11 July 2013

When Serving Stops Being Fun

In marriage, or, really, in any close relationship, service plays a key role. Being willing to sacrifice, to serve your spouse, to work together and help each other out is important for creating a strong relationship. And most of the time, when you're not really facing any major struggles in life, that whole serving each other thing is pretty easy.

I mean, when you're newlyweds, and everything is right in the world, all it takes to serve your husband is to get dinner made before he gets home from work. And all it takes him to serve you is to offer to wash the dishes afterwards. Nothing too challenging.

But it's when the times get a little tougher, and the acts of service get a little more challenging, that your willingness to serve your spouse gets challenged--and the very foundation of your relationship can be either strengthened or weakened by how you respond to opportunities to serve on the bad days.

Most of the time, my husband and I have it really easy. But recently, we had one of those days where it wasn't quite as easy as we're used to. My car needed two new struts. So, my husband drove me to school,  telling me that he'd have my car fixed by the time my shift was over, and that he'd make me a smoothie for dinner when I got home. My husband has changed struts on a number of different cars, and he knew that it shouldn't take eight hours to change two struts. Eight hours later--the car still wasn't fixed yet. My husband had put everything back together, and thought he was done. He tried to drive my car, and it was quickly apparent that something wasn't right, as far as he could tell by the horrible noise coming from one of the struts he'd just changed. So, even though it was getting dark, after picking me up from school, he needed to get back to the car and see if he could fix it in time for me to drive it to school in the morning.

One more problem. My husband was hungry. That's usually more of an expected event than a problem. After all, husbands usually are hungry. But I had just worked a late shift at school. We didn't get home till after 8 o'clock at night. I'd had a long day at school--I was falling sick, and had been in pain, taking the maximum amount of pain killers that the bottles prescribed all day long. I'd been expecting to come home to a fixed car and a smoothie. But husband was still working on the car, and, what's more, he told me that he was really hungry, that he wanted meat for dinner.

I couldn't just scramble some eggs in five minutes and be done with it. I determined to make spaghetti--I thought I had a package of already cooked ground beef in the freezer that would speed up the process--when I opened it, I found that it was actually pre-cooked ground sausage. At that point I nearly cried. I was so tired. I wasn't even planning on eating a full dinner--eating a big meal that late at night makes me sick. I'd been silly enough to wear my non-practical shoes to school that day, so my aching feet just added to the rest of the physical pain that I'd been enduring all day long. I really wanted nothing more than to lie down and maybe eat a little popcorn before falling asleep for the night.

But husband had also worked on a very frustrating project all day long, and he was hungry, and it was not unreasonable of him to want a real dinner. That's what I reminded myself as I got the raw ground beef out of the refrigerator and put it in the frying pan ( did I mention that browning meat is my least favorite cooking job?). 

I buzzed around the kitchen, using my rather good cooking skills to keep an eye on the boiling pasta, the sauce, and the meat at the same time as blending up a smoothie and popping popcorn in our air popper. My husband came in the house--thwarted in his purpose of fixing my car by the darkness outside.

That night wasn't a stellar night for either of us. It wasn't my husband's best mechanic job. I ended up having to get a ride from my aunt the next day in order to get to school on time, because Angel had to leave for work two hours before my school opened. Nearly crying over a ziploc bag of ground sausage because I didn't feel like I could bear to stand up long enough to brown a pound of hamburger was definitely a weak point in my career as a housewife. Nevertheless, that night, I was proud of us.

I was proud because, even when the going got a little tough, even when serving each other--using our skills to help each other out and meet the other one's needs, wasn't fun any more, we still did it. If I would have been single, I would have come home from a hellacious school day like that and dropped straight into bed. But marriage requires being willing to serve, and to serve past the point of what's still enjoyable.

That test we faced was just a tiny one. By the next day, both of us woke well-rested and well-fed. My car was still broken, but Angel would fix it the next day he had off of work. That challenge barely lasted an evening. But I'm grateful that our relationship is built on a strong foundation--that even during a not-so-good day like that, we were able to think about each other's needs and keep on going. Evenings like that encourage me to have peace about whatever trials we may face in the future. I'm quite certain that we're going to face tough times that will last weeks or months, rather than an evening--but I also know that evenings like that one are excellent for teaching us how to be faithful and how to serve in the bigger tests that will come.

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Moonofsilver said...

This is wonderful! My husband has to be at work by 7 and I make home breskfast and coffee in the morning even when I'd rather be sleeping...but it's because I love him! It's so hard getting out of bed sometimes!!

Maggie B. said...

Service can be such a hard thing. Just last night Mike & I were 'fighting' because I was frustrated that I had told him 4 times to wash the bathroom floor and put the mats in the hamper. I came home and found he hadn't done that. But he did wash the kitchen floor. And while I'm annoyed with him, I tried to explain last night that I'm actually just frustrated with why it matters so much to me and seemingly not to him. Why it matters, to me, that he put his beer bottle in the recycling container when he's done - right this minute! So this all ended with me being too upset to sleep and now I'm extra crabby.

And reading back on that... this doesn't really pertain at all, does it. Sorry! But I'll be making him a yummy dinner tonight after his 12 hour work day. Even though I'd rather be reading. =)

Unknown said...

I totally agree with the premise of this post. It can be so hard to serve your spouse sometimes, often because you're thinking of yourself. It really makes a difference in the quality of your marriage when you take the time to serve each other during those hard times.

Winnie said...

Enjoyed reading your post. I know that these situations will serve you well in the many years of marriage and help when really tough situations come your way. I remember so many situations popping up when my late hubby became ill. Taking care of him and making sure he felt loved was my priority each day, but still working, and taking care of his eldery mom had to be done. The years of working together as a team really did prepare me for this I believe. You learn to do your best, and not sweat the small stuff. It was a lesson I had to learn. By serving you spouse, you are serving your God, and yourself and those you love too.

n said...

I have one word for this post... bravo. The wisest worse I ever heard were from my uncle on our wedding today. He is a minister and was officiating our wedding. He told us to never stop trying to out serve each other. Whenever I feel sorry for myself, I try and think of ways to help my husband. It has made our marriage strong and beautiful. It seems like maybe someone gave you that advice as well. :)

Sarah Pete said...

Service really is SUCH an important part of relationships, but especially marriage. It's even more important when it's hard. Go you! :]

Looking forward to getting back into reading your blog. I hope you have an awesome weekend!

Katie said...

what an honest and true post about marriage! sometimes it would be so easier to not have to worry about or take care of each other but that is not what marriage is about!

Kate said...

thanks for sharing this! Its so true that serving others isn't always easy but it builds such a strong and wonderful relationship

Heather @ From Here to There said...

This was a beautiful reminder of what a relationship should look like!! :) Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

Goes to show that a healthy marriage isn't always sunshine and rainbows. Glad you two came out okay.

Amy @ Swag On, Momma! said...

I love this post. It isn't easy or natural to see from our spouses perspective--we usually just see our own!--so kudos to you guys. It takes humility; when I'm upset, I have to stop and force myself to see my husband's point of view! Cause I susally don't want to in that moment! Haha! Also, marriage is awesome, but there isn't the old carefree "do whatever I want, whenever I want" kind of freedom. It took me a little while to adjust to losing that complete amount of independence that I'd had for years after moving out of my parent's house. But, the joy and strength in having a strong relationship with someone that also loves you best is more than worth the sacrifice! It's training for babies, cause then your independence takes a BIG nose dive once they come! Haha! Still worth it though. The love and fulfillment only increases.