"Lift with your legs, not with your back!" I hollered to my husband as he drove off down the rode, the truck loaded with our three sons and a mountain of work tools. He gave a wave from the open window, as the sound of boyish laughter added a living harmony to the melody of U2 pumping out of speakers. "Good thing we don't have neighbors close by," I thought as they rambled away noisily. The early morning air stung my nostrils causing my eyes to prick with tears.
My husband is a hard worker. He sees a need and gets it done. Whether the need is chopping down a tree, fixing sprinkler heads, cleaning out the rain gutters of an elderly woman down the road, or heading out the door for an extended business trip, he's always going - always working. During the years with multiple babies in diapers this was difficult on me. For some reason, needs like baby baths, dishes, and tuck-ins didn't register as his job, and no matter how I tried to ask for help, he was out the door sweating in the sun or loading up his truck with an overnight bag for another business trip.
These were the days I felt abandoned and abused. Like a victim. Left alone to care for his children.
Our roles have always been clearly defined. Though it's all rather June Cleaver in a pencil skirt, it actually worked for us... that is until I was outnumbered by three strong-willed children, whose muscular tendencies took after their father. And I felt like the world was against me, my world was against me. I felt like a victim.
"I bring home the bacon, you fry it up." He liked to joke in his Ward Cleaver way.
Trouble is I can't seem to manage it like June. I'm still wearing the yoga pants I wore yesterday, slept in last night, and now they're speckled with grease stains as I stand at the stove frying up the bacon he brought home. Packing lunches, serving orange juice and muffins, laying out math sheets for the homeschooled kid who keeps me busy on school days. And my man's whistling as he takes a hot shower, shaves, straightens his tie, and slips the laptop into his briefcase. He heads out the door with a, "Love ya, Babe."
He does love me. He does.
And the truth is, in the quiet spaces of my life, when I'm not torn in multiple directions by multiple little people needing me all at once, I love him too. And I love the way he serves us. Though I often feel alone as I manage the ordinary needs and routines of family life, I really love what he does do. When I manage to step beyond the victim pool I tend to wade in each long day, I know instinctively that I'm attracted to his brand of busy. His sun bronzed arms, testify to the masculine strength that drew me to him in the first place. Our rose garden and lemon orchard always produce, and the boys sleep in the tree fort their daddy built them, back beside the garage that houses their camping gear and the big orange scout that makes us all laugh happy. There's always music playing when my man's around, whether he's listening to Third Day or crooning "Pretty Woman" as he strums the 12 string guitar beside our bed. Though it's more work for me, I love the way he's always inviting friends over for a Saturday afternoon bbq, or a dip in the pool after church. And the bills are paid.
His bible is on the coffee table even now as I type this missive of remembrance out. I'm remembering what I love about him. I'm speaking it to my own heart in the quiet of my house this morning - as he takes the boys early to serve a family in need. I'm remembering what is true.
Remembering what is true about our husbands is paramount in keeping the victim mentality in check. They are not perfect. They will not meet all of our needs or heal all of our hurts. But they will be the men we married. They will continue to be who they are, who we fell in love with, and even who they continue growing up and into - the good and the bad - the helpful and the hard - till death do us part.
All of that is true and what I am thinking on today.
I remember sitting in church as a single 20 year old woman. I went by myself most Sundays and sat near the front of the sanctuary. The pastor welcomed the congregation one morning and gave a few announcements, he then acknowledged an older couple in the church who were celebrating their 70th anniversary. Pastor Joel stepped down off of the platform and walked decisively to the frail woman standing just down the pew from where I sat. Her husband stood beside her, a hand resting protectively on her shoulder.
The pastor asked her directly, "Given the longevity of your marriage, what advice do you have for young married people today?"
She smiled and nodded, then said, "When this man here asked me to be his bride I went home and made a list of everything I didn't like about him." I laughed. We all did. Then she went on, "I took that list and looked it over good and asked myself, 'Well, knowing all this is true, do you still want to marry him?' To which I answered myself, 'Yes, I do.' So I folded that list up and put it in an envelope and tucked it away in my underwear drawer. It's still there, but I've never looked at it again. The point is, ladies, every time I find something about this man that I don't like very much I tell myself that it's on the list."
It's on the list.
There are plenty of things that are much harder than I knew they were going to be. Some of them are big and some of them are small. I thought my man was going to change diapers and get up during the night and help with dishes and rub the midnight growing pains from our sons' legs. But he doesn't do any of those things. I also thought he was going to lead me in Bible study before bed each night. He prefers laughing beside me over YouTube videos. I didn't know. I didn't know.
But I did know that I loved him. I loved his laugh and his strength and his masculine dreams. I loved his faithful, fierce commitment to friendship and his willingness to serve those in need. I loved his generosity too.
In the midst of it all I'm easily overwhelmed, it's true. It's true, it's true, it's true! But I also love this man of mine and the life we have together. And every hard thing, I tell myself, is written on that list in my underwear drawer.
We are moving toward the end of our series, "You are not a victim, you're a mom." You are welcome to start at the beginning, or sign up here for the upcoming conclusion. This theme has deeply ministered to my own heart as the words have poured through my fingertips. Thank you for letting me know that it's speaking to you too.