Dena Johnson Martin Christian Blog and Commentary

Baggage Check

After walking through a very difficult week, it was the final straw.

“That’s it,” Roy began. “Take care of it now.”

His tone took me by surprise. We’d had a really good day, and I was trying to take care of the issue he was confronting me with now.

His words hit me hard as I tried to argue my position, protecting myself and my kids. But the longer the discussion continued, the more defensive I became.

I felt alone. Isolated. Vulnerable. Exposed. Insecure.

The words continued to fly, daggers piercing my heart and soul. The pain being inflicted upon me by the tone of his voice, the anger in his heart, was almost more than I could handle.

Finally, I moved closer to him, put my hands on his chest, and simply said, “I’m not those other women who have hurt you in the past.”

With those simple words, his demeanor changed. His words and his tone softened. He embraced me and apologized, remembering that he still has walls that need to come down. He reminded me that he knows I’m not like them, that he longs to be better but still has some of those old, engrained ways of relating.

As his words flowed over me, all of the pent-up emotions from the previous conversation flowed out of me. Tears. Uncontrolled sobs. Gasping for breath as I tried unsuccessfully to recover, to soak in his love and respect for me. The earlier words he had spoken took me to a place in my past, an unsafe place where I suffered the brutality of anger and hateful words and uncontrolled emotional outbursts—a place I thought I had forever left behind.

Even as we crawled into bed that night, the pain still stung. Even as his arms wrapped me up in a tender embrace, I struggled to escape that place of being laid out bare, exposed, painfully vulnerable. Even as we began getting ready for church the next morning, I struggled to put the past behind me, to be reassured of Roy’s love for me.

Yes, our pasts have left both of us with baggage. Even though we’ve taken time to deal with everything we’ve walked through, it seems we carry our baggage with us. We wound one another unintentionally, holding each other responsible for past hurts inflicted upon us by others. Most days, we relate to one another with tremendous love and respect. But every now and then…

It seems we occasionally choose to carry our baggage rather than checking it at the gate.

So how do we check our baggage? How do we leave the past in the past and live in the present—a present of love and healing and trust that we’ve not experienced before? Here are some important verses to meditate upon and some practical thoughts on how to thrive in a relationship when you have excess baggage.

Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. 1 Peter 5:7 – Remember God doesn’t want you carrying your baggage. He wants you to give it to Him so He can carry it.

Pray together. Our pastor always says that praying together is one of the most intimate acts a couple can do. When we make praying together a priority, we share our hearts with one another. We open ourselves up, make ourselves vulnerable. We learn what the other values.

Pray for each other. But we can’t stop at praying together. We also need to pray for each other. I find myself waking up in the morning, reaching over to hold Roy’s hand. As I lie there next to him in the early morning hours, I can’t help but pray for him. Pray for his heart. Pray for his day. Pray for the concerns that weigh on his heart. Pray with thanksgiving for the good and perfect gift God has given me.

Praying with each other and for each other is the bond that keeps us together and the way of moving God’s hand to act on our behalf.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. Proverbs 3:5-6

Man will disappoint, but God does not. We must learn to put our trust in God, not in each other. Roy will disappoint me, and I will disappoint him. But God is fully trustworthy.

Keep open lines of communication. Communication is important in all relationships, but it’s especially important in a blended family. We’ve found we have two individuals used to doing it all. If we aren’t careful, we each continue to do it all—and then we do everything twice.

The first month or so of our marriage, we had groceries overflowing because we would both stop and pick up whatever we felt we needed without checking with the other. Two jars of peanut butter. Two gallons of milk. Two packages of hamburger buns. You name it.

We are learning to communicate about everything. If we had talked about the issue at hand before our argument, we might have been able to avoid inflicting pain on one another. Instead, we let things fester until they reached a breaking point.

Stay in the Word. I am so much better when I am seeking God daily. Roy is much better when he is seeking God daily. God’s word is a sword, penetrating our hearts and helping us see the truth of our situation. It changes the way we think, the way we act. The Word is a powerful weapon to be used for our good.

No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8

Do what is right, love mercy, walk with God. Who can do wrong when following these commands?

Extend love and grace. I told Roy Saturday night I knew he was hurting. I told him I long to extend love and grace in the midst of our pain. I don’t want to fight. I don’t want to argue. And I certainly don’t want to hurt this amazing man who walks by my side every day. I want to be a vessel of Christ, pouring out His grace in all circumstances.

Forgive. Unfortunately, we are human. We will hurt each other. We will offend. Somehow, we must allow God’s forgiveness to flow through us. We cannot hold onto the wrongs done against us. We must learn to let go, to put the past behind us.

Roy is an expert at this with his daughter. We went through a very difficult period with her last fall. She is a special needs child, and her behaviors spiraled out of control. Roy, however, got up each morning wiping her slate clean. It was as if the previous day had never happened. All the hurt and pain she had caused was wiped away as if she had never done anything wrong.

That’s a portrait of forgiveness, and that’s what we must learn to do for one another. It does not mean we pretend the hurt didn’t happen, but it does mean we willing give a do-over as often as necessary.

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires. Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him, and he will help you. Psalm 37:4-5

Commit your ways to God, and He will help you. What a beautiful promise! We need to remember He helps us when we surrender, when we are fully committed to Him.

This blended family gig is not for the faint of heart. It’s a beautiful portrait of God’s grace…a grace that is so needed in this messy place in which we live.