During my summer work, there was a colleague to whom I gravitated due to our shared interests and similar educational backgrounds. It was a very life-giving and fulfilling experience for me. This individual was my favorite colleague. That's right. I had a favorite. I'm human.
Not so, this time around. I have no favorites among my new cohort. None. Not a single one of them that I like better than the others. There hasn't been much bonding and I wonder if it has something to do with proximity. But, maybe it's just personalities. I don't know.
What I do know is that one of my colleagues inspires compassionate mourning in me whenever they talk of their relationship with their spouse. They are in love and hold one another dear and are deeply committed to one another with an unbreakable bond. Even if they don't like each other very much at the present moment.
But all of the stories my colleague shares about their marriage are painful. "I was telling my spouse last night about today's assignment," my colleague will say, "and they told me 'cut it down; no one wants to hear all that; why would you share that?'" "I told my spouse last night about how I planned to proceed with this assignment," my colleague will say, "and they told me 'You're doing it wrong. What makes you think anyone needs that much information about your life's journey? No one cares!'" "I told my spouse about this experience and they grew angry with me and yelled at me because I'm sharing this experience with you and not with them," my colleague will say.
As one person on the outside of their relationship hearing only one perspective, I have a necessarily limited view. I recognize that. I also recognize, though, that the things people share with us in our most intimate exchanges are often the things that matter most to them. And when my colleague shares about their relationship with their spouse, my colleague shares about how they are consistently verbally and emotionally belittled and invalidated for who they are.
Constant, on-going, pervasive rejection of their self.
It makes me sad. I want to ask, "Don't you realize that this is abusive? Is there a reason you're staying or a reason you're not working on this?"
But my colleague also shares this in these moments of grief: "My spouse is jealous for me. And it makes me realize how jealous God is for us and I think that's just the most beautiful picture of God's love for us."
Then, I want to throw up.
And I am grateful that I escaped such dangerous and abusive theologies. And I can only hope the same for my colleague.