I have only one sibling, a brother who is seven years younger than myself. As a result, I have no idea what it’s like to have a sister. At times, I’ve described certain women as being “like a sister” to me, but in actuality I have no idea if they’re like a sister to me or not. I just knew we got along well and I never wanted to date them.
It’s sort of odd, then, that I now have two sisters-in-law (Or is it sister-in-laws? I’m never sure what’s correct.). I mean, they’re not my sisters, but they’re technically a part of my family now. In fact, one of them is not even married to anyone related to me, except that he’s my wife’s brother, who is sort of my brother because we’re in-laws. I guess that makes her my sister-in-law by in-lawness … or something like that.
One of the unexpected results of my first writing about my depression online was the number of people who sent me messages about how they had dealt with issues of their own. One of them was my sister-in-law (the one married to my brother-in-law), and we’ve compared notes a couple of times since then concerning our different experiences. One day we were discussing feelings of abandonment, and I remember thinking, “Eh, I’ve never really dealt with that too much.”
Apparently, I thought wrong.
For the first time in my life this weekend, I watched the movie Good Will Hunting. Remember the scene where Robin Williams’ character finally gets sick of Matt Damon’s character screwing around and kicks him out of his office? Welcome to my counseling nightmare. Somewhere inside me, I am convinced that one day I’m going to tell a counselor something so bizarre and frustrating that he or she will throw up their hands and say, “Whoa, dude. That is jacked up. I’m not sure I want to work with you anymore. Take a walk, and come back when you’re serious.”
Upon further inspection, however, I’ve realized my fear of getting “kicked out” goes beyond the counselor’s office. One day, I’m probably going to do something someone can never forgive me for. Or I’m going to mess up a relationship so bad a person will never want to speak to me again. Or I’ll alienate a family member to the point I never see them anymore. In my mind, these are not possibilities; they are inevitabilities. The only questions that remain are how am I going to do it and when is it going to happen.
As can be imagined, this has affected my personality just a teeny bit. I can be ridiculously non-assertive. I’ve hung onto relationships way longer than I should have simply because I didn’t want the other person to leave. I’m very shy, mainly because I’m pretty sure I’m going to say something stupid and embarrass myself. I don’t want to bother anyone, which, ironically, has probably actually caused me to have fewer close relationships in my life.
Where it really shows, though, is in my relationship with God.
It’s hard to live with a God you’re half-expecting to just throw up His hands and leave you one day. That’s how I’ve viewed him for a lot of years, though. Surely I was going to trip and fall enough times that I would wear out His patience. I’ve seen a lot of people use grace as a license to do pretty much whatever they wanted, so I guess over time the word sort of lost its meaning for me. Why would I need to “fear God” if He didn’t have a hammer He was ready to bring down on me? To repeat a phrase I’ve used about a million times before, “I know God loves me; I just don’t think He likes me very much.”
It was a revelation to me last year when, on a day I was incredibly late to a counseling appointment, the counselor I was meeting with didn’t get mad at me. It was a revelation to me this week when my wife chose to forgive me for a massive sin I had committed against her. It was a revelation this weekend when a good friend of mine dropped what he was doing to take a phone call from me. And it’s a revelation to me every day that God has allowed me to live 40 years on this earth without striking me down with a bolt of lightning.
Living without the fear of rejection must be a wonderful thing. Unfortunately, I know about as much about that as I do about being a brother to a sister. Maybe that’s why I have sisters-in-law … sister-in-laws … whatever.