Doug and I had been married for a year, maybe two, and he was well-acquainted with all of my idiosyncrasies and soft spots. Although many areas of my broken heart had mended, all the years of trying to please a man who could not be pleased had manifested itself in an unbalanced, never-ending pursuit of personal perfection. Wherever I went, whatever I did, I was constantly looking for ways to improve myself, to stay out of trouble, to get it right. I sought to conceal every blemish, while simultaneously chastising myself for each and every insufficiency and then committing to do better.
Even my preferred escape from a day’s stresses was a long soak in a soothing bubble-bath. Yes, my sweet respite represented a few more minutes in which I might add to my self-improvement duties, a little time spent filling my heart with the stories of incredible people with impressive testimonies. I would soak up tales of inspiration and feed my spirit on each and every devotional. I wanted to be the best me I could be, to know that my life had value and purpose. But in my heart, I believed that I would never ever be good enough.
It was in the course of witnessing my routine that Doug innocently asked me what kinds of things I particularly enjoyed reading, and I immediately told him: I only read non-fiction. I explained to him that I really didn’t have time for all that other fluff stuff. I wanted to invest my time in materials that could change me.
Then, a couple of weeks after that conversation, a large package addressed to my husband arrived in the mail. I didn’t know of anything he was expecting, so I took the box upstairs and left it on his side of the bed. That night, as I sat up in our bed waiting for Doug to join me, he noticed the package, examined it and stated, “Oh good, they came.” Upon asking him what he had purchased, he said, “Wait and see,” while he busily tore open the box and removed the packaging. He then reached into the box and pulled out a large stack of books. He climbed up onto the bed and handed them to me, saying, “I got these for you,” and laid them in my open arms: a complete series of Christian fiction books.
Remembering well our recent conversation on this subject, I was a little startled, perhaps even a little put-off. Hadn’t he heard what I said? My expression must have said, “What were you thinking?”
Lying beside me now, propped up on one elbow, Doug looked up at me while I sat in silence, still obviously puzzled by the stack of books in my hands.
“I want you to stop reading those self-help books,” he said, and then continued, “I love you just the way you are.” I felt my throat tighten. Then he added quietly, “You are free.”
In that moment, I had no words. So many years of striving and trying and struggling and failing were instantly swept away.
Setting the books aside, I simply melted into Doug’s arms, buried my head into his chest and cried the sweetest tears of release I have ever known. Even with all of my imperfections and frailties and failures, I was loved. I was accepted. I was enough.
That night I received the best gift I have ever been given. And the books were a nice touch, too.
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