I came home last night to clean floors.
Early in our marriage, when faced with the reality that Jim and I have different standards of neatness, I found myself using how tidy he kept his things as a measure for how much he respected me. “He threw his socks in the floor AGAIN! If I don’t pick them up, they’ll stay there FOREVER! He treats me like a maid! *mutter mutter grumble grumble wail*” Often a full-scale argument ensued within a few days.
Jim is immovable in his vow to spend the rest of his life pursuing me. He has continued to devote himself to having the hard talks and to accept how I feel in a given season without trying to convince me that I’m wrong for how I’m feeling. It has opened up tremendous space for emotional growth in me through the course of our marriage.
One tenuous balance we have had to forge is in the tension between the mental load that I (and many women) carry and my dislike to ask for what I want. Asking sets one up for possible rejection, a terrifying prospect. Asking also opens the door for guilt—“Don’t you know how much he’s already doing? You should have your life together and be able to handle this without him.” The problem is that I absolutely cannot handle this without him. Homeschooling, meal planning, grocery shopping, laundering, scrubbing, tidying, ministering, doula-ing, packing, prepping, unpacking, shuttling, listening, overthinking, organizing—it adds up to whirling dervish Mommy with a list full of half-completed tasks. Add constant interruptions and the emotional exhaustion that marks an introvert trying to parent a large family, and you have the makings of daily meltdowns. But God. And but Jim.
I texted him in the middle of my frustration yesterday and asked him to pray. I had just snapped at Tirzah for the sixth time because she would not go occupy herself for fifteen minutes and give me time to finish the dishes. And in typical Jim fashion, he prayed, texted me the scriptures he prayed, and then called me on his lunch break to ask what specific thing he could do to help.
He doesn’t understand the mental load I carry. I’ve learned to accept that he just doesn’t see the things I feel we need to do when he looks around the house. The clutter doesn’t bother him like it bothers me. This is why we balance—he reminds me to stop, rest, and embrace the fleeting days with tiny humans, and I encourage him to put things where we can find them again. We have had to compromise. He has made an effort to try to see our home the way I see it, and I have tried to be more intentional about asking for help without expecting him to read my mind.
When I returned to our clean-smelling, mopped home last night after a supply run to two stores that lasted longer than I wanted, my judgment free husband had a smile on his face. He was genuine in his happiness at making my life a little easier, his own exhaustion after a busy work day notwithstanding. We collapsed onto the couch to unwind after the busy day, and I began to browse Facebook. One of my friends had posted asking for feedback on what are the four little words every woman wants to hear. I began reading the comments, chuckling that two of my top choices—”I bought you chocolate” and “I cleaned the house”—were already among the responses. But after thinking a little longer, I decided my pick would be this:
“I’ve never been unfaithful.”
I believe we have cheapened what defines faithfulness in a marriage. When we stop and look at the complex definitions of love, honor, and cherish—well, not sleeping with another person is the absolute bare minimum. Faithfulness signs up again everyday to shield and defend the other person both from exterior attacks and from interior struggles. Faithfulness manifests both in what we do and in what we say.
Is it any wonder that Jesus’s name is “Faithful and True” in Revelation 19:11? He is our standard on how to honor, cherish, and love. Even in the middle of hatred and evil on the earth, He can say, “I’ve never been unfaithful.” The God of the ages continues to humble Himself to serve us by daily carrying our burdens, championing our virtues, forgiving our failures, and inviting us to experience the superior pleasures of fellowship with Him.
Onward and upwards.