Nourish Your Soul
(Becky, the mama.)
I enjoyed the most fabulous dinner last night with dear friends. The kind of conversation that lasted five hours, but the time flew so that you never noticed the ticking clock. We’ve shared our deepest wounds and struggles and, thus, our bond is deep. As Heather Kopp noted so perfectly in her book Sober Mercies, “people bond more deeply over shared brokenness than they do shared beliefs.”
I shared Heather’s quote in a small group of folks the other night. One young man, about age thirty said, “That is so true. I just can’t bond with people who are perfect or have their act together. I bond with really f-d up people.” Pause. Then he pointed my way and said, “Like Becky!”
I shrugged, did a Vanna White-style gesture of myself, and say, “Let it be duly noted that I am Exhibit A under ‘F’d- Up People’.” He just kept on talking, earnestly, as my husband Greg and I exchanged glances and struggled not to laugh. Both of us knew this guy really, sincerely meant it as a compliment. Which I am going to cherish always.
It is in this theme, the “bonding of brokenness” that I am getting a hint at why some of our troubles are not instantly healed. Many of us have long-carried a chronic ache — whether it is physical, relational, emotional or spiritual. Whether it is a depressed mood or a bad back, a lost dream or a lost child, we’ve not been able to pray or positive-think this trouble away, though Lord knows we’ve given it our all.
Thornton Wilder’s play, “The Angel Who Troubled the Waters,” is based on the biblical story of the angel who troubled the waters at the pool of Bethesda. Wilder imagines a surprising twist, however, on the familiar scene. As the original story goes, whoever gets to the water first, after the angel stirs it, gets healed. A physician who has suffered for years with a “flaw of the heart,” has been waiting for years for his chance at healing, and he finally sees and ceases the opportunity to be first in the pool!
But an angel appears to him before he can touch the water and says, “Without your wound where would your power be? It is your very sadness that makes your low voice tremble into the hearts of men. The very angels themselves cannot persuade the wretched and blundering children on earth as can one human being broken on the wheels of living. In Love’s service only the wounded soldiers can serve. Draw back.”
Later, the person who enters the pool first and was healed rejoices in his good fortune then turns to the physician before leaving and says, “But come with me first, an hour only, to my home. My son is lost in dark thoughts. I — I do not understand him, and only you have ever lifted his mood. Only an hour . . . my daughter, since her child has died, sits in the shadow. She will not listen to us but she will listen to you.”
It is strangely true that “in Love’s service” it often takes one broken person to reach another broken person. And perhaps this sheds some light on why we are not all instantly healed of our messy lives, our messy minds, our messy bodies, our messy hearts.
God can only use Wounded Soldiers in some of the most difficult missions on earth.
When we look at our life that has held its share of grief, pain, failures, struggles and wounds, it helps to know that our pain can serve a purpose; that our troubles equip us for the mission of bonding with and binding up other broken, hurting, f-d up people.
You aren’t cursed; you are called.. . to love and to comfort ever more deeply.
If your heart is broken, you’ll find God right there;
if you’re kicked in the gut, he’ll help you catch your breath.
He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.
2 Cor 1:4
(Becky, the Mama.)
Departing from recipes for yummy healthy food, I had to offer this recipe for nourishing relationships –especially after reading some fascinating research making the news today.
I love it when science finally catches up with my long-held theories. In my experience, the happiest marriages I have seen have been marriages of two optimists. A new study out of the University of Michigan has found this to be true, with some additional benefits as well: “Having an optimistic spouse predicted better mobility and fewer chronic illnesses over time, even above and beyond a person’s own level of optimism. The study tracked adults over age 50 for four years and reported on their mobility, health and number of chronic illnesses.”
There is a growing body of research shows that the people in our lives can have a profoundly positive influence on our health and well-being, but this is the “first study to show that someone’s else optimism could be impacting your own health.”
The opposite has already proven to be true. In the book I co-wrote with Dr. Earl Henslin, This is Your Brain in Love, we spent a chapter warning of the health risks for a spouse who is married to an Eeyore-at-the-Core. As it turns out, depression and pessimism can be catching in marriages. A pessimist partner can pull their once-optimistic mate down into the mire of despondency as well, over time.
My husband, Greg, easily qualifies as one of the most perpetually upbeat, positive people I have ever known. Being married to him these past ten years has easily been the most joyful time of my life, thus far. Until I married Greg, I assumed what so many of us hear: “Marriage is hard work.” It was certainly my experience until I married Mr. Positive, later in life.
This doesn’t mean our life has been easy. As a couple, Greg and I have been through some terrible trials and sorrowful times, but 99% of these times were due to difficulties outside our marriage. My husband has always been my safest haven, and inside his arms is the Happiest Place on Earth. He tells me often that “Loving you, Becky, is the easiest thing I have ever done.” We each brought our own naturally sunny temperaments into our union, and the resulting happiness has been significant.
I must confess, however, that this past year brought a season of profound grief as we suffered the loss of a precious and significant relationship in our family. It was my first experience with months of chronic “situational depression” and it took its toll on both of our normal levels of joy. In fact, we both experienced significant stress-related health issues as a result. Thankfully, the worst of this sorrow is fading — and as we are both prioritizing a “return to joy,” we are experiencing more emotionally sunny days again, and our good health has also returned.
A close friend of mine went from a painful marriage to a classic Eeyore, to marriage to a man who took responsibility for his own joy and took difficulties in stride. Like Greg, her husband saw the best in my friend and downplayed her flaws. We conversed about this one day over the phone. Both of us, stuck in amazement, were having the same reaction: “Wow. Love can be easy? Really?”
We decided right then, if we were to give young women and men advice on who to marry in order to enjoy their life to the hilt; both of us would say, “Marry a guy who makes his own sunshine. Love a person you can lean on for both comfort and joy. Marry a woman who smiles a lot, who has a reputation for kindness and optimism. If you want a happy marriage, do all you can to be a happy person and marry a naturally happy partner.”
(If being positive and joyful is a struggle for you, I would unabashedly recommend the books I wrote with Dr. Henslin a few years ago: This is Your Brain on Joy and This is Your Brain in Love. And if you want to read something humorous and uplifting, that will just generally add to your joy bank, I gotta recommend We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook!)
My parents, blissfully married almost 60 years now, are living examples of the fun, health, and longevity that comes from a union of two natural optimists.
A few years ago I came across a old poem that sounded as if it were written for my husband. I want to share it here as a toast to those people in our lives who are “pleasant to live with” and bring us joy, comfort and, as the latest research shows, good health as well!
(I dedicate this poem to my husband, Greg; my father, George; my mother, Ruthie; my sister, Rachel Ann; my daughter (and co-blogger and co-writer), Rachel Praise and her happy husband, Jared; to my youngest son, Gabe and his cheerful bride-to-be, Aleks – people in my family who are the epitome of this poem in my life, who beckon me onward and upward, consistently, to The Sunny Side of the Street. I love you all!)
Blessed Are They
Blessed are they who are pleasant to live with —
Blessed are they who sing in the morning;
Whose faces have smiles for their early adorning;
Who come down to breakfast companioned by cheer;
Who don’t dwell on troubles or entertain fear;
Whose eyes smile forth bravely; whose lips curve to say:
“Life, I salute you! Good morrow, new day!”
Blessed are they who are pleasant to live with —
Blessed are they who treat one another,
Though merely a sister, a father or brother,
With the very same courtesy they would extend
To a casual acquaintance or dearly loved friend;
Who choose for the telling encouraging things;
Who choke back the bitter, the sharp word that stings;
Who bestow love on others through the long day —
Pleasant to live with and blessed are they. Wilhemina Stitch