In our seventh year of marriage Michael’s company, along with three of its employees, crammed their stuff into our little red house on the corner.
The basement stairs were temporarily removed, and a hoist was put in to lower heavy equipment. The back room looking out into the yard became an office space, and my beautiful kitchen with the white porcelain sink doubled as a staff room. Two large tables were jammed into the living room where hundreds of books were stacked and ready for binding.
The air was filled with dust; the hardwood floors, covered in paper. Customers came and went with their books, couriers walked in without knocking, employees sat at my kitchen table to eat, and I silently wept.
I’ll never forget the morning when I discovered that Brendan had chicken pox. Wrapped in a blanket and covered in spots, he sat on the couch in the midst of a factory. More than anything I wanted to take back his home and be the mom I once was. I wanted to serve him chicken soup on the couch and cuddle up under a blanket in the privacy of what used to be home. I wanted to clean up the mess our lives had become, but to tell you the truth, I felt hopeless. I had started feeling more like an employee than a wife, and I felt our friendship crumble away under the weight of this newfound world we had built for ourselves.
Most of us have good intentions. But while we desire to love people the way that they should be loved, our flesh tends to get in the way. When I say flesh, I’m talking about every weakness that contradicts love: being impatient, jealous, unkind, proud, selfish, or arrogant; demanding your own way; and getting angry when others don’t love you the way that you think you should be loved. My flesh was definitely in the way, and it was clouding the way I looked at my husband. The pressure of providing for his family and his struggle to do so were taking a toll on our lives.
Looking back on it now, I can see what I didn’t see then: his intentions were incredibly noble. Not only was he seeking a way to provide for his family; he was walking in obedience to God.
I couldn’t see that, nor did I want to. All I could see was that my hardwood floors were covered in paper scraps, my walls were scuffed, and my kitchen floor had a gouge in it the size of Texas. My husband was my boss, and I was his disgruntled employee.
I loved him, but that loving feeling was wearing dangerously thin.
Over the years I’ve come to learn that a loving feeling is just that, a feeling. It comes as quickly as a gust of wind and can leave just as rapidly. If we want that loving feeling to thrive in marriage, we have to roll up our sleeves and get tough when the going gets rough.
True love, the way God intended it to be, is more than a feeling and much more than two words. It’s holding hands as you walk through the fire. It’s being patient and kind when everything inside you tells you that this man deserves the wrath of your anger. It’s offering grace and forgiveness in the face of despair. It is easier to say and easier to write than it is to live, but as Mom always said, “The best things in life don’t come easy.”
The best things in life get messy before they get good. God has never promised us days without pain because He knows that trials are the very things that strengthen us and that His grace is made perfect when we are weak. A wise woman knows that joy and peace come from the Lord, while a foolish one seeks happiness anywhere she can find it.
The marks on the floor, the dust in the air, the piles of books that clouded the view of my husband—none of those things were the root of my problem. They were nothing more than trials that tested my faith. My problem was a heart issue that could be healed only by compassion and grace. If I had known that, I would have chosen a different path for my marriage, but instead I chose to let my anger and unforgiveness draw me away and consume my heart with lust. Here’s the thing: love doesn’t get angry when others do it wrong. And we will do it wrong again and again.
Excerpt from Messy Beautiful Love: Hope and Redemption for Real-Life Marriages, published with permission from Thomas Nelson
The Time-Warp Wife