July 28, 2012

When Surrender is More Beautiful

Valentine, by George Lundeen, located in Decatur, Ga.

When I was a teenager, I used to hear women complain about their husbands leaving dirty clothes on the floor every day. I felt so frustrated when I heard them go on and on about this endless battle in their homes. At the time I thought, "If that's the worst thing they have to complain about, they should be thankful!" Later, as an unmarried young adult, when I heard the same kind of complaint from married friends, I would think, "She should be thankful just to have a husband."

Fast forward to 2011. I was a newlywed, learning to manage a home and still trying to figure out just how one shares a bedroom with a man and all his strange belongings. In horror I noticed that some of those belongings liked to find their home on the floor just outside the laundry basket instead of in it. This occurred day after day after day. Despite the fact that my husband is one of the most intelligent, neatest, most organized people I know, every day those dirty clothes would show up on the floor, right beside the basket. It continued even when I asked him very nicely to please put his dirty clothes into the hamper. What kind of slob have I married?? Why can't he toss the clothes six inches further and ring the basket? And why must his shoes live in front of the dresser, just where I need to stand in order to style my hair? My selfishness masquerading as perfectionism reared its ugly head again. I did the very thing that used to so irk me in others; I complained. 

Sometimes I expressed my frustration to my husband (who, incidentally, still did not pick up the clothes). Usually I bottled it up inside. For months, this annoyance with him caused tension between us. Maybe he was aware of it, or maybe not. But I was not at peace, all because of some clothes and shoes in my bedroom floor.

I decided to "be the bigger person" and to pick up the clothes for him. How selfless and serving of me, I thought. Instead of being a nagging wife, I'll put his clothes into the hamper for him. Then we'll both be happy. Wrong. Apparently, he has a system. Sometimes some of the clothes in the heap on the floor can be re-worn. But I shouldn't try to be helpful by putting them back into his drawer, because sometimes some of the clothes really are dirty and need to be washed. And he has a system for knowing which ones are which. Or something like that.

One day I was complaining about the situation to my mama. "Oh, Missy," she said, "Some fights are just not worth it." I thought about that. Was my determination to conquer this dirty laundry habit worth the resentment I felt against my husband? Providentially, around that time I also came across this verse in my quiet time: "If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all" (Romans 12:18). If I'm instructed to do whatever it takes, within Biblical standards, to be at peace with everyone, shouldn't I extend even more grace to the man God has called me to be one with, as a living example of Christ's unity with His Church? I was reminded of my teenaged self, and how I used to feel when other women complained about their men: "If that's the worst she has to complain about, she should be thankful!" For every little man-habit that might annoy me, Steven has a hundred honorable qualities that make me fall  in love with him all over again. And yet for months, I camped out on this one tendency of his not to ring the hamper. 

Finally, though not without a fierce struggle of the will, I surrendered. This battle was just not important enough to cause strife between us. There are man-clothes in my bedroom floor even now, as I write. And you know what? It's okay. The world doesn't end when I walk into my room and see clothes in the floor. If unexpected company pops in, nobody seems offended when, to block the view of a littered floor, I close the door to that room. Inside, I feel peace now between my sweet man and me. Every time I see the heap of clothes or stumble over his shoes, any initial frustration is countered with the remembrance of how blessed I am to have a husband whose biggest flaw is missing the basket.

I know I'm going to need this reminder again sometime. I rarely master a lesson the first time around. Something else will annoy me in the future, and I'll need to learn to "live at peace" again.

I hope then I will recall that my mama was totally right. Some fights are not worth it.
And in my experience, sometimes surrender is more beautiful than winning.

1 comment:

  1. My husband tend to have a not so neat pile on the floor or night stand so I often give him the side of the bed farthest from the door so if it happens to be open you can't see it. Just an idea.