That 'something,' in our particular circumstance today, seemed to be external. "Can you put away the junk from the car that I brought inside to the front room," I asked Deb earlier this week, "I don't know where it goes." "Sure, I will." Three days later it was still there. It seemed like a simple request that would have taken all of five minutes. I know we are different in that regard; mess bothers me...a lot. My wife isn't as affected by it. When I come home from a trip, the first thing I do is unpack my bag and put everything away. My wife is the opposite (in fact, the suitcase from our trip last week is still sitting, full of clothes). It bothered me that it, as well the stuff by the door, was still there, but I kept it to myself.
Later in the evening, I asked if she would like to watch a movie together later. "Yes!" she said. She had been working overnight shifts the past couple nights, but had gotten some good rest at her dad's this afternoon, so I was hopeful. There's nothing I like more than just sitting on the couch with her and hanging out. But before I could even start watching something after the kids were asleep, she was too, and again chalked up another feeling of slight internally. I'm used to her falling asleep, which I don't mind. I just wish she hadn't promised to watch a movie with me at all, as I had been looking forward to it most of the evening.
After I carried the kids up to bed, I tried to get her to come upstairs, since she still had her contacts in (another pet peeve) and that she would be more comfortable in our bed rather than the couch. She promised she would be up in five minutes. I waited in bed for her (I had slept alone the past three nights and thought she would want to come up) but five minutes turned into half an hour. When I came down, she was asleep. That's when the cumulative effect of all the little things from the past couple weeks started to weigh and tip the scales.
When she finally came up (I rudely woke her), I was angry, and I told her so. It wasn't about the junk by the door, or the falling asleep, or the contacts, or the ten other things that weren't followed through on. When I translated it, for myself, it came down to feeling like I could not count on her. Which translated to what I was asking was not important enough to take care of. Which translated to a lack of respect. And for men (at least for me) respect carried a lot of weight. It is one of the 'big ones,' just like love is for wives.
When I made a point of all this, the liquid started to turn into vapor. Deb had her own things she was holding on to. She hated working. She loved being home on maternity leave. Even though it was only three nights a week, she hated not having energy for the kids, being short-tempered with them, feeling like a failure for not wanting to clean up a house that would only get tornadoed again. We figured that going down from full time manager work to part time shift work (where she could leave work at work) and not having to do childcare would be a better step. But the same difficulties remained. Every time she looked at a calendar and thought "when am I going to sleep? When am I going to be able to homeschool?" and every time she was in the midst of being with the kids and thought "how can I do anything with them hanging on my every move?" the feelings intensified, she felt like she was letting me down, and she had no energy to do the things she so enjoyed while on leave--spending all day with the kids, cooking dinner for the family, having the energy to do what needed to be done around the house. She wasn't divided then, and she was divided now.
I, for my part, have felt guilty that I didn't make more money so that she didn't have to work at all. I wasn't fulfilling my vocation as a provider, at least how I imagined it should be. I had my own feelings of failure, but was trying to keep a perspective that many people are struggling much harder, and that we actually have it pretty good. Plus a nursing job that pays well is a hard thing to give up. But it became clear tonight that what I thought was working, and what she thought would work, in fact, wasn't. What we were in seemed like it should work, but it just wasn't. Otherwise she wouldn't be crying and saying how much she hated having to leave the kids, even for a couple nights a week, and how she just wishes she could be home. She was sacrificing time for money. That is my job, and like it or not, I felt like less of a man for putting her in this situation. The boiling point is when one thing changes to something else entirely. What started as petty grievances had in fact given way to deeper-root things--about our marriage, about how we raise our kids, about work and responsibilities. It was overdue, but I still didn't see a way out of it. So I did what I always do when my back feels like it is against a wall--I went into the other room, and prayed.
It wasn't formalized, wasn't desperate. I had full confidence, after years of seeing God come through for us in ways only He could pull off, that He could do it again, something, anything. I began my prayer as I often do when I need to hear His voice: "Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening" (1 Sam 3:10). With full confidence, again, that God speaks and makes Himself known in the Word, I trusted him to lead me. And so, quite randomly, I opened my Bible to Proverbs 22, and read:
"A good name is more desirable than great riches,
and high esteem, than gold and silver.
Rich and poor have a common bond:
the Lord is maker of them all.
The astute see an evil and hide,
while the naive continue on and pay the penalty.
The result of humility and fear of the LORD
is riches, honor and life.
Thorns and snares are on the path of the crooked;
those who would safeguard their lives will avoid them.
Train the young in the way they should go;
even when old, they will not swerve from it.
The rich rule over the poor,
and the borrower is the slave of the lender.
Those who sow iniquity reap calamity,
and the rod used in anger will fall.
The generous will be blessed,
for they share their food with the poor.
Expel the arrogant and discord goes too;
strife and insult cease.
The LORD loves the pure of heart;
the person of winning speech has a king for a friend.
The eyes of the LORD watch over the knowledgable,
but he defeats the projects of the faithless.
The sluggard says, "A lion is outside,
I might be slain in the street."
The mouth of the foreign woman is a deep pit;
whoever incurs the LORD's anger will fall into it.
Folly is bound to the heart of a youth,
but the rod of discipline will drive it out.
Oppressing the poor for enrichment, giving to the rich:
both are sheer loss."
Every word I read felt as if the Lord was the one speaking them to our particular situation; that is how the Word works:
A good name is more desirable than great riches.
[Was I idolizing money at the expense of our children's legacy and my family's well being?]
The result of humility and fear of the Lord is riches, honor, and life.
[I came to him in humility...would he provide?]
Train the young in the way they should go; even when old, they will not swerve from it.
[The energy needed to discipline our children often went to work for Deb. Would we pay the price for nice things later at the expense of our children?]
The borrower is the slave of the lender.
[Was I putting my wife in a position in which she was paying her time to someone else (work), when it was more needed at home?]
The generous will be blessed, for they share their food with the poor.
[Were we trusting enough in God's providence, or being tight-fisted in building up grain silos to store everything?]
Expel the arrogant and discord goes too; strife and insult cease.
[Were we both arrogant in our own ways towards each other, feeling slighted, clutching our hurts and throwing them back in one another's faces?]
The Lord loves the pure of heart.
[I trusted in my motives for coming to Him. Can he make a way?]
The rod of discipline will drive it out.
[We have been struggling so much with our son...has the lack of energy due to Deb working more than needed and laxity towards discipline brought it on?]
Oppressing the poor for enrichment, giving to the rich: both are sheer loss.
[In the end, our time is worth more to our kids and family than our wages. One of us needs to work, but do we both need to? Can it work some other way so that my wife doesn't have to? Or are we giving our time away, resulting in sheer loss?]
I closed by imploring St. Joseph's help again to make a way for me, present an opportunity, something to alleviate my wife's inner-strain. It felt reckless to consider Deb giving up such a good job, or at least cutting way back on hours.
But in some ways it felt subtly like the contraceptive and abortive mentalities, "Do the right thing. Be responsible. You can't do this." Seemingly sound advice couched in fear and a lack of trust that God will provide. But we live by faith, and so I have assurance that He will make a way for us somehow, some way. Close doors, open doors, Lord I don't care. We trust in you. We are stepping out in faith
I closed my bible, finished my prayer to St. Joseph, and went to bed, thankfully to even have such options to consider to make things better for our family. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses...as we forgive those who trespass against us.