Saturday, July 02, 2005

Now here's a man I can trust

One day when I was in my early teens I came across a magazine ad featuring a nightlight that said, "Tonight's the night."

I had never thought about that before. How do couples know when to do it?

Sex was such a mystery. I could hardly wait to get married and solve the mystery.

When Sarah and I married in our early twenties, we had a great time laughing and exploring the mysteries.

But one part of the mystery completely escaped me. I was following in the footsteps of a violent step father-in-law.

"The leading cause of injury among American women is being beaten at home--by a husband, boyfriend, ex-husband or ex-boyfriend," says Colman McCarthy, author of I'd Rather Teach Peace.

Sarah told me the stories but it completely escaped me that meant that on some deep level she could not trust me. After all I was a man. The first man in her life had disappeared before she was born when he was shot and killed. The second man in her life died of polio three weeks after her mother married him when Sarah was eighteen months old. The third man in her life stayed around but he was an alcoholic prone to bouts of violence.

If I would have been smart when I we married I would have cried out, "Lord, help me earn this woman's trust."

But I was young and in love and an eternal optimist. As could have been predicted, a few years into our marriage her ardor waned and mine did not.

Being disabled I was finely tuned to rejection. "She's cutting me off," I wrote angrily in my journal, feeling every bit as hurt and powerless as a dandelion run over by a mower. "I need..." I would write in my journal.

What I thought I needed was sex. A wiser, older friend suggested that I needed love and that God might be a good source of love.

I thought God was a poor substitute for sex. Sarah wasn't too keen on being close to this angry man she had married. She didn't like my demands.

One summer vacation I sat in the car by myself, agonizing in my journal about my misery. ''Make a commitment to Sarah to stop making demands'' I thought I heard the God of the universe say.

"How can I do that?"

"Look to me for the love you need."

I wrote out my commitment in my journal and told Sarah. She didn't believe me. But my commitment wasn't dependent on her believing me. I stopped making demands and each time I was tempted to be demanding I asked God to love me.

I know it sounds kind of nuts but it worked. Slowly my frustration was replaced with a sense of being loved by the God of the universe.

Slowly Sarah began to trust me. About a year later she said she'd like me to take some initiation. At first I wondered how I could do that without making demands but I soon discovered that I could.

Now I look back on it and I realize how smart God is. I was a young, clueless husband who did not know he had to build trust with this most beautiful woman. She needed more than my eyes lighting up like a nightlight saying, "Tonight's the night."

By making the commitment to stop making demands and keeping that commitment, I became the first man in Sarah's life that she could depend on.

I still shake my head in amazement. By God's utter grace I became like a nightlight that says, "Now here's a man I can trust."