Please, God, just let the house be clean this time. I'm tired. He's had all week to himself, no little hands to undo his work, no outings to take up his time, no one other than himself making messes or dirtying dishes or creating laundry. Please, just let it be clean.
It wasn't clean.
An hour later I had the sheets on the bed, the laundry folded and put away, the counters cleaned off, the other messes tidied. I went to bed without a word. You think I want to spend time with you now? Dream on.
Oh, grace. I can offer it to everyone else - my children, friends, strangers, even myself - but where is it when I need it for my husband? I punish him with my silence even as I speak out against punishment. My relationships with my children seem to come so instinctively to me. Oh, we have our bad days, don't ever think otherwise, but for the most part we flow peacefully through our time together. But this wife thing? I just can't seem to figure it out.
I am a sucky wife married to a sucky husband.
I am a human wife married to a human husband.
He is a mess and I am a mess. He is inconsiderate and I am uncompassionate. He cannot see what needs to be done around him and I have the communication skills of a tree. If that.
But every time it gets really bad, I remember my dad.
I asked him once how he did it. How did he put up her cruelty? How did he endure the low blows she dealt, nothing off-limits, nothing sacred? How did he not take it all personally? Why did he stay? I wanted to understand.
He looked at me and answered my string of questions with one simple line: "Because I made a vow."
Because he made a vow. It was as simple as that to him. He endured the abuse* and continued to love her with a steadfast patience I could not comprehend, all because he had made a vow.
And I! What have I to deal with? Some laundry in a basket? Some clean sheets in the dryer instead of on the bed? Dirty dishes in the sink? A husband who yes, can be thoughtless, yes, can be black-and-white in his thinking, yes, can be lazy, but who has never even once given me reason to think he didn't absolutely love and adore me? Who has never treated me poorly or tossed cruel words in my direction or given me reason to fear for myself or my children?
- My dad is my hero.
- My husband loves me.
- And I love my husband.
- Flaws and all.
* I want to be clear that I don't advocate for people staying with an abusive spouse. Unfortunately much of the Christian church, in valuing the marital vows, has swung into the opposite dangerous extreme of encouraging women to stay with abusive husbands, or mocking men who try to seek help when living with an abusive wife. This is often coupled with a misguided understanding of "suffering for Christ" or "turning the other cheek". I believe it is not loving to allow a spouse to continue in his or her sin, nor to leave children in danger for the sake of the marriage. Some time apart while the spouse receives the help s/he needs may be best for all parties involved. However, every situation is unique and requires a unique response. Because my father is not in physical danger and because he has compassion for the pain my mother has endured in her life that has caused her to become the person she is, he has chosen to honour his vows in this way. There are other equally valid ways of honouring one's vows that don't involve just living with the abuse.