So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head. Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes.
His wife said to him, "Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die!"
He replied, "You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?"
In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.
Life is messy.
My wife says I think her a monster. I know she doesn’t mean that. I know that she understands I love her.
But sometimes I am frustrated and I let it show. I do not always exhibit the patience and kindness my wife needs from me. I’m not saying we are heading toward real problems in our marriage. But I am not as patient, as gentle, as kind as I should be. (Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her... Ephesians 5:25)
Job was obviously frustrated with his wife. That frustration is born of hard times, difficult paths. Sometimes life sucks.
Do you remember falling in love? Do you remember how your heart beat so hard, so fast not only when she was near, but even when you just thought about her? I remember.
Love is a disease. A mental illness. But as mental illnesses go, it is usually pretty good. Skip the Prozac... I want to feel that!
My wife and I met on Leap Year’s Day 1980. We got married a year and a half later in my dad’s backyard. She wore a simple little dress, I was in a borrowed suit. This Fall it will be 25 years.
I love her.
She is flawed. She makes mistakes. I think her beautiful. I love her.
She has trouble believing I think her lovely. You see, she has been hurt. People who have been deeply hurt sometimes think their hurt makes them unacceptable, unlovely.
I love her.
She struggles, and I think her struggles are also beautiful. She quit drinking New Year’s day two years ago and hasn’t had a sip of anything alcoholic since. It isn’t easy for her, for when her struggles become very difficult she used to turn to alcohol.
She works hard at it. I am grateful.
But she isn’t perfect. She feels that somehow life has cheated her. She hasn’t carried a child, hasn’t given birth. That is a deep wound for her (and it has hurt me also). She lives in a house with a husband and two sons. Even the dog is male. And to be honest, males are animals. We are barely house broken and it is often a woman’s task to civilize the males in her life. We are messy.
I think a couple of the fish in the living room fish tank are female, but that isn’t the same as having a little girl. That hurts her.
I’m educated. She is a very smart person, but she feels intimidated by the vast reservoir of useless trivia I carry around in my head. It’s mostly stupid stuff, but still, it makes her feel less than she is because I can pull out a quote, or a statistic, or scientific fact, or a passage from the Bible. She is going to college now, but still she feels inadequate sometimes.
I have been blessed with a number of skills. I am artistic, and I know a little bit about technology, and I can string a few words together to express what I think and feel.
But she is lovely. She works so very hard, and cares so much.
The task we face in raising our children is daunting. She sees the world in a way very different than I do. I think most women do. She worries about the immediate tasks. The dirty house, the meal that needs to be prepared, the laundry that needs to be done.
I think men generally take a longer view and we tend to not get as excited about the immediate. Of course that also means we sometimes let things roll along and not take the immediate action that needs to be taken.
There are things I have trouble understanding. She is still so angry about the things that have happened. About the formidable task of raising special needs children. About the recurrent news about a fire that took much from our church, and demands a new set of challenges of our church family. Life is messy and she doesn’t like a mess (hey, it’s been decades since I left my underwear on the floor).
I know I can be insensitive. Often I am wrong, and I just don't see it. Sometimes there is something wrong, I can feel it hanging in the air, and I know that I said something, did something that triggered it, and I just haven’t a clue.
To me women are mysterious creatures. They seem mercurial, like shifting sands.
When I was a kid one of our favorite games on my dad’s job sites (he demolished houses and moved earth) was “Riding the Roof.” Dad would weaken the sides of a two or three story building and leave it wobbling as it balanced on interior walls. Then we would scramble into the bucket of the loader and ride up to the eaves. When we were in the middle of the roof we’d flash him a thumb’s up and he would smack the roof edge and snap those interior walls, giving us a ride down to the ground amidst jets of dirt and debris and flying boards spearing up through the shingles.
Sometimes marriage feels like that. Only not so fun. This isn’t to say that I am thinking about divorce, or that we are fighting a lot, or that things are... well anything extremely serious.
It’s just that things have been rough for a long time and we are both tired.
I have my perspective, and I have just enough insight to realize I have a lot of failings that contribute to our difficulties.
But sometimes I think that my wife is just not getting it.
Yeah, this isn’t the life we thought we would get. Our kids are probably not going to be the kinds of kids we hoped they would be. Jeremiah has an IQ of 46 and that means we will need to always be a part of his life. Isaac's is 76 and that means he also needs a lot of support.
I read the Bible, and Scientific American, and the Credenda Agenda and National Geographic and The Smithsonian, and they struggle with comic books.
These children don’t look like us and Brenda did not carry them in her womb. That is a deep sorrow for her (I have accepted it, which adds to her mixed feelings). They are both boys giving her no relief from the maleness of our home. This just isn’t like the families we saw on television when we grew up in the 60s.
But I wish we could just move on. I love these boys, and I know she does also, but dissatisfaction with our life’s bigger setting makes dealing with these individual crisis's harder.
She works too hard. I am partly to blame for the extra burdens she shoulders. My psoriasis makes certain tasks difficult for me. If I mow the lawn my hands will be bleeding the next day (even if I applaud at a presentation a few times that will happen). I can’t expose my skin to soaps and many lotions or solvents or cleaners without the skin flaking into huge rashes that itch maddeningly. My hands swell, and flake, and split, and bleed, and ache... and she does many of the things I should be doing.
Maybe I’m just feeling sorry for myself today. But I sense Job’s frustration with his wife. He is dealing with crisis, looking at the loss of his wealth, business, employees, children, and his wife is telling him to bail on his faith.
Brenda isn’t doing that, but I feel I am trying to carry her with one arm, carry my children with the other, and trying to move forward on my own broken legs.
And it’s getting old.
Sheesh. I can’t believe what I whiner I can be! Today there are parents in the Philipines looking at a vast field of mud where their children had gone to school and they are despairing. I am relatively healthy. I have a career that is satisfying and important. I have a very real sense of my Lord walking beside me.
But I look at my wife, and I see her confusion, her anguish, and no rational words, no reflections on faith, no whispered words of love and encouragement seem to soak into her depression and nourish her.
And that’s my job. I’m supposed to be able to give her what she needs. I’m supposed to be able to guide my household, and I am inadequate.
I hesitate to go home sometimes. Today I found many tasks I “had” to do before walking in my door. I swung by the studio to talk to the station director (Dang! He wasn’t there.). I went to the drug store and bought Brenda a card telling her I love her. I stopped by the library to see if they had a copy of the Fiddler on the Roof CD (for a video... they didn’t). I stopped by the church to pray. Finally I went home. She was in a great mood. I was taken aback.
Most of this post was already written. Am I being a jerk? I give her the card. We hug, kiss, watch a movie with the kids.
And now I’m at my computer while she studies. Life goes on.
It’s so dang messy. Jeremiah is still sick (Brenda will stay home with him tomorrow, the mother in law covered the last couple of days). I have so much to do at work (what's up with 6th period?!).
I will go to bed tonight, Brenda and I spooning each other while we drift off to sleep, and I will feel guilty about these words I am typing, probably regret posting them (If I actually do post this).
So what is the point?
I feel like a little at a time Brenda and I are growing stronger in our faith. Sometimes we take a step or two back. But in general we take one small step forward at a time.
I know that many folks think that Christians have it all together. I don’t think any of them do. I know I don’t.
So what is the advantage to living this faith?
I think that I am slowly maturing. I don’t like the process. And part of that growth is involved in growing with and through this woman the Lord has given me.
Part of it is helping her to grow, and part of it is learning from her so she helps me grow.
Gosh, what a fragmented, scattered post. Not at all the polished stuff I usually try to write.
But perhaps that is the point I am trying to make today. Life is messy. And though I usually express myself with carefully edited, clean little soliloquies of my life, all tidy and clear, and theologically uplifting, sometimes life just sucks.
Job understood that. So does my Lord.
And my guess is that you do too.