Thursday, April 23, 2015

Catch The Little Foxes

Friend, whether you are married or not, you need to read this. This can be applied to not only our marriages, but in our thoughts,  hearts, and minds as well.
Shelby is a monthly contributor here at Hot Tea and the Empty Seat Community and let me tell you, girl can write. God has so blessed her with a great talent of powerfully and eloquently speaking truth. Shelby is actually a real life friend + she has a precious family. She and her husband have been married nine years (they must have gotten married when she was 12? hehe) and they has the cutest two boys you ever will meet.

Marriage is hard.
Marriage with one kid is really hard.
Marriage with two kids is really, really hard.
Marriage with more than two kids... I can't say from experience, but in my opinion, these are the real superheroes who should be having blockbuster movies made about them.

Having my husband home with me on summer break the past month has been a huge blessing. I'm so grateful that he has a job that has allowed him to be here while we have a newborn, so that we all can adjust with a little more ease, and I don't feel like I'm having to handle it all on my own. As much as he is my best friend and I adore him though, we can drive each other a little crazy and really get under each other's skin. Being together pretty much all day, every day for the past month has provided more opportunities for us to get irritated with one another and more chances for us to vent that frustration to each other.

Now, those of you who are reading this because you think I'm about to air all of the Vandegriffs' dirty laundry, you'll be disappointed to find out that that is not, in fact, what this blog post is about (and then I want you to examine yourself to try to figure out why you were so excited that you thought that's what was about to happen). Unlike that one special Facebook friend we all have who loves to post the ridiculous dramatic happenings in their relationships every ten minutes, I actually have a working filter, and I know that it would not benefit anyone to talk specifically about the negative things in my personal life.

Suffice it to say, there are negatives. And I think it's okay to say that because I am a human. Blaine is a human. I'm assuming you are a human too if you're reading this (unless maybe this is 40 years into the future and our artificially intelligent computers have finally gained sentience). So as humans, we all know we are imperfect, and as imperfect humans, we are all going to make mistakes. And when there are mistakes, there are negative outcomes. So, yes, shocking as it may be, I don't have the perfect life. I am not the perfect woman. My husband is not the perfect man. And our kids are not the perfect kids. (Although if you've ever read any other blog posts I've written, you would have no reason to have thought any of us were perfect in the first place).
So if I'm not about to tell you all the ways Blaine and I have gotten on each other's nerves this past month, and I'm not about to publicly vent any specific negative details about my husband, you may be asking (if you're actually still reading and weren't just here for the drama), "What is the point of this post?" Well, this post is the result of a thought process that started when my husband and I got really frustrated with each other today, and I stormed off to take a shower and stew on my angry thoughts.
My general thoughts started along the lines of: "How dare he?" "Look at all the stuff that I do and take care of," "I would never say such and such," "I would never do such and such," "I am such a selfless, good, thoughtful, [insert any other positive adjective] wife and mother," "What a jerk," "I'm going to stay in this shower for an hour and let him deal with our offspring himself," "I am giving him the silent treatment the rest of the day" (big punishment, I know).

Then in the midst of that self-affirming, husband-accusing stream of consciousness, this thought quietly inserted itself: Catch the little foxes. But I kept going with that other flow of thought for a few more minutes because it made me feel good. Once again the phrase interrupted me: Catch the little foxes. I still resisted, but the thought was getting louder, and the husband-bashing was making me feel guilty now.
CATCH THE LITTLE FOXES. Ok, Ok, I've got it!
Now, before you think I'm clinically insane and have multiple personalities or hear voices, let me explain. There's a book called Song of Songs (sometimes Song of Solomon) in the Bible that is about a couple and their love story, their courtship, their marriage, their intimacy, and even some of their struggles. In chapter 2 of that book, there is a verse (vs 15) that says, "Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom." There are, of course, different interpretations about what this means and what exactly the foxes are, but several years ago I listened to a sermon series on the Song of Songs, and one of the messages was about this particular section in the book. In that message, the pastor referred to the little foxes as, "those seemingly small sins that sneak into a marriage and create disunity."

My little foxes were running amok while I stood there in the shower mentally proclaiming my innocence and my husband's awfulness. My little foxes, upon closer examination, were feelings of pride and arrogance, unrealistic expectations, selfishness, a dishonest or unrealistic view of my own self and the role I play in our disagreements or differences, and the forgotten realization that I and my husband are imperfect humans with a nature of sinfulness that has to be overcome on a regular basis. Those little foxes were having a field day in my head, and I was just opening the gate wide and welcoming them into our vineyard (our marriage). Once the realization sank in and I knew that what I was doing was wrong and harmful to my relationship with my husband, I prayed to God right there to help me catch those stupid foxes.

So I set out to eliminate them, one by one. I calmed down, I stepped outside of the focus on ME, and I gained a new perspective.
Was I justified in my frustration? Maybe.
Did I handle the situation appropriately? Not really.
Did I contribute to the problem? Definitely.
Was I some innocent victim? Nope.
Was I trying to play the part of an innocent victim? Yep.
Would staying angry about this benefit anyone? Absolutely not.
Then I went into the specific details (which I will not go into here) and examined why I reacted the way I did, what was I really upset about, and how could I have handled it all differently and more productively?
Clearly the shower ended up going a little long, but it really wasn't out of spite. It was a cleansing process (Ha Ha).

I would like to go ahead and insert a little disclaimer here that our argument wasn't about some earth-shattering, marriage-ending problem. It may or may not have had something to do with nap time and a turkey sandwich. But that's how tricky those little foxes are. We know not to cheat on each other or lie to each other. The marriage-ending potential for those actions is pretty clear. But fighting about a turkey sandwich and our 2 year old's nap time, well that's a little more sneaky but can have just as devastating effects if left unchecked.

So I caught the foxes and was then reminded of the passage in the Bible I had read only 3 days ago during my devotional time. I'm going through the book of 1 Corinthians and just read chapter 13. When I stood there (yes, still in the shower) thinking about how I was acting toward Blaine, it didn’t measure up very well to the standard of love laid out in the Bible (vs 4-6):
Was I being patient? (No)
Was I being kind? (No)

Was I being jealous or boastful or proud? (Definitely proud, and I definitely boasted in my mind about how great I was)

Was I rude? (Yeah)

Was I demanding my own way? (Ha! That was the start of the whole problem!)

Was I being irritable? (Yep)

Was I keeping a record of wrong? (Yeah, if I'm honest, I think I had actually been mentally tallying up every time he had done this specific thing over the past few days)

Was I rejoicing over injustice or rejoicing when the truth wins out? (I didn't want the truth to win because then I would have to admit I was a little wrong)

But the passage concludes: "Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance." (vs 7)


So here's what I concluded... I wasn't acting lovingly toward Blaine, but I do love Blaine, and I needed to change my actions to truly show it.

Here's what I concluded... I can't control Blaine; I can only control myself and how I react. I tell him this all the time when he's driving and he gets mad at another driver, but I wasn't listening to my own obnoxious advice as I tried to control how Blaine should've acted and how he should've handled our argument instead of focusing on myself and my contribution to the problem.

Here's what I concluded... It's really hard to love the right way. It's easy when things are going the way I want them to, but when circumstances don't go the way I expect, when I haven't had more than 3 hours of consecutive sleep for over a month, when I have a demanding toddler and a demanding newborn, when I just want to sit down and eat a whole cake but I don't have the excuse of being pregnant anymore so I have to practice self-control... well, those are the times when it's a little bit harder to love the right way. But it's no less important in those times if I want my marriage to "endure every circumstance".

Here's what I concluded... I'm a sinful person. Even though I have been saved from those sins by Jesus' redeeming work on the cross, and I am no longer a slave to sin, and even though my heart has been made new and has received forgiveness, I still have a human nature that seeks its own comforts and its own demands and its own happiness. I have to ask God every day to help me keep my sinful inclinations in check, to help me promote and desire the happiness of others over my own selfish desires, to show love to others like He showed love to me by allowing His Son to die for me.
Here's what I concluded... my marriage is worth that effort. I made a covenant with Blaine to love him and be committed to him and to our marriage for the rest of our lives, and it takes work. It takes more work with two kids than it did when it was just us. But the reward is worth the effort, and I refuse to let the foxes win.


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