Two and a half hours of running gives one time to think. A precious commodity in my life right now, and probably yours, too. As for me, I am assigned to mull over very specific things, like the trends of Mediterranean commerce in the 8th century, the translation of Saints' Lives from Latin into the vernacular Old French, and the development of romance in medieval France. But on a rainy morning last week, plodding along the solitary, worn dirt paths around the Minneapolis Chain of Lakes, I was afforded the opportunity to let my mind wander beyond the recent trails of thought and into slightly different territory.
I was thinking about how much my husband cares for me, and how that used to be a hard thing for me to believe.
This may come as a surprise to some of you that know us, but it is a story that goes back much further than Abbey and Karl. In short, I spent most of my single life disbelieving that someone would love me in that way. That much. Despite a truly loving father, and a firm grip on my heavenly Father, too, I still couldn't imagine that someone would bother to give me the time of day, much less want to spend the rest of their life with me. Yes, deeply insecure. Who knows why? But I do know that more people (especially women) experience this than want to admit it.
Along came my husband-to-be. We loved, stumbled around, forgave, loved all over again, and figured out enough for the next step. Ah, the delightful and sometimes maddening dance of the dating world. At this point, my insecurity must have been appeased, right? Attentive boyfriend, ring on my finger, striding down the aisle. These things were joyful and oh-so-right. But hardly decisive in my inner battles.
They quieted down for a while, but it wasn't long before the taunts and jeers of an invisible Enemy started working overtime to undermine our union. "He doesn't really love you." "You aren't sexy enough to hold his attention forever, you know." "What would happen if..." While the insidious suggestions began to pile up, I barely noticed. I would bat them away like so many pesky mosquitoes, while they were in fact poisoning my mind. But soon, the evidence came bubbling to the surface, sometimes ending in private tears, sometimes strange, accusatory conversations (monologues?) with my baffled husband, who did not know the extent of the war within. The excitement of moving to France eclipsed my struggles (become "our" struggles) for a while, but eventually the same old hurts would flare up, and in newly-destructive ways. I started to wonder if I wasn't just a little crazy. I read along the way in Proverbs: "The beginning of strife is like letting out water, so quit before the quarrel breaks out." This verse became a watchword, since "talking about it" those days was usually ending in a torrent of conflict.
Somewhere along the line, I also listened to a sermon from John Piper back home in Minneapolis about womanhood, and one of the qualities was "fearlessness". She laughs at the future. In my broken inner state, this seemed like an unattainable ideal, but I still fixed my hope on it. I read the passages over and over, cried, and reached out to God. Can You change me to be like that?
You're waiting for the dénouement, aren't you? And rightly so.
November 2008. Normandy, France. Mere kilometers from entrenched earthly battles of the past. The weather was cold, wet, and gray. I sat chatting with one of my dearest friends, and suddenly felt compelled to let all my exhausted confusion of the years and years come out spilling out. I wept. She prayed for me. I distinctly remember her words: "This is the beginning of the end of those lies." And that's exactly how it went. From that day forward, my eyes were clear - I could see when an attack was coming. And it wasn't Karl against me. It never had been. It was the Enemy of our souls against us. And we belonged to the Lord. And that was that. It was time to stand firm, therefore.
Since that day (dare I say it...my D-Day?) our relationship has been gradually liberated from misplaced expectations, unfounded accusations, strife. God has been faithful to us. As soon as I began showing confidence in my husband's love for me, it multiplied. Love begets love.
All that to say, as I was treading the muddy path along Lake Harriet, I squinted into the misty rain and thanked the Lord. The deepest truth of all is that Karl loves me because He (God) first loved us. And "underneath are the everlasting arms..."