Since this is Paul’s weekend with the Air Guard, I thought that I would give him a break and write a marriage situation post by myself. I’m sure that he will chime in after reading it and post his response in the form of some comments.
“Do I have to spell it out for you?!”
My husband has been the recipient of this question more times than I would like to admit. I’ve uttered it in incredulity, in frustration and in anger. It has followed arguments, misunderstandings and mistakes. Generally, I don’t intentionally plan on saying it – but when the phrase flits across my mind in a moment of vexation it seems like a perfectly reasonable thing to say. And out it pops.
The truth is (and he will admit to this), Paul isn’t characterized by intuitive thinking. In fact, he tends to be rather absent-minded. Some examples…
If he, at my request, has been waking me up every morning at six and one night I forget to remind him, he won’t think twice about leaving the house and letting me wake up only when the indignant yells of my boys interrupt my dreaming. It doesn’t naturally occur to him to notice the inconsistency and check with me the night before or look for a set alarm clock the next morning.
Or if I normally lay out all the boys’ clothes for him on the days when I go to work and he drives Jack and Brenn to my mom’s house and one day forget to add socks to the pile. Does he notice this aberration in the normal dress code and try to fix it? No, the boys just go sockless for the day! Sweats, jackets, sneakers…and no socks : )
Or if I am having people over for dinner, Paul might arrive home, sit down and unhurriedly start telling me about his day while I am frantically juggling finishing dinner, setting the table, and making sure that our downstairs bathroom is presentable for company.
I’m not sure how you would react to these scenarios. However, they frustrated me. Instead of needing to point it out to him, why couldn’t he simply see the problems and conceive of a helpful response. Hence the offending phrase…which is spoken too often.
I was recently faced with just such a situation. And my initial thoughts were very ungracious. I convinced myself that he had been unloving and that it was his fault that my day was rapidly becoming a series of inopportune events.
Fortunately, the Holy Spirit intervened and convicted my heart. (Darn conviction. I was enjoying that pity-party : ) My first sanctifying thought (that I’ve written about already) was that my situation is not causative. Even if Paul had deliberately tried to ruin my day, it was still my own choice to respond sinfully. So after some confession and repentance, my second thought was the beginning of an extended internal conversation regarding love, personal characteristics and God’s intention for my marriage. The thought was this one, “how do I biblically handle Paul’s absentmindedness?” I spent a little time researching, and these are some of the main points that I came away with.
God makes each of us with our own individual strengths and weaknesses (Psalm 139:14). To wish that our spouse were just like us, with mirrored strengths and weakness, would be to elevate our characteristics (God-given, as we ironically forget) above our spouse’s characteristics (also God designed). We are his workmanship, created specifically in a way that will best glorify God (Eph 2:10). If we forget this, we devalue something that God has called good.
God placed us in a marriage that would help us become more like his son…and not always through pleasant means. During events caused by Paul’s lack of intuition I am presented with God ordained opportunities that address specific sins in my own heart. I am convinced that in those moments, God is trying to teach me how to handle situations outside of my control. Not giant issues – those are easier to trust God through because they are so obvious – just small, everyday issues that test the genuiness of my faith (I Peter 1:7). Faith that God’s grace will meet me in that moment of frustration and allow me to both love Paul and trust that this situation was meant for my good (Rom 8:28). To wish that these events would never happen is to wish that my life would be more of a leisurely walk rather than a race (Heb 12:1-2).
With specific regard to this absent mindedness, I have to fight the idea that I deserve better. That eventually this will change. That God couldn’t expect me to carry the responsibility of thinking for both of us for the rest of my life! It just wouldn’t be fair! But the truth is that God has called me to this man, not to an easier life. I was called to be Paul’s strong helper (great explanation of that phrase in this blog post by Wendy Alsup). A helper doesn’t ridicule the weakness of her partner! A helper helps! Rather than moan and groan about my husband’s God-given characteristics, I should rejoice that I am able to think for both of us (a God-given strength!) This is my calling as a wife (Prov 31:11-12). This is working alongside Paul in order to glorify God together.
Also specific regard to Paul’s lack of intuition, or absent mindedness, I have to remember that this is not a sin. It is part of Paul’s hard-wiring. What is ironic is that my response to this non-sin is often sinful. I have to have the grace to accept Paul for who his is, rejoice that he accepts me for who I am, and trust that God will give me the grace to live with Paul in an understanding way (I Peter 3:7) (pretty sure the verse can apply both ways : ). I found the love passage (I Cor 13:4-7) particularly convicting. Can I declare that I “think no ill,” and “bear all things” within my marriage if I consistently persuade myself that the problem lies with Paul rather than in my own heart?
Lastly, I thought about the fact that often I get upset about things that actually aren’t that important. God knows this. A better way to handle some of these circumstances is to step back and look at life from a bird’s eye view. Is this thing really that important? Or would it be better to laugh (“no socks! Hilarious!”) and be grateful for a husband who loves me and his boys (socks not withstanding : )
In the end, the Lord used these particular situations to challenge my thinking and to force me to look for the biblical answer to my problem. So much so, that I didn’t even feel the need to tell Paul about his mistake. Love covered that incident and love increased because of it.