I was donning my scrubs, looking for work shoes, trying to find some pins to put my hair up. Baby Girl was in the next room napping, but soon to wake up. My husband, getting ready to watch her while I went to my shift, was rapidly sorting through piles in our bedroom.
“Have you seen my glasses?” He asked me for what seemed like the tenth time that month.
How can he keep misplacing those, I asked myself. He knows we can’t afford another pair. Less-than-patient words paraded through my hurried and worried mind.
Stress about the budget and the schedule and the juggle of childcare and the crowded apartment threatened to take over my heart. I was so busy trying to take care of everything and everyone. Pouring out to care for others until there was nothing left to give. Empty.
I wrapped my stethoscope around my neck. A nurse’s trademark. How many hearts have I listened to through the years, I thought… and yet I’d neglected his. I put some pens in my pocket that would be used that night for documenting blood pressures and Glasgow scales. I thought about the stressful night ahead.
Then I took a deep breath. And closed my eyes for a second. And exhaled. And these simple words echoed in my mind: Love is Patient. Love is Kind. The words I’d read to him at our wedding ceremony.
And I pushed the hurry and the worry out of my mind and did something I hadn’t done in way too long. I stopped what I was doing so I could look at him. Stopped my hands from the bustle of getting ready and stopped my eyes from looking for the pocket notebook I always brought with me. Stopped my mind from wondering what would come through the ER door that night. Stopped and looked in his eyes.
When was the last time I looked, really looked, in his eyes? I asked myself. Or even looked full in his face? The thought terrified me. Is this what I’d become, a woman so stressed out that she could go a whole day, or even longer, without taking a moment to look into the faces of her most beloved ones?
Did I think my work at the hospital was more important than my work at home? Had I allowed myself to believe that serving was more important than loving? Had I let pride sneak in, pride over the career I’d worked so hard for? I don’t know how it happened, but I’d forgotten those simple words. Words that are the hallmark of the faith I hold so dear. Patient. Kind.
I let my eyes rest on him and finally I could see that he was hurried and worried too. Still searching for his glasses. Maybe searching for something from me too.
And then I said it. The phrase that changed the day. “I haven’t seen them,” quietly and slowly, “but I’ll help you look for them.”
And for the first time in this whole rushed conversation, he stopped what he was doing too. I saw his shoulders relax. I saw him exhale. I saw some of the hurry and worry leave him.
His eyes finally rested on mine. “That’s just the kindness I’ve been waiting for,” he said.
And I realized that the words which had paraded through my mind just a moment ago must have escaped from my lips some times before. How often had he listened as the stress, the worry, the fear came tumbling out of my heart and mouth? How had I distanced him by all the times I chose not to notice him?
Then we looked together. We didn’t find the glasses that day. But we found something else. Kindness.
And there was a softness about us as we searched together that had been missing. A softness that helped me remember more simple words from His Word: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you (Luke 6:31). Simple words that we learn easily enough in church, that we teach regularly enough in Sunday school, but that somehow we forget in the midst of schedules and bills, in the midst of the stress and the worry of grown-up married life.
And yet, doing unto others can be just the medicine we need to save our marriages.
I’m happy to tell you that this story happened almost five years ago, and our communication is much improved since then.
But it didn’t improve on its own. And it didn’t improve because a book, or a method, or a formula fixed everything for us. It improved because we clung to Jesus and some very specific, very simple words from His Word. Words like do unto others.
And the words from my husband, from five years ago, haunt me every time I feel like forgetting, every time I feel like losing my patience or leaving kindness out: the kindness he’d been waiting for.
How about you? When is it the hardest for you to be patient with your loved ones? Can you think of a time when kindness in your home changed the atmosphere of the day?
Growing in kindness together,
“I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.” ~Psalm 34:4