Do you know what’s hard? Life. Life is hard. Oh my goodness, is it ever hard.
Somehow when Dan grabs me round the waist and spins me about the kitchen, though, when he laughs at my not-so-funny jokes, or gazes into my eyes and whispers sweet nothings, all of my anxiety, frustration, and hopelessness seem to disappear in an instant. We stand hand-in-hand, united against all the misery that this fallen world contains. And it is good.
But in those dark phases when every step is toil, every word breeds misunderstanding, and there’s a chill in the air? Suddenly all of the basic trials inherent to life seem that much more difficult to bear. Instead of floating above you buoyed by your love, the weight of the world settles heavily on your shoulders.
I used to think I was powerless to do anything about those valleys. I’d grit my teeth, put one foot in front of another, and trust that all this discord couldn’t possibly last forever. During the unfortunate seasons in which both Dan and I are struggling mightily sometimes that’s the best you can do. Those are the toughest of marital moments.
Most of the time, though, life finds one of us struggling more than the other.
In the beginning of our marriage if one of us was in a bad mood, the other was soon to follow. It’s hard to see your spouse displaying less than stellar behavior and not get irritated by that. I guess that sounds terrible but you know how it is. When you’ve spent all afternoon with the windows wide open, cooking a delicious dinner, and singing along with Ella, it’s hard not to follow your husband down the bad humor trail when he comes home grumbling. I’m sure Dan could come up with a million examples of times and ways I’ve done something similar to him.
One day, though, Dan walked in the door after a long day at work to find me all twisted up in anger, resentment, and a whole host of other miseries and he chose not to engage. I so desperately wanted to pull him down into the darkness with me – in part because I didn’t want to be alone, and in part because I wanted a punching bag – but he stood his ground. Instead of following me down, down, down, he laughed and smiled and kissed our sweet babies. He kissed me, too, over and over again until he coaxed me out of the shadows.
It seems like a small thing — to not engage in my pity party — but that moment was a marriage game changer for me.
It wasn’t just that he didn’t let my mood spoil his, but that he was merciful. Instead of becoming angry at me for attempting to poison our evening with my negativity, he extended a hand of mercy and kept it there until I grabbed it and let him pull me back into the light.
We can do that, too.
I know it’s not easy. When your kiss is met a cold shoulder, the temptation to give your husband an eye for an eye is great. Why should you remain sweet and solicitous when he’s being such a bear of a man?
Simply because this world is cruel and these weary husbands of ours, they need us.
I state the obvious because sometimes it’s hard to see, and easy to forget, that you’re his solace and his safe haven when the rain comes crashing down and he’s fumbling through the dark to find his way back to the path.
It can feel so personal, this lack of joy. Especially when he’s short with you or when it feels like he doesn’t even see you. But it’s not. It’s just all of his exhaustion, fear, frustration, pain, and humiliation bubbling to the surface in the presence of the one person with whom he feels truly safe.
He breathes you in — you with all your warmth and sweetness — and little by little the knot in his shoulders starts to release and slowly he comes back to life. How about that?
When the days are dark and the nights are darker you’re the one he feels secure enough to be vulnerable around; the one he can come to to lay his burdens down knowing that you won’t throw them back in his face; and the one who can heal him with a gentle touch.
By being the merciful hands, feet, and heart of Jesus, you are his saving grace. Just you — sweet, wonderful, funny little you.