A little later in Matthew (22:37), this is brought up again with even stronger language,
“Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
Now both of these are great ideas. They are theoretically profound, and we can see an occasional application to our lives. But we like to leave them out there at a little distance. We do not love to bring them all the way into our lives, into our homes, and into our petty little problems.
This series on communication has been an effort to bring these broad, sweeping statements into the places in our lives where we might be tempted to think that Scripture does not directly speak. Today I’d like to bring it into the very big issue of petty domestic strife.
Many of us are homemakers – we have embraced our calling to be wives and mothers who prioritize the home. Now the temptations that we face in our daily lives are sometimes to not value our work, or to wish we were elsewhere. But other times, and far more often for women who are completely sold on their role in the home, our temptations are to value our work too much, and to wish everyone else was elsewhere. Here are a few examples, meant to be extreme, that should communicate what I mean.
Let’s say your husband just cannot remember to use the hamper. You find his socks strewn. You find pants with a belt still in them crumpled on the floor. So you decide that this is just really not responsible behavior. You show him the hamper plan again, with strain in your voice. Then the next day, there it is again. Socks on the floor in the hall. So you feel completely justified in popping off, “How can you not see this? How do you not realize that I am picking up after you? I already am cleaning up after the kids all day long, do I have to follow you around too?” Chances are pretty good that your husband will feel pretty bad. Shoot. He totally spaced that again. You go off on a binge of feeling unloved and under appreciated.
You feel like he is using your time without paying attention. He is simply counting on your efforts, and not even taking the time to notice what it is costing you. Well lets flip this around to a situation where a husband responded in exactly the same kind of way. Let’s look at a place where you might be using his work a little absent mindedly, not noticing what you are doing. Lets look at what it would be like to be treated the way you regularly treat him.
You walk into the kitchen to find your husband pulling outdated food out of the fridge. You know – that end of a block of cheese that turned into an eraser. The wilty lettuce. The bag of leftovers that didn’t get eaten. The sour cream that has a little black spot in the lid. Lets say he is pulling all these out and lining them up on the counter. Every time he finds something else he sighs profusely and looks at you with despair. Then he points at all this waste and says, ” Do you think that this is why I work so hard? So you can waste my paycheck on food that we won’t eat? Do you think I have nothing better to do with this money than sit around and see how you waste it? Try a little harder, honey. I mean, come on! This is probably almost $10 worth of wasted food! Why would you do this to me? What were you thinking when you let this sour cream go bad? huh? Where you just not thinking of me at all? Were you assuming that I just LIKE to go to work so it doesn’t matter what you do with the money?”
Now I hope that this is appalling to you. Because you know as well as I do that there are 400 million reasons that you could have forgotten about the existence of the sour cream, and none of them were malicious. Sometimes thing like this happens. Sometimes we miss stuff. Sometimes you were so busy taking care of children that you completely missed the fact that you meant to make a salad. This is the kind of normal waste that has to happen around life, just the like the socks on the floor are the normal kinds of small mistakes that go down where people live.
Lets say you finally got the house together – and it took a lot of work. And you might be sore tomorrow. Then your husband doesn’t notice anything. And you feel all upset that he doesn’t care. Or even worse, he notices the few things that you did not get to. Well – how do you respond when he brings home a paycheck? Do you immediately talk about what you can’t afford? Do you ignore it totally and just press on with your life? Or do you thank him for his hard work? Do you encourage him? Do you look for the little things that he does for you and enjoy them? Or are you always pointing at what hasn’t been done? When he gets paid do you say, rather stinkily, “finally.”?
Now of course we could go on all day about this kind of thing. For every common annoyance there is a flip side. There is a way in which you are probably doing the exact same thing. Find the way in which you are doing it, and correct that. Take the beam out of your own eye before you bring up the socks in his. Look hard for the ways in which you expect him to value your time in a way that you do not value his. And then let go of it. Let go of your time, your work, your priorities.
The happiest marriage in the world is not happy because there was nothing to resent. It is happy because the giving, forgiveness, love, and respect that are cultivated are like citronella plants to the mosquitos of bitterness and resentment. When you are loving the Lord God with all your heart, and soul, and mind, loving your neighbor as yourself just rolls out naturally. We are all fallen. We all fall short. We will never run out of things to resent each other for, just as God will never run out of things to forgive us for. So love God with everything, and see your neighbor as exactly what he is – just like you.