This post, written in January 2015, refers to a book I edited for a friend several years ago. The free e-book, which I will send you upon request, is an excellent tool to help you reveal and heal the hidden hurts that are getting in the way of communication in your relationships. I’m re-visiting the post in June 2019 to connect with my post “Both Sides” staying with the theme of improving communication.
In 2010 a friend called to ask if I’d be willing to accept an editing job. As a therapist, he had discovered a strategy to use when communication had broken down in relationships; he felt led to share this tool through a free e-book. Would I be willing to sign on for this labor, he asked, knowing that my pay would be of the ‘eternal rewards’ kind?
I had met this man, Brad, and his wife, Lori, several years earlier when we had toddlers at home. My husband and I joined them in their home on Monday nights for a time of worship and prayer that included a half dozen other people. It was our one night out each week. We hired a babysitter to come put our kids to bed so that we could have fellowship with these people who had previously been strangers. These Monday nights were oxygen to us. We never missed. No matter what the circumstances, we got ourselves across town so that we could join others in singing, scripture, and prayer.
This couple supported us outside Monday nights, too. Brad encouraged my husband, who was just beginning his own counseling practice, by meeting with him and providing professional oversight and collaboration. From time to time, Brad also provided, at a deeply reduced rate, counseling services for each of us. Lori taught our children piano lessons. If that’s not enough, whenever we went out of town, they let our golden retriever hang out with their golden retriever.
What I came to know about this family was that they were God’s people. They had humble spirits and open hearts. They were passionate about speaking into the lives of others — sharing what they had learned with whoever would listen. Many times I heard the voice of God through them. Often, that voice provided healing.
So, would I be willing to edit Brad’s book about an effective communication strategy that he had used in therapy to break down walls of resistance in relationships? Guys, he asked me this in 2010, the height of my butt-kicking, name-taking soldiering years. I was busy with three teenagers. I was teaching full-time. I was a pastor’s wife with tons of responsibility. Why in the world would I say yes to more?
But I did say yes. It was the summer. I had responsibilities, sure, but I did have a little bit of room. So, yes. Yes!
I might not have been willing, at the beginning, to admit that there were communication break-downs in our own family. And Brad and I lived three states apart; there was no way that he could have known that either. But as I engaged in the text, it became obvious that the first recipient of the free e-book would be me. As I read scenario after scenario I saw myself in the conversations-gone-wrong. I felt the emotions that the people in the book were expressing. I also saw where their listeners shut down.
As I read about the author’s strategy for ‘graphic word pictures’ I began to put my own emotions into words that I felt others in my life could grab onto. The ‘graphic word pictures’ were not accusations, but representations of my feelings. I practiced by writing one for my husband. Just one ‘graphic word picture’. We’d been having trouble communicating emotions for a while. We’d both been in the trenches, and, as soldiers, hadn’t taken time to identify what we were feeling, let alone to appropriately communicate those feelings to each other. As soldiers we’d been busy surviving, deflecting attacks, patching up wounds, and running for cover.
But as I read, I found myself retreating from the front, pulling off bandages, and examining wounds. I took a first look at the depth of the injuries. Seeing the damage, I painted a word picture of it for my husband so that he could fully appreciate the depth of each gash, the amount of infection, and the need for healing. He didn’t respond defensively; instead he helped me ice and elevate. He brought me a cool glass of water. He sat beside me while I healed.
Just because of some words.
I had the opportunity recently to talk to this friend again. I was struggling to communicate some emotions and had written a graphic word picture to try to express my pain. I emailed him and asked if he would read what I had written to see if I was correctly utilizing the strategy. He read it, then asked me to call him. For an hour he allowed me to see not only the wound I had described — the one on the surface — but also the much deeper crippling wounds that I had been ignoring. He helped me pull back the protective layers of body armor so that I could see the severity of my injuries. He helped me describe them with words. As we did that work, I cried and cried. The wounds were real, but I had not been acknowledging them. I had ignored the pain and soldiered on.
In the midst of my soldiering, God saw me. He saw all the hurts I was covering, and He cared so deeply that he utilized my desire to return a favor to a friend to expose those hurts and begin the healing that He’s still working on many years later. I recently opened the e-book and noticed that the publishing date was 2011, long before my health crisis, but in the middle of a summer that would impact the lives of our family for years. None of that was a surprise to God. He knew what was coming, and He was already beginning the healing of wounds that hadn’t yet been inflicted.
That’s what He does — He sees the big picture of our lives and steps into them. He sees our attempts to work things out on our own, and He inserts people and circumstances designed to disrupt us, to slow us, to change our trajectory. For some of us he has to be persistent — we are so bent on our own ways, that we fail to see all the different paths He is offering.
After five years in this little house by the river — a different season, a new chapter that we were invited into –I am still often tempted to return to my life of soldiering. The hard-charging, butt-kicking, name-taking lifestyle is a survival strategy that has worked for me in the past, so when the going gets tough, it’s the path I turn to. However, any soldier will tell you that the lifestyle takes a toll — physically, mentally, and emotionally. And, frankly, it’s effectiveness is a facade.
All the disruptions in life — all the interventions, all the people, all the circumstances — have taught me what I should have known all along: I have no need to fight. I am a child of the King.
Who do I think I was battling, anyway? All this time I have been sitting in the palm of His hands.
Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?”Romans 2:4