Thursday, September 18, 2014

Imperfect Love: Strings and Baggage

Fadzly Mubin flickr
Relationships can be very hard work. They can go amiss with a misspoken word. My assumptions about the other person may lead me to "hear" an attitude or motive that isn't really there.  My "love" comes with invisible strings attached.  I'm weighted down with an airline-sized cart of phantom baggage.  

Twice recently I've been painfully reminded of how  my flawed love can damage the connections between me and others.

When the grandchildren came to visit this summer my smile dimmed in inverse proportion to their clamor and commotion. I realized that I expected  the kids would do as I asked the first time I asked. They would eat what I cooked. They would go to bed earlier than I did. 

 I didn't respond calmly.  I over-reacted about wasted food. My fuzzy, warm feelings evaporated faster than the soap suds creeping over the edge of the tub.  I risked spoiling our time together. My "love" had a lot of strings attached. 

The second instance was a call from a family member. We have a distant and fractured relationship. The conversation was upsetting, and afterwards I chafed. In my mind I justified the actions which had so annoyed her.  I took offense at her "tone" as well as her words. 

My first reaction was to cut off further contact with her. I decided the baggage from our childhood was too serious to ignore, too heavy to cast off, too broken to repair. 

But I read a book that gave me a sliver of hope. Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions (by Lysa TerKeurst) perfectly described how some of us fly off the handle and feel ashamed later.  How unchangeable the pattern seems. (Have you ever had the feeling someone was writing about YOU?)

Then she formulated concrete steps to handle my unpleasant feelings. She gave me a how-to NOT become unglued, but how to get a grip. (She sought God's help, and I am too, since I'm not doing very well by myself.) 

The book helped me plan a response that will be truthful and gracious.  I have a face to face meeting with the relative next month. I have hope that this time I will make a wiser choice when I feel attacked.

My love is still imperfect. But I think I've untied some of the strings, and unloaded some of the rocks out of my emotional suitcase. 


 How do you handle disagreeable relationships?

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