I let go of his hand, draped across the console separating the drivers seat from my own, and tucked it into my pocket.
I wasn’t sure why, but I knew I didn’t want to feel his fingers nestled between mine just then. It wasn’t something he had said or done, it wasn’t the recall of that morning’s argument, and it wasn’t even the stress of finances as we headed home from the grocery store. My heart had just tied itself in a large knot, and refused to come undone. And the heavy heart inside my chest made my hand ache to pull away from his.
We both knew there was something unspoken as my hand slipped out of his, but I quickly pretended to rummage through my purse. Occupied by my facade of a search, we both ignored the obvious tension in the car. Thankfully, I found chapstick.
We drove home in silence, and the lump in my throat tightened. Pulling into a parking spot, the tension was cut as we talked about how to get all the grocery bags to our third floor apartment. How quickly our angst dissipated with the distraction of casual conversation, though it never truly resolved.
Now, weeks from the car ride, I know exactly what happened:
He loved me, and I couldn’t stand it.
It wasn’t anything he said or did, and it wasn’t that morning’s argument. But something about the way my words bit in that argument, and how he still apologized for fighting with me. It wasn’t the stress of increasing financial strain, but the way that he let me get my favorite snack food at the store, and left his on the shelf. I got into the car grumpy from trying to maintain a budget, and he reached out and took my hand, tenderly and sincerely. He wove his fingers between mine, and gave it a light squeeze, which always means, “We’re gunna make it.”
And my little, sin-riddled heart could not stand it. I was faced simultaneously with my faults and with his constant love, and I couldn’t hold the two together.
So, instead of leaning into that love, I recoiled. I resented the man who loved me with all my flaws, because I could not love myself, or him, in that sacrificial, sincere way. In the agony of my own selfishness, I pulled back.
This is not the first time this narrative has shown up in our marriage. There are several times in which I have felt the angst of my own sinfulness pitted against his welcoming love. And for the several times I can name, I am sure there are countless I cannot. And as I face each of them, and the story they tell about my hard heart, I am struck again by the startling reality that I have been here before. Not with my husband; but with my Savior.
The painful reality is this: this story is the story of the Gospel. It is the narrative of grace and forgiveness in the face of self-absorption and a stubborn heart. It is the story of how one who is lost and distracted was sought out against her own decidedness and intentions. It is the story of love that seeks out, reaches out, and doesn’t pull back in the face of opposition.
And if I can recoil at a demonstration of this Gospel, then there is something I have failed to embrace in this Gospel.
Because, though the Gospel does reach out to us in our ugliest state, it doesn’t stop there. No, the unrelenting love of our Savior does not leave us to our own when our hand has slipped from His. He does not allow for us feign distraction by busyness, and neglect his advances in our direction. But He tenderly, gently, and faithfully reaches out to us in order to make us people who can look Him in the eye and say with sincere gratitude, “I’m sorry, and I love you, too.”
By the time the groceries were in the cabinets, the tension between my husband and I had all but dissipated. We sat on the couch, both pretending to watch TV. I took the remote and turned it off. “Thank you,” I told him blankly. “Thank you for loving me well, and always turning towards me even when I turn away. I’m sorry, and I love you, you know.”
“I know,” he said through a half-smile full of grace and deep knowing.
Today, this is my hope: that I will embrace the Gospel that says that I am loved and forgiven and cherished. Today, I will choose to embrace this Gospel as it presents itself to me in a myriad of ways. I will watch my heart closely and carefully when it wants to tie itself up in knots, and I will eagerly and bravely embrace the Gospel of grace until I can turn my face to Christ and say, “I’m sorry, I love you, too.”