I hate realizing that I’ve been a jerk. Especially when I’ve been a jerk to my wife. Fortunately that’s only happened once. For being married nearly six years now, that’s an amazing record. Call Guinness, and tell them I’m awesome … and full of crap.
My wife is a goddess, both in appearance and in heart. She’s a mid-20s mother, marketing manager and avid watcher of TV. She is great with our son; she sticks by her family without waiver, and most importantly, she puts up with me. Of all of her challenges in life, that one wins the Dirtiest Job award. Call Mike Rowe and tell him to bring his camera crew.
To put it simply, I’m a basket case half the time. I have to talk through every little detail of an argument to make sure we’re still OK. Every couple of weeks I have an episode of frantic anxiety about who I am and where I am going. I often stay up way too late doing absolutely nothing of value and then spend the entire next day whining about how tired I am. As recently as yesterday I thought only of myself as I brought home pizza with mushrooms on it, assuming my wife had already eaten. She’s allergic to mushrooms and she hadn’t already eaten.
Nice work, Justin.
The last time I remember really messing with her head was about a month ago. This time the problem was an inability to do anything thoughtful for her without a just reward. I think that’s what Jesus had in mind when He said, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Justin, you are the exception.” (Quoted from my own personal Comfy Jesus. He does and says things the way I want him to, so as not to disturb my comfort in any way. Hence the name.)
One day I sulked for nearly 20 minutes after she didn’t thank me for the glass of water I had gotten up to get her. She was so consumed with keeping our two-year-old from putting our laptop in the sink full of water that it apparently “slipped her mind.” I swore it was on purpose.
Another day I got all mad, because I swept the floors and put the dishes away before she got home from the gym and all she said to me was, “Thanks, Babe. I really appreciate it.” That’s it? I thought. I expected a huge smile and a great dinner, followed by some swanky saxophone music and an invitation to meet her up stairs in 15 minutes. I couldn’t believe it. The next thing that happened put me over the top.
My wife got a call from an old aunt in Ohio informing her that her grandfather was dying. She stayed calm and tried to brace herself for the worst while booking a plane ticket for that weekend. Coincidentally I was going to L.A. that weekend to see my sister. Soon came the question of what to do with our son. I told her I’d take him with me, fully aware that taking a toddler who still wears diapers and sits still for approximately 13 seconds at a time on a plane ride would be no easy task. She made double- and triple-sure that I was serious, then said, “OK.”
My son is a good kid. He does nothing out of the ordinary for someone who is just under two years old. He gets restless and likes to pick the best possible times, like when we’re pacing in the back of a plane that we can’t get off of while the flight crew spends an hour figuring out a fuel problem, to pee through his clothing and onto mine. (I still don’t know how his diaper managed to get moved over enough so that it didn’t catch the urine but I suppose it’s a cool trick.) He listens well, though and is easily entertained. The flight wasn’t restful, but it wasn’t painful either.
My wife survived her grandfather’s passing, and my son survived two long plane rides in as many days. I was a wreck.
I called her before my son and I got on the plane to come home. I went on and on about how I couldn’t figure out why I was feeling this way and how I felt bad about it and a bunch of other random garbage that was going on. She listened, patient as usual, then let me know what she thought.
“Well,” she began. “I’ve been as clear as I can be about appreciating you taking the boy with you. I needed that time for my grandfather. I feel like I’ve told you over and over that I appreciate all that you do, and I don’t know how to say it any other way.”
The next day at work I was thinking about what she said. It was dawning on me, ever so slowly, what I had been doing wrong. On my lunch break I read the Psalm that says, “His love endures forever” (Psalms 118:1, TNIV) after every line, about 20 times in a row. The more I read it, the more I began to realize what real Jesus, the one who actually died for my sorry butt, was trying to tell me. The Psalm was making it clear that no matter how I treat God, He loves me the same. Most of the time I give Him far less credit than He is due and, unlike me, He actually deserves it. Realizing that I needed to shift from seeking my own glory to giving God His took a lot of pressure off of my wife.
Comfy Jesus, the one who tells me that I should do whatever I want as long as it’s good for me, didn’t like this one bit. (I frequently listen to him because he lets me be selfish and I like it.) Real Jesus was giving me a choice, but He highly suggested the high road. “The payoff is much better in the end,” He said. “Trust me.” He convinced me. I decided to let go of myself and move on.
I kissed my wife later and told her what she already knew—I was full of myself, but it was time to move on. She was gracious about it, as usual. “It’s OK,” she said, “I still love you.”
“Yeah?” I said. “Good, then let us enjoy my sanity until my next round of madness comes again.”