As we sat down for Sunday lunch, I could tell he had something to say to me. My fiancé is generally more contemplative and quiet, but something felt off today. When I asked if everything was okay, he grabbed my hand and smiled softly, “Yes, but I would like to talk to you about something.”
We talk about everything, so I wasn’t at all concerned. He took a deep breath and said, “I see you’re very stressed lately. I know you have so much going on with work, planning the wedding and everything else. I want you to know that I’m here for you. Whatever you need. We are a team.”
Can you say swoon? My oh my, what a blessed woman am I! I felt my heart throb as he lightly stroked my hand. I was preparing to say something when he continued. “But I’ve noticed lately that in your stress, you are not asking me for help. Instead, I see you tell me what to do. I realize you are overwhelmed, but when you demand things from me and tell me instead of asking me, it doesn’t make me feel good or respected.”
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I felt my cheeks turning red and immediately my heart hardened. How embarrassing! I thought back to the last month. I had indeed been stressed out and very tired from juggling my job, wedding planning and preparing to change flats. Did I let the stress of that all get the better of me?
Noticing the tension in my body and expression, he grabbed my hand tighter and softly said, “If you need something. Just ask me. I will do whatever it takes. I love you. I want to serve you, but I cannot serve you if I am not respected by you.”
He held my gaze for a while, as I fidgeted in my seat and fought the urge to cry. While I’m not one to shy away from hard conversations, in relationships there is something excruciatingly vulnerable about staying in a conversation when all my flaws and faults come to the surface.
It’s that feeling you get when you go for your annual doctor’s check up. You’re lying on a table, in a room lit by the brightest fluorescents on planet earth, while wearing a garment that is only a courtesy so as to not make you feel totally undignified.
Yet unlike a doctor’s visit, in the presence of the Bridegroom, I can trust in the bright light that exposes me in all my tainted glory. In the safety of the one who loves me completely, my heart can be at ease, as he gently lifts from my shoulders the yoke of my humanity.
I’ve experienced this time and time in my interior prayer. Yet over these last few years, Jesus has been taking this experience into my earthly reality through vibrant friendships. The reality of what I experience in prayer is coming into practice as I open myself up to be known by my brothers and sisters.
Feeling secure in a healthy relationship
Now, as I prepare to receive my earthly bridegroom, I’m further experiencing the blessing of vulnerability. Contained in a healthy relationship, built upon beauty, truth and goodness, I’m able to give the gift of myself in a way unlike ever before. Though I am rough around the edges and still have quite a bit of work to do as I seek to love as the good Lord tells me to, it’s a gift to be able to make mistakes and to be loved in the process.
In the safety of rightly-rooted relationships, perfection isn’t demanded of me; rather, I am invited to be perfected in love through mutual submission and self-gift in everyday life.
After some time, my fiancé asked how I was feeling. I picked at my empty plate as I shared my shame and embarrassment, but also my gratitude for him gently calling me to be better. When I continued to avoid his gaze and hold back tears, he said softly, “Look at me.” Finally, I let myself settle in his gaze. Though he was sharing a flaw in my behavior and tendencies, his eyes communicated nothing but kindness and delight.
“I forgive you. I’m with you. I’m not going anywhere,” he said with a soft smile. I sat there peacefully, as the words of my future bridegroom echoed the reality I live in time and time again with my eternal Bridegroom.