When we were on our speaking tour in Australia in May, we drove a grand total of 6000 km.
Or rather, my husband drove 6000 km. In a campervan. On the wrong side of the road.
There was no way I was driving that thing! (My husband is a good man with far more spatial ability than me).
Thus, I had a lot of time on my hands. Literally. And when I have time on my hands. I knit.
I brought with me a pair of socks that I had been knitting, but had put down a few months ago. On the trip from Canberra to Sydney, I pulled them out again. I had knit one sock almost down to the heel, but that was it. And as I reached for them in my bag, I realized that I had forgotten the pattern at home.
I had a brief momentary panic, but then I decided, “don’t think too hard, Sheila. You know how to do this. Just knit.”
And so I started.
And I realized something. With socks, you don’t really need a pattern, because there just IS one.
The heel is half the number of stitches of the whole. You do half the number of THAT in slip stitch repeats before turning the heel. To turn the heel, you have half the number of THAT of stitches between the decreases. To pick up the heel flap, use the number of slip stitch repeats. Decrease for the toe every other row until half are decreased, then every row until half are decreased again.
(As an aside: If you understand what that means, find me on Ravelry. I’m sheilagregoire!).
And so I knit two socks. I finished the pair the day before we could do laundry. I had run out of socks, and it was very cold, and I was grateful. (Granted, I took this picture when we got home, but you get the idea).
It occurred to me over the trip that marriage can be a lot like that. You get in this rhythm, and you don’t have to think about it very much to be able to do the most complicated things.
Keith and I were living in a tiny box for a few weeks. It was cramped, but because of our rhythm, we made do. We can finish each other’s sentences. We know what each other is thinking. He knows how I like my eggs and fruit in the morning; I know how he likes the bathroom and kitchen stuff organized so we don’t trip over each other. We have a rhythm of what to do when we wake up; when we cook; even when we end up at a gas station. And we don’t have to say anything.
And we can laugh as we drive. We can share in short form. We can say half a line from a movie out of the blue and laugh for five minutes. We know how to get ready to speak at marriage conferences with very little preparation now, because it’s all one big rhythm. And it’s nice.
That’s what happens when you’ve been married for 27 years. You develop a rhythm, and you don’t have to think, “how do we act right now? How do we show love right now? What does my husband need?”
But what if the rhythm that you’ve established isn’t a healthy one?
I’m grateful for the rhythm we have. But this week I’ve been reminded that a healthy rhythm that builds something beautiful is not what we all experience.
One comment left this weekend was so raw and honest and I appreciated it so much. A woman was replying to the post I ran last week asking, “what if YOU’RE the reason your sex life isn’t great”, about how sometimes a husband can do everything, and it won’t work because she doesn’t actually want it to work. And she said this:
Our marriage is solid in every area except sex. And I am the problem. And I hate it. Because I know it hurts my husband. And I hate hurting him. And I feel like there is no good reason for it. But I can’t seem to get around it either. My issues stem from two places: Purity culture and I am a control freak (I went and read the linked article). I recognize that these two things are the problem. But I just don’t know how to get past them. As far as purity culture, consistently reading TLHV and other Christian marriage blogs has definitely made a difference. I still struggle with body shame, etc. But, I’m getting better though. And I have hope for this particular issue. But I have no idea how to stop being a perfectionistic control freak. I understand why it is damaging, why I need to work through it, but how? HOW?
She’s out of sync. It’s not working.
What I’ve found with knitting, especially complicated patterns, is that if you’re off by one stitch, all the cables stop lining up and the lace stops lining up and even if you try to take a stitch back a few rows it may not always work. Sometimes the only thing to do is to rip out a few rows. Maybe even a lot of rows. But that’s the only way.
And sometimes that’s what we have to do, too. We have to look at the layers that we have built in our marriage–the habits, the coping patterns, the rhythms that we have got into, and we have to rip them out and start over. We have to say, “we’re doing this wrong. This isn’t helping.”
In her case, she needs to rip, rip, rip and see what the root of her issue is. Why can she not be vulnerable (since a failure to be able to be vulnerable is often at the heart of control issues)? Speak to a counsellor. Study the heart of God. Find the root. And then, slowly, with patience and care, start that pattern again.
But sometimes everything can seem fine, and then, after a few years, it all falls apart.
You’ve been walking and wearing and dancing and running and everything worked, until the weak spots started to give way. Holes formed. Problems became clear. And you were stuck.
One of the beauties of knit socks is that, when the undersoles wear out or holes appear, you can rip out and reknit. You can take a perfectly good pair of socks that has been hurt and damaged and make something new again.
Sometimes you have to use different wool, because the old stuff won’t work. Sometimes you have to change what they look like. But they can be comfortable and warm again.
As some of you who follow me on Facebook may know, I’ve been involved this week in a Twitter “episode” with a Southern Baptist pastor with whom I was debating submission, who, when I started to make some arguments, accused me of being emotional, easily deceived (as a woman), said that he should talk to my husband instead, and later called me uneducated and said he was praying for poor Keith.
I’ve had some pushback, with some telling me I’ve been very negative this week (I think much of that, honestly, is jetlag!).
But it is not all jetlag. What I have seen, over and over again on this blog, is that sometimes we can have a good marriage, a good heart, a lovely family, and a church can hurt us. We can be wounded. We can have holes put in us.
Not all church congregations act like the body of Christ. Sometimes, instead of acting like our Saviour who poured out His life and was wounded, those churches wound others.
And in those moments, it’s easy to want to give up. To abandon the whole thing. To throw up your hands and say, “God can’t be real; God can’t love me; God can’t be loving if people can act like this.” I have seen so many say this–to me, to others on social media. So many who are hurting.
I get it, dear reader. I hear your pain. My family has been in some beautiful, life-giving congregations, and we have had to leave others tearfully, with grief, because of the pain that was caused to us and our children.
But Jesus does not wound. Jesus does not throw darts. Jesus does not make holes; Jesus mends them.
And let me say–if someone has left holes in you, Jesus wants to reknit that (and excuse me for stretching the metaphor).
There has been so much in the news this week about the wider church, especially in the United States. Some of it has been disheartening; some of it has been encouraging. It comes on the tail end of depressing story after story. If you know none of this, rejoice and don’t worry about it. Excuse me if you’ve found me negative; I think these things are important and God is bringing them to light, but if they are not part of your world, Hallelujah!
If, on the other hand, you are hurting from it, please know: not all churches are like this.
Let me repeat that.
Not all churches are like this.
The body of Christ exists, and it is knit together, with Him as the head, and it honestly does function and heal. If you are in a congregation that has wounded you or wounded your marriage, it’s okay to find another congregation. It’s okay to go looking outside of your normal comfort zone. And please, do the looking. Do the searching. Don’t give up.
Keith and I are in a beautiful rhythm, and I am grateful. But life is not always like that. Sometimes you don’t know the pattern, and you have to go back. Sometimes you have to rip out and make something new. But don’t give up. Keep going.
And knit with God something beautiful.