Noodling My Way Out of My Own Dysfunction

Shortly after I posted about The Chase, Brenda and I had a serious, heart-felt discussion about the direction of our family. It was one of those intense yet somber conversations where I'm certain that both of us were actively listening to what the other said. I love those moments.

Since then, I've been making a determined effort to chase my family, and specifically to seek after my wife. I don't mean that I'm doing it in ways that are necessarily easy for me, but in ways that make the biggest impact in her weekly routine. For example she loves it when I cook breakfast for the family on Saturday morning. Cooking is one of my least favorite things to do, ever. You get the gist, this is harder than it sounds.

An Unhealthy Assumption

The closest thing I have to a life goal is sitting in the title of this blog: to become the man I should have been all along. I want to end better than I started. Who doesn't, right? But I've been carrying around a hidden, unhealthy assumption in that motto. When it comes to the finer details concerning what constitutes becoming a better man, the assumption has always been that I'm the judge. I am the authority that not only holds the luxury of selecting the criteria for success, but also where exactly I measure on the scale at any given moment.

I want to reject that notion.

The practice is foolhardy when you really think about it. If I could noodle my way out of my own disfunction, chances are, I wouldn't be in the position of needing improvement. Or perhaps I would be much further along towards being the humble, selfless, charitable, and patient person I aim to become, instead of going to bed at night often feeling defeated and regressive.

It's a Team Sport

Very well then. Self improvement works best with teamwork, therefore I need, at the very least, one other person. A teammate. I'll start small, with only one. Now, if only I had someone I could trust. A top draft pick! A confidant who holds my best interests at heart and is willing to love me in spite of my foul moods and selfish behaviors. You know the sort of person I'm talking about, not some here-today-gone-tomorrow free agent that can easily be wooed away by another team with a bigger budget, but a person who has been patriotically loyal to this franchise since the early years.

I'm not above using sport metaphor to encourage men to listen to their wives. Clearly.

Yes, there is one person uniquely qualified to help me be a better person and her name is Brenda. Because she is my wife she gets to see the highest, shiniest bits of my character that radiate with brilliance on my best days, and the lowest, most decayed portions that wrinkle noses on my worst. She has a front row seat whether I like it or not.

So, even though I don't tell her often enough, I want everyone to know that she is my trustworthy advocate, my cheer leader and deliverer of tough love on my journey to become the man I should have been all along. Today, as part of my chase, I want to reaffirm her role in this area publicly, so that she knows I cannot do it alone, and to be more specific, I would not want to do it without her.

Noodling your way out of your own dysfunction requires an excruciating amount of trust, but here is the secret. It's only excruciating when you care more about being coddled than you do about being better.

The Chase

Ever get the feeling you're chasing something you shouldn't be chasing? I get that whisper sometimes. "Chris, what are you chasing?" Which is a silly question, because I know what I'm chasing. The whisper, on most days, can be deciphered like this, "Chris, you're chasing the wrong thing."

The whisper. What a pain.

But I listen because I don't want to spend my days chasing the wrong thing. Things like dollar signs. Like approval from faceless strangers. Like video game scores. That stuff doesn't satisfy my soul.

I want to chase my children. I want to chase my wife. I want to pursue them and enjoy them and build them up. I want to stop being consumed with myself for just 5 [expletive deleted] minutes. I want to lead them with the heart of a servant.

But "the chase," by itself, isn't enough.

I want to win the chase, and actually capture them, I want to capture them so they know what it is like to risk their hearts to another person and have that trust honored. They need to know it's possible. They need this, they deserve this, and it's my responsibility to deliver for them to be whole.

So today, I commit myself to the chase.

How Can I Save My Marriage? Part 3

This is part 3 in a multi-part series that starts here.

When I imagine divorce I see in my mind a common person balancing in the center of tightrope. They balance precariously, looking from one platform to the other, wondering which journey to make, the one towards marriage, or the one towards divorce. It is safe to assume that both routes carry risk and associated dangers and now that I think about it, neither platform is really, truly "in sight". There is a haze masking them from view.

It takes great determination for this person to stay still and maintain balance in the middle of the rope, let alone move in a direction. So there they stay, legs wobbling, airplane-arms outstretched, physically and mentally paralyzed.

How does a person in such a predicament move in any direction, let alone the one towards marriage? By process of elimination. A judgement call must be made here. One of these two paths must be the better, and therefore the other must be the worse.

If you want to save your marriage you must first believe something very unpopular and counter-cultural about divorce.

3. Believe That Divorce Is Worse

Marriages die. They don't dissolve or evaporate or otherwise disappear without a trace. They die and they leave their rotting, stinking carcass for all to see. We try to mitigate the smell with aerosol cans full of sympathetic eyes and listening ears and affirming nods but the stains are still there, plain as day, long after the haze of benign advice has evaporated without leaving streaks.

One of the noteworthy things about death is that loved ones closest to the deceased are changed forever. If you are a child of divorce, or if you are married to one, then you know this is true. There will be fallout and it will ricochet through lives like a pinball thrust down a chute and slammed mercilessly around a machine.

Again I refer to C.S. Lewis:

Christianity teaches that marriage is for life. There is, of course, a difference here between different Churches ... [but] they all regard divorce as something like cutting up a living body, as a kind of surgical operation. Some of them think the operation so violent that it cannot be done at all; others admit it as a desperate remedy in extreme cases. They are all agreed that it is more like having both your legs cut off than it is like dissolving a business partnership or even deserting a regiment. What they all disagree with is the modern view that it is a simple readjustment of partners, to be made whenever people feel they are no longer in love with one another, or when either of them falls in love with someone else.

I think most married couples fool themselves in the end. They "legally separate" and find a comfortable routine with less fighting and more harmony. First they think to themselves, "This isn't so bad." And that leads to, "It will probably look like this after the divorce, too." Those thoughts are reenforced with "Surely this is better than the hurtful words and fighting and tears before we separated!"

The fallacy here, I believe, is ignoring the reality that when you divorce you trade in one set of problems for another, while still retaining key behaviors that contributed to the divorce in the first place. And lets be realistic here, you really are gambling about which set of problems are worse. It is easy and foolish to assume that problems will be removed and that is all. It takes almost no effort to overlook the reality that divorce is not a removal at all, but actually, an exchange. In fact, divorce is a life-long trade made with insufficient information during a period of mental exhaustion and emotional duress.

How on Earth can a wise decision be made during, or immediately following, a period of such magnificent handicap?

It can't.

I have watched men and women, whom I love, sprint towards divorce and the whole time I'm thinking NO! NO! NO! Do NOT sprint towards divorce! Run the marathon of forgiveness! And grace! And love! This is not a simple readjustment of partners, don't you realize that you are about to undergo surgery and neither you, nor your loved ones in the waiting room, will ever be the same again?

In light of all this it is my argument that in most cases I've witnessed, and as a default position, divorce is nearly always the worse decision of the two.

If you are considering divorce right now please ask yourself this question. Am I trying to make things better? Or am I trying to make things easy?

[image: theophene_guy]