Coincidentally with Valentine's Day, I've thought about love a lot this week (not intentional, but well-timed I guess).
This week has been a doozy. I felt completely unprepared for the black hole of emotions that swirled around me. I discovered, though, that I have actually been very prepared for this in quite a lot of ways, and the week went way better than similar weeks in the past.
Earlier in the week, I went a couple of days barely talking to Ben (we only talked when I called him to make sure he was okay) as a boundary that needed to exist for some healing to take place because of recent actions on his part. And when I started talking to him again, we still didn't talk very much. It was really hard, to put it simply.
All week, I've thought a lot about our marriage and love. I thought about times when I felt love was strong, and I thought about times when I felt love was weak. I questioned what was going on with my love in that current moment. I thought about the love that friends and family have shown me. I thought of the love of my students. And I focused the most on God's love.
I'm a survivor. I survived this week (and many other hellish weeks in the past few years) because of God's love. At a time when I thought about giving up, He gave me the strength to go on. He has blessed me in so many ways that I can't even count.
Ever since the new year started, I've been getting up extra early to study my scriptures before I go to school. As a result of that extra effort, along with countless prayers begging God to help me feel an increase in love for the people around me, I've felt a change in my spirit. I've felt an increase of love, patience, and strength (sometimes very slight--but still an increase). I'm realizing more and more the power of using the Atonement in my daily life. Sometimes, I feel like I haven't quite figured out what that means, but I know that by putting in the effort, I am being blessed. Sometimes the only I feel like I can do to acknowledge His hand in my life is to say, "I know that I couldn't do this without you. If you weren't helping me through this, I'd be a goner. Thank you." But sometimes, I am able to relate to His sacrifice and really understand how He has felt my pain and can lift me up.
This week, I finished the Book of Mormon. And then I did an amazing thing (this has seriously never happened to me): I decided to start it over again--immediately! I was so excited when I finished the Book of Mormon, that I wanted to read it all over again, and I'm focusing on recognizing God's love as I read. Reading it this time around has been so amazing: I'm finding many parallels to my life. As I read and discover the ways God has blessed His servants, it makes it a little easier to see how He is blessing me, especially when I'm suffering. He is there. He is always there, and He loves me.
My relationship with Him is improving. I'm turning to Him more and showing more faith. I'm understanding what it means to have charity. I'm feeling more love for people I don't even know because I can look at them and see a child of God.
Ultimately, everything I'm learning about love and my relationship with God has really helped me in my relationship with Ben. You may have read his recent post: Seeking Christ. In this post, he talks about my reaction to his latest confession. First, I asked him not to contact me. That was because I needed to process and didn't want to be disturbed or stressed by him trying to talk to me. During that time, I was teaching. But in the back of my mind, I was asking myself what Christ would do. I love Ben. I was angry, frustrated, and hurt, but I love him and wanted to show him that. I also knew that God loves him, and after much thought and prayers in my heart (for compassion), I decided what Ben really needed was to feel loved and understood while I still enforced my boundaries. The messages I sent him were a direct result of seeking love and compassion.
As I prayerfully sought what to say, I literally felt my heart swell. I felt love. It wasn't a romantic love. It was just a deep-rooted, spiritual love. A kind of brotherly love.
That feeling of love has stayed with me all week, and even though our relationship has struggled, I've most felt firm in my decision to continue to be with him. I see his potential. I know what he can become, and he is working to get there. He has made leaps of progress in the past few years, and I love him for that. He is making a huge sacrifice in his life (trying to overcome an addiction is a huge sacrifice), and he is having a hard time too.
Even though I have a deep-rooted love, I was afraid for Ben to come home this weekend. I was afraid that it would be stupid, like last weekend was. I was afraid that I would be excited for him to leave again, and that this weekend would just be a big blob of nothingness, or pain, in my life. But ever since he came home, things have been really good. I've actually felt closer to him, and I've felt a stronger sense of love, than I have in a long time. Which is actually really surprising to me. But that, in itself, is a tender mercy--a sign of God's love. He is still blessing me.
Today, during the sacrament, I was overcome with love. I felt so much love from and for God. I felt so much love from and for Ben. And then I had this moment of feeling like everything is worth it: the pain, the heartache, the loneliness, the sleepless nights, the crying. All of it. Because without those, I wouldn't know how bright God's light could shine in my life. I wouldn't know the power of deep love. I wouldn't know how happy I could truly feel in the midst of darkness.
I know it doesn't work out for everyone in my situation. I hope no one has taken this post as me saying that you have to pray or study your scriptures more and that if you do, God will bless you with great amounts of love in your marriage, and all the wrongs will be cured. It's not that way. We all have different situations and different husbands. The only way it is working the way it is (and trust me, this is all looking back. I don't necessarily always have a great attitude) because we are both putting forth effort to reach God and pull Him into our relationship. Sometimes we don't do a great job, and I definitely don't always feel so at peace with things, so during moments like this I like to write it all down. That way, I can look back in times of hopelessness and discover hope and strength again.
PS, he posted at the same time as me. You should read it. It kind of made me cry.