This morning started off like any normal day but I quickly ran smack into a problem with our banking account and from there jumped off the deep end into panic mode. (Don't you just hate letters from banks and insurance companies???) This led me to the phone where I honestly tried to call the bank... After several, "Select a language, then press this if you want that, then press this while remembering this conversation [which hasn't happened yet and at this rate never will happen!] may be monitored for quality control purposes..." - after listening to things like that and then being transferred three times, frustration began to add fuel to my panic. I was spazzing, to put it mildly...
Can I not just talk to a real person here? I fumed. Just one soul who can actually speak plain English and tell me what I need to know???
After exploring this fruitless avenue, I decided to grab my documents and go to the bank in person, spread all my papers out on some hapless employee's desk and try to get some answers that way. However, before I did that I called my husband, explained the situation and asked him to pray. I meant that I just needed him to silently pray whenever he could but instead he stopped everything at work and prayed for me right there over the phone in a sweet, gentle voice. He asked God to give me peace and wisdom, to go before me as I tried to straighten things out and to lead me to the right person at the bank, someone who would really help me
I was grateful as I hung up the phone but definitely still far from being calm!
However, for some reason as I gathered up our papers in my trembling hands, I decided to go back over our account information one more time and there it was - I saw what I had totally missed before. The error was mine, not the bank's. It wasn't a huge error - my panic had come not from the actual mistake but from the fact that I thought the bank had made it. My fear was: if the bank messed this up, what else has gone wrong? What if this is just the tip of the iceberg? How will I ever get it straightened out???
Now I knew it was a simple issue... and that I needed to call my husband to tell him the fault was mine...
Two interruptions in one work day - the first a panicky phone call from a spouse hyped up on anxiety and the second a mea culpa phone call from same said spouse... Not good....
But I was able to make the second call because I know Phil. He was sweet the first time and just as sweet the second time. He told me not to worry and expressed gratitude that God had given me the guidance I needed. Then he suggested I go for a short walk because it was pretty outside and told me to be thinking about where I would like to go out to eat this evening because this was our night to celebrate my birthday.
So with visions of Cracker Barrel dancing in my head, I went for a walk and then curled up in bed with a book and soon fell asleep. A couple of hours later, I woke up and while the house was still quiet went into the living room to get started on my sixth lesson on Biblical covenants.
While I was doing the Bible study, the sky just opened up and dumped rain! It was awesome to behold! I guess I'm weird but I love to sit inside where it's warm and well-lit while it's cold, dark, windy and wet outside. Although I didn't break out the hot chocolate tonight, I pretty much think of these as hot chocolate evenings and I love them!
As I worked on the lesson and listened to the rain, I was once again amazed at how God talked to Abraham, how He entered into a covenant with a mere human being, and how He even reassured Abraham of His protection and of His continued blessings. All this at a time when Abraham had no children and was basically just a nobody nomad from a pagan land.
Wow! And yet Almighty God spoke to him! Pulled back the curtain of time a bit and revealed some of the future to him! Even blessed him and kept his promise to give Abraham a son - against all odds!
As I worked through the lesson, I felt a peace and a joy that didn't diminish even as I realized it was getting too late to make our birthday date feasible. To my surprise, I realized I didn't really care if we went out or not; I was actually content to stay home, enjoy the presence of God, and listen to the rainfall. I loved my life.
As 7 o'clock neared, I began to think that something more must be going on besides Phil just having an extra long workday because it was so late and also on a date night. He has fallen asleep at the wheel before so when he's abnormally late, this can also send me into panic mode, just like the bank stuff did earlier. However, tonight, with my Bible open on my lap and my thoughts mostly on the greatness and goodness of God, each time an anxious thought crossed my mind, I was able to simply hand it over to my Heavenly Abba. And each time I did that, I felt everything was okay so I didn't pursue the issue any further by breaking out the cell phone.
At 7 Phil drove up, not feeling 100 % and pretty worn out but still intent on taking me out to eat, simply because he had promised and didn't want to disappoint me.
I convinced him that another evening would do just as well and at that point he asked me if I would be interested in just having t.v. dinners - something he likes occasionally. To my surprise, I was. It actually sounded good to me! So while I got those in the oven, he walked over to the sink which was full of dirty dishes and instead of getting upset: What is this? You've had all day and you haven't even washed dishes? How long did you nap this afternoon??? Instead of what he probably should have said and definitely could have said, without missing a beat he picked up a dishcloth and said, "While you get the dinners going, I'll do the dishes."
And he did just that.
After a long day at work, knowing I had been at home all day and knowing I had messed up one of our bills - my husband did the dishes! And asked me how my afternoon had been and I knew he asked because he was genuinely interested. In me....
And that's how our "birthday un-date" began. After the dinners were done, we found a place to put them on our tiny kitchen table. (His laptop and in-service training manuals dominate half the table right now as he works on them every evening but that's okay - plastic t.v. dinner trays don't need a lot of room!) And that's where we spent our "romantic" evening: eating a (very!)simple meal in a cramped kitchen while talking about our days as well as our fears, our joys, and the things God was teaching us.
Please don't get me wrong -this is not how days like this normally go around here. We can both spazz out and in turn, spazz each other out - sometimes to the nth degree...
But as I've looked at covenant through my current Bible study and learned what it really means and as Phil has looked at it along with me and we've discussed it, it's refined how we view our marriage.
This is the deal: covenant is not about one person, it's about both people. And when push comes to shove, a covenant partner promises - actually swears - to put the other person's needs ahead of their own.
And I just don't think that is an idea that comes naturally to man. Even if I hadn't read it in the Bible, I would still think this has to be a God idea.
And please hear me - I will always be grateful that my mom left my dad. She had Biblical grounds and then some; to have stayed in the marriage any longer would have been dangerous.
But for the normal ebb and flow of married life, for the days when the bank account is screwed up, the planned date falls through, the sink is full of dirty dishes, and the husband has had a super long day at work -it is for those days that "covenant" is meant.
And knowing that - really knowing that each partner is to put the other person ahead of themselves - is oddly freeing. I guess I'm saying, when it's "all (or even partly) about me", marriage can be a hassle, an intermittent tug-o-war. But when each partner focuses on the other, we can somehow lay our weapons down and be what we're meant to be, allies of the first order.
However, I also want to say this. Spending time with God helps a bunch. Before Phil ever came home tonight, pretty much blasted and feeling slightly sick, I had already had my expectations for joy and contentment met. At the feet of Jesus, my ultimate covenant partner.
Marriage is a covenant agreement but even so, the truth is that it can never completely satisfy the deep needs both of heart and soul. It's just that the human heart longs for something more and that something is actually Someone. On the days when I spend time with God and experience His ability to meet my needs, it's so much easier to put my spouse ahead of myself and for Phil to do the same for me.
For me, His eternal covenant love is the oil that makes my other covenant, the one with Phil, go round.
(And if you think I've used the word "covenant" too many times in this blog, you should read Kay Arthur's workbook... Trust me!)
Hoping everyone has a blessed weekend! And that you don't get any surprise letters from the bank any time soon!