The Best We Could

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He did the best he could with what he knew.
I remember when I first came to that realization about my dad.

In many ways he came from a privileged home, and yet, dysfunctional. One brother (my uncle) declares their mom was crazy. The sister says their dad was an alcoholic. My dad? He doesn’t talk much about his life as a kid, except for the terrorizing antics (from my perspective) with crickets and neighborhood girls. He does say he had a good childhood (I think that’s the privileged part speaking) and rarely remembers his dad being drunk, “Well, sure. There were times he spoke with a slur…” Mom, one of those neighborhood girls, recollects a mean lady living in Dad’s home. She doesn’t have many kind words for dear old grandma — aforementioned crazy lady. So, yeah. Dysfunctional fits the bill.

The short temper and sharp tongue make more sense when I remember “from whence he came.” Not that he had an excuse for his bad behavior, but, at least I caught a glimpse into his life. And in that picture, I realized how much better life was in our home than the one in which he was raised.

So, why didn’t that “ah-ha” moment translate into discernment for my marriage?

Instead of empathizing, over time, I grew complacent. I became frustrated with his constant countering. At times, his dismissiveness broke my heart. Yet, he was living a better life than the one in which he was raised. Of course he had “leftovers” from childhood… who doesn’t?

None of us come out of childhood unscathed. Some of us might paint a rosy picture, but, if we’re honest we’ll admit, we didn’t live long on this earth without suffering the effects of this sinful world. Many times those “effects” literally come at us from our parents. The sins of the fathers (and the mothers) truly are being visited upon the children.

I wish I had been more understanding. I needed to see how empathy was not something he understood. He was raised in a neglectful home. His parents weren’t old enough to be having children. Kids raising kids. Of course he didn’t learn unconditional love. Their motto: “Turn on anyone who turns on you.” Dog eat dog? YES! As one daughter explains, quoting Forest Gump, “Sometimes, I guess there just aren’t enough rocks.”

When life became unbearable for us, I did my dysfunctional thing. I went inward.

He did his dysfunctional thing and moved outward.

Neither of us moved toward the other, as we had been taught to do.

We moved to our “default” settings… And, now… years later… we’re divorced…

I sure wish I would’ve heard Lora when she tried to tell me why he wasn’t able to meet my needs.
But then, why did I expect it from him? And, why did I marry into the pain I thought I had escaped?
Also, why couldn’t I meet his needs? Did he marry into the same kind of pain he had hoped to escape?

It felt comfortable. The pain was comfortable.
I was used to being questioned… and the butt of jokes.
He was used to rescuing and caring for hurting people.
The results of masochism.
Sigh.

Search me, O God, and know my heart,
Try me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any wicked way in me…

We did the best we could?
Maybe…

What if we had chosen to do the best HE could…?

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Yes. It is true.
But, sometimes, even as Christians, we take the easy way out.

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7 responses »

  1. This was a tough post, sweet Michelle . . .much soul searching and observations here. Praying for His grace and mercy to abound to you today . . .love and prayers!

  2. Just wanted to say I love you and am proud of you for beginning the journey of sharing your truth so that His truth may be glorified.

    Journeying with you..

    XO

  3. That is something I’ve thought about my own parents throughout adulthood. They did the best they could with what they had grown up with. It may not excuse their behavior, but it made it easier for me to forgive and understand. It did give the pain of not feeling loved a place to rest a little bit, even though it didn’t remove it completely.

    I also think a lot about my children, and my failings in raising them… will they understand that someday as well? Or will they blame us for our imperfections? Why can’t I overcome the past and be a better parent? How can I be more like Christ in parenting?

    I hadn’t yet applied this to my marriage like you are saying. Hmm… to be honest, I’m not sure I want to look that honestly at things… although I will try. I see trouble… but I do my best to ignore it.

    This was some serious reflection, and I’m sure painful as well. Love you and giving you BIG HUGS!!! So thankful for you!

  4. Hey, ladies! Yes, Debbie, it is the result of years of counseling and many books. Although it’s not even close to a complete answer. It is the beginning of seeing. As you’ve said, Ayla, I’m beginning to be able to share the journey. I’m not always sure my truth is THE Truth…only God sees the whole. But, I do know what I’ve felt and why I made the choices I did. Maybe in the telling, others will be spared the pain and gain some insight. If He so wills…

    Love Y’all!

  5. Oh Heidi, we must’ve been typing at the same time. I didn’t see you there.

    As I worked through Dan Allender’s book, The Wounded Heart, I realized much of what I was living but not seeing. It took me months to pour over the book because so much of my world was being expressed on every page. It has been a gut-wrenching search, seeing things I never wanted to admit. I’ve screwed up royally while maintaining the perfect picture of a loving wife. Ugh.

    If you do choose to look at your marriage to gain some insight, from my experience, don’t let the pain overwhelm you. Or cause you to seek an outlet… Get on your knees and wrestle it out with Him. And remember this oft-repeated quote: He cares more about our character than our comfort.

    On the other side of seeing my broken character, I still choose the pain. I’m glad I’m not living a lie anymore.

    Thank you for the hugs! 🙂

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