i have the house to myself. entirely. and at least three hours before our 11 year-old neighbor matthew will come knocking the door wanting help with his geometry homework, and then to borrow the long board. and because tomorrow has a couple of non-sabbath-y commitments, i’m taking my sabbath solo today. i’m reading and writing.
i stumbled upon a blog this morning, through another blog that i read, and i’ve been going through it for the last 30 minutes at least. the writer is a mother of seven and a photographer and HOT. her life appears picture perfect* in aesthetics and joy. i had to fight feeling of inferiority and envy as i read; to try to believe that her true and beautiful words about being a wife and a mother are a genuine part of her. but she slammed me with the bits about putting her husband first. she writes that the family started with 2 — he and she — and will be 2 again, once the kids have gone, so put due weight on that relationship.
even without kiddos (yet), i don’t do this well. i do not love tim well. so often i just don’t even see him, let alone let my thoughts and prayers linger over him, asking questions like what would make him feel loved, or communicate to him that i respect and appreciate him? do i brag him up in the presence of others? do i surprise him with extravagant affection? can i even hold eye contact with him in a way that is open and vulnerable? i’m startled sometimes by all the walls i find in myself, erected between my heart and his. this is not what i want. but i sense in myself an intense struggle of resistance, pride, stubbornness, and independence. lots of times the wrong side wins. it’s uglies. oh, so many uglies.
sometimes i just want to cry at the sort of wife i am. if i am honest, i thought being a wife would be easy and natural, because i had so much confidence in the rightness of my choice to marry him (and the clear and abundant direction of God in leading us together). but that was a lie, i see now. sure, it’s still easy and natural in the sense that i rarely tire of his presence, and i am generally pleased with who he is and this life we’re creating together. but oh, the uglies!: they don’t get eradicated from my personality simply because i’ve married the right man.
walk it out, work it out. that’s what we do in our salvation (phil 2:12), how much the same in marriage, i presume. i’ve received in faith a thing complete, a marriage given by God and received in the taking of vows — but i still have to work it out. walk it out.
in six months we’ll be parents. i think about the urgency, then, of building out of our marriage something solid, hanging on the scaffolding of real relationship with Jesus and one another, a pattern of obeying the direction of the Spirit, and a rightly ordered habit of life-giving disciplines. i’m looking at my life and my marriage, and seeing lack in these places. naturally i want to study parenting and homemaking. i want to make lovely, holistic, “crunchy” choices for this babe and for this household**. i can get real ambitious about the task that lies ahead, and doing it beautifully. but the first things. the first things are that scaffolding.
i think i can feel the delicate maneuvering of His surgeon’s knife entering my heart as i read and reflect this morning. come, Jesus, and have your way. i trust Your knife.
you know what else i can get hung up on? as if it is not enough to be called into holy, surrendered, and sacrificial wifehood and motherhood, we are also called into incarnational and transformational presence in a neighborhood ruled by darkness, plus committed to intentional and deep family-like relationship with the community God has given us to do the work with. truthfully, i’m not sure i can do all of that — and do it well — simultaneously! there will always be someone who loses out — my struggling neighbor, a friend in this community, or my husband and family. i think someone will always be getting less of me than they deserve, and less than i what i expect from myself. and i don’t know how to prioritize it well.
i am often plagued by guilt about missing chances to grow in friendship with the intern family, or forgetting to follow up with a hurting neighbor… and i get zealous about doing those things better, because it’s in my heart to do them. and i think it ends up being tim who gets the short end of the stick a lot of the time. why? because he’s a guarantee? because he has to love me no matter what? because somehow it doesn’t seem as glamorous or significant to love a wonderful, healthy man (who doesn’t “need” me) in my own home as to minister to a person who’s sleeping under a bridge or an intern who is feeling lonely and sad?
paul wrote about this: the division of priorities that occurs when you marry. he knew that being married makes you a bit less able to be devoted to the Lord in lots of practical ways. and that’s why he said, “it might be better if you were to stay single!” (i corinthians 7:34-35). sometimes, i feel the ache of those divided interests. because it is true that i could enter more single-mindedly into some of this other kingdom work before i was married. it is also true that my intimacy with Jesus was different in those days — more spouse-like and all the sweeter for being the Only Love. and i miss it.
yet here is another thing that i know: our marriage is to be like a great, spreading tree, with a trunk of intimacy and worship, and plenty of space for birds to make nests in its branches and animals to rest in its shade. this is a picture He gave to us in the earliest days, before we were even married. so, he has purposes for this union, i know. i believe it. and i believe that over time, as we yield to Him, we’ll get to see it worked out in us. and it will be gorgeous. and He will be pleased (indeed, He already is).
it always comforts me to recall:
- that he is never shocked or dismayed by the uglies in my heart, nor by the particulars of my circumstances
- that he is committed — to a greater extent than i — to the holiness of my marriage, my motherhood, and my ministry.
meantime, i’m fumbling along here.
i’m want to be real, so i’m writing these oft unspoken things. (thanks to megan, whose blog i “found” today, for risking real-ness, which invited out my own).
*her life appears perfect, but her stated position on that matter is this: “There is nothing lasting that is going to come out of anything I can do to try to ‘perfect’anything in or with my children except me being in right relationship, true relationship, with Jesus Christ. Don’t fall in love with those things you think will make your family a better family. Don’t fall in love with the image. Don’t fall in love with those people who seem to have all the right answers. Fall in love with Jesus.”
**the holistic, “crunchy” choices i want to make include, but are not limited to: bake my own bread, roast my own coffee, plant a garden that will feed us, sew my own linens, wear our baby, read to him/her daily, incorporate many caring adults into our childrens’ daily lives, make baby food, co-sleep, breast-feed, discipline with the wisest methods, give birth without drugs, and give the baby only carefully crafted toys.