Today, for about five minutes, Trish and I just looked into one another's eyes.
I didn't say anything. She can't say anything. Since she can't keep her eyes open for very long yet, just looking at one another was a real gift. It was the first time she has really looked at me since June 3.
Finally I said, "do I look funny?" She shook her head no.
We were experiencing real love through that look. At so many levels, we have become one and the brain trauma hasnot destroyed that oneness. It wasn't always that way. We had to fight for it. If you have a bit of patience, I would like to tell you about how this happened to us.
Maybe it would help if I begin with an example of what commitment is.
Trish and I both belong to a spiritual community called by different names, depending on the denomination involved. The Methodists call it Walk To Emmaus. Roman Catholics and Episcopalians call it Cursillo, or "little course" (in the beliefs of Christianity.) Charismatics and Pentecostal Christians call it Tres Dias. Whatever you call it, the movement began in Spain many years ago. It still carries a bit of that culture, using a number of Spanish words for many of the disciplines and teachings that it attempts to impart to its members. The essence of the movement is a personal commitment to live out the teachings of Jesus in practical and daily ways. Last night, the women's Tres Dias weekend for Central Arizona began. If Trish were not in the hospital she might be serving at this weekend retreat, as many of her friends are doing.
I don't want to bore you with a part of our life that may be of little interest to you. I just want to say that belonging to our central Arizona chapter has helped many of us work through the aftermath of some extremely difficult church troubles that we experienced here in Phoenix a few years ago. Staying connected through this community, even in the days when we were still hurt at one another, provided us a way to keep talking. For a while, we kept serving Jesus together simply because we had made commitments to do so. That commitment kept us together long enough for healing to begin in our city.
This is the essence of what Christians call "covenant." Its about sticking together when you really want to run. We don't maintain commitment simply to satisfy some legalistic requirement. YUCK! That sick kind of commitment turns companionship into an endurance contest. Real commitement is simply about giving a relationship some parameters and the foundation it requires so love and trust can go deeper. Nearly everyone wants a quality relationship. Few seem to know how much work it takes to form one. The idea for many is that real realtionship just happens or it doesn't. Few seem to know that it is the outcome of intentional work. Covenant makes it possible to get through the phases of relationship when surface connections wear thin and that initial electricity manufactured by novelty begins to wane and then disappear. The deep connections people hunger for can only happen after these natural rhythms of life have run their course.
Marriage is like that. In the first years of our marriage, Trish and I found it very difficult to connect to one another. Our temperaments and ways of "being in the world" make for a rather drastic contrast. A few years ago, we even begin to think that our marriage might not make it. We had to put our marriage into an "intensive care unit." We went through two forty hour weeks of therapy. Gosh, how difficult those weeks were! After those two weeks, we began working in earnest on our marriage. Wonderful marriage counselors worked with us every week for three years. We each went to inividual counseling and to groups as well. We didn't experience any instant miracle. No scripture suddenly flamed into a glorious "hallelujah breakthrough." The work was slow. It was hard. It was painful. It almost didn't work.
And then it did work.
We slowly went deeper. The hurtful truth-telling slowly turned into mutual support. Then, at some point, we turned a corner. We began to allow each to enter the private space of our individual dreams, ambitions, shame, hurt and love. We began to learn how to cherish one another. We connected.
We have enjoyed one another for a number of years now. We found common ground. Trish went back to school. She earned a bachelors, then a masters and then a specialization in trauma and abuse work. She did all of this with a 4.0 average, this amazing woman. She was working at the Salvation Army in drug rehab when her aneurysm hemmoraged. If you had known Trish a few years ao, you would realize that this has represented a real change of life for her. As we both studied, we talked constantly about what we were reading and learning. (Believe it or not, lately we have both been interested in stroke rehabilitation and how the brain heals. That will sure come in handy now!) We have so enjoyed one another these past four years. And to think, we could have walked away from each other had we not been willing to do the hard work it takes to have a quality mariage. Without the concept of covenant, Trish and I would npot have had the resources to keep going. We would have gone our seperate ways.
When Trish went into the coma, I grieved and hurt. These past ten days, I have had many times of weeping and even fear. However, I have not been burdened with any unresolved anger or unforgiven insults. The air between us was clear before this current battle began.
Tonight she did not interact much. She had been happy earlier when I told her that Tyson, our soldier son-in-law was coming to see her and she did know that he was there. But mostly she wanted to sleep. The nurse said that she is just extreemly tired. "Given the extent of her trauma and the time that has past since, the only way it would be better is if she had never had to come here at all," he said.
Encouraging words. However, they do not remove the fact that Trish's recovery will be long and difficult. We will have to learn new skills, become more informed about her condition, and release life as it has been in order to accept this new phase that life has brought to us. But of course, we have already gone through that process. It was worth it then. It will be worth it now.
This crisis is up against covenant, which will, by God's grace, turn the trauma into nurishment and work it into news ways to make our love deeper.