Wednesday evening and we're running out of the house to prayer meeting. Needing to take separate vehicles since Josiah will be staying late afterwards, we both jab keys into ignitions and crank. His Honda purrs to life; the Camry, however, won't even give me a click or a flicker of dash lights. It is dead as a tombstone.
My handsome hero gallantly pulls out jumper cables, and within moments, my car is ready to go. I clutch into reverse and back out, but as soon as I pause to go into first gear, the car dramatically lurches and dies.
Again, my gallant husband is ready with jumper cables, and we get the car going again, this time giving it more time to recharge before trying again. As I jump back in to take off, Josiah is full of instructions. "Keep it in a low enough gear to hold the RPM's around 3000. You've got to keep the engine revved. Do you want me to drive it?"
Are you kidding me? Do I look like I don't know how to drive a car? I want this challenge as much as you do!
"No, I think I got it."
And I do have it pretty well-- for a thousand feet, roaring in second gear until I have to stop and turn onto the highway. Halfway into the turn my dash lights snuff out and I'm stuck in the middle of the highway without power. Frustrated, I slip it in neutral and roll backwards until I'm clear of the road.
My hero is already coming with the jumper cables. He runs back and forth, popping the hoods, attaching the cables. Rescuing me.
I'm not in the mood to be rescued.
I could totally help you with that. I'm not one of those girls that has to have a guy do everything for her.
He asks me to rev the engine in his car, to accelerate the charging process. "I don't mind driving it.." he says..a hopeful glimmer in his eyes.
Obviously I'm not going to win until I let him drive it.
"Fine, drive it." My voice has a bit of an edge to it now and I resolve that this will be my last comment until my mood barometer has a better reading. No need to make a scene..
"You're ok with unhooking the jumper cables, and dropping the hood so I can take off? Make sure the jumper cables don't touch each other..."
I'm one big internal eye-roll. Like I've never jumped a car before....
Outwardly, I just nod the affirmative, unhook the cables, and send him roaring down the road.
As I deftly bunch the cables and drop the hood, I finally enjoy my moment of feeling like a capable woman who knows how to unhook jumper cables like a pro -- just as good as any man!
But as I ease the Honda onto the highway, the thought strikes me like a 10-foot wall of water.
You know, Beth..It's really nice to not have to be a man.
Immediately I'm humbled.
Because it's true. It is really nice to let him do the grunt work, lift the heavy stuff, roll the trash to the curb, deal with getting greasy under the car, carry the brunt of providing for the family. There's so much that he does that I could simply be grateful for instead of fighting to do it myself.
Maybe I can be a woman and let him be a man.
When I got married, lots of people told me that it would be tough at first, and that there would be lots of challenges and conflicts as we adjusted to living together. To be honest I heard it so much that it almost became cliche. And it wasn't that I didn't believe them, but I kinda didn't completely. After all, we had worked through so much in our courtship and we had so much going for our marriage, and I'd lived with lots of roommates before and always got along with them fine. I didn't think I get could surprised.
Well, come to find out, they were right. All of them. And we had so much to learn.
The blending of two headstrong, independent, leader types into one is very similar to-- I don't know -- making a smoothie? Not the greatest of illustrations, but basically, it's painful.
Our parents both tell an almost identical story of us as toddlers struggling to put our shoes on. In both cases, a kind parent offers to help the obviously struggling little Beth/Josiah with the task, only to be met with a resolute refusal, "Do it myself!!"
This became a sort of mantra for both of us as we grew up. To be free, independent, in charge. We're both good at flying solo. We like calling the shots.
But flying solo isn't a good marriage model. Marriage wasn't created to be a mere civil status, or a checkbox on your W-4 that gives you a better tax return. Marriage is a blending of two lives for the good of both individuals. It's "two are better than one." It's a collection of verbs like refine, ennoble, and strengthen.
I'm pretty good at seeing ways that I can refine him, but I'm really bad at being refined.
I want him to give me all sorts of space and freedom to be me, and I want things to go my way. I want him to stand back and admire my tough-girl jumper-cable-hooking skills. They're beast.
But when he needs some space to lead? I'm all up in it, girlfriend. When he makes a good point? I've got the sarcastic one-liner on the tip of my tongue to take the glory out of it for him. When he's trying to tell me I'm wrong? I'm all pouty and cold emotional punishing techniques.
Not all the time, you understand, but enough to be ashamed of.
I definitely didn't see all this in myself 14 months ago.
But this is the glory of refining. You've got to see how ugly the baby is before you can grow. It's all part of "being molded by the Potter" and "refined in the fire" and all those romantic sounding religious words. They all just mean grinding your soul. And marriage is one of the best and biggest grinders. (They don't tell you that one in those spiritual romance books that all the girls love to read! I heard recently someone saying "To the right man your flaws will be perfect." Ahem..excuse me for a moment while I sneeze. Wow. And these poor girls who get suckered in to believe this nonsense...but I digress.)
And Josiah? He's so patient. Good listener. Gives me a hug and a kiss when I least deserve it. Gives back kind words for my mean ones. Braves the cold shoulder like a champ.
He deserves better.
And I can give him better.
I can be a woman.
I can exercise my God-given talents as a supporter, an enthusiast, an encourager. He's being tough guy, so I can let tough girl go and take on the queen-of-the-home role. I can be the calm presence shedding cheerfulness, love, and sunshine in that sweet way that only women can. I can encourage more, and criticize less. I can be his strongest ally-- the safest ear to listen to his heart.
Yesterday I wrote all this up in my trusty journal. I hadn't intended to share it with him, but it happened to come out in a joke at the breakfast table that I had made a commitment to let him be right more.
His face softened into that happy expression it had that moment I said the fateful "yes."
But I had no concept of what it really meant to him until later.
"You've been making me feel really loved today."
I have? What does he mean? He had to cook his own breakfast because I was sick. I spent a lot of time on my phone and we didn't really have any meaningful conversation..what did I possibly do?
"Mostly when you told me you were going to let me be right more."
Holding the tongue on that sarcastic remark means that much? Stopping that conversation at you're right without tacking on the but I think, is like saying "I love you"? Giving him a hug instead of a cold shoulder does to him what words of affirmation does to me?
And giirrlll let me tell you, all the attentive affection it brings out of him is so much better than the fleeting moment of pride I feel from being a jumper-cable pro.
I give him what he needs most, he automatically responds with what I need most.
This is how it's supposed to be. This is what I want for my home.
The other thing people told us when we got married that I had a hard time believing was that we would be more in love a few years down the road than we ever were to begin with.
They were right about that too.