We discuss important things for a nine and ten year old. And we argue about everything.
We measure to see who has more.
“Put more beef-a-roni in mine, it’s not fair.”
We complain over who is in charge.
“Why do you always get to stir the hot chocolate?”
And we fight over who is right.
“Mercury is definitely closer to the sun than Venus.”
For little people, we sure are set on proving our points.
Everyday, we walk back and forth to elementary school, Dee and me. A canopy of ancient oak trees shades our route. Wind breathes through our neighborhood, and the leaves whisper back. The elderly sidewalk slants and twists. Knobby tree roots reach for air and water through the cemented earth.
One day, we round the corner to our street. Our conversation circling around the same argument for blocks now. His eyelids lower, and his jaw juts up, poking his bottom lip out.
I blurt facts and roll my eyes. Like a lawyer, I attempt to showcase the absurdity of his statements.
I can’t remember what we were talking about that day. Probably, ‘how fast a tiger runs’ or ‘the most superior flavor of ice cream’.
But I’ll never forget what happens next.
“Let him win.” A voice advises within.
In an instant, no questions asked, I hold my spunky 9 year old tongue. He quits defending himself. The fight ends.
I feel like someone just told me a secret. My gritty expression flips into a smile.
We plop down in his living room and scarf down two chocolate chip cookies (eyeballed to be the same exact size). He-Man and Heathcliff entertain us until our moms come home.
My first relationship lesson was taught, by God, on the road home from Catholic Grammar school. It was the first time I remember hearing His voice.
With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:2-3)
If we let Him, God will use our ordinary everyday lives, and our ‘people’, to produce extraordinary character in us. That’s where no one else is looking. That’s where it is the hardest for me. There are no “atta-boys” given at home to stoke my good-Christian-girl pride.
The Car Ride
My people’s idiosyncrasies can scratch the same spot in my soul repeatedly, day, after day, after day.
For example, if I don’t set myself up to shut it up, car rides bring out the worst in me. My husband and I have different styles of driving. We both prefer our own.
Always the calmer one, my husband makes driving suggestions quietly and peacefully. On the other hand, my back-seat-driver skills are loud and loaded with dramatic arm movements. I imitate a person bracing for life as he eeks to a stop.
Sometimes, my antics are just whiny and annoying. Other times, if we are going through something, it launches us into a deeper argument. A few whiny assaults on his manhood change the mood for both of us. I hear the windows of his heart clunking shut.
I want to shovel my words back in my mouth like popcorn at a movie.
Maybe your significant other’s driving doesn’t bother you. But maybe your best friend is horrible with directions. Or your kid doesn’t do things the way you would.
We always feel the need to speak up if we think we can do something better. We disrespect others, and insult their intelligence. Tension builds. It minimizes access to their hearts. And it rarely fixes the soul-scratching behavior.
I often think, if he would just brake sooner, I wouldn’t have to complain. Of she would just pay attention to the Waze voice, we would get there on time. If my kid would just do it my way, we would all be happier.
All that time spent griping about little things is exhausting. Usually, it just hijacks the fun. Plus, the world would be super boring if everyone did it my way.
…eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:3)
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:31-32)
I have a few options every time I get in the car:
Hold a grudge.
Give the silent treatment.
Be thankful for his other awesome skills.
Forgiving others for everyday annoyances is a powerful tool.
Here’s what I should do when his driving skills play hopscotch on my nerves.
Third, remember something I love about him and thank God for it.
It doesn’t change him, but it changes me and that changes everything. It shrinks those irritations and highlights the reasons I married him in the first place.
Sometimes the thing that irritates me about him is a side effect of something I adore. He has the patience of a tugboat. He’s calculated and steady and handles heavy weight without complaining. (Notice, I didn’t say speed boat.)
I’ll take my guy and his unchanged driving skills. In fact, God, help me to overlook it every time. I want our heart doors swinging wide open. I want unblocked access to his heart.
In the end, when we take our last few steps together, I wont be grading his driving skills. I’ll look back, and thank God for all the times I accepted him and respected him.
The Moment of Truth
The hardest moment in this process is the seconds after we feel anothers’ actions cheese grate our soul. We are irritated. And we might even be right.
For me, questions that pop up are:
Why do I have to make the first move?
Why is it always up to me?
But, he’s wrong?
What’s so wrong with correcting him?
This is our moment to shuck the cross off our shoulders and stomp a foot into the ground. Or hoist it up, feeling the splinters of it prick our backs.
Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Philippians 2:4-8
I don’t have this perfected. In fact, we had one of our worst fights last month. (It started with a car ride.) But, like you, I’m growing. And changing. One choice at a time. Let’s keep practicing and watch love breakdance all over our relationships.