What Words Cannot Say

Almost every guy I work with hits a point where it all feels like its going south. Every word spoken is the wrong one, doing empathy is possible but not very probable, and stringing together enough coherent thoughts to communicate something meaningful to a hurt, angry wife is nearly impossible.  Hitting this point usually results in him clamming up, shutting down or responding with anger. He doesn’t want to. He doesn’t mean to, but the powerlessness of the moment is often overwhelming. It would go so much better if he could just cry and groan.

Seriously. We all have those moments where words are entirely inept and nothing in our vocabulary could accurately capture what is happening in our hearts. Paul speaks to the inadequacy of words in Romans 8:26:

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.

Sometimes wordless groans say enough. Perhaps they say even more than articulate, verbose language. Strangely, we humans know the profundity of groaning amidst pain. We have an innate comprehension of what someone is expressing when, at a funeral, a loved one groans through tears. We understand what is being communicated when groaning accompanies the news of terminal illness.

I wanted so desperately to tell my wife that I understood how bad I had hurt her, but I couldn’t. I would freeze up.  My shame and the reality of the pain that I had caused would paralyze me. As much as I wanted to say the right thing, the words were elusive. Then one evening, as Shelley expressed how badly she was hurting and how infuriated she was at what I had done, I broke.  I started to cry, then sob. As I opened my mouth to say something, I had nothing. I tried to force myself to speak but no sound would come out. Then I started feel the pain well up inside me and I couldn’t catch my breath. The tears kept gushing. I tried to fight it back, fearing she would think it was a pity party or that I was trying to manipulate her. I also feared she would think I was weak. But I couldn’t hold it back. A well was tapped that evening which I can’t even begin to explain. I ended up lying in the floor, in the fetal position, heaving, crying. Between groans of pain I was able to mutter the words, “I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry.” I have no clue how long it lasted. It felt like forever. I don’t know what Shelley was doing while I was in the floor weeping. I can’t remember her saying anything. She was probably freaked out because I was inconsolable.

Unbeknownst to either of us, we were healing. I needed to purge that well of regret and shame. She needed to see deep brokenness and hear groans that expressed pain beyond anything words could suffice. I had to revisit that well multiple times too. There were more moments like this one to follow, albeit never to that depth again. I learned that sometimes I just needed to feel her pain and let myself express it. At times she needed a response audibly and at times she needed it visibly. When I ran out of words and realized the ineptitude of my vocabulary, I knew it was time to simply feel and express.

Perhaps you’re a wife reading this and you wonder if this is the wall you’ve seen your husband hit? Share this with him and talk about it. Or maybe you’re a guy who hits that wall, like I did. Share this with your wife and talk to her about it.


Effective Accountability

Awhile back I wrote about accountability that isn’t working. I included 4 indicators:

1 – You aren’t confronted when you don’t keep your word

2 – You go A.W.O.L. and nobody confronts you about it

3 – Your first answer to probing questions is accepted

4 – You don’t have regular conversations about redemption

In this post I want to begin the conversation about what effective accountability looks like and how it works. The first key is about ownership and responsibility. Fundamentally, accountability is about giving an account for your life. The ownership and responsibility rests on our shoulders to be accountable rather than to be held accountable. Too often I hear guys blame their accountability partners after a fall and say they didn’t ask enough questions or didn’t call at a certain time, etc. Accountability is what you do, not what someone does to you.

Also important to clarify is that being accountable means giving an account. An account of what, you might ask? Specifically, your sexual integrity. That should always be a part of the conversation. But beyond that, we should be accountable for the things that contribute to sexual integrity, such as our boundaries, triggers, attitudes, emotions, thought patterns, relationships and walk with God. Accountability is something that encapsulates your whole life, not just one little slice of life. Sometimes guys think an accountability group is the place where they go talk about their sexual integrity. That is only partially true. The men in your accountability group should know about your whole life, because it all impacts or is impacted by your sexual integrity. For example, effective accountability means the guys in your group would know:

– any major life changes (i.e., new baby, new job, new house, moves)

– any relational issues (with boss, wife, kids, friends, family, neigbors)

– any health or medical issues

– any work or financial issues

– travel schedules

– major anniversaries (i.e., wedding, disclosure, divorce, vow renewal)

If you are in an accountability group and they don’t know these things, it is lacking effectiveness. There is ground to be gained by changing the way you do group and broadening the scope of how you are known. Remember, an accountability group is about relationships, relationships are about intimacy, and intimacy is about being known.

Doubt, Fear & Faith

I wonder what it must have been like as a 1st generation follower of Christ? To spend a few years doing life with him, everyday, hanging your hat on his words, then only to see him killed. Sure he talked about having to leave, but come on…like this? Today would be a hard day. He is gone, not yet risen, and everything seems to have come to a screeching halt. I would’ve felt duped and gullible. I probably would have wondered why I blew the last 3 years following this guy. He did say he was coming back, so perhaps I would’ve had some sliver of hope. But it would have been small. There must have been so much doubt and fear for the disciples. Do they carry the torch and press on, or head on back to the quiet life of fishermen? Do they finish what they started or cash it in? We all know the rest of the story, but they didn’t. They had to go on faith. They had to go back through all they had seen, experienced and been taught to decide to hold out faith.

Then He showed up.

Such is the case for many of us on our journeys. For a lot of men, it’s the Saturday of the recovery process. You’re waiting in that awkward in-between space wondering if He’ll show up tomorrow and pull you through. Don’t go back to the quiet life of a fisherman. Or, in the case of our addictions, to the duplicitous, shame-filled life of sexually acting out. I urge you to hang on and see what tomorrow brings. Stand on faith and see what happens. You’re Sunday is coming. Hold on a little longer.