Love Letters: On Letting the Sun Go Down

Dear Josh,

How many times do these lids droop heavily and the frustration floats steady like a prisoner’s cell cut through the throw pillows and down comforter separating us? Your back to me and I hold this scripture in my mind, do not let the sun go down on your anger, and I see the sun sloping low and I close my eyes and sleep.

Do not let the sun go down on your anger.

The marriage 101 rule doled out to newlyweds as an answer to all marital strife. If we kiss and make up, before the clock chimes, we will live the fairytale and happy ever after will reign.

And I used to fling this at you as I followed your retreat, barraging you with nothing close to resolution. And you would go quiet, your face set and it would make my blood rush into my face hot and blistering. And your voice would be steady as mine climbed and grew, a ferocious beast, my tongue looking for a weak spot to stab.

I didn’t know contemplation or cooling off. I thought my words would make a path to connect us but in the many words, sin was always present. And my temper raged.

I used my anger without thought, throwing it around with weight and force. Bulldozing anything in my path.

Communicate, I would taunt.

How will we ever resolve this if we don’t talk it out?

But I really meant surrender.

Because I live with words strung through my head, and you live in quieter spaces, and my thoughts never slow and when I release them in a torrent, I overwhelm you. You could never win.

And now I know this. The sun sometimes has to sink low and rise again for the calm to set in. For the cooler heads to meet and for the mounting tension to dissipate.

Sometimes the needed thing is a time out with each of us retreating to our corners until I can face you with love. With words soaked through with grace.

The expectation of working it all out  so we can slumber without anger pushed me further into the fray.

I used those scriptures to pick a fight. To incite instead of unite.

But now I know that when we take the time and even the distance, if only for a night, the anger dissipates like a three-day old balloon, all the air sucked out and the tensions once high and  stretched so tight,on the verge of bursting, are now emptier, flatter, and within reach. 

A night when I feel your void. The absence of your warm feet to my cold ones, the feel of your arm slung around my hip and your body curved to mine. That distance between us makes me long for a brighter morning.

It’s only taken me 14 years to learn to fight well and good and fair. Thanks for showing me how.

Love,

Alia Joy

 

Do you take time outs? Do you find that trying to resolve issues makes you angrier or do you always make up completely before going to bed? Do you allow your kids to have a cooling off period when they are fighting? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
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Comments

  1. Marisha says

    Alia,
    I have actually just begun to really study and look into Ephesians 4:26. My husband and I have been counseling a couple who are struggling with conflict in their marriage, as we all do in varying degrees. He is passionate about developing a Bible study that will help couples (including ourselves, as we are still learning much after 17 years) understand God’s purpose for marriage and also focus on some major points of struggle in marriage. And which of us is exempt from anger toward their spouse? I’m not raising my hand. We all have difficult circumstances, disagreements, hurt feelings, etc. How we handle those has changed dramatically over the years. Early on in my marriage, I used to think “We have to solve this…and NOW!” I said many words that I would later regret. Sometimes, a time of prayer and thoughtfulness needs to last longer than the sun is up. Are we making a mistake in how we interpret this passage? This morning I was so excited about studying this, and I’ve only scratched the surface. But notice in Psalm 4:4 it says “Be angry and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent.” Wow! I didn’t even know that was there! In other words, sometimes it’s better to be quiet and think about it and pray. Thank you so much for sharing your heart on this aspect of marriage. I always look forward to reading your posts! :)

    • Alia Joy says

      Thanks so much for sharing that Marisha! I love that Psalm and how true it is that when we ponder in our heart and be silent, God’s spirit has a chance to work in us in that stillness. I love to hear how God has worked in the marriages of so many of us through all of the hard times and how he truly makes us one as we seek Him. I am so encouraged lately to see other bloggers writing about their marriages and anniversaries they’re celebrating. There is such an attack on marriages in this world and I am inspired that in the midst of it all His light shines. That’s awesome that you guys are using your own marriage to help counsel others, it is so needed. I love having you as a reader. All of you make writing such a joy to me. Blessings.

  2. Janice says

    Fantastic post. I’m right there with ya. We’re reaching 14 years in about a month and that “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger” verse was one that before marriage seemed so straight forward to me. So simple. Just forgive each other. (and one I KNOW I used in an accusatory way if a fight wasn’t going my way. ) But in practice, when that one that we love so deeply, the one we’ve opened up to so widely, when pain and anger flare into that sacred relationship, well it does seem like the way to put out the fire the fastest is to separate all the burning sticks.

    I see it so clearly with my kids. You are fighting and fighting, well you get a 5 minute time out from each other. And when the timer dings, suddenly the placement of that toy or which marker is whose isn’t all that important. Because against all odds you’ve missed each other.

    Sometimes I’m struck with how I’ve legalized the scriptures. I no longer think that verse is to be taken literally, but a reminder to not let things fester. I find myself reminded of it most when something is bothering me that I haven’t brought up to my husband. But the irritation isn’t going away. Then I think, “don’t let the sun set on this. Don’t just let the anger simmer and grow. It’s growing a life of it’s own and leading to sin upon sin. Get it out, argue it out if need be. But work toward ending it.”

    Thanks for the reminder about needing time outs and quietness and time sometimes.

    • Alia Joy says

      Love that Janice, separate the burning sticks. Such a good picture of that cooling off period that’s often so needed. I do that with my kids too. Send them off to cool down, or separate them so cooler heads will prevail, mine included. And AMEN to the festering. Even when I would argue it all out, I wouldn’t forgive completely, the bitterness and anger did fester in me and brought about a lot of hurt in our marriage. We couldn’t move on without resolution but the longer we’ve been married, I realize the resolution isn’t going to happen at ten’o clock at night while we’re both frustrated and exhausted. I do think we legalize the scriptures and miss the point.

  3. deborah says

    I, too, have been there. Throwing words instead of being quiet. Most men don’t have the words or style of communication that many women have!

    I, too, am learning after 15 years!

    Everything is always much bigger anyway, in the evening when I am tired, weary. Everything is less overwhelming in the morning, after a night of sleep.

    I am so thankful for committed marriages, who desire to work through the hard spots, because hard times will come!!

    • Alia Joy says

      Yes! Hard times do come but I am so thrilled to be among so many couples who are celebrating anniversaries and seeing the fruit of faithfulness, commitment, and hard work. I have cooled off a lot over the years and we rarely have big fights anymore. I am so blessed to have a man who not only put up with me and my learning curve, but also loved me wholly during it all.

    • Alia Joy says

      So true, space and time can do wonders for healing when emotions are high. Thanks for visiting here. I always love to meet new readers.

  4. Lisa says

    Ahh, good words. It takes a wise woman to figure out that not all that marriage advice is worth tucking away for later use.

    I loved this letter :) visiting from imperfect prose

    • Alia Joy says

      Lisa, No kidding. Same thing goes for parenting advice. I especially love marriage advice from single people or childless couples. ;)

    • Alia Joy says

      Emily, your comment ended up in my spam for some reason. I’m glad I caught it. Thanks for visiting here. I’ve loved your link up and reading through your blog posts. I’ve found some amazing blogs linked up at imperfect prose. If only I had the time to read them all. ;)

  5. Jo (@Piano_Jo) says

    Thanks for re-posting this Alia. This is something that has flavoured our 26yr marriage & is timely because lately I’ve been going through some of the emotional co-dependent issues of my upbringing again, as you do in cycles. Because of the person I was when we married I expected my husband to complete me & to cover my deficiencies, lead me spiritually etc & it was all a bit shattering when he didn’t. I only cottoned on to the CD stuff 10yrs into our marriage and it has been a constant learning curve.
    I more understand his silences when I do rail (not so much these days), because I know he’s trying to listen beyond the shouting to what I’m REALLY saying. But for a long time I didn’t & they infuriated me, because I wanted him to say THE thing to make me feel better & fix ‘it’. I know it niggles him when I can’t let things wash over like he does. But by the grace of God, we’re still here..

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