Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Calling Her Out

A while back, Alissa (who was pregnant at the time), dropped off our eldest at college for orientation and to meet some friends. We live on a peninsula in Virginia where the only way to get back and forth to her college is to drive through one of a pair of tunnels, both of which are notorious for bad traffic in rush hour.

She sent me a message earlier in the day to alert me that Destiny had to be picked up, not on Saturday as originally thought, but that day, which was a Friday afternoon.

In the summer. Pregnant. Kind of a tourist destination. Traffic. Really bad traffic.

Alissa told me a little while later that she had agreed to let her hang out a bit longer with some of the people she met there, so she could develop some friendships... because in turn, that would mean her college experience in the fall would be much easier. If she already some relationships in place, she wouldn't have to worry about making friends, starting classes, and landing a job all at the same time.

I responded with a really, really short sentence.

“That was gracious of you.”

That triggered a mechanism in her to defend her decision and go into a fairly lengthy line of reasoning.

I kind of had to interrupt her.

“Baby, I wasn't telling you that you were making a bad decision, or that you should do otherwise. I was trying to let you know that I see you acting graciously.”

The response?


She was caught of guard.

There are two very important issues that come to mind here:
1. I don't affirm my wife often enough if she feels she needs to get defensive over me saying I noticed something good. 
2. I must do a lot of complaining if I see her doing something good or gracious towards others, and I get that kind of reaction.

Both of those are problems, and both of those are MY problems.

I read somewhere fairly recently, though I can't remember where, that it's important to catch your kids “in the act” of doing something good. This made me realize that it's also important to do for your spouse, or probably for that matter, anyone who is close to you.

I am not exactly an encourager. I can be, but it's not really who I am. I will notice if you cut your hair. Hopefully, I will say it looks nice, or good on you, and I will smile supportively.

Alissa, on the other hand, is a master encourager. She will notice you cut your hair, tell you it looks gorgeous on you, ask you why you decided to cut it, then identify with your decision and do so with an exclamation of how glad she is that you came to your decision, then reestablish how much she likes it, and that she would've done the same thing if she were you. You can walk in a room with a new dress, new haircut, new shoes, coat, glasses, and my wife will become your instant cheerleader.

I get it. I'm happy you got your hair cut. If it looks good, I'll tell you. I can smile and nod and give a gold star as good as anyone, but my wife has a gift.

If anyone speaks, it should be as one who speaks God’s words;
if anyone serves, it should be from the strength God provides,
so that God may be glorified through Jesus Christ in everything.
To Him belong the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen. 
1 Peter 4:11

Let me bring this back around to picking Destiny up in traffic...

What became obvious to me in that moment is, spiritually, I must either not notice gifts or growth, or I still kind of react the same way I would about a haircut: with a knowing smile, good job, looks good, and move on.

That's not who I'm supposed to be. I'm supposed to call my wife out on her spiritual advances, decisions, and strengths. I'm supposed to be there to sharpen her, to encourage her, to be her spiritual ally and cheerleader, but most often, apparently, I either ignore or condemn.

Where did I go wrong?

Part of that answer is being too busy. Part of that is paying enough attention to say I'm paying attention, but not really investing.

The tongue has the power of life and death,
and those who love it will eat its fruit.
Proverbs 18:21

If I'm not building my wife up, I am destroying her.

I think in a more peaceful, placid way she has tried to tell me that before.

I don't want Alissa to feel as though I'm her accuser. I'm not. I don't want that job, nor do I want the job description. I want her to know I care about her and love her, spiritually, physically, and emotionally.

But I can't do that if I'm only pointing out “growth areas,” and not patting her on the back when she gets it right, and I pray God will open my heart and help me grow in my encouragement of her and of others.

The point of all this: what we say matters...and so does what we DON'T say.

Give someone encouragement today.

Speak life, give grace, love well.

But encourage each other daily,
while it is still called today,
so that none of you is hardened by sin’s deception.
Hebrews 3:13

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