I am not the easiest person to live with – just ask my wife, Debbie. Now she would concede that it is significantly easier since I opened myself up to the Lord fifteen years ago and cooperated with Him in His desire to bring truth to my inmost being. But there were many, many years where my own wounds, hurts, selfishness and deception made it really challenging for her – in large part because of a lie SHE believed. You see, in those days Debbie truly believed it was her job, as my wife, to make me happy. And if I wasn’t happy (which was a lot in those days) then it was her fault and she needed to figure out what she had done wrong or needed to do differently to change the situation so I could be happy. The first twenty years of our marriage were a silent but constant and draining internal battle for her, one of guilt and analysis, as I seemed to be perpetually unhappy.
Thankfully, Debbie has always had a steady relationship with the Lord and after two decades of struggle, she was sharing with Him again and He revealed a truth that radically changed her life and our relationship. Here it is: “You are not responsible for Jim’s happiness – Jim is.” With that single statement from the Lord came the power to “retrieve, recapture and reclaim control over her own happiness” (John Townsend), set balanced boundaries and let me own my own “stuff.” At first I was especially unsettled (mild term) when Debbie would no longer cater to my whining and moping – actually, I was mad. How come she got to be calm, content, even happy while I was feeling miserable? But eventually her faithfulness to His truth forced me to look at myself and make changes. It was true – MY choices would determine my happiness – and when I made good choices it actually make it easier for Debbie to share the love she has always had for me.
John Townsend speaks of this very situation in his book, “Who’s Pushing Your Buttons”:
“One of the most powerful principles that helps people begin to see changes in their relationship involves retrieving, recapturing, and reclaiming control over their own happiness, which they have shifted to their button-pusher. It is very easy to feel that unless you person changes, you will be bereft of love, or frustrated, powerless, or unhappy. That is, the person holds the golden key to a major part of your life, and as long as he does not cooperate, your life suffers significantly. [But] even if all your relationships are good and sound, your happiness, growth, and well-being should be up to you, God, and your spiritual community, and not dependent on one single person. The Bible says that your life is your life, and you will be called to account for how you lived it. That is an individual accounting, not between you and another person: ‘So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God’ (Romans 14:12).”
That was the essence of what the Lord told Debbie that day. He wanted her to know that in that future He would be holding me accountable for how I lived my life – and I would not be allowed to say, “But Debbie…..” or “If Debbie had only….” (and, of course, the same applied to her). Debbie and I have discovered that it so much more freeing and satisfying to let Him hold “the golden key to a major part of your life.” And it is a joy to report that at least two folks I ministered to last week who lived in bondage to “Debbie’s lie” have begun to walk in His truth in this area.