I love to cut the grass! If I had not become a speech-language pathologist, I have always said, I would have enjoyed being a realtor, a stand-up comedian or the person who maintains the grass for the Atlanta Braves, in that order. Why you ask? Because I’d love to have access to every house that is for sale for my own private perusing, I have middle child issues, and green grass artistically cut is a thing of beauty, respectively!
I did not get to cut the grass growing up. My older brother got that joy. I did not do it the first 15 years of our marriage, but during one of my husband’s deployments I discovered the art of mowing. I fell in love with yard work and particularly grass cutting for one major reason. Grass cutting, unlike any domestic task my gender had preassigned me, when completed looks good for days. Maybe even a week or more if you don’t get too much rain! No other household job is like this. When I would get to the last piece of laundry in the hamper, some sweet, but dirty child would come and deposit more. There is absolutely no way to stay ahead of dishes- they multiply when you are not looking, and to get the house dirt free was as futile an undertaking as resisting a Krispy Kreme doughnut when the HOT light is on. But cutting the grass is different. It is loyal and can be trusted to stay nice looking and tidy for a while. It feeds my perfectionist tendency!
Now to my husband’s chagrin, I don’t simply like to cut the grass, but I like to create beauty while cutting. From the timeless diagonal lines, to the classic checker board pattern, or to more elaborate creation- like the Olympic Rings during the recent summer Olympics. Or a neighborhood favorite- one year during shark week, I mowed waves of the ocean with a JAWS size shark fin in the center of the yard. No joke, I drove home from work one afternoon and there was a neighbor taking a picture of her child lying on my grass- pretending to be eaten by that shark! It was an awesome moment, and one that I remind my husband of when he complains, that “the grass looks silly” and should be left for him to cut.
The fight at our house on Saturday morning is who gets to mow the grass. Now when Jody cuts the grass, he is a lean mean grass cutting machine. He is very efficient and can knock out the yard in record time. Perfectly straight lines, no wasted steps. I, on the other hand, am an artist and I must confess a weed picker. I push the mower, per my design a mere 10 feet, stop and pick 6 weeds in my path. I cannot run over them, I do not want them to grow in my yard, mess up the overall composition of my design. Two more swipes, turn off the mower again and pick 12 more weeds, you catch my drift. I’m not speedy, but thorough. Even on our morning walks, I will see weeds in our neighbor’s yards and will want to stop and pick them – so, it’s not just the grass, I guess I am a weed freak, that sounds weird, but I trust you understand. I like picking weeds and cutting grass into beautiful works of art.
Now some of you are thinking- I thought this was a blog about marriage, why is she prattling on about lawn mowing and weeding…hang on. I’m getting there. That very same critical spirit that wants every weed out of the yard, any yard, and a picture perfect yard, can also be the thing that gives my husband the greatest grief. After I’ve turned off the mower, I do not turn off the desire to perfect or de-weed all those around me. I apologize openly and publicly, that I can be a lot to deal with. My children and my friends never wonder what Sue is thinking- they know. I am never accused of being a superficial friend- I dive deep and pull weeds, sometimes from a reluctant yard. I promise, it is never mean spirited; I just can’t help but see the potential in those around me, especially the ones I love. I want to help. I want to de-weed their lives.
To compost matters, this compulsion to find the weeds in people’s lives is rewarded in my profession. As a therapist, I am asked to look critically at a person after they have had a brain injury or a stroke and discover not only the deficits but also the barriers to making a full recovery. This critical thinking skill is a valuable tool in my therapy tool bag. When our children were small I was always tracking their behavior, evaluating their language skills, cognitive development, social skills, etc… It was a nice diversion for Jody, his personal yard, so to speak, was left unpicked. But now that we are empty nesters, he gets the full brunt of my critical energy.
As we talk with couples, I realize that I am not alone in this habit. Women in general, are more critical. We spot the flaws in our spouse shortly after we say "I do." I believe women were designed to look critically at the world, so that we can expertly observe, evaluate and nurture our children. We were designed to multi task. For example, to be able to drive the car and correct our son’s grammar or referee a fight while scrubbing the bathtub. We eagerly identify issues/short comings with our children so that we can correct them, shepherd their hearts and be good moms. But, we must be careful to turn the volume down when dealing with our spouses. Now before you moan, of course, men can be critical as well, but many women have this in their wheelhouse more naturally. Simply put, men are not as observant and thus not as critical. When I ask my husband about my habits that grate on his nerves, and he kindly must ponder this... for a while... before he can come up with a behavior, my point is made. If he asked me the same question, which wisely he doesn’t, I could come up with 10 behaviors in a moment’s notice.
Why the difference? I have given this a lot of thought and prayer. I think part of the issue is a design flaw 😊 and the other part is that I truly, in my heart of hearts, believe I am helping him. I have often thought of the passage in Proverbs about iron sharpening iron and felt energized to continue my task of perfecting Jody (Proverbs 27:17). But the other day the error in my thinking was corrected. You see on my commute to work each day I listen to a few chapters from the Bible on my Bible App. It keeps me calm as I fight traffic and it nourishes my spirit. I was listening to Proverbs on this particular day and for the first time I heard the two verses before Proverbs 27:17 loud and clear. And it all snapped into focus. Proverbs 27: 15-16 says "A quarrelsome wife is like the dripping of a leaky roof in a rainstorm; restraining her is like restraining the wind or grasping oil with the hand." And then the iron sharpens iron reference. How curious that these verses were put together, right next to each other. Was God trying to show the difference between the two. I believe so. I don't think iron sharpens iron in a dripping pattern, critique after critique. What I was doing with all of my many suggestions, as well meaning as they may have been, was the equivalent of water torture- not sharpening him, but rather driving him to irritation. I do not want to be like a drippy roof or a leaky faucet. I love my husband too much for that!
But how am I to handle that big patch of crab grass, in Jody's yard? How do I appropriately address the issues that are important? In order to maintain a happy marriage, we must have the truth. I believe a successful marriage must have its foundation on radical honesty, so I must tell him about the things that drive me crazy. Or I create an invisible wall, that does not allow true intimacy. The key is I must do this in love. I don't want to be like a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal (1 Corinthians 13:1) and I know you don't either. We want to be used of God to help sharpen our spouses so that they can be like a fine crafted tool in the hand of our heavenly Father. This will only happen as we love and honor them well. As we are patient and kind, not dishonoring or self seeking or keeping a record of wrong. (1 Corinthians 13:4-5) only then can those issues be fully addressed. So love is the key, my friend. God's love is ready willing and able to help you over the rough patches, and clean up your yard! And as things with God go, the more we love and honor our spouses the less of their weeds we notice! Keep your eyes on the prize- a Godly marriage!
Thank you for joining me in my pursuit of a word washed life and a journey to a happier marriage! Keep mowing,and remember, gently and lovingly, pick those weeds!
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13