Tossing the Garbage-Splattered Glasses
Posted by Jen Slattery-Pheobus on June 11, 2010
When I was in high school, my English instructor told us that we all look at the world through our own rose-colored glasses. What he meant was that we all view the world through our own perceptions which are colored, largely, by past experiences. I think that’s why I liked studying Shakespeare so much. There was never a wrong answer or a shortage of themes to “discover”. Although as I scanned the writings for opposing ideas (love vs. hate, civilization vs. nature, etc.) I soon realized how easy it was to twist a text to fit my views. The result: I got an A. A firm, 100 percent A, not because I had done a wonderful job of uncovering the deep recesses of Shakespeare’s mind, but because I could find justification for the themes I presented. Most of the arguments presented in my paper, however, originated with me.
It is amazing how powerful the human mind can be. And how deceptive. Our past experiences, whether positive or negative, color the way we view the world. And when garbage clutters our hearts, it spills over into our vision, giving us what I like to call “garbage-splattered glasses.” For years, I used these nasty old, distorted glasses to view my husband. Colored by false expectations, misinterpretations and misunderstandings, I often jumped to the worst of conclusions before taking the time to check my peripheral vision. When my husband came home from work exhausted after a twelve hour work day and sometimes a two hour commute (Los Angeles traffic. That says it all.) and headed straight for the couch, I took it as a sign of rejection. After all, if he loved me, and our daughter, he’d want to be with us. Apparently the television was more important.
I even held his little acts of love against him. My husband’s “love language” (the way he receives and expresses love) is through gifts and acts of service. Needless to say, I’m never at a shortage for clothes and jewelry. The only problem is my love language is quality time, so his tender expressions of love actually caused me pain. I saw them as robbing me of the time I so desperately needed. I quickly labeled his generosity as materialistic and his acts of service as emotional cop-outs. He was only buying me jewelry to impress the neighbors and was filling his available hours with busy work (taking my car to the car wash, filling it with gas, running errands, etc) so he didn’t have to spend time with me and our daughter. Sound crazy? Understand, it’s hard to see with garbage splattered glasses.
During this time, prayer became my best friend. My lifeline. Whenever my heart would break (largely from my own interpretations and false expectations) God would gently and lovingly draw me to His presence. And when you spend time in God’s presence, it isn’t long before your heart experiences some major spring cleaning. As I poured my heart out to God, He poured His out to me, and clarified my thinking. One day I was listening to a sermon on 1 Corinthians 13. We’ve all heard these verses before. They grace many living room walls, occupy countless sermons and lead to many teeth-gritting attempts, but often our well-intentioned attempts leave us flat on our face.
Don’t act all spiritual on me. You know what I mean. We wake up in the morning, read our daily devotion, scribble verses about being loving and patient on note cards then scatter them through out the house hoping they’ll remind us how to be a loving wife, only to end the day confessing how we’ve failed. And the reason we fail again and again is because our efforts stay at surface level. If our behaviors are ever to change, our thinking must be renewed first. And our hearts must be cleaned. Which is why the sermon I listened to that day had such an effect on me.
The pastor didn’t focus on all the outward behaviors of love (being patient, kind and gentle). He focused on the heart and zeroed in on “love always hopes.” When you hope, you expect the best in the other person. Each time. I had been doing just the opposite. I had been expecting the worst in my husband, and I realized I needed a reality check. And God’s help.
So once again, it began with prayer. Through the sermon, God showed me how faulty my perception was and how quickly I jumped to the wrong conclusion. And yet, the garbage was so thick on my glasses, I didn’t know how to view my world, and my husband, differently. Which was where prayer came in. I began to ask God to change my perception, to help me see my husband through his eyes. And whew, what God revealed floored me, and broke my heart. Suddenly, what I previously had seen as apathy revealed itself as exhaustion and pain. My husband’s heart was breaking just as much as mine. I remember one day walking into the den watching him watch television, seeing him in my new God-given light. For perhaps the first time since we had married two years earlier, I was actually seeing him. His heart. And it was beautiful. So beautiful, it drew me to him. I nestled by his side and wrapped my arms around him. And the surprised, and deeply emotional, look that filled his eyes shattered through an entire mound of sludge. And opened up a world of intimacy. You see, my husband was no different than I was. All he wanted was to feel loved.
This prayer, that God would help me see my husband’s heart, has been repeated countless times in the fourteen years since. It is funny how easy it is for the splats of garbage to return. And yet, God cleans them off just as easily, if I let Him.
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