Mango and I have been in a wonderful groove lately, really in sync and delighting in the steadiness and abiding love that marks this year of "us," even as life has dealt some serious blows. Something that always gets me, though, is the way I feel so guilty for the times that haven't been this good, for all the million ways I've failed. I feel loss for the times that could have been better if I'd only known this or that or been able to do this or that. I need some peace from this, some release from the guilt. The author of Passionate Marriage once said to a couple who lamented the lost years something to the effect of, "What makes you think you could have done this any sooner?" He was speaking of how all things come together to propel us toward the growth, how the place where we find ourselves is a culmination of all that came before.
Mango said to me the other day that he feels I've been more unconditional in my love for him recently than any other time in our marriage. Instead of taking this for a compliment and a statement of growth, I immediately felt guilty that I hadn't given him more of that before, that he hadn't felt it, didn't know it. Here I spend all this time writing about loving our partners unconditionally, and I have failed my own. It's exactly this kind of thinking, though, that makes things worse, that derails us from this beautiful groove, because it becomes all about me and how bad I feel. I get all hung up on wanting to be perfect, on wanting everything to have always been perfect instead of rejoicing in what we have now, in what we have become. I realize that I'm not a good partner when I feel this way, when I'm wallowing in my guilt and insecurities...which makes me feel more guilty and insecure...which inhibits my ability to just love freely and openly. I get defensive and fearful, feel the need to hunker down and protect my fragile self. It isn't pretty.
Mango offers me grace, loves me for who I am at this moment, revels in the growth we both have accomplished, and offers no judgment for the could-have-beens. He offers me a portrait of God's grace, draws on the unconditional One to extend unconditional grace to me. Why I struggle so hard against this grace is such a mystery to me. Why don't I just accept what is FREE, so freely given? For this is what defines grace - that it is free and undeserved. You'd think my greedy human heart would grab at this. After all, I love the free coupons in my Blue Sky guide, love Ben & Jerry's free ice cream days. Yet, I cannot easily accept the free-est and most free-ing gift of all. Instead I clutch my insecurities, anxieties, and imperfections like security blankets. I give guilt a free ride while failing to accept my own freedom. Why? Why do I need to CHOOSE grace? Acceptance of such a free gift ought to be as natural as breathing. But it isn't.
I don't know why I need to choose what is free, but today I am making a choice. I accept this beautiful place for what it is, trying not to get caught up in the could-have-beens. I choose to accept grace for this moment...and all the previous moments...in order to enjoy today, to love and be loved, to offer to Mango and Mane and Vespera and Niteo a wife and mother and friend who is alive and present and whole.
...and I will try to make the same choice tomorrow...