Tuesday, February 2, 2016

When Anne Marries Spock a Collision of Worlds

“What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you?" ~James 4:1


        Once upon a time in a faraway land, two crazy young kids who were temperamentally similar to the sensitive and emotional Anne Shirley and no non-sense unemotional Mr. Spock met. They were blinded by “love” and quickly got married, but when two people so different join together in oneness, in order to keep that oneness, lots of dying has to take place.
            Due to this strange union that I found myself in, I was confused, challenged, and angry. Often times, by God’s grace, we find ourselves around people who God uses to sanctify us as light sand paper but this union was like a sand blaster. It wasn’t gradual and it wasn’t gentle.

Then I read this piercing passage of Scripture and found myself conflicted: “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask” James 4:1-2.

“Wait, what? But it is him, he is the problem. If he would just act the way I need him to act then we would be fine. Our marriage has problems because he does this or doesn’t do that.” I had reasoned that I was not asking for too much. How could this quarrelsome heart be about me when he failed to meet my needs? After all a husband is to love his wife like Christ loves the church right (Ephesians 5)? Yet the Scripture stood for itself. What causes fights in our relationship is within me. That was not fun to hear or receive as truth but it drove me to my knees.

God, in His graciousness, started opening my eyes, you see, my marriage has not always been the easiest, yet whose has? When you throw two sinners with different upbringings and backgrounds together there are bound to be some problems, but mine had a little more difficulty to it because we have a problem of properly communicating. Not just your typical communication problems that others have but one brought on by neurological disability. And as God gave me more grace freely in areas, in our marriage, I withheld grace from this man God gave me. I did not take the neurological issues into account. I was expecting things that were not physically possible for him to give me.

You see, he didn’t think like me or act like me or even learn like me, we were completely different. It was like living in a foreign land not knowing how to speak the language. I was lost. I was so frustrated with him most of the time. My eyes were on our problems and not our Savior. Our marriage was not working until we both learned to die to ourselves. And by God’s goodness we were able to slowly die little by little allowing grace for the vast differences in our marriage and relationship. Communication continued to be hard; it still is to this day.

When our relationship improved and we started reflecting Christ and the church better, God granted us with children. This journey was incredibly hard for us because we ended up having a child with autism. It was not obvious autism but a mild, high functioning type of autism that is not apparent to others looking in yet in the home it is very evident and life altering. Many marriages find it hard to survive this kind of pressure. They lose the ability to support one another when they enter the world of special needs parenting but this was the biggest grace gift God has given to our marriage.

As I watched my child struggle socially over time my heart overflowed with compassion. I watched people reject her while she did not even know it. I watched her think people were friends while they manipulated. I watched this sweet innocent girl struggle socially and as she grew I watched her struggle with anxiety and communication skills. I helped walk her through obsessions though I could not fix them. I was broken over her strange world that she was forced to live in, there was nothing natural about it for her because she does not pick up social cues like most of us learn as we go. She doesn’t understand sarcasm or common sayings. She is very concrete in her thinking while her peers excel in abstract thought. We easily take for granted some common sense granted to us that has not been given to her. Since nothing is apparent about her disability it surprises many people because they don’t understand the secret world of this invisible illness.

God started opening my eyes toward my husband during this time. I started noticing that some of the things my daughter did or ways she behaved, I also observed in my husband. Yet when you grow up with spectrum issues and no one to help you with them you just learn to cope. Those patterns follow you into adulthood. As I watched my husband, I realized that some of the areas that I extended her grace in, I held my husband under judgment. Oh how my heart broke. As I watch my daughter navigate this difficult road, I now am filled with more compassion for my husband. He is not the same as her but he is on the spectrum with her. And with this new knowledge I am learning to give grace. I am learning to communicate in the proper way and not take things too personally. I have a lot to learn and it is great practice to freely give grace. God gives more grace (James 4:6) and I am learning to do the same as He makes me more Christ like when I have to opportunity to die to self. God does this for my husband as well when I unravel into an emotional whirlwind that makes him extremely uncomfortable. 

You see, our marriage works, despite the vast differences, because we both know that our eyes need to be focused on Christ and as we both individually behold him He transforms us from one degree of glory to another (2 Corinthians 3:18). We also learn the art of dying to self and how to be great forgivers who freely lavish on mercy and love. It is a process that is not by any means perfected or natural but it is what God had in store for us both so that our differences sanctify one another for the better and when we stand before God we will be able to say we are more like Christ for it.

Because our relationship is sometimes like observing Mr. Spock and Anne of Green Gables it can be quite comical but when all is said and done, we learn to love better, forgive fuller, pray harder and to pour forth mercy. We are better off for it because we both died a little more and both look a little more like our Savior. If it wasn’t for our daughter with autism, I do not believe I would have ever realized how to love well in our marriage. And I do yearn for the day we will be together in Heaven with no neurological deficiencies so we can communicate without the problem of sin getting in the way. What a glorious day that will be! But until then we press ahead for the prize that Christ (Philippians 3:13-14) has called us to with our eyes fixed on Him (Hebrews 12:2). We praise Him for His good gifts whatever kind of package they come in. All things are gifts of grace from the Father above and we are grateful.  

This year those crazy kids mentioned above give thanks for 20 years of marriage and we stand in awe of His great grace as we achieve this milestone that we know makes God smile because He is the God who sees and He knows the real struggle. It pleases Him when we chose the Christ path of dying to self. Marriage is a great tool to learn and practice that art. So those two crazy kids who got married too young with too many differences are going to make it, not because they are great but because God is great and He is at the center of their marriage. They are very different now than they were then but they would not trade the adventure for anything because it is HIS story. And the Author is good. The happily ever after is soon coming and what a day that will be for their testimony is about His great power that shines through their great weakness. May HIS name be praised!
~ Ang

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