HEARTLIGHTTogether In His Grace

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d came home late. I went places, met people, had lunch, hunted, fished, and played golf. Judi was home alone every day, and she was pregnant. I emphasize her pregnancy because no man has ever experienced it or understands it (few have even tried—understanding it, I mean) and because pregnancy is such a unique thing—especially the first one. We knew very few people—she had no transportation and no place to go.

    The winter had been made even longer by the fact that we had no money and therefore could not buy our way out of the oppressive isolation that had settled over us. There were no shopping trips, no movies, no evenings out.

    We had been married long enough for the new and the curiosity to wear off, but not long enough to be comfortable with each other or our vanished, unrealistic expectations.

We had lost the world of our wishes—
but we had not replaced it
with one of our hopes.
It had been a very long winter!

    Even the advent of spring hadn’t been much help. Gray, overcast skies continued to depress, temperatures made promises that were never kept—and still no money.

I wasn’t paying attention.
    Finally, we woke up one Friday morning to sunny, encouraging skies. As I left the house, I mentioned quite casually that if things went well at work and I got off early, we might drive up the river road to Charlevoix and have dinner.

    “Oh, could we?” There was great expectation in her voice, but I wasn’t paying attention.

    Things went unexpectedly well at work, and by 11:30 I was finished. An unexpected sale had put some unexpected dollars in my pocket, and when my fishing buddy, Larry, called and told me that the perch were running in the Clinton River, my unexpected expectations ran totally out of control.

    I didn’t deliberately break my word to Judi—in some ways that would have been more honorable.

I did something worse—
I forgot her.

    I broke all speed records getting home—locked up all four wheels and skidded to a stop in a cloud of dust in the driveway—ran into the house and yelled, “Hi, I’m home,” as I yanked off my tie and unbuttoned my shirt, preparing to change into fishing clothes.

    “What are you doing?”

    It wasn’t a challenge; it was a pleading question, but I didn’t hear the pleading

I just heard the question.

    I’m going fishing with Larry; the perch are running in the Clinton River.”

    I hadn’t seen her yet, but now she came into the bedroom. She had her hair all done up, and she was dressed in her only Sunday “pregnant” dress—

but I never noticed.

    “Oh,” she said. Hurt and disappointment were in the “Oh”—

but I didn’t hear her pain.

    “Could you fix me a thermos of tea and a couple of sandwiches?”

    “Sure,” she said. “How long will you be gone?” There was longing in the question, but I was totally occupied with my preparations.

    “Oh, probably till dark—depends on how good it is.”

    She was standing just inside the door as I rushed past, fishing rods in one hand, lunch in the other.

    “Have a good time,” she said, and although it was sincere, there was pain in it; but the pain escaped me—at least it escaped my consciousness.

    “I’m sure I will,” I said, “You have a good time too.”

    “Sure,” she said.

    I put the rods in the trunk and the lunch on the seat. I started the motor and started to back up, but something was nagging at me. I went over a list of the things I would need, but that wasn’t it. I had the eerie feeling that I had forgotten something, that something was missing, so I got out and went back inside to look.

    She was standing right where I had left her—just inside the door—eyes wide open and huge tears rolling down both cheeks. She wasn’t shaking or sobbing; she was just standing there—hands at her sides, eyes wide open, tears running down—looking at me.

    “Honey, what’s wrong?” I was so dumb—so lost in my own world, my own happiness, feelings, and pleasures—my own needs and wants—that I didn’t know anybody else had any.

“You never have time for me.”

I was so dumb.
    She didn’t yell, didn’t even raise her voice; it would have been easier if she had. It was just a quiet statement of truth that left me convicted and heartsick. Everything just sort of went out of me—I felt lost, empty, and sick all at the same time. I just stood there—I had no words for the feeling that the entire foundation of my life had just been destroyed, taken right out from under me, leaving me dangling. Her words seemed to hang in the air—

“You never have time for me.”

    I didn’t know that I was supposed to have time for her—or anybody else for that matter—unless it served some selfish purpose. Again, I want you to see that I wasn’t mean or vicious. I wasn’t one to speak harshly or be abusive; I was simply and totally self-centered—so much so that—

I didn’t even know it.

    What does a man do with a crying wife? I went fishing—not with Larry, but with Judi—but my heart wasn’t in the fishing. I don’t even remember if we caught anything. We sat on the riverbank, and we held hands and talked—but not much—I wasn’t ready. We ate the sandwiches and drank the tea, and once, she took my hand and placed it on her extended tummy—”Feel that?” she said.

    “Wow!” I said.

    “That’s your son kicking around in there.”

    It was the beginning—no it actually wasn’t—beginnings are hard to pin down. It had begun long ago, somewhere in the dim recesses of my childhood. Perhaps it was the beginning of awareness—an awareness of other people, of what a marriage is supposed to be. I lay awake late that night—long after I heard the slow, steady breathing that meant she was asleep—with all kinds of new thoughts buzzing around in my head. I didn’t know it, but the winter of our discontent was over—it was becoming the spring of promise, because

I was becoming a man.

    Read the following passage slowly—very slowly—and with care—

“When I was a child, I used to speak as a child,
think as a child, reason as a child;
when I became a man,
I did away with childish things...
But now abide faith, hope, love,
these three;
but the greatest of these
is love.”
—1 Corinthians 13:11,13

    The winter of our discontent had been created by my selfishness—by my refusal to put my egocentric childhood behind me and grow into the man that God intended me to be so that I could begin to learn the meaning of love. The first duty of a husband or wife is to grow up—to put childhood aside

to become a man or woman—
and to think of others.

© 1997, John William Smith. Excerpted from Hugs to Encourage and Inspire, Howard Publishing Company. Used by permission.

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HEARTLIGHT(R) Magazine is a ministry of loving Christians and the Westover Hills church of Christ.
Edited by Phil Ware and Paul Lee.
Copyright © 1996-98, Heartlight, Inc., 8332 Mesa Drive, Austin, TX 78759.