"You learn to speak by speaking, to study by studying, to run by running, to work by working, and just so, you learn to love by loving. All those who think to learn in any other way deceive themselves." -- Saint Francis de Sales
As I write this, I am conscience of the dozens of angry red lines which lace my bottom and upper thighs. These are the result of the latest session with the leather riding crop. Over the past several days, there have been many such lessons. My welts have grandchildren. Nevertheless, I am profoundly grateful for each and every one of them. They are my Husband's "tough love" reminders. The method might be strict, but the results are infinitely worth it.
One night, just before we were about to fall asleep, I begged my Husband to hold me even more deeply accountable for my behaviour. He quipped that he had not known the true meaning of the phrase "glutton for punishment" until he met me. Perhaps this is true-- I have a very high threshold for pain and I would always rather have too much discipline than not enough-- but my pleas were not of a masochistic nature. They were a heart-felt cry for help. I was so tired of sinning, so tired of offending God.
Months ago, my Husband helped me to overcome a twenty-some year habit of biting my fingernails. He did this by mercilessly lashing my palms for every offense. It had not been a fun experience. Yet it had worked. I presented my case for stricter accountability in this same light. Since my chief failings-- disrespect, disobedience, cursing, and self-negativity are such deeply entrenched habits, only something of this magnitude would help to break them.
Unhappily, the talk with my Husband was held a day or two before a chat with my brother. Theory is always excellent until it is tested against the storms of life.
In a previously discussion with my sibling, I had begun to cry as the result of hearing details concerning the pregnancy. At that time, I had assured my brother that I loved him very much, but that this was too difficult for me to handle just now. In our follow-up conversation a few days later, my brother mentioned that it was a good thing he believed me to be truly happy for him and his wife. Otherwise, he said, if anything happened to their unborn child, he would probably never speak to me again. This calloused statement left me inwardly wounded and bleeding.
Although I had half-raised my brother during our growing up years, life circumstances had left us estranged from one another. We had become close only last December, after my Husband and I had been present at his wedding.This decision had cost us dearly. In particular, it had caused my parents to shun me for the second time in my life. Only the recent death of my cousin had helped to mend the residual scars.
I thought, if this was love, who needed hate? If my own flesh-and-blood brother could turn against me so quickly, how could I trust anyone? Love in my family has always been fickle. A lot of my self-worth and trust issues stem from this fact.
The pain I felt as a result of my brother's careless words manifested itself in the same old ways: My OCD flared, my tongue grew sharp, and my defiance knew no bounds. The womanly qualities of meekness and gentleness that had blossomed in my soul's general disposition were hidden entirely. I began to distance myself emotionally from my Husband. A lot of the progress I had been making took several steps backward. It took true love to save the day.
Often times we speak of "True Love" as if it were an intangible, something only to be acquired in fairy tales or in dreams, but it is very real. True love is not a mushy feeling. It is not freedom unbridled. It is a self-sacrificing agape love which has its foundation in Christ's love for His bride, the church. This is the love my Husband has for me. It is the love that has, and continues to, shape and mold a hurting soul into a traditional wife.
Perhaps it seems strange that I equate discipline with love, but I do. Every lash is a tangible reminder that I am a very loved woman. After all, if my Husband cared nothing for me, why go through all of the trouble of correction?
When I hear my Husband's stern voice calling my name, when I am made to kneel before him to hear an impressive lecture, when I stand and assume a position of his choice, when I feel the humiliation of my skirt being raised by him and undergarments being lowered, when I wait for the first lash to fall, when I scream silently into the air as each new sharp line of fire falls, when I am taken well beyond a state of abject misery to one of redemption, and then when I am held and cherished and forgiven-- these are the rituals that say to me, "I love you." They mean more to me than any hug or kiss. I cherish them more than a dozen roses. For by them, I am transformed.
If it is true that one learns to love by loving, then it is also true that one learns to be loved by being loved. Through his actions-- through his "tough love"-- my Husband is teaching me the meaning of true love.
I am one blessed woman indeed. :-)