It was thirty minutes before my husband, Will, came home from work. I was trying not to burn dinner again, rushing around, grabbing pots and pans and food off the shelves.
That’s when it happened. I reached up to grasp an onion, and I accidentally knocked a teacup down. I stood there, looking at the shattered cup on the ground, starting to feel panicky and sick. It wasn’t just any cup, it was a special one that Will had brought back from China. It went with a tiny tea set and an iron tea kettle, all mementos of his trip.
I quickly tried to piece it back together with glue, but it wasn’t the same. I looked at the clock and knew that he would be arriving home very soon. That remaining twenty minutes before he walked in the door was torturous.
What would he do when he saw the cup? Would he be angry? Would he yell? Would he push me away? Even a glare or stony response, I felt, would crush me. My body was literally shaking, and all I wanted to do was curl up in a corner and cry.
I tried to pull myself together and finish making dinner. I rehearsed in my mind how I would tell him, how I would plead for forgiveness. I would wait until after he had eaten and relaxed a bit. I would —
He walked through the door, and all my plans went out the window. He barely said “hi” before the tears I had been determined to hold back came like a flood. I completely dissolved as I told him what I had done and how so very, very sorry I was.
“Baby Doll, come here,” he said in his soothing, Southern voice, as he wrapped his arms around me. “I don’t care about things like that. It’s just stuff.” I said, “But it’s from CHINA!!!” lamenting, “I am so, so sorry. It will never be the same...” “Baby, EVERYTHING is from China!” Will grinned. I brushed a tear away and laughed a little. He assured me, “It’s ok. Don’t worry about it. I care so much more about YOU than stuff. Sure, I would be upset if you went and broke things on purpose to make me mad, but that’s not what happened. It was an accident. I love YOU. YOU are what matters to me.”
My husband Will is always loving and gentle like this. He is the answer to my prayers in the restless nights after my abusive courtship, when I would beg God to send me a gentle man. Gentle, understanding, loving... these describe Will’s strongest traits.
Will has never done anything to cause the fear and anxiety I felt for those 20 minutes before he came home from work that night. In fact, Will has only ever done things that prove to me that he is completely opposite of my fears. I have struggled quite a bit with fearing him nonetheless, not because of what he has done, but because of what others have done to me. This is the reality of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Will keeps reminding me, happily, that he is not anything similar to the abusers in my past. His reminders are so good and much needed. With each mistake I make, with each differing of opinions that we have, he proves to me who he really is and who he truly isn’t, allowing me to trust him a little more and a little more.
It’s very similar to the process of amending my abusive view of God. My past gave me a lot of scary notions and fear about how God will treat me.
I often ask: How will God truly react towards me if I doubt this or question that? Do I really have to walk on eggshells, or is it ok for me to mess up, get something wrong, or even break a command? Will God strike me down or push me away, or will S/He hold me closer, look into my eyes and say, “I don’t care as much about stuff being broken as I care about you. Sure, it would really hurt me if you tried to do damaging things on purpose, out of spite, but that’s not what happened here is it? Come here, let me hold you close. It’s going to be ok. I’m not angry. I LOVE you!”
I’m working hard to rid this deceptive view of God from my life but it’s hard and it hurts and I’m afraid. Bible verses are sometimes a trigger, church makes my shoulders tense, and spiritual leaders cause my chest to tighten.
I don’t have answers to all of my questions about God, but as I listen to the Holy Spirit speak to my heart, I hear reassurance of what God is really like: gentle, understanding, and loving. With each question, doubt, wonder, and utter failure, there is an opportunity to see and feel what God is really made of.
The more I see who God is and what He is made of, the more I am able to trust Him a little more and a little more.