And may the Lord cause you to increase and overflow with love for one another.
(1 Thessalonians 3:12a)
MAKING SPACE FOR LOVE TO GROW
At night, the moonlight streams through my window, a giant spotlight, illuminating shining thoughts that will not let me sleep. In the morning, she still hangs heavy in the sky, watchful. These changes in the moon remind me of the changing phases of a relationship, about simple ways a life together can change.
When my husband and I were first married he was a renaissance man, of sorts. The bloom was still fresh on his doctoral degree, and his professional life was full and exciting. He was running about 40 miles a week, playing guitar in a blues band with a group of old friends, and had just passed an exam to become a nationally recognized home-brew judge. He was busy and happy and in love with life.
Early on, I lost myself in his interests. I became the good helper his wide array of interests required … only, I wasn’t happy. Good man that he is, he encouraged me to find my bliss, and so, I began a journey. I took a painting class, began a yoga practice, remembered the joy of putting words down on paper.
I still helped him bottle up batches of home-brew; I still went running with him on the weekends; I still listened for his footfalls in the hall — but I was on my own journey. We grew into individuals, together.
MAKING SPACE FOR LOVE WHEN DEPRESSION ENTERS IN
In my book Play Dates with God, I talk about self-expansion theory—that theory of love that says we fall deeper in passionate love over the years when we continue to grow and learn new things together. Early in relationships, when couples are still learning about each other, passions run high. As time goes on, however, and we think we know all there is to know about one another, the wild tongues of fire usually settle into slow, steady burning embers.
Depression stunts curiosity and robs us of the continued growth that stokes the embers back into flame. Just as any crisis elicits protective behaviors, when depression enters a relationship, we tend to wrap our arms around the entire system, shutting off the rest of the world in an attempt to defend against the pain. The relationship becomes insulated, shut off, co-dependent.
Sadly, when you tether your happiness to one person, the world becomes very small. More than that, God becomes small. So, what if, instead of shutting down, we opened our arms to the world? What if, instead of “I just don’t feel like it today,” we took that apathy as an invitation, a sign that something new needs to enter the doors of our hearts?
Recently I traveled alone to do some research for a project. As I let curiosity be my companion, I was reminded how the time invested in my growth refreshes me. I didn’t realize how tired, how lonely, how hungry I was until I stepped out of my ordinary. Stepping away from the ordinary moments of my life allowed me to miss them, to miss my husband. When I returned home, I saw him with new eyes –and I was able to love him better.
- What are you doing to continue to grow personally? When was the last time you went away by yourself? How about your beloved? I have been known to tell my husband, “Go away so I can miss you.” It usually works. Space is a place where grace grows afresh.
- If an overnight trip is too hard, take a small sojourn alone or with a friend who refreshes your spirit. Go for a walk, visit a museum, check out a garden center, do some window-shopping, take a class, learn something new. Encourage your beloved to do the same.
*This series contains reflections on loving someone who has depression. If you are in this place or know someone who is, I hope you’ll join me on this journey. These words cannot replace medical or psychological treatment, but I hope they will be a source of encouragement.
Laura J. Boggess
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