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During the early years of our marriage, Lucia and I had a gnawing dislike for each other, which made intimate, face-to-face talking more of a timid chore than a redemptive opportunity. I call this the “eye contact inhibitor effect” when two people are too insecure to look each other in the eye.
Inhibition – Social psychologists call it the “disinhibition effect” when it comes to social media. What they are saying is that people are not as inhibited from telling you all kinds of harsh things on social media because they are not looking you in the eye.
Rather than operating by the “rule-of-thumb” that says, “I will not say anything on social media that I would not say to an individual privately,” these people lack Spirit-led self-control (Galatians 5:22-23) because there is a “cyber-distance” between them and the person they are publicly berating.
Legalism – Steeped in legalism was part of our problem. Legalism is a “fear-based” culture that builds walls of separation while diminishing the far-reaching, transformative power of the gospel.
It was hard for us “legalistic expats” to functionally believe the gospel, specifically that the death of Christ on the cross was enough to take care of all our sinning against each other. From a practical perspective, this kind of uncertainty that God could neutralize our sin by the power of the gospel made facing each other about our problems more challenging.
The lingering effects of our sinfulness–and our legalism–continued to hover over our relationship. It was as though we were living in a fear-based, guilty stupor. Our self-righteousness focused our attention on all each other had done wrong rather than the grace of God.
It was the deadly combination of self-righteousness (I must present myself better than I am) and self-pity (I don’t want you to know the real me) that truncated our ability to walk out the humility of the gospel with each other. We needed a gospel-fix.
After mutually seeking forgiveness from God and each other, we began the arduous journey of rebuilding our marriage. This “path of dying” to ourselves led us to a fearful confrontation in our souls, which was an inhibition of looking each other in the eye to talk vulnerably.
To be serious, transparent, humble, and kind was hard in a face-to-face setting. We could talk all day long about the cares of life, but the matters of the heart were difficult. We needed a game plan.
Our problem brought new meaning to John’s words about people loving darkness more than light (John 3:20). We did not enjoy the dark more, but we did struggle with communicating in the light of the day.
I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. – John 8:12
If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. – 1 John 1:8
Because of the shame and timidity that seemed to hinder us from being open and honest with each other, we decided to start “doing it in the dark.” We found that late at night, while in bed, with the lights turned off, was the most comfortable time for us to learn how to talk to each other about things that mattered.
There was no eye contact, just two selfish and timid people trying to do it in the dark. Oh, and holding hands while talking was a plus. In time, we learned how to bring our conversation into the light. God was remarkably kind to us.
We have since become best friends, and Lucia is the one person I want to talk to more than any other person in the world about what is up with my soul. Today, we can do it in the dark and anywhere else for that matter. How about you?