Remember when I said that I would use this blog to write about things I was still learning? Well here I go.
I spent part of today angry. Actually I think I've spent most of the past few days somewhere between mildly irritated and inwardly fuming. Twice in the past week, I've had to seek Kyle's forgiveness for exploding at him in an angry outburst. Ellee probably also wonders why she was told so loudly the other day to stop splashing water in the bathtub (isn't that what bath time is for to a one-year-old???). They weren't the problem; I was.
God has been trying to teach me a lesson: I'm spoiled. I'm selfish. And I need to grow as a husband and as a father.
Our family is happy to be expecting our third child sometime in October. As with both of our other children, however, it seems that the first months of pregnancy are going to be very difficult for Abby. She is not able to function the way she usually does. She usually wakes up nauseous, tries to get some strength through food, then works to keep it down the rest of the day. She is weak and tired and needs a lot of rest. I trust the baby is getting all the strength and energy it needs, because it sure isn't leaving much for Mama! I hate to think that Abby may be suffering so that God could teach me a lesson. Well maybe if I learned it today, she can start feeling better now.
Everyone knows that you often don't appreciate what you have until it's taken away. Let me tell you what my life is usually like. The kids normally wake up around seven. If they awaken earlier, they're not allowed to get up or begin playing until seven. Abby usually gets up with them and feeds them breakfast. I sleep for a while longer, especially if I was up late doing school the night before. Most days I smell bacon or pancakes or something and know it's my call to get up now. As the day goes on, I do my schoolwork or study for TEE or practice soccer or really just do nothing. The kids are given snacks as they play, dirty nappies (sorry, diapers) are changed, the house is cleaned and tidied. Around noon, lunch appears. Then Ellee is put down to nap and I help Kyle get settled for his. Then Abby often naps and I get two or three hours of quiet time for reading or study or rest or a movie. As everyone wakes up, supper starts cooking and I play with the kids. After supper, I give both kids a bath while Abby showers, then she puts Ellee to sleep and I put Kyle to sleep. Obviously there's a lot more to it, but that's kind of our normal day routine.
Not anymore. Kids wake up. Abby's in the bathroom. I go get them. Usually manage to fall back asleep, still. Wake up without a hot breakfast most days. Kids strew toys everywhere. I straighten up or trip over them all day. Dirty diaper, here you go, Daddy. Meals are over, dishes pile up. Lunch time, I ask how to cook stuff. House is dirty, where's that broom? How did you sleep, Abby? Aaaagggghhhh! How do you feel, Abby? Eeeeehhhhh! Such a beautiful day today! Uuuuugggghhhh! Kids want snacks, ask Daddy. Supper comes, what do I do this time? Bath time, still daddy. Good thing I don't have school right now!
So I've been mad. Here's some more about me. I'm not very good at sympathy. I don't want to hear problems I can't fix. Sorry isn't good enough for me. "I feel terrible." "Take some medicine. Try some food. Need more sleep? Want a hot bath?" If I just say "Aw, sorry you feel bad," I feel useless. So I don't want to hear it. I'm also the eternal optimist, like Mr. Positive. Hey, life's ok; things will get better. It could be worse. We can fix it. God will get us through this. It can't be that bad, just don't be so down about it. However, this all-day morning sickness hangs a cloud over the house that I can't shine through. I can't fix it. I can't change it. I can't make the whole trimester look like it will be okay or pass quickly. So I don't want to hear about it. Maybe a quick "Feel any better today?" "Ugh..." and I'll go on with the day.
So now most of you are probably glad that you don't have to live with such an insensitive, lazy bum. And you know now how to pray for Abby!
But God's not through with me. Several things have coincidentally come together recently to send me a message loud and clear. In TEE we are currently studying "Christian Family Living" and the pastors also recently asked us to give a study on biblical family roles. Ephesians 5 was a necessary exposition, so we spent a lot of time there - especially on the role of the husband. To be honest, I didn't feel like I was teaching that class. It felt more like a group therapy session where I tell everyone how much I'm not living up to the standard. I have this rule for myself that I've always followed: I will never preach on a subject where my life is not exemplary without making it known that I, too, need to hear and apply this message.
The phrase that caught my attention was: "Let each one of you love his wife as himself" (Eph.5:33). It's such an interesting verse. Is Paul saying a husband should love himself? Not at all! He is saying you already do! "In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it," (Eph.5:28-29). The other convicting phrase, of course, was "and gave himself for her" (Eph.5:25).
I have seen up close two men who give themselves for their wives - both are my fathers. My birth father has always put his wife before his own interests and his family before his ministry. Even now as he cares for his wife's mother, putting his own desire to travel in revival ministry on hold indefinitely, he shows me what it is to "give himself for her." My other father, made mine through marriage, is also the quintessential family man. He works a good job faithfully and comes home to invest in his family. He does the dishes, I think, after every meal. He serves in the local church. He reads to his kids every night. He has a few hobbies, but they only get done if all family priorities have been upheld. I've always admired these two men and said I want to be like them, but it often seems an unattainable goal. Where do I start?
At the same time that all these thoughts were running though my head, I saw one of those cheesy Facebook posts with a quotation on an artsy background. It said something like, "The voice you speak to your children will be the voice in their heads for the rest of their lives." I thought back on some of the voices I'd used with my kids this week. "Why won't you listen to me!?! I told you that would happen! Sit down and stop goofing off right now!" Do I want him to hear that voice throughout his life as he looks to the future or makes mistakes?
Today, I trust, God got through to me. I write this right now - late at night, when I should be sleeping - to be a reminder in the months and years ahead. It is a means of accountability for what God has said to me today. I'm sure I will not follow these new instructions perfectly from here on, but at least I can return and be reminded.
Today, God said to me, "Love your wife and give yourself for her. Love her as much as you obviously love yourself." So I tried to. I just did what she usually does to care for me. I did what I would have wanted someone else to do. It wasn't all that hard, either. It just involved thinking differently. I pray the lesson will stick, and I write it here to haunt me.