"What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?" -Jesus (Matthew 16:26)
We sat in the living room late at night after he had been gone for four days on a work trip.
The weeks before that had been consumed by the flu running rampant through our house, a very challenging church calendar, and the arrival of a new puppy in our family. (Her name is Penny, Boy 2 bought her with his own money, and she's our baaaayyy-beeeee.)
But right then it was 9:00, the kids were all passed out, and it was time to catch up. He tried to ask me about my week.
I wanted to watch Friends on Netflix instead. He clearly didn't.
I made a conscious effort to stick to topic as we chatted. My soul was ugly right then- it needed Soul Botox and some nourishment and maybe a hundred years of rest. (Don't you wish they really made Botox for our souls? That would make life on earth a bazillion times easier.)
My lips were sealed for the good of our evening and our marriage. I would let the ugly out tomorrow, when I had more energy to clean up the mess it would make.
But twenty years of friendship and almost fourteen years of marriage have made Mr. Fantastic into a Navy Seal Special Agent Ninja Husband.
"So how are you doing in your soul?" he asked. He would not avert his gaze from my eyes.
Silly Ninja Husband, you don't want to know. Because if I open that closet we will have a fight and you'll win because I'm too tired to fight fair and that means unnecessary bloodshed and then I will be the one who is a total jerk and I will feel even worse about myself.
Healthy marriages are too much work. I'm the captain of my soul and I was going down with the ship right then.
Or not, because I knew what I risked by shrugging off the love and care of my husband to avoid the pain of transparency and vulnerability. We can lose our souls a little at a time, by exchanging honesty and truth for the ease of dysfunction. My soul was more than I cared to pay for a night of reruns and quiet, unemotional bliss.
So I got brave, laid myself low, and spilled my guts all over our new fancy sofa. Actually, I sort of leaked the ugliness out a little at a time, so he could slowly take it in. No need to drown the man. I focused the whole time on avoiding the land mines of my usual weirdness: blame, despair, and martyrdom.
We made it through somehow. We didn't argue at all. I suppose our marriage skills are improving, we are actually growing up, and Jesus is the miracle worker the Bible claims.
The longer we love each other the more amazed I am at the importance of the quiet moments when storms rage from within our own hearts. They help me become comfortable with living in the middle of the unanswerable questions about faith, the mourning over broken ways of life, my failed efforts, and the eternal balancing act of hope and fear.
Vulnerability is the lesson of Job over and over again: There are answers I may never get from God. What I need most of all is for someone to see my pain, know my heart, and love me.
If Mr. Fantastic didn't stand by me there, on the battlefield of my soul, who would? If I didn't let him in to the hideous truth that I am a human with scars and brokenness, how can we truly say that the two have become one?
Yes, of course, from a theological standpoint, Jesus always stands with us, and we can stay married without hashing out the ugly soul stuff. But there's a reason Jesus commanded us to love one another more than ourselves, and it is the grand key to a good life:
We need each other desperately.
Kindness. Vulnerability. Sacrificial love. Mercy. Believing the best. There is no substitute for these traits in our relationships. They make it safe to own the ugliness, love bravely, and turn off Netflix reruns in order to be the closest thing to Jesus someone has seen today.
A life lived like that will save our souls and change our families and communities. I hope we can be brave enough to live it.