Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Pretty Messy

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.
--Job 2:7-10



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 understand.

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.



41 comments:

Anonymous said...

CS,
praying for you and your family,
I do know some of how your wife feels about , not being able to carry a chid, and it does hurt!
I'm finding out, that we cant give up, the more we give to God, the harder the old devil, will try to get you to give up, and we can't!!!
I'm reading a book, that is making a lot of sense to me (I may not be saying the right word to explaining what I mean) but the book is (Prayer the Great Adventure) by David Jeremiah, it may help you a long the way,
so please don't give up,
give it to GOD
in HIM

janice

curious servant said...

I won't... Just a little weary.

This post was a little different, wasn't it? Ah well.

Long day today. Men's group at 6:00... then teaching... then the cable tv show... Home late.


Gotta go!

4evergapeach said...

Oh yes, how I know that life can be messy. Does life suck? I know there are times I felt that way but then I had to stop and realize it wasn't life that sucked but how I was looking at it. (Exuse my language, I really hate that word, but it's what you used)

Such a heart and soul opening post. Without going into my personal life, I can only say that I understand, more than you could know. Please know that you have been in my daily prayers since I started reading your posts, but also know that you have helped to strengthen my faith. I have not had the hardships that you have had, and if someone that has gone through what you have can have the faith you have then I should be doubly thankful for my blessings. Kinda like what Job is to you, you are to me.
God bless you CS~

David said...

Being Christian does not mean troubles will not come your way. I do believe you love her. I do believe she is struggling under the weight of life. I do believe that if you two are committed you can over come those struggles and I do believe GOD will help you do that. Take her to that rock by the river and just sit there and hold hands and listen to each others hearts.

MMM said...

uh huh.

Hope said...

Yep, I do. I like this writing CS. It has heart.

Luna Moth said...

"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."

(((((lots of hugs to you)))))) I have come to learn that no one person can supply/satisfy all the emotional needs of another. It is unfair to expect this from someone or strap ourselves with the burden of trying to accomplish this for another. We all have a hole in us that only He can fill.

No matter what our desire to heal a person from their sadness, the best that we can do is not to compound it. Let Him do the healing and pray for the words that comfort.

Your post really touched me. I hope you don't mind me speaking boldly, I know that I don't know you personally, only what I read. I hear your struggles and desire to make things better. How I've traveled that road. I know that God knows your efforts and your willingness.

Sometimes I belive that God just allows us to try and try to work it out until we finally say I can't fix it, I know You can, and I'm going to let You. Remember that God knows your efforts, He knows how you serve Him, He knows your desire to get it right. It is humbling to accept our limited ability. It is truly turning it over to Him when we can accept that it is not in our control, no matter how hard we try.

A small wisdom -- No, God won't give you any more than you can handle. But you can take on so much more than He ever wanted you to.

You and your family are in my prayers.

hanni said...

umm...amen?

bjk said...

inadequate.....stay there.....in knowing that....He works best when we can't.....thanks for sharing that all of it...prayers for you and yours....

G~ said...

this is such an awesome, raw post, CS...I agree with you. Life is very messy and sometimes we just need to face it. I often post 'ramblings' and it is therapeutic for me. Not that I get all my questions answered, but I get the chance to sort of "flesh them out", "unload", etc.
I hope it's been such for you to get these things out.
God bless.

curious servant said...

Thanks... sometimes I do need to just rant a little. This is a good forum for it I guess. Better than at home.

But I am working on a post for next week. Actually I have several I have started...

But next week is significant for me for reasons that I'll make clear.

I enjoy writing carefully. But, as far as this post, rambling is sometimes good too.

Fox's Mom said...

The journey is it, ya know? Good to ramble along the way-you'll notice the way the sheaves bend with the breeze if you slow enough to just ramble:)

Your Brenda-your writing of her-for some reason(:)) reminds me of the Book of Proverbs...surely you know the verses:

Prov 31: v10-31

Once upon a time a good man loved me. He would whisper these lines to me when 'things' were especially rough, and promise me that should I preceed him, he would have them carved on the stone.

I was humbled to think he felt that way about me; I was strengthened to know it-when he said "What price a good wife..." I knew he loved me.

Just a thought:)

Felisol said...

Dear Curious Servant.
I read your blog early in the morning, and it has been following me through my daily chores in my home like an echo or a song. A question has been laying underneath. What was it like to be Mrs. Job? I mean did she not loose as much as her husband? The children she had given birth to. The story ends with Job getting back his wealth, his health, seven sons and three daughters, but he kept the same old lady, as far as I am able to read the scripture.
St. Paul has so wonderfully described what true love is supposed to be like.
I enjoy reading the Korinth. 13, but somehow I also feel like a looser by doing so.
My love tends to swing, my emotions do not withstand the pressure of life's ups and downs.
My flame may burn intensly and then slow down to barely glowing coals.
I dare call you friend, because you have shared so much of youself with me in your writing.
You have been rather tough on yourself, using your blogs as a mirror. However, I think your harsh analysis of your situation may be right.
You love your wife and she loves you, but you are both tired to the bone and need some comfort, rest, space, ease, recognition.
If you can manage to give each other a little something of the aboves, you will not have to turn otherwise to get it.
Couples with handicapped children in general have a skyhigh divorce statistics against them. but you have God on your side.
A wise guy said that housework only shows when it's not done.
While you may be able to harvest recognotion for your work at school, in the church, at the internet, your missis will only be be remarked if her house is not in order, the clothes and dishes are not washed or food is not on the table.
People notis, you know, and alas, they are not slow to pass judgements.
I am utterly impressed that your wife has managed not to turn to alchol again in tims like you are goin through now. She must be one in a million.
I say that because I had severe trouble stop smoking, and I guess if the stress comes down hard enough, I would feel strongly tempted to feel the relief of litting a sigarette.

Have i written too much about your wife and too little about you? Certainly, but only because I so easy can empatize with her situation, because I am a womaan myself, and even more because of the sympathic picture you have drawn of her in your blogs.
(Can you imagine the torment it must be to be "guilty" of not being able to give birth to a child? God and only he is to bare that blame, that is if we acclowledge him to be the creator and healer.)
Oh, please, be good to each other, and cut some slack.
It may not be so attractive to come home every day, but what if it was not there? Wouldn't that be worse??
You are a strong, clever, gifted, honest, burnig, giving, loving person, Curious Servant.
I feel sure that the wife who has followed you for 25 years also acknowledges that. She might feel inferior, but what use is there to down measure the Martha work.
In the end of the day I think it's good that she's there.
You should not have to carry her though, just give her some recognition for what she is worth.
In fact, you have already done that too, in that sensitive portrait you've painted here in Job's Tale.
If I read this through, I will not have the courage to send it,
but I think I'l let it go anyhow.
I add a poem I found when I was sixteen. It is about love, and it's so beautiful. And that's what love is; the beauty of life.

William Butler Yeats. b. 1865

When You are Old

WHEN you are old and gray and full of sleep
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true;
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face.

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead,
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

wilsonian said...

You love well.

curious servant said...

Felise!

What a wonderful comment.

Thank you for your kind words, your shared wisdom, and the poetry.

I am grateful you would take the time to say so much, and feel safe enough to do it.

I appreciate these comments from so many good people.

curious servant said...

Oh yes... how about an update?

Brenda was washing dishes and I was folding laundry and we were talking about technology (she is a bit of a technophobe and I am a technophile).

I was teasing her a bit (You know... saying things in a voice like hers such as: "I don't know why we need telephones! Drums were just fine! All we really need is a big stick and a hollow tree...")

And she was mocking the way I hold out my hands when I talk...

Anyway, when my back was turned she sprayed me with water, soaked through my shirt and undershirt.

We laughed pretty hard. I pretended to be preparing to get her back by cleaning the coffee maker.

It felt good to smile, to laugh.

Isn't it wonderful?

Simple things.

I love her.

Lillee said...

I understand this in a bizillion different ways.

And when you say..."I love her", are you trying to convince yourself? Because I have to do that all the time myself. I think it's Satan's guilt trip.

Jim said...

C.S. I'm glad to hear your update. Things seem better sometimes when time passes. Also helps to share. People pray. Things happen. God works always.
You have a heavy load. Probably not the heaviest but way up there. I'm predicting you will mostly feel it has been worth your sacrifices.
Oh yes, hang in there!
..

Tamara said...

Wow, CS, you need to write about marriage more often (that is, if it suits you). I've read many faith-based books on marriage - all "do this and do that" and not much real talk about the fears and doubts and struggles. Your writings about marriage have touched me more than any of those I read before marriage or after. They make me think, and pray, and I feel lifted up and understood as I face very similar challenges (the infertility, the extreme differences we have as individuals). I'll have to read this one again.

Paula said...

It's okay to vent. God knows are hearts and you're just being honest and sharing with us what He already knows. You two have alot on your plates. I think it's good to show the world that even Christian marriages have struggles. I believe that the problems I have with my spouse serve to teach me about my own faults. Their function is to make me more like Jesus. Problems I have with my husband are really deep underlying faults within myself. Probably doesn't make sense, but it's how I feel. I will pray that you have a great weekend together.

Your Sis In Christ,

bornfool said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one who is deeply afected by your posts, including this one. You write of struggles, problems, and fears (Oh, my!) yet the love still shines through like a beacon.

Great post, great update and great comments, especially from felise.

Me said...

When life starts getting my husband and I down we try and have "date night" at least once a month. I hope you and your wife are spending at least a few hours totally alone out of the house together every once in a while. Like David said "take her to that rock by the river and just sit there and hold hands and listen to each others hearts"

curious servant said...

Good suggestion Kelly!

It's been a while.

And wading through the muck, even if guided by our Lord, is still tiring work. Sitting on that rock together is important. Or at least sitting in a theater watch "8 Below" (she wants to).

I'm going to call her right now.

Joe said...

I just turned 64, and I have finally come to grips with the truth that my task in a marriage is to give 100% of myself to my wife EXPECTING NOTHING IN RETURN.

If she, then, learns the same lesson (and mine has) then the union is a close as one can get on earth.

The order of things must be:

God
Spouse
Children
Job
Church Doings
Everything Else

jollybeggar said...

les and leslie parrot quote some yale guy in their book 'saving your marriage before it starts.'

he speaks of a love triangle that is necessarily balanced in order to be healthy. the three sides of the triangle are labelled 'passion', 'intimacy' and 'commitment' respectively.

what i like is that this model continues to be a triangle as long as the sides remain connected... even if any one side becomes much shorter than the others, or even if none of them match anymore.

in other words, as long as your marriage continues to maintain its lateral connectedness (passion still attached to intimacy still attached to commitment still attached to passion) regardless of equivalency, or lack thereof, it can still be called 'love.'

love remains our only relational hope, and its how God gets things done.

shalom

Julana said...

Respite care is important, when you have children with extra challenges. I hope your wife gets some personal time to do things she likes.

Judas Hate said...

Will,

One of my favorite co-workers (late 60's) always had the same thing to say if anyone complained about anything. "If you think you've got problems, go look at the people in ICU at the hospital."

Some times this would snap me back. Other times it would just piss me off. Everyone's problems are real,serious, difficult. Was my almost loosing our house for lack of money to pay the mortgage as serious as dying? Hell no. Did it panic me to no end to think I could have caused my family to become homeless because I couldn't earn enough money? Hell yes!

Pain, fear, responsibility, reality.

REALITY!

I'm bouncing between thoughts, so hang with me.

The itching!! I have it too, but not quite as bad on the flaking end. I can snap a solid wood back scratcher in a heart beat though.

Last thought.

I have a part time employee, but otherwise run my antique store personally. I can barely stomach some of the customers. They think (and are quick to let you know) they are better than everyone else. I am patient, kind, helpful with a smile. Anything they ask, I can do. I am never short with them. I never frown or say "NO". It makes me feel all the more a failure when I can't seem to do as much for my most deserving wife and kids. How can we muster this kindness, understanding and patience for strangers all the time, when we can only seem to do it for the one's we love most only some of the time?

Damn I hate questions with hard answer's.

Sorry for posting a book on your blog.

Justin

curious servant said...

Justin... you are always welcome to post what ever you like on my blog. (After all, if it gets too out of hand I can delete it! HA!)

Seriously, I appreciate your comments.

Brenda and I went out tonight. Thai food, watched a move. We brought a blanket to the movie, cuddled in the theater, had a great time. We held hands like teen agers and laughed and hugged.

We so needed a break!

Ahhhhhhhhhhhh.


I feel completed reCREATEd!

Ready for another lap on this strange race!


Looking forward to writing an upplifting type of post this weekend. Enough of the whining, eh?!

Judas Hate said...

I am sorry my brother. I didn't mean for it to come across that way. It was meant to be sympathetic.

Glad you guys had fun.

My family and I are thinking of you all.

J.

Vicki said...

Your writing hits straight to the core of my heart and makes me feel like I actually know you, 'cause you express life in ways that many of us are afraid to.

This is the best writing I've read all week. Bless you. Bless your sweet wife and sons.

Pirate said...

CS, you could be writing about Char and me. 20 years together three kids and a lot of water under the bridge. Nuturing she yearns I have little of. we will share one day brother.

note, not to listen to U2s Rattle and Hum Cd while i read your post. Makes it tough to maintain composure.

Ame said...

This is my first visit to your blog. After 20 years my husband's addiction completely destroyed our marriage - I understand; and I don't. God gives us so many infinite opportunities to choose for Him in our lives (I just finished working through bk of Jeremiah). My husband had so many opportunities to choose differently. He didn't. You are. He would say, "But I still love you," and in the end, love had nothing to do with it. Choices made could not be reversed, could not be undone. You are making the choices to back up your love, not to stab it in the back. You will continue to have those choices every day of your life . . . and you're right . . . lots of times life really sucks . . . the choices are excruciating . . . but you make them . . . not because you want to or have to, but you make them because you know . . .

And nothing draws people together like good, healthy laughter! Great humor at difficult life lightens our load.

btw - i will write this hoping it comes out right - women so want to have the freedom from God to make their husbands fulfill the roles of God; and men seem to so want to forge the battle of life and become what we dream they can be. simply b/c you perceive she wants and needs you to carry her burden, well, i would have much rather found my husband on his knees with his hands open before God with me in his hands delivering me to God than to see him try to bear what he never could. her pain is real, but it's not yours. it hurts you, but you get to choose to give it to God and leave it with Him. there is nothing you can do to replace the vacancy sign in her womb, to replace the unworn pink dresses in her dreams,to replace the "healthy" sons she will never have, etc. carrying her pain weighs you down and creates bitterness toward her. leaving her pain with God - truly something learned over and over - will leave you free and light - and don't feel guilty for giving to God what He desires. and make sure you give your pains to God first before you share them with her so she doesn't feel the need to carry your pain, which she cannot do. sharing your pain is different from dumping your pain.

Judas Hate said...

Thanks. I'm relieved.

Peinture merveilleuse. Non jamais vu lui. Qui a l'artiste ?

Maria del Carmen said...

Your writing is very honest with a poetic flow to it. This is an interesting and thought-provoking post. I agree that life is messy...and it's full of many blessings as well. Prayer and a positive attitude does wonders. Humor, too. Laughing is so good for the soul. You are a good man.

Alexa said...

I have a lot of thoughts, but the one that comes through the loudest, to be quite honest, is "I like his wife!"

God bless,

curious servant said...

I'm glad that came through!

Joyce said...

I understand. I even understand some of what goes on with your wife.

I pray for all of you.

Blessings to you my friend. And to your wife and family.

Judas Hate said...

Faith is faith brother. As long as it's a possitive trek towards serving the Lord, it's all good. Anyone who argues about the path each of us takes to get there and what we see once we do has issues. Just my oppinion.

Checked out the link but couldn't find the pic. Probably right in front of me and I missed it.

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