Early on in our marriage, I remember waking up to the aroma of coffee. Vic always rose before me and the scent of brewing beans filled our home. I think I liked this more than the taste of coffee itself. Somewhere along the line, Vic started bringing me a cup every morning...with cream and sugar of course.
It's a simple gesture, this morning delivery, but 20 plus years later, I still experience something as warm on the inside as the coffee itself. Love. Deep love. Sometimes I wake up, and it is sitting on my night stand. This simple caring and selfless act has made deep deposits in my heart, reminding me of Vic's consistent commitment to our marriage...it really does 'fill my cup'.
Simple gestures, whatever they may be for a couple....coffee, cleaning, cards, repairs, listening, laughing, sitting side by side...demonstrate love and insulate us in times of disagreement, conflict or potential nitpicking.
Just this past Thursday Vic & I were slated to fly out to Phoenix, Arizona for a Grace Changes Everything Retreat, along with some training to facilitate these retreats. We were excited, looking forward to seeing familiar faces with our friends from the Trueface Ministry and meeting new ones.
However, little did we know our flight would be cancelled that evening...after a three hour plus wait at the gate...along with an early morning reschedule at Sea-Tac. Surprisingly, we were pretty chill about the whole ordeal, our adult children would have been proud of us...they would not have needed to ask Mom or Dad to take a chill pill. Alaska Airlines has incredible customer service and put every single passenger up in hotel rooms for the evening and additionally provided over $60 of meal vouchers...not a bad deal! That being said, I thought we were in the clear for stress, just a bit tired.
I'm not sure why, but airport travel has often been a place for marriage and/or family triggers for the Woodward's over the years...and we have traveled, much, which gives you an idea how many times we have had opportunity to practice grace and humility in our family. The next morning proved to be no different. Since we had passed the test the previous evening, I figured we were in the clear, so was caught off guard Friday morning, and did not respond well.
In the midst of being on the phone, seeking a refund for our hotel in Phoenix for the previous evening, printing bag tags and pulling out our I.D.'s I felt the stress level rise and I could see it not only in Vic's face but his entire body. Just about that time, he went to go open his wallet and all the various contents fell to the floor, debit cards, receipts etc....for the second time that morning. As he collected the items off the ground his face proceeded to change color to a nice shade of red. I didn't know it at the time, but inside, he felt stupid and later said it seemed as though people were staring at him, thinking, "what's wrong with that guy"...and he was embarrassed.
Vic and I have learned that when our shame gets triggered, we can often respond in curt, impatient or unloving ways. Today was just such a day. In that moment, when I experienced that response from Vic towards me in communication....well, let's just say it didn't go so well. I pushed right back at him with anger and completely shut down. At this point, the rollercoaster car was no longer chugging upward in anticipation of a downward plunge....we were there, and at full speed! We proceeded through the security check point. I went one way...and he the other, spending our airport vouchers eating breakfast independently of one another. Not fun. What I had anticipated to be a joy-filled morning was doused with the cold water of conflict.
To be honest, it took the flight from Seattle to Phoenix to "chill", then followed up by a 20 minute conversation in the Phoenix airport before we took an Uber ride to the retreat...Grace Changes Everything....just in the nick of time. We were determined to resolve the conflict before leaving the airport. To shorten this blog up a bit, since it is getting longer than usual, I will share two discoveries we unpacked with one another, and at the retreat...which involved around 30 people, in a room of grace no doubt. We actually got to the place of laughing about the whole deal.
Discovery #1: At the time of all this stress, I had no idea of the negative self-talk that was going on in Vic's head...I had no such thoughts towards him and did not realize how embarrassed he was. For the future, should this happen, I will much more intentionally move towards him to help and encourage him, assuring him it's all going to be good (this includes directions when we are lost driving). In my flesh, when I experienced his anger, my immediate reaction was to lay down the law...and tell him I didn't want to fly with him anymore because this "always happens" (not true)...you can hear the conversation if you know us well:) I was far from extending grace...or humility...I was 'justified' in my response because of his behavior. Good thing God does't withhold his grace from us when we fail to meet His hopes for us.
Re-discovery #2: Humility is the only doorway to genuinely resolve conflict. Vic realized what was going on and has also agreed to share with me more "on the spot" when these triggers happen so I can protect him with love...not react in frustration and anger, making it all about me, but rather, helping him. What a gift!
In His Grace ~ Mo
Humility is trusting God and others with me.
One of the images of humility we cling to in the Scriptures is Jesus washing the feet of the disciples. Jesus, in complete humility, trusting in the love of the Father, stooped down to the feet of his friends, and washed their feet. (John 13) We read in Hebrews 4:15,
For we do not have a high priest (Jesus) who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. He knows our story and has made it possible for us to live humbly in our relationships with our spouses and others.
The first practical application for us in marriage is to trust the heart (redeemed hearts made new), of our spouse. (2 Corinthians 5:17-21) Our new hearts are well intentioned, good willed at the core. Living humbly means we live openly and honestly before one another. We have no reason to keep secrets or hide, because the essence of humility is derived from the grace of God and our new identity in Christ.
So, when my wife does something that irritates me or I fail to pay attention to some details that are important to her, instead of going into character assassination mode, we have learned to step into humility and allow God's waves of grace to wash over the moment. We trust each others hearts, which means that we realize that we are not purposely trying to make life more difficult for each other. When my daughters say; "Dad, take a chill pill"; I know there hearts are for me, not to mock me. In humility, I own my attitude and take the "pill".
The key is to take the equivalent of a "chill pill" and step into trusting the heart of your spouse. When you do this, you step into the realm of grace, where love matures us into the image of Christ. Our marriages become the signs and wonders He destined for us.
I must confess, I haven't understood humility for much of my life. What I have lived out of has been "false humility." My friends at TrueFace describe the humility of Jesus in his washing the disciples feet.
"In John 13 Jesus’s trust in the Father—that is, His being humble—moved Him to wash the disciples’ feet. His humility deeply touched the heart of Peter, who did not initially understand humility and so demonstrated a false humility: “I’m not worthy to have You wash my feet.” False humility emphasizes the unworthiness of a person, which is rooted in shame. It’s never rooted in trust.
Our trust in God never marks us as unworthy because it gives us access to His presence. Nothing can be more worthy than the presence of God. So Peter, in seeing the modeling of Jesus, then learned from Jesus that one day he, Peter, would have this kind of humility, where he would trust God—and in vulnerability, trust himself to others."
Humility is trusting God and others with me.
I love this quote above, again from our friends at TrueFace. In the next blogpost I will talk about how the implications of believing and applying the definition for our marriages. Stay tuned!
Vic and Monique
We are all about helping your marriage thrive.