“I am the leader of the house, and my kids need to know it! I can’t just keep allowing my kids to be affected by her. I mean, I keep loving her with the love of Christ, but she is blocking Him out. I’ve read Wounded Heart, and Love Must Be Tough, but she won’t take a step in a direction of healing, only in a direction of blaming. She identifies herself with her past, and it’s preventing our family from having a future!
I can’t wait to get home from work so I can see the kids; it seems like she runs TO work…and now school… to get away…to feel important as if money and a title will be her solution.
I want to help, but she runs to everyone but me. She even had an affair two years ago, but it only left her with more guilt baggage.
We don’t see eye to eye on rules like video games for our kids. It just leaves my teenager confused, locked in his bedroom…probably playing video games.
She and I haven’t been intimate in two years. I don’t want my kids to grow up seeing me as a wimpy, beaten man. I am a leader, and I want them to be.
I am meeting with the divorce lawyers this week.”
I had just met this man. His kids are 15, 10 and 8, so similar to my own, which is where the conversation on the airplane had begun. Where it went was in God’s hands. Please pray with me for him and his wife and children.
As the man spoke, somehow I related to his wife. It was one of those, “It could have been me!” moments. Author John Eldridge generalizes that men want a battle to fight and a princess for whom to fight it. Like the woman above, so many women have a stronger desire to be the knight instead of his princess; or at least I did. Feeling important became the idol of my “I.” People around me suffered.
Eight years into marriage, we had two boys: 4 and 1, and the smell of standstills filled the house. Chris and I didn’t “see eye-to-eye” on many parenting things. I expected disagreements in marriage, and I figured since we were both Christians, it would easily work its way out. He and I rarely fought; we simply expressed opposing ideas, and they would hang out in the air like a stench for time to dissipate. Sometimes I would resort to my tactics of manipulation, or humor, as though if I made fun of his idea, it would make him feel silly for having it. Other times, the smell just lingered, leaving unspoken conflict, silent but deadly.
“Why are the kids watching TV?” He innocently asked one day.
“Have you ever tried to fix hair and makeup with them running loose?” I snapped. “Besides, it’s ‘educational’ TV.”
The argument would be done, but unresolved.
“I think my brother should take the kids this weekend.”
“No, I already planned it with someone else.”
And the familiar unsettled stench hung in the air.
“We need to leave for the airport at 7,” I would say.
“7:30 will be fine,” he would finish.
If he innocently requested, “Let’s not spend money on anything optional right now,” I would quietly murmur that I was an adult and could decide that for myself.
I was like the child who was told to sit down in timeout. When his mother asked if he was sitting down, he yelled from his chair in the other room, “I’m sitting down on the outside, but I am STILL STANDING UP on the inside.”
It could have been serious conversations like who would get the kids if something happened to us, or simple things like whether to stay for dessert at the party, and I would have an opinion that I thought warranted my strength behind it. Nit picking wife.
I trusted Chris with my life, but not with rules for my children? I wanted to live happily ever after and grow old together, but as long as we were 50-50 in every decision? I wanted him to lead, as long as it went through MY approval first?
A Change in Direction
Then I swallowed hard and attempted to make a change. (Before you think I’m giving myself some kind of credit for this, I’ll just let you know I’m not. Similar to my letter on 163 Miles North, I wish I could say I humbly asked God to change me, but it didn’t begin that way. It began by me asking God for “something” to change to end the conflict. Of course, God knows the only change we control in any situation is ourselves, and that’s where He began.)
I started to think of our family as if we were in a boat. I used to LOVE white water rafting! There would be six people in a boat, but an appointed captain would yell out “left,” and all six would quickly paddle in whatever way it took to turn the boat left, to avoid the obstructing rock in the midst of the rushing rapids.
In my life analogy, I decided I needed to do more rowing and less turning around to see if I agreed with Chris’s choice of “left”. I decided to start aiming for excellence on my rowing and stop analyzing whether he was excellent at his.
“God, I know Your Word says, “Wives submit yourselves to your husband.” (Eph 5:22) You know how I hate those words. But I love You. I don’t believe Chris is perfect, but I do believe You are, and if You asked me to submit to him, there is a reason behind it. Please help me trust him as Your appointed captain. Help me say, ‘alright’ when he suggests something I don’t think I agree with. Start with my mouth, but God, please get to my heart.”
A Dramatic Moment
During this time, I took the boys to the clinic to have routine vaccinations. It was much more time consuming than the doctor’s office, but it cost $5 due to government rules, versus $60 at the doctor, and I was trying not to “spend on anything optional.”
My cell phone rang, disturbing the waiting room.
“Hey, what are you doing?” Chris asked, annoying me, because in my me-world, I felt like he was checking up on me.
“Rowing my side of the boat,” I thought, but I said, “Getting the kids’ vaccinations at the government clinic.”
“You’re kidding! I don’t think you should do that. Someone at a meeting one night was telling me vaccinations could be dangerous.”
My mind raged within: “Someone at a meeting? Who? Is he a doctor? Does he care about my kids? Hey this is MY side of the boat; I got this.” But I what I said was: “Well, we can do the research before the next vaccinations are due, but I am already signed in and have been waiting for an hour.” (I didn’t say, “alright.” First mission- failed.)
“OK.” He said and hung up.
A few minutes later my phone rang again.
“Babe, I really don’t think you should do it. I just really want to look into it,” he sounded serious.
“Alright.” I said. I did it. I said the word, “alright.” It felt weird, like totally unfamiliar territory. My heart was not in agreement yet, as I picked up my kids and scratched their names off of the sign-in sheet. My mind screamed internally, “Well he better do the research if he is going to change my day like this. I don’t need more on my list of things to do. He obviously doesn’t respect my time.”
The stench stayed in the air when I got home.
A month later, I took 18-mos-old Nate to see a pediatric allergist. He had swelled out of recognition and almost stopped breathing at one-year-old, his first taste of milk; but now he was waking up several times a night in screaming fits, pushing me away, as if in pain. He had even lost two pounds since his 12-month-checkup. I headed to an allergist, one hour from home.
During testing, his back was pricked in a matrix of several allergens. The milk flared, creating a welt that shined within seconds. The grid of pricks quickly revealed my mama instincts had been true. There were other welts coming alive. I held his hands while he cried in severe itchiness. The doctor came in and ended the test early, to save the 20 minutes of torture, since it had worked within 1 minute. While he administered Benedryl, the physician said something I will never forget:
“Why didn’t you have him immunized?”
My worst fear seemed like it was coming true: I would look like an idiot. “How could I argue with this doctor about what my husband had said? ’Alright’ I had told my husband with no other foundation for my agreement, except that I had asked God to help me do that. This doctor would think I was such an idiot for listening to ‘some guy’ at my husband’s meeting. Did my baby have some disease now? How did he know Nate wasn’t vaccinated??!”
I was speechlessly staring at the doctor, practically wondering if I should call Chris and tell him he had to explain to the doctor.
The allergist continued. “You are SO lucky you didn’t have him immunized! I really don’t know if they could have gotten him to a hospital fast enough. You probably saved his life. Your son is severely, I mean off-the-charts, allergic to milk, soy, eggs and beef.”
He continued with explanations of immunizations harvested in eggs [which they don’t do anymore] and directions for the epiPen, and gave me a million cautions, but I could hardly hear anything coming from his mouth.
“My husband had saved my baby’s life,” was all I could think.
Well, actually, I had saved his life, right? I had left the vaccination clinic!
Well, God had done it. He used my husband to lead me, just like He said He would in His Word.
“Alright” I had said. My heart was beginning to follow.
I truly believe that the Lord gave me a ship captain who needed help rowing. If we weren’t “seeing eye to eye,” we had to choose one set of eyes to follow, and it was the captain’s. I thank God for His wisdom.
A stifled mouth
A changed heart
A captain of a ship
A baby alive.
Before the change, I really think I was heading toward the tale that the “beaten” man was telling me on the plane. I wanted to feel respected more than I wanted to give respect. Chris and I didn’t see “I to I” on that. But God changed our marriage for the better, and I wish it for any woman, and her family.
I encourage you to get IN the boat with your husband; make sure he knows that you are! Then row your side. I once heard it said, “Some women are so busy making good husbands, that they don’t make good wives.” Girlfriend, I know some men who will read this letter and weep, wishing they had a wife IN their boat, not an anchor dragging down from behind, or a boat trying to paddle away. Our Brady boat has been through some level 5 rapids of calamitous restaurant ownership, lawsuits, and brain surgery, to name a few. I shudder to think how we could possibly have made it through if I were spending more time beating the captain with my oar rather than paddling my side of the boat. I am amazed at the leader my husband has become, and yours will too (if he isn’t already!) – but what else could be expected when he has such an excellent crew?