Where This Meets That
Spring of 2001 was one of extremes.
Outside, life was gorgeous; birds were singing, blooms blooming, and butterflies fluttering. I’d recently started a new job only a mile from home, and the brief, sun-warmed drive home gave me a charge of positivity that led me near-frolicking into my house after work each day.
But inside my home was a different story. It was an emotional black hole of pregnancy hormones and exhaustion for my wife Christy.
Each day, I found all the lights turned out and my beloved sacked out on the couch. Our two-year-old Aidan had enjoyed yet another day of unchecked ransacking, painting walls, filling the coffee maker with Lemonheads and the oven with meltable plastic toys, and so on. My wife was powerless and miserable.
Meanwhile, I was not very sympathetic. Not that I was unsympathetic; I was just blinded by the springtime and spent most of my time outside. I was working hard to get a back yard established and was getting a lot done. The yard, devoid of plants only months before, now bloomed anew. Redbud, dogwood, Bradford pear, and cherry trees now colored my vision for our yard, along with a rainbow of budding azalea bushes. For the first time in my life, I was loving yard work.
But inside, wounds were forming and festering. My wife thought I was intentionally avoiding her, using yard work as an excuse to stay away from her. That hadn’t been the case at all, but now, as she snapped it at me in accusatory tears, it seemed a sensible enough scheme. Inside was miserable, and outside was joyous, so choosing sunshine over storm only made sense.
But, of course, that’s not marriage.
When my wife accused me of avoiding her, she really meant that I was abandoning her. And, regardless of my intent, that’s what I was doing. My role should have been to bring a little sunshine inside to her.
So, with three more azaleas remaining to plant, I decided to give it a rest. For the remainder of the week, I tried not to sulk as I tended to life inside, only drifting outside occasionally to preserve the plants with a quick splash of water.
That Saturday morning woke me early with soft stripes of sunshine through white blinds. As I lay in twilight mind, I was tempted to try sneaking outside to get some work done but thought better of it. Just as I decided that doing so would only risk undue conflict, I heard a reassuring voice say, “Go on out.”
I sat up and looked at Christy to thank her, but she appeared to be sleeping soundly. I didn’t need to be told twice and didn’t want to disturb her only to see her change her mind, so, quickly and quietly, I went on out.
As I planted the final azalea, I thought about the voice that had nudged me out of bed and suddenly realized it wasn’t Christy’s voice. It was a clear, soft, morning voice . . . definitely not Christy’s! In fact, it seemed male and yet so appropriate that I didn’t even question it until now, three plants and over an hour later.
I tamped the last shovel of soil around the last new azalea and propped myself on the handle of the shovel to enjoy a job completed in peace and a deep breath of soft morning breeze. Not a minute later, the back door swung open and Aidan greeted me with, “Good morning, Daddy!”
To this day, I think that morning was an absolute gift from God. His directive for me to “Go on out” carried a tone that had assured me that he was taking care of the inside and giving me time to remove an outside obstacle to my wife’s and my relationship. His simple gesture in that troubled spring brought me amazing peace and the encouragement to begin healing with Christy. A year or two afterward, I reflected back on my treatment of Christy during that spring and was moved to seek her forgiveness.
I often think of life as a bench press and of God as my spotter. Spring of 2001 revealed a shortcoming of myself as a husband, and as I struggled to lift my husbandly cross, God intervened to lighten it, but only enough to still maximize my growth from the experience.
Today, I’m still amazed and humbled that the Creator of Everything could (and would) give me such a delicate hand.
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