in those statements, right? Of course I should be faithful to my covenants. There are times in life when I will need to step up and provide a little bit of extra. But the statements are not fully true. And the most dangerous kind of lie is the one that is mixed with a careful portion of the truth.
As I have become more aware over the past few months, the Spirit has gently indicated that I might want to reconsider some of my views. I have prayed for my eyes and ears to be opened. And I have seen more of the truth, even though some of it has been painful:
- The truth is that the responsibility for my happiness and closeness is not "out there". It is inside me.
- The truth is that while circumstances are sometimes beyond my control, my attitude is always under my control.
- The truth is that I can be faithful and pleasant at the same time.
- The truth is that much of my own loneliness, and the delay of promised blessings in my relationship, are due to my own choices.
- The truth is that my choices have caused great pain, not just to me, but also to the lives of those who I love, foremost among them my beloved wife.
For if these things are external, there is no hope of changing them. I am truly stuck. But if they are the result of my choices, then I have the power to choose differently. There is still time to change my ways. There is time to do the right thing, for the right reasons, with the right attitude. There is a word for this. It is repentance.
The disciples who were with Jesus in his earthly ministry give us a good example of how to do this. At the Last Supper, Jesus announced that one of His disciples would betray Him. To their credit, the apostles did not nudge each other and whisper, "I'll bet it's old Judas. He's sure been acting strange lately." Instead, they were sorrowful, and asked earnestly, "Lord, is it I?" (Matthew 26:21-22)
Rather than looking around me at all of the things that are "causing" me to behave a certain way, I want to live with a "Lord, is it I?" attitude. Is there contention in my home? Distance? A lack of promised blessings? What am I contributing to the problem? What is my part? What can I change?
Lord, is it I?