I Choose to NOT be Offended!
Last month my husband, Jody, and I kept our grandchildren for the better part of six days. Whew! It was tough. For those of you who have children, know children or have ever seen children at a distance, enough said, right? Balancing life and curious lightning-fast precious little ones is tough work. In that week, floods of bad habits raised their nasty but familiar heads in our marriage. Fatigue and frustration gave way to silly fights over who changed the last “muddy” diaper, whose turn it was to go to the grocery store and who would help the kids pick up the mass of toys.
Empty nesters can find it easy to forget how tough those “in the trenches” years of raising kids were. As for me, I often remember them with nostalgia as I look lovingly at the pictures of my little cherubs. But none of my pictures show my precious little angels on “seek and destroy” missions. In my pictures, my angels are frozen in time … and smiling. So after only three days back in the trenches, I found myself ready to either raise a white flag and surrender or take the flag and beat Jody with it! My mind repeatedly chanted, “He is not helping; he hurts more than he helps!” You see, Jody has only one mode with the grands – roller coaster ride. He stirs them up and then drops them off at my feet as he leaps over our child-proof gate and runs upstairs to the safety of his study.
I became acutely aware that week of how much I love my new retired life as these questions echoed through my mind. Where is my quiet, neat house? Where is my time lingering with God in my study each morning? Why at 9:00 in the morning do I have peanut butter in my hair? Does Jody have any idea that he was gone two hours for a simple grocery trip for only three items? I could have walked to the store and back in that time! And the big question. How many times can you watch Moana before the “You’re Welcome” song becomes permanently stuck in your head? Answer: 6. 😊 You’re Welcome!
Let me explain how Jody and I got to this point. Last month, our fifth grandchild, a beautiful girl, was born. We wanted to help our children, my DIL, Sarah, and our oldest son, JP, with the transition. Jody and I remember well what it was like going from a family of four to a family of five – suddenly, your family game is upended and you are outnumbered! 😊 The new game becomes “zone coverage” as man-to-man coverage is now no longer possible. Sorry for the defense talk, but college football starts back in a few weeks and I’m getting excited. Geaux Tigers!
When Jody and I had our third child, Michael, we were living in Germany. Jody was in the middle of a tough assignment with a draw-down Army, so I did 95% of the caring for our children on my own. Not bragging or being a martyr here, just telling the truth. It wasn't because Jody didn’t want to help, he just couldn’t. The Army, like our nation, was in the midst of turmoil. He was busy. I remember Jody picking me up from the hospital and dropping me off at our 3rd floor apartment with our precious little eight-pound newborn and two toddlers and then quickly leaving to get back to his unit. Ugh! Tough times!
So as we saw our children approaching their own family-of-five milestone moment, we were well motivated to help. To be perfectly honest, it felt healing to be able to give the kind of help that we would have enjoyed. The plan was hatched. I gladly volunteered.
Now the problem. Jody and I, Papa and Sweet Mama, are no longer in our twenties, or our thirties or even our forties. Times they have changed! As the week went on, we became older and older by the minute! Only three days in, we were at each other’s throats. Please know that we have very well-behaved grandkids. Our foul mood was not their fault. Kids just take it out of you!
It all hit the fan on the third evening after a comment from Jody. He had come home late from a meeting with news that he knew would frustrate me. He shared his news with what looked to me like a smile. It felt to me like a "misery loves company” moment. He was exhausted and had already stated that morning he was ready to bail on the plan to help our kids. So the news and the way I perceived Jody delivering it flew all over my own tired bones. I was immediately offended. I reacted poorly. We proceeded to have an argument. In hind sight, our argument was over absolutely nothing. It was just an overflow of emotions, I guess. I felt unloved and he felt disrespected, or at the very least, tired and misunderstood.
At the end of the day, I accused Jody of not helping with the grand kids and implied … o.k. … emphatically told him, “You are just lazy.” It was a “blast from the past” remark spoken out of exhaustion. For the record, nothing could be farther from the truth. My husband is a hardworking man. He just doesn’t deal well with toddlers. They are not rational and Jody is easily frustrated by their illogical ways. He did not like this stage with our own kids. The truth- nothing has changed. I got angry and quickly became contemptuous. Ladies, our mouths can run away from us – I know mine does often. I justify this because words are my only weapon. Perhaps words are your only weapon too. I am not as physically strong as Jody. I never had a chance to develop boxing skills or learn karate, so if I am going to land the knockout punch that my heart desires, it can only happen with my quick wit and sharp tongue. My poor, poor husband. Bless his heart! 😊
I apologized almost as soon as the naughty words came out of my mouth. He apologized for offending me. We were both exhausted and we knew that our day would start early with the pitter-patter of little feet and demands for a bowl of Lucky Charms. So, we went to bed politely forgiven, but cold and distant.
As I laid in bed next to my snoring husband, I pondered what had happened. How had we gotten to this old familiar place so fast? Have we learned nothing over the years? Exhaustion could be the answer – caring for two toddlers is tough. Stress could be the answer, for even good stress can wreak havoc in a relationship. I continued to wrestle with my ugly reaction and replayed the conversation that quickly dissolved into a fight. And then, the Holy Spirit quietly and gently challenged my heart that I overreacted. Jody loved me and the grandkids. I had wrongly judged his motive. I repented again, but this time to my Heavenly Father. I felt relief! Peace at last.
The next morning I pondered God’s words of truth penned by Paul in Ephesians. Paul describes in beautiful detail how a man’s deepest desire is to be respected. That is why God charges wives to honor their husbands (Ephesians 5: 21-30). God doesn’t need to tell wives to love their husbands. He knows that God-fearing and good-willed wives do that naturally – a wife’s heart is designed to love and nurture. But respect is a whole different topic. And sisters, we tend to be a little stingy on the honor/respect front.
Next, God charges husbands with the task of loving their wives. God does this because He knows that this does not come naturally to them. God does not need to instruct husbands to respect their wives. He knows that God-fearing and good-willed husbands do that naturally. Even in the midst of our struggle with the grands that week, Jody would say, “You are really good with our grandchildren; they adore you; how do you get the kids to do what you want?” Respect flows from Jody’s mouth even when he is mad at me. And I naturally love him. The morning after our fight, I got up made him coffee and breakfast and packed a lunch for him. I kissed him good bye and sincerely wished him a good day.
The truth: it may have been a tight, closed-lip kiss. But, hey! I am a sinner saved by grace. God is not finished with me yet! 😊
It occurs to me that after 32 years of marriage, we still struggle at times with showing love and respect. Marriage is tough. Period. It is the most honest relationship we have with another human. The world can look at Jody and me and think, “They have it all together.” But we know the truth about each other. No wonder that God, Who is truth, planned marriage to be a powerful tool in the sanctification process. God uses our marriage to rub off our rough edges so that He can use us better for His glory. But all these conflicts take time and are tiring.
So what if instead we got to the root of the lack of love and respect: our propensity to be offended. What if Jody and I just quit judging each other's motives and stopped being offended? I recently re-read Brant Hansen's book, UNOFFENDABLE, and I think his idea is worth pondering.
Consider these questions:
What if instead of making sure that we were heard or proven right we actually humbled ourselves in our marriage relationships and let God be glorified?
What would it look like if we were quick to listen, slow to speak and did not judge motives?
What if instead of making our own righteousness our only concern we made God’s righteousness our only concern?
What if I always assumed the best in my husband? What if I acted like I was married to a man who would take a bullet for me? I know that Jody would lay down his life for me – he has proven it time and time again.
And if I assumed that my husband loved me no matter what, it would take the edge off every conversation. Wouldn’t it?
And what if my husband always assumed, as I do, that I respect him? There is no one I admire as much as I do my husband – he is truly a king walking among men. If my husband could always assume this of me, maybe he could have a little more patience with my quick tongue and not feel disrespected so quickly.
I believe that if Jody and I could do all these things, our love would greatly reflect the Gospel and would be a bright light in this dark world. Our marriage would truly reflect Christ and His love for his church. I think this crazy idea may actually have legs! Brant Hansen, you may be a genius!
What would life look like if we no longer allowed ourselves to get offended in our home, our workplace, our neighborhood, and in our church? This would first require us to not hold ourselves in such high esteem. We would actually have to practice what we profess that we believe. We would have to humble ourselves and love God and others more than we love ourselves. We would have to quit judging people’s action based on perceived motives (Proverbs 16:2). In the end, we might actually look like the body of Christ – His church. Mind blowing!
Imagine for a moment how God could use a church body that functions together in one accord … unoffended and without strife. This idea of choosing to not be offended is bigger than our marriages. It can be life changing! Through this filter, and the power of the Holy Spirit, we can live out Jesus’s command in John 13: 34-35, to love one another.
Just keeping it real, today! Jody and I have taken the first step. We have vowed to be unoffendable. And, I believe that we are now unstoppable for the work of the Kingdom! Hallelujah! Please consider joining us.
And as always, stay washed in the Word and keep reading, my friend.
“Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools.”