Years ago, a dear friend of mine, was a helping a refugee family from Africa. Soon after they moved here the father died leaving his wife and several small children. My friend, a kindly soul and social worker by profession, took them under her wing. On one occasion the mother became ill and my friend accompanied her to the hospital.
A pregnancy was suspected and the doctor asked my friend to ask the woman if she might be pregnant. The woman, a devout Christian and a widow for more than a year, took umbrage with the insinuation.
“I HAVE NOT LAIN WITH A MAN!” she said righteously, “-‘cept only one.”
That went right into the vernacular.
I’ve been thinking about this lately. Stay with me. As much as I’ve enjoyed announcing the first part of the statement, especially when Paul has been traveling over much, it’s the second half I’m talking about: “Cept only one.”
I live in the exceptions.
A couple months ago, at church, I asked a pastor to pray for me. We were up at the altar together. She put her hand on my back. I think I was already crying. Before she began she asked, “How is your marriage?”
The good thing about a near death experience wherein you lose all your possessions is that you get a shot of clarity and the scope widens. This year Paul and I have been stretched so thin, have run so long and hard that -even if I still cared to – I don’t have the time to keep score. Any thing he does, any call he makes, I’m just so thankful that I didn’t. My appreciation and gratitude for him has grown exponentially. Only the two of us know what this year has been. We’ve been surrounded by amazingly supportive people who have gone the distance but only Paul and I have been entirely inside it and there is intimacy and tenderness here.
A few months ago Paul needed to have something checked out. He had cancer (non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma) when he was a boy so he doesn’t mess around. It was one of those situations where it could be a virus or cancer which was not really an either/or I needed rattling around in the back of my head – ever – but especially when I was busy rebuilding a house that someone burned down. I really didn’t need that, but there it was…rattling.
In one way the timing was perfect. We were under a lot of stress, what with the kids, the house, Paul’s heavy workload, insurance and so forth, but far enough removed from the fire itself that we could have become complacent but cue Paul’s mortality stage left and wham! I’mjust.so.thankful.to.have.him.
Burn down the house.
Withhold all the money.
Just leave me my husband; please don’t make me live without Paul.
What has been coming to me over and over this past year is that I want to love him better. I want to love him the best that I can. I think I have and I do…except…
when he wakes me up out of a sound sleep listening to something on his laptop or drinks too loudly or won’t go outside to check on the kids or forgets to turn on the coffee or asks so many freaking questions about the house that he has already asked and FORGOTTEN!
So we’re still human and there are swaths in this strong and beautiful marriage that have not love.
If I want to love Paul fully I need to look at the exceptions, where I don’t choose, where I withhold, where I place conditions on, love.