This week I was blessed enough to go out to dinner with some friends and enjoy time just being Erica. You know what I mean, right? For a full two and a half hours, I wasn’t Mom. I wasn’t Wife. Heck, even though I was with fellow educators, I wasn’t even Mrs. Wyatt. I enjoyed my time out with friends and headed home in the best of moods to see my husband whom I’d barely seen the previous three days due to work and friends.
When I walked in the house, he was snuggled up in the double chair with our youngest. He was fast asleep. I walked upstairs to put my things away and came back. I leaned over the chair thinking of how much I missed him so I could give him a kiss on the cheek.
“Oh my gosh! Get off of me. Just leave me alone!”
Yep. Those were the words I was met with when I tried to lean in and kiss my husband whom I missed so much. To say I was perturbed may be an understatement.
“Really? Whatever. I’m going upstairs,” I replied as I made myself not stomp up the stairs because I’m truly trying to do better about controlling my angry reactions.
He hollered something back at me about how my hair was tickling him and he was just trying to sleep.
I left him alone and let him sleep as I burned off my irritation by picking up the living room and kitchen. I was channeling my anger into something more productive. Then, his pager went off. It’s loud. And shrill. And annoying. So, I picked it up, tiptoed downstairs, and gingerly sat the pager on the table by his chair so as not to wake him. I left him alone to sleep while I watched TV. I considered this a victory because we didn’t argue over something petty, and the night was salvaged.
After all, Proverbs 16:2 tells us that “[a]ll a person’s ways seem right to him, but the Lord weighs motives.” He was definitely weighing my motives and was ready to start working in my heart to bring my motives to light before me. He illuminated my faulty motives in a way only God can.
Sitting down at the kitchen table yesterday morning to read my Bible, I wrote out the prayer I’ve had in my heart each time I sit to read. It comes straight out of Psalms.
Make your ways known to me, Lord. Teach me your paths. Guide me in your ways and teach me for you are the God of my salvation. I will wait on you all day long.
This prayer helps focus me and prepare my heart as I sit to read. I’m thankful for the Psalmist’s prayer because goodness knows I wouldn’t be able to find the right words on my own. Moreover, I don’t know that my heart, in all its humanity, actually wants to learn God’s ways. Don’t get me wrong, my godly heart, my logical mind, and my soul yearn for His divine instruction and revelations. However, sometimes, my humanity shies away from just exactly what He wants to reveal to me, especially when it’s about myself.
I sat at our kitchen table with my Bible and prayer journal open beside me. To be honest, I was still a bit miffed at Wade from the night before. He left that morning with a kiss as I lie in bed still groggy. However, we hadn’t actually discussed the night before, and my feelings were still a bit hurt. My pride was still singed. Still yet, I prayed the Psalm with my heart and began reading.
In John 14:21, we read the words of Jesus as He says, “The one who has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. And the one who loves me will be loved by my Father. I also will love him and will reveal myself to him.” This is not the only place in the Bible where God tells us that those who seek Him will find Him. True to His word, God showed Himself through scripture as I read, and He brought to light what I needed in that moment.
Every wise woman builds her house, but a foolish one tears it down with her own hands.
As I read these words, the eyes of my heart opened to the night before in a new way. So, let’s recap with this new view.
Wade came home that evening from a long day working in the sun in construction. He had sweat so much that his shirt, which he laughingly threw to me, felt like he’d taken a dip in a pool. He climbed in the shower as I finished getting ready for a night out with friends. When he came out of the shower, he dressed and sat on the couch obviously exhausted, but he got our girls talking about where they’d like to eat. He mustered up energy for their sake. Then, I left and had a good night out with friends.
When I arrived home, he was asleep. Looking back with clearer vision, I realize that my heart sank just a little because he was asleep when I hadn’t seen him much over the past few days. I did miss him, but I also wanted him awake to spend some time with me. So, I leaned over him to kiss him in hopes he’d wake and want to talk or see me for a while.
Let me repeat that.
My desire in that moment was for my husband – my husband who was exhausted from a hard day’s work in the sun – to wake up and give me attention after he’d just spent the past three hours with our hyper five-year-old and chatty eleven-year-old. Let me also point out that after fourteen years of marriage, I do know my husband. In fourteen years, it has not escaped my notice that when he awakes, he is in a….ummm…not so pleasant mood. I know this. Our girls know this. His dad knows this. His mom knew this. His brother knows this. The people who work with him know this. Now you all know this. Still yet, with this knowledge, I leaned over him to give him an on-the-surface, innocuous kiss that would hopefully wake him up so he could spend time with me.
I was being selfish.
So, unsurprisingly, he snapped at me to leave him alone.
I huffed. I rolled my eyes because even though he couldn’t see them I wanted to express my displeasure. I raised my voice ever so slightly, “Really!?! Whatever! I’m going upstairs!” Then, I trudged upstairs appeased by my ability to not do so heavy footed. When I got upstairs, I ran those mere seconds over and over in my mind. In my mind, I was giving him what-for. I began picking up in the living room getting more irritated that he hadn’t already done so. I mean, he had, after all, been home with the girls for the better part of two hours. Then, I moved to the kitchen. I grew even more frustrated and annoyed that he hadn’t seen fit to pick up the kitchen. I had been home with the girls all day cooking for them, running them where they needed to be, and doing laundry. Would it honestly have killed him to pick up a little?
Once I was sufficiently satisfied with the living room and kitchen, or once I was sufficiently satisfied with how upset I was with Wade, I sat on the couch to watch TV. Most nights we sit down together to watch a television series and help us unwind. Lately, we’ve been watching Longmire. It’s a great show we both enjoy.
We hadn’t finished the last episode, and that was one of the things I’d hoped we could sit up and do together. However, since he was being such a “jerk,” I decided I’d sit down and watch it myself. Now, if you know anything about Netflix and watching series with your husband or wife, you know this is just NOT something you should do. If this isn’t really your thing, watch about the severity of my transgression here.
In all seriousness, when he finally came upstairs, Netflix is the one thing I felt most guilty about (*edit for a giggle: After writing this today before I could even publish it, he sat on the couch and asked how many episodes I watched when I was mad at him).
Still yet, I waited for the episode to finish, and then I went to bed. I thought about advice I’d received from Jonathan Tomes when I interviewed him and Ashlee for this blog. He said that it is better to go to bed and wake up with a clear head than to hash out an argument when you’re both tired and grumpy just so you don’t go to bed angry. Feeling pleased with myself for not waking Wade up to “talk it through” because I know how much he dislikes that, I curled up on my side and fell asleep.
I really hope by now you’re picking up on my faults in this whole mess.
While I sat there at my kitchen table thinking about the night before with a clearer head from getting sleep (Turns out Jonathan WAS right…..shhhh, don’t tell him I said that!) and a purer heart from reading scripture, I felt so convicted.
Proverbs was telling me that a wise woman builds her house while a foolish one tears it down with her own hands. In that moment of clarity, I realized that my “house” was my home and the people in it. My “house,” in this instance, was my husband. If I were a wise woman, I would build him up. I would build him up by my words, my actions, my thoughts, my everything. As a foolish woman, however, I was actually tearing him down. Now, don’t misunderstand. Our actual encounter lasted mere seconds. This was not, by any means, a knock down, drag out, screaming match of any sort. He grumbled; I grumbled back. Then, I went upstairs to finish in my mind. That was all.
But that was enough.
As I continued reading, God continued to point out just exactly how I was being foolish and tearing down my own house.
A patient person shows great understanding, but a quick-tempered one promotes foolishness.
I pulled out my highlighter AND ink pen and went to work here. This is actually scripture I think about from time to time, but it’s always in relation to Wade. He is a high-spirited individual and can be a bit quick-tempered. However, sitting there alone with God, He opened my heart to teach me that I was not the patient person I so often and so pridefully think I am at times.
I knew before I ever woke Wade that he is grumpy when he wakes up. I knew it. Yet, I still chose to wake him up. Wisdom would have first told me to be patient and let my exhausted husband sleep. However, when I didn’t listen to that, wisdom would have also told me to be patient when he snapped because, well, he’s him. I ignored wisdom and followed folly, tearing down my husband.
Then, from there, I continued upstairs where I let my thoughts run wild. In my mind, I was belittling him and just being petty quite honestly. With every thought, I tore just a little more away from my house, from my husband. With every imagined thought and harsh word, I tore away what we have worked 14 years to build.
Some may say I did well to hold my tongue and keep it in my head. However, that’s really no better. Though I said nothing out loud, my head was playing out exactly what my heart was feeling, and that is what I was doing wrong.
“Guard your heart above all else, for it is the source of life.”
By letting animosity and anger into my heart, I was in the wrong. I may not have spouted off to Wade or started a heated argument. Thankfully, I have grown from that. However, I was not guarding my heart where he was concerned. As a result, while I was upstairs busy cleaning, I was also upstairs busy tearing down my house.
Now, I know this brief exchange of words and imagined argument is not one that would end out marriage. However, marriage ending arguments don’t spring up all at once. They build from little, petty things like this over time. Little tiffs like this, when not handled and viewed in the right light, can tear a marriage completely down. And here I was, the foolish woman doing it by my own hand.
A gentle answer turns away anger, but a harsh word stirs up wrath.
By this point in my reading, God was humbling my heart. He was humbling my heart in a way that made my previous pride at how I handled Wade’s words sink into conviction.
As I mentioned, I knew exactly how Wade would wake up. Whether right or wrong, I knew how he would be. Still, yet, I CHOSE to wake him up. I should have been braced for whatever he said or however he acted. That would have been wise.
However, we’ve already established by this point that I was not acting in wisdom.
Instead of gently saying, “Sorry. I love you,” I raised my voice back at Wade.
“Really?!?!? Whatever! I’m going upstairs!”
Words, though not harsh in their actuality, came out of my mouth that were full of contempt, incredulity, and anger. These words were not gentle. And, do you know what was the result? He responded angrily, and I went upstairs more full of wrath than when I started.
God was pointing out to me through this verse how wrong I was to snap back. My harsh words did not work to build up my husband and our marriage. Instead, they tore down a little of what we have built.
Some of you may be sitting there reading this and thinking, “Yeah, but he snapped first. Who cares if he wakes up grumpy?!? He SHOULDN’T do that in the first place. He started it!”
But I say to you who listen: Love your enemies, do what is good those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.
On the surface, the argument that Wade shouldn’t have awoken that way may be right. However, according to Jesus’ words in Luke, my ability to act with patience and grace should NOT be contingent upon his ability to do the same.
Now, Wade is not my enemy, nor does he hate me. He didn’t literally curse me, but that’s the watered down version of what he did. Jesus says to love, do what is good, bless, and pray for those who wrong you. He does not say to wait until they ask for forgiveness or to go right ahead and act that way back. In fact, in verse 36, He goes on to say “Be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.”
Whoa. That hits home.
We are made in God’s image. We are supposed to be walking a Christian path to be more like our Maker. God was and is merciful to us always. Very often we fail to learn from our past mistakes. Still yet, God is merciful. We commit the same sins for which we’ve already asked for forgiveness. Still yet, God is merciful. We even fall into the same accidental transgressions over and over and over and over again. Still yet, God is merciful. Sometimes, we don’t even want to admit that we are doing wrong. Still yet, God is merciful. God’s grace, mercy, patience, and love are not contingent upon our perfection and uprightness. Therefore, ours should not be either.
Should Wade recognize he’s grumpy and try to do better when he wakes up? Sure. Should I withhold patience and a gentle word because he should know better? Nope. Not if I’m trying to walk upright. Not if I’m trying to build up my husband. Not if I’m wanting to avoid tearing down our marriage.
As I sat there reading, realizing my faults and feeling conviction, I could feel this blog post forming. On the other hand, this blog post is not at all in keeping with the typical post here. So, I prayed about it. I asked God to give me discernment and help me know whether this post was one I should write or whether I should just stick with my own understanding. I closed my prayer journal and went about my day.
Then, this morning as I sat down to read again, I felt as if God was nudging me toward writing this. In fact, I saw two big exclamation points at the end of his nudging.
Better to live on the corner of a roof than to share a house with a nagging wife.
Better to live in a wilderness than with a nagging and hot-tempered wife.
See what He did there? Those words were written so long ago for so many others to read. However, today, the day after I asked for His discernment about this post, today was the day those wise words came up on my reading plan. Call it coincidence. Call it fate. Call it God’s perfect timing. Those two verses were big, thickly drawn exclamation points at the end of a sentence saying “Write it!!” They were the kind with big circles for dots and thick rectangles for the stem. They punctuated everything I had felt and encountered on my journey through scripture since our little tiff. I was being a nagging wife. A wife who stirs up turmoil, even if in my own mind.
God reminded me that, that’s not the type of wife He desires me to be. That kind of wife is the kind who foolishly tears down her house with her own hands. God desires wisdom from me. He desires me to build my house. He desires us all to be wise and build our own houses.
I guess that means I need to apologize to Wade, especially since he’s already apologized for snapping at me. I’ll wait until this episode of Longmire is over.