February, My Beloved.

February is a hard, hard month. Ideally, it’s only 4 weeks. In a mild winter, like the one we had this year, when in mid January snow still hasn’t covered the ground, the sense that February will be bearable this time around cautiously begins to emerge in hushed tones throughout the city, like fragile spring buds peaking through the dirt. We’re almost there. We can do it this time. We can make it through! Well, February proved once again, that it’s pull inward is not something to be fought. Only admired…through tears.

My wrestling training suffered as well. What began with a deep confidence and energy was buried beneath tight deadlines, new jobs, watching the kids, trips across the city, bible studies, doodle polls, administration, and meetings. In January I was praying and reading for 4 hours in the morning. Each person I met that day had time and space in my prayers. In those hours, the path that lay ahead was clear and the trust to take each step was firm. But then the snow fell, and the grey began to wear me down. Prayer was sporadic. My diet: random.

I began to feel my weakness. After the clarity of the beginning when anything is possible, when the opponent does not make itself clear, a shift occurs, sometimes quick, sometimes not, but it’s when the excitement, the personality of the moment fades, and time begins to encroach with its long arms and its sleeper holds. The kids need to be loved, read to, wiped, bathed, kissed. My wife, deep in her sunless depression needs care, patience, time. My different jobs each require 110% (self-imposed), my friends need friendship. When Christmas ends, and the daily grind of winter silences the city, spiritual forces of wickedness in heavenly places seem too much to recognize, much less defeat. How do I care about systemic and spiritual struggles when I feel completely overwhelmed by the smallest house project? How can I befriend anyone else, much less love an enemy? How can I fight forces of division without abandoning my family?

After 10 years of marriage, In February I was shocked to find my heart hard toward my wife. The first sign of this condition was not being able to express the love that I knew I felt for her. I just figured I would snap out of it at some point. Somewhere in the center of my being I can still see her, this incredible woman who through her loyalty, wisdom, and strength makes everyone around her better. But even though I could rattle off all of the wonderful things about her, in our February, a long slow slipping division had become clear and she was on the other side of a divide. I couldn’t see her. All I could hear were the rattling hamster wheels of my responsibilities. I tried to fight it, but all that would come out of my mouth were reasons why I should be the one to get a break from watching the kids.

I tried. I knew somehow this was wrestling. That it was happening. Now! On one hand, I felt like I could confront the world forces of this darkness, on the other hand, sitting across from me, on our comfortable couch, was Sarah, an unloved wife. And then it hit me: She is my city, all of her constituents, my Beloved. When we married 10 years ago, we believed that we were bound together, and became, mystically, one. And though divorce is not on our table (it is a ripping that we, frankly, may not be strong enough for), the slow steady widening apparently is.

As I caught a glimpse of the one person in the world I vowed to never leave, I saw the weight of patterns on our life, a mixture of voices and choices mingling inaudibly in our apartment. I felt the deep rhythm of the season; I felt the ways in which I approach work and challenges. I felt the spirals of parenthood. I felt the patterns of our relationship, cycling silently beneath the surface.

Someone recently asked me, “Why wrestling?”  I told them “Because it takes the body seriously.” It requires the full exertion of our selves. It’s not just an idea. Wrestling is a relationship between two forces that have come together in agreed opposition. In a match, two people are surrounded by rules that influence the direction of their movements, what they can and cannot do. These patterns in our apartment, the ones that keep me on the couch, the ones I’ve designed, the ones I’ve allowed, the ones that we don’t see, they spill out into the street. And wherever these patterns pool, they become a system, an institution, a conduit of choice and power.

She is my city, my Beloved for better and for worse.