As the few of you who read my blog know, my wife and I shared a deep binding love. We stoked that love daily, which was a simple thing with the specter of cancer looming large in the background. But that is not the aspect of love I want to discuss today.
As you all also know, I recently found a new love and I had it explode in my hands.
Both of those experiences have shown me a common thread and that is what I would like to share with you today.
Fear. Yes, the common thread is fear.
I know you ask, how did we get here from love? That is a very valid question and like most things involving love, it is not a simple answer. Not to mention, I don’t have a complete answer. But, I will give it a go none the less.
One definition of love, is a lack of fear. When you choose love you choose make your self vulnerable. You are choosing to wrap yourself in the armor of love, knowing that in doing so you expose yourself completely to the one you love. True love conquers fear completely. In choosing love, you make a conscious decision to reject fear. A strong love is not subject to any real fear.
Think on that for a while.
In loving your child, you accept the knowledge and risk that they will be hurt. You know they will intentionally cause you pain (the teen years). Your love supersedes the pain no matter how directly and intentionally they harm you. The nurturing love looks beyond the moment. It looks back to the days when they were first learning to walk, when they were first learning to speak, when they were innocent in their love of you. It also looks forward to the day when you won’t be such a boring stick in the mud, but once again will be a source of wisdom and a touchstone. Sometimes you have to actively remind yourself of these things, but that love conquers the fears of today.
With your partner / your spouse that love is a little different; but it is mostly the same. You chose that person and you have built a life with them. You have intertwined your feelings, finances and your love. They are a part of you. You are a part of them. The love is blind to the division as in many respects, you are one. A person can no more not love their partner than they can not love their right hand. Love conquers the fears of daily living.
Things are a little different here as the betrayal of a child is usually just youth needing to assert its independence and can be seen through that lens. With a partner / spouse, betrayal is a much deeper cut. Whether the betrayal is financial, sexual or whatever, the covenant is broken. Something within the armor of love has attacked. This attack has no defense and thus strikes home deeply and completely. That is why this betrayal cuts so deeply.
As I stated earlier; love, in many ways is an absence of fear.
Betrayal creates fear. Fear is a pernicious enemy. It is like flowing water, looking for the lowest point and works to infiltrate any crack. Fear will run cold and freeze, shattering the existing cracks. Fear finds anger and turn to a scalding steam. If fear is allowed to grow, love diminishes. With enough unchecked fear, loves armor crumbles.
When a partner is the source of fear. When their actions continue to reinforce a pattern of betrayal, fear will be the death of the relationship. No sane person will choose, is capable of choosing to share armor with their attacker. As horrible as the death of love is, sometimes it is the only, best choice. Dawn fought fear for at least 15 years in her first marriage. She learned way too late how much damage that did to herself and her children. In the end, she stood without love, without armor and had only succeeded in facilitating her betrayer’s assault on those she loved.
We had very direct and frank discussions on this aspect of love. I knew intimately the damage created in that situation. She sought professional help. In this way, she healed those areas so they would not contaminate our marriage.
We both worked very diligently to always mend the armor of our love. I intentionally say mend. Dawn occasionally damaged our love. More often, I damaged our love. We each instilled fearful moments in the other. We are both human and fully capable of failing. The difference was, we were focused on each other and any hurt to the other hurt ourself even more. That aspect of our love made it impossible to intentionally hurt the other.
We also had one great advantage over most couples. Every single day of our marriage, we faced a true fear. We faced a fear much larger than any fear either of us could create between us. We faced the looming jackal of cancer. Every single day she had to face the fact that her own body was likely to betray her. Every single day, I had to face the fear that I would likely be honoring her greatest wish. To die in my arms and it would not likely be terribly far in the future.
The shadow of that fear gave us great perspective. It made our love much more like the love for a child. We were forced to look at the big picture every single day and that gave us easy access to grace. Many times we would visibly pause in our hurt, look at the looming shadow and extend grace to the other. In seeing that grace extended, the recipient would be equally honored and shamed as they too looked at the shadow and accepted the grace. In every such incident, that shadow reinforced the futility of selfishness, anger and petty fear.
In my most recent relationship, thankfully that shadow did not loom. But in not having that shadow. In not having that shared enemy, we allowed cracks to form. There were other shadow that loomed in the background. There were other forces that tickled the tendrils of fear. Those tendrils fed. Fear found cracks and rooted in place. Well meaning people saw that fear and stoked it into anger. That anger flashed into steam and our love was scalded.
Anyone who has ever been scalded, knows the immediate reaction to that is more fear and a quick retreat.
As a former Chef and as someone who has buried my spouse. I have been scalded both actually and metaphorically, many times. I know that a scalding can be a cleansing moment that results in tender fresh skin or a deeply painful a incident that leaves behind tough mangled skin. As one who has been frequently scalded, I tend to bandage it up and go back to the complete the task, hoping that with action and work the skin will heal flexible and resilient.
In this moment, the bandages are still on the wound. The prognosis is still too early to predict. I am hopeful, but must admit that I see the stains of fear on the dressings. Not to mention my partner does not seem to be addressing the wound.
Fear is the enemy. Ignore fear at your own peril. Fear must be faced and directly attacked. With the armor of love it is much easier, but even if that armor fails you must continue the fight or that tough mangled skin will repel the seeds of future love.