Year of Mercy

Appreciating your spouse: Sometimes you have to write it out to see it

Flannery O' Connor said she wrote, in part, "to know what I think"

(Practicing Mercy #34):  Make a gratitude journal for your spouse and jot down little things he or she does that you’re grateful for. Bite your tongue and go write in it (or at least read it) the next time you want to criticize in a moment of frustration.

The men in my life are the best men I know. Even with the mad patriarch to contend with, I have known mostly really good men with whom I am grateful to share a life.

My husband is the best person I know.
He works like a dog for us; he puts himself out for his friends, always going the extra mile, always willing to hand over his cloak along with his shirt. He does this both because he has a great deal of discipline and self-pride and because he wants to do superior work and be successful wherever he is called to be. He also does it because Christ drives his work, his ethics and his instincts.

When the kids were little and we decided jointly that my staying home to raise them was worth the penny-pinching and coin-rolling it would entail, he worked two jobs.

Yes, I mowed the lawn, yes, I put together the family dinners, and remembered all the birthdays and did most of the Christmas shopping and ran little entrepreneurial businesses – all unsuccessful – and met with the teachers and went to the soccer and football practices. It was my privilege, and if he could have joined me he would have in a heartbeat. But he couldn’t.

Life is difficult. You work hard. Buck it up.

Most nights he would get home in time to bathe the eldest
and tickle the tummy of the youngest, and when he had to miss that for work, it grieved him. Eventually he stopped the second job, went to school on weekends, studied late into the night and got an MBA and then – because the kids were old enough – he took on the added responsibility of becoming a Scoutmaster, so he could share all of those camping and travel and leadership experiences with them, and he still worked slave-hours. Both of our sons are Eagle Scouts; both insist they never would have been, without him.

If I needed a break – a retreat, a night out – anything I wanted, my husband was fast to say, “Go do that; I can take care over here.” I might come home from retreat to find the den repainted as a surprise. When his little brother was dying, this man never used the additional stress as an excuse to carp, freak out, scold or diminish anyone else around him.

Anything I have ever wanted to try, and scheme, any venture – he’s encouraged it. He cannot do enough for me. He cannot do enough for you.

With my arthritis continually encroaching
, he just takes on whatever becomes difficult for me, because he assumes that I would do the same for him.

And I think… probably, I would. Of course I would. But I likely wouldn’t do the extra chores as well – or as cheerfully – as he manages.

He saved my life. That is not fanciful – it is fact. He grew me up, forced me – simply by virtue of his example – to become less feral and more human. He showed me how to really live, and how to live on faith that is supported by unconditional love. I make a mess of it all quite often — I can be a real toothache of a woman — but he never gives up on me.

Actually, we didn’t use Corinthians 13 at our wedding, but he embodies it:

Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, (love) is not pompous, it is not inflated,

it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury,

it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.

It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

He is not perfect; of course we fight. But when he is wrong he’s quick to apologize. When he’s right he doesn’t pummel me with it. He takes no joy in putting me down.

I share all of this not to crow about how blessed I am to have this man for my husband, but to encourage you to take the time to write down all the good things about your spouse, so you can appreciate your blessings, too. Because sometimes you only realize things fully when you write them down. Amen.