Well, it seems none of us can avoid seeing the recent headlines (at least on social media) involving Will Smith and his wife, and their “entanglement.” Many, including myself, were very curious to tune into Jada’s Red Table Talk to hear her conversation between herself and Will. Would she admit to having an affair with another man; and most importantly, how would Will react? Regardless of how he’s aged and evolved as a person, he remains our Prince of Belair. Yet, the depth of the memes on the internet haven’t stopped coming.
One of the reasons I make reference to Will Smith is because one of THE best movies he ever performed in (in my opinion, aside from Hitch) was the Pursuit of Happiness; taken the true story of Chris Gardner, and his rags-to-riches account of going from a homeless father to a very lucrative career on Wall Street.
This movie resonated with so many because most people root for the underdog. The person who triumphs despite the tests, trials, and obstacles. But do we really root for the underdog?
I know you’ve heard the statement, “There’s a thin line between love and hate.” But there is also a thin line between joy and judgement; between friends and foes; between encouragement and envy; between resilience and resistance; and between support and scrutiny.
There seems to be a part of human nature that finds some sense of pleasure in the shortcomings or seeming inadequacies of others.
Seriously. Think about where thoughts instantly went when we learned of Jada’s imprudence. We immediately thought how she wasn’t who we thought she was. She was pretending.
Oh, look! She’s not perfect. No! She’s not! And neither are we.
For a moment, there were some who found pleasure in the shocking, yet somewhat comical, news of this couple’s indiscretions as they were revealed publicly. Y’all! We have to do better. I can’t imagine, not only the hurt and shame that has transpired between these two beings as a couple, but also as individuals. And if the TRUTH BE TOLD…we don’t need to wait to see Jada’s Red Table. We can look at our own tables to see and/or remember some similarities. But I’ll leave that there. For now.
“The pursuit of happiness” should for most of us be a phrase that we remember and/or memorized in our (back-in-the-day) 5th grade social studies class. The United States Declaration of Independence says,
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.
Now I could choose to dissect this in so many ways; especially with the social unrest in our country around racial injustice that still exist today. But I want to hone in on…the Pursuit of Happiness. The Declaration tells us that it’s every person’s RIGHT to pursue happiness. And we as a society have prided ourselves on doing just that…pursuing happiness.
But what is happiness?
Happiness is defined as – a state of well-being and contentment.
But how many times have we not experienced “happiness”? Can we say that we are always content, or consider our state of being at all times “well”?
It doesn’t even have to be anything big…but the truth of the matter is that most of us don’t spend our complete days, our complete weeks, months, years…HECK, we don’t even spend complete moments being happy. There is always something. Some test. Some trial. Some new goal. Some new thing. Some new “pursuit” that takes us away from being happy.
Am I saying that we are always depressed or sad? No! But I am saying that we are usually in a state of not being completely satisfied. There’s always something else, something more. Something bigger. Something better.
I remember in the beginning stages of my marriage, it seemed as though my husband was constantly pursuing something. His career. His bachelors. His masters. His ministry. His Ph.D.
Every time I thought time was opening up for us to focus on us…my husband was on to the next great pursuit. And if you’ve ever heard the saying or the sermon “Men are Like Waffles, Women are Like Spaghetti,” you know that there is truth in men only being able to fully focus on one thing at a time. Don’t get me wrong, these were all favorable things. Honorable things. Noteworthy things. But all of these THINGS were a strain on our personal relationship; because at times they were used as avoidance to keep from addressing other issues.
Around year 7 of our marriage, my husband’s own former entanglements were revealed to me. Not only was I blindsided by the knowledge of the facts I would learn, but the shame of others knowing rattled me pretty badly. However, his indiscretions were not against me. They happened at a different time in his life. They just didn’t catch up with him until he was MY HUSBAND.
I used to literally pray sometimes, “God, why did you wait to allow these things to be revealed in our marriage? Don’t I deserve better than this?”
What I learned was that sometimes the lesson and revelation isn’t about you, but its in the character in WHO YOU ARE that will help the other person survive it.
Those were some very tough years. And I won’t lie and say I wasn’t reading my Bible trying to find some fine print that would allow me to walk away. No, I found no fine print…but I did find some red print that made things very clear to me. You gotta stay.
Was it easy? HELL NO! LOL! I tell people all the time…I have been in the U.S. Army, rappelled from a 40 ft towers, been a single parent, gotten 12 hrs shy of a doctorate…YET, being married is the HARDEST thing I’ve EVER done.
Why? Because everything else I’ve done was an individual task, with only me and my intestinal fortitude to consider. How much grit did I have to get the job done, or to succeed?
Marriage?!?!? That’s something totally different. Because it’s not just you and your wants and needs. You have to consider a whole other person. Their personality. Their experiences. And maybe even their trauma.
Why does this person act the way they act and do what they do? I guarantee there’s a deeper story behind it.
Even though it wasn’t always clear to me, I eventually learned, I had to stay in my marriage because my husband and I had a greater purpose and calling in being together. We had a ministry. And that ministry didn’t just include pulpit preaching. It involved living a life in front of people that was real and transparent, so that others would have the courage to face some of life’s greatest challenges unashamedly. But our purpose could only come forth and stand in the deepest of waters having been tried and tested. But trust me, the test of me learning of my husband’s indiscretions wouldn’t be the only test to come in the picture.
Though my husband continued with his pursuits of accomplishments and things for several years, with rarely any regard to my need for his attention, I stayed. But a part of me was dying. I felt like I was fading away. I was turning into barely a shell of myself. I felt so empty.
I had written my husband a text one day and said, “Can I just have the 20%?”
In Tyler Perry’s movie, “Why Did I Get Married?” it had been discussed with the men that most marriages are affected by the 80/20 rule. Most spouses are able to provide 80% of what the other person needs, but 20% goes unfulfilled. However, spouses stand to lose their marriages when they go searching for the 20%. They may be satisfied in the moment, but then lose their 80%; only to find that whoever or whatever offered the 20% only had 20% to offer. Period.
I didn’t want to lose my 80%, but I was thirsty for the 20. So, I wrote exactly that in a text. “Baby, I love you and appreciate you; and what you do for me and our family does not go unnoticed. But right now, I need you to listen to my love language. I need your attention and affection. I know that’s sometimes hard for you, so just give me a couple of weeks. But right now, I’m dying of thirst, and either one of three things is gonna happen…
1. You’re gonna quench my thirst. 2. I’m gonna die of dehydration. 3. Someone else is gonna come through and offer me something to drink. I’m hoping that option 1 wins out.”
What happened after that?
I saw that he read my text…but he never replied.
Fast forward two years later…the hubby and I are making it through with being roommates. Me trying to be the perfect wife and put on a good face (the other masks before Corona), and him in his pursuits.
One day I had a conversation with a former male acquaintance. Completely innocent. But this conversation was amazing. He listened. He offered great feedback. And more than that, he constantly encouraged me to be my best self. And then it happened. I felt a butterfly in my stomach. WTH?!?!
I’m a married woman. I’m a mother. I’m a leader. Heck! I’m a minister. I’m not in high school. Why am I feeling this?
Option 3 had reared its head and I was not prepared.
Well this was wrong. This was not who I was. And what I knew more than anything…THIS WAS NOT FROM GOD. Regardless of how those conversations made me feel, God would not offer me a counterfeit as the real thing. This was one of those road signs I wrote about last week. WRONG WAY! DO NOT ENTER!
So, what did I do?
I talked to my dad about it. My dad and I talk every day. I can talk to him about ANYTHING. Even my shortcomings…because he’s gonna tell me the truth. And if people don’t know anything else about me, I hope they know I do my best to live in my truth. This was no different.
And even as shameful as it was to admit that this was where I was, I had to talk to someone who understood my heart so I could get free from what was trying to “entangle” me.
This is what my dad said about my emotional affair, (and I cry every time I say it) “Baby, I don’t have any scriptures or spiritual advice to give you…but what I do know is this. You and your husband have been tried by the fire. You all are in a much stronger place than where you were when y’all first started this thing. He is a much better person. A much kinder person. I would like to think that some of that has to do with the wife you are to him. Right now, I see you two as a beautiful colored glass. You all are a reflection of everything that you have experienced together. Now, tell me this. ARE YOU REALLY WILLING TO SHATTER YOUR BEAUTIFUL GLASS TO DRINK OUT OF A CUP?”
Well, Daddy didn’t know it; but though he said he didn’t have anything spiritual to tell me, his words were literally like God had opened up the heavens to FaceTime me. And I heard him loud and clear.
That night, I told my husband exactly where I was. Did it hurt him? Of course it did. Fortunately, my entanglement didn’t go any further than the conversations. Nevertheless, they were still not appropriate and were a disrespect to my husband and our marriage. But fixing it had less to do with my husband and more about who God had PURPOSED us to be. We had to fight for this marriage.
And even if we had to go 12 rounds, I knew that others were either watching this fight, betting on this fight, counting on this fight, or would later learn of this fight…and it would lead to healing and restoration for us all.
I know some will think that I am crazy to share this, but there isn’t just healing for me…there may also be healing for someone else in my truth; and there is also so much freedom.
There is a scripture that does an excellent job of explaining this point.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses (and you now are one of my witnesses), let us throw off everything that hinders us and the sin that so easily ENTANGLES us. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,Hebrews 12:1
Secrets, lies, guilt, shame. They all hinderances that keep us bound or entangled. I believe I’m almost half way through this journey of life. I want to make sure for the rest of the ride, I don’t have any extra cargo. I’m expecting a smoother ride from this point forward.
So, what do I want you to take from all this? Whenever you face trials in your relationship,
- RECOGNIZE & ACKNOWELDGE THE PROBLEM. Circumstances usually just don’t come out of nowhere. There were usually signs along the way. We either failed to see them or ignored them.
- COMMUNICATION is key. Communicate with a friend or family member for advice beforehand. Communicate with whomever your conflict is with. But above all, communicate with God and ask him to reveal to you exactly what His plan and purpose is for you concerning the matter. Sometimes He’ll show you the big picture. Other times, He’ll just show you the next step. Either way, be willing to take heed.
- Learn to LISTEN to the battle cries. When those you love or those who are entrusted to you express their concerns, their needs, or their fears…hear them. Find a way to acknowledge them. Then do your best to address or resolve them. The last thing you want to do is lose a valuable relationship and have regrets.
- Make INTENTIONAL TIME for those you care about. It may seem like we always have tomorrow, but if 2020 has made one thing clearer to us all…it is that time is valuable; yet, it is not promised. Invest in what you need and what you love. With good strategies and plans it will yield a favorable return.
- Remember the 3 E’s. When it seems like you are being distracted, tempted, frustrated, or provoked by someone or something that could cause you to come out of character…Don’t ENGAGE it. Don’t ENTERTAIN it. EXCHANGE it for an opportunity to PRAY. (Got that one from Priscilla Shirer)
- Lastly, FIGHT…the good fight. Fight fair and fight in your faith. Be in full pursuit of PURPOSE and not just happiness. Be committed to the PERSON you are and not just the POSITION you might be in. Remember, when we face our biggest challenges, it usually means that we are very close to something great up ahead. When it seems like it’s getting tougher rather than easier…dig deeper. You’ve got some fight left.
I’ll never forget, my senior year of high school, our football team went pretty-much undefeated. For the first time, we were headed to the Superdome for a chance a State title. We seemed unstoppable to us; but we were actually the underdogs. When we got to the Superdome, by halftime we were down 0-29. There was no way we could comeback from this. We had been so good the entire season. How did we get to the Superdome and look like this? But, regardless of what it LOOKED LIKE, there was something said in that locker room at the half that jolted a spark of hope and determination in those young men. Because we came back and won that game 31-29. Just when chances of winning seemed bleak, they dug deeper and achieved what they had come for and had worked so hard for. The underdogs triumphed despite the tests, trials, and obstacles.
I don’t know what you’re working hard at right now and why maybe in this season you may be discouraged as to just how it’s gonna play out. But can I submit to you to dig deeper and be intentional? Don’t focus on what it looks like. Get in your “locker room” with your Coach. He’ll give you the next play that will hopefully spark that hope and determination in you, in order to come out victorious.
You can win this. And you’re closer than you know in this pursuit of fulfilling your next place of purpose.
Oh yeah! And when you get there…you’ll be happy. ~Dawn
P.S. For the record, I love my husband more today (flaws and all) than I did the day we got married. I can’t imagine that I would have allowed myself to miss out on the unselfish, attentive, giving, and praying man that he has become if I would have chosen to drink from that cup. Thank God for His grace AND that little pep-talk. Thanks Coach!
I hope that you found this reading helpful. If you did, definitely leave me a COMMENT, LIKE, & SHARE. Continue the conversation in order to help others. I’ll see you on the horizon. Remember, after the darkest of night…the DAWN will come.