From time to time, my pride horns come out when Edric corrects me or calls out an area that I need to improve on. I don’t know why it is his correction that incites my defensive instincts to argue my case or present my opinion. Strangely, I welcome the correction of my kids, friends, people I work with, and even strangers, but with Edric, there are occasions when the choice to apologize is a big internal struggle. I just don’t want to or I feel that my perspective is justified and ought to be considered. Or, I try to turn the tables around and think, What about what you need to improve on?
Yesterday morning, we were getting ready for a meeting and he pulled out one of his blue and white striped shirts and remarked, “Why isn’t this ironed? Didn’t we agree that you have the maids check everything so that all my shirts are ironed? Remember you asked me how you can be a supportive wife, well this is one of those things…”
Instead of saying, “Okay, I will have it done.” I replied, “Everything else is ironed, babe. It’s just one shirt,” insinuating that he was giving me no credit.
“Well, that doesn’t make it ALL.” When he said this, I pushed the sliding door of my closet with a little more effort than usual so that it knocked against the wood.
“Hey, what was that?” He knew I was being reactive.
I kept quiet and brushed my teeth, but I was curdling inside. Why? Pride. I didn’t like his tone or the way he implied that I wasn’t on top of things.
In the car, he wanted to address the incident. “Joy, I wasn’t irritated when I told you about the shirt. I wasn’t angry. I just wanted you to acknowledge that it hadn’t been ironed. Do you think you were being overly sensitive?”
Overly sensitive?! Of course I am overly sensitive! I’m pregnant. My hormones are wacko and unpredictable. I get spikes in my progesterone levels that make me unstable. I feel like crying almost everyday for ridiculous reasons…
“Nope, I don’t think I was being overly sensitive.” Liar. “Maybe you think I was being overly sensitive so why don’t you just say so.” I was provoking him and I brought up the quintessential issue that surfaces when I am resistant to his correction, “I felt hurt by your tone of voice, by the way you said it.”
Since my language of love is words of affirmation, I do get easily hurt when he says things in a way that I perceive as curt and matter-of-fact. Because I want to please him and make him happy, his disappointment is crushing to me. But, for him, the point was simple. Just get all my shirts ironed. Period. No drama necessary. He wasn’t trying to hurt my feelings at all.
I looked out the car window to process…
The spiritual wrestling began. I knew he was right. The humble route would have been to say, “Sure babe. Sorry about that. I will take care of it” It would have been easy. But why wasn’t it? Why did I feel so threated and defensive? Edric’s request wasn’t unreasonable. He needs ALL his shirts ironed ALL the time because he has his ANC tapings for On the Money. And if he wakes up in the morning and picks out a shirt that is not ironed, he doesn’t have time to wait around for it to be ironed. Why wasn’t this shirt ironed? Maybe there were other shirts that weren’t ironed, too? Yo, home manager, this is your responsibility.
SAY SORRY! The Holy Spirit prodded me to acknowledge my oversight. But I went back to What about how I feel? What about me? At that juncture, I knew I was battling my pride. I didn’t want to humble myself. I could feel the apology being stuffed down by my carnal self. So I compromised, “Hon, I’m sorry that the shirt wasn’t ironed but I’m not sorry about my feelings.”
What an ugly apology! Edric was gracious with me and he didn’t demand a better one. We had to get to our meeting and get on with the day. So he let it go for the time being. Of course his spiritual maturity bothered me because I was well aware of my infantile behavior. It’s like that passage in Proverbs 25:22, you “heap burning coals upon your neighbor’s head” when you are kind to your enemy. I was the enemy. He was the kind one. Ah blast it, I thought. I’ll let the morning progress and see how things pan out.
After our meeting, he went to the office and I went home to be with the kids. For a while, I just lingered in bed, curled in a fetal position. It was 10:30 AM! I had to homeschool but I wasn’t motivated. My spirit wasn’t right. Eventually, I did get up and homeschooling began close to lunch and finished in the afternoon. (This is rare for me since we usually finish everything by noon.)
By early evening, I knew that a sincere apology was in order. Resistance was futile and by then, I was able to look at myself objectively and deem myself silly and immature for letting the “dark side” win.
I made the call and meekly asked for forgiveness. “Babe, will your forgive me? I was being overly sensitive this morning. I should have just said ‘Sure hon, I will get it done.’” I confessed to him that I was being proud and that my attitude had been wrong.
“There’s my wife!” was his cheery reply and he added, “That’s what I wanted to hear.” We said our I love yous and all was well again.
So often marriage is the one relationship above all others that God frequently uses to expose and reveal the undesirable traits I need to change and get rid of in my life. I cannot put on a masquerade with Edric. He knows me and encounters the real Joy everyday, especially during moments of conflict between us. Unfortunately, there are days when my prideful self is the arrow-shooting, flame-throwing, war-instigating, and blame-gaming Joy. You get the ugly picture. I foolishly think that to win an argument or a case is a point for me. And yet, the frightening reality is pride does not put me in opposition to Edric. It puts me in opposition to God. 1 Peter 5:5 says, “…all of you clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
Yet the battling that goes on inside is so real. I actually hear voices between two forces in my head like a crazy person. “Stay angry. You have a right to be.” “No, humble yourself, that’s what pleases God.” “But he was wrong, too, so he should say sorry first.” “You say sorry first and leave his response up to me.” “But you don’t feel like saying sorry, right? So do it later.” “Don’t give in to your pride. Do what pleases me.” It rages on and on, until I find myself having to make a choice. Will I be controlled by my SELFISH NATURE and PRIDE or will I let GOD’S SPIRIT control me?
It is never worth it when I give in to my selfish nature and pride. I feel more defeated and more of a loser than ever, like I crossed over to the wrong camp and shook hands with the Devil. But when I submit and obey God’s spirit, I am filled with a calm assurance that all is well with my soul. The internal fighting ceases and a victory flag is raised in the name of the Lord and he holds it up with me.
No one is exempt from the spiritual warfare that goes on. We may not recognize it all the time, but it is present. We are in it! And I am learning to step away from the battlefield for just a moment to recognize the forces at work. Edric is not the enemy. When I see him as such, my weaponry is pathetic. Biting words, retorts, gestures to show my displeasure and get attention, silent treatment, sulking…Really?! I’m behaving like that when there is a full-on, fierce battle at hand in the spiritual realms and I’m waving around a sword hacking away like I know what I’m doing when I can’t even see what’s going on.
I pray that God will make me more and more aware that earthly struggles are “not against flesh and blood, but against the rules, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:11-13) It tires me to think that this will go on and on until Jesus comes again. It’s exhausting. The apostle Paul accurately described it in Romans 7 when he said, “I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man,but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
Until the day I die, the real problem will be the conflict between two natures that reside in me — the spirit and the flesh. Anytime I encounter situations or people that initiate this warfare, I’ve go to separate the appearance of conflict from the greater reality of spiritual conflict. More importantly, I have to remember that only Jesus can set me free and give me victory over the flesh. In fact, whenever I do overcome pride and selfishness, it is because of him. He defeated sin at the cross and he is alive and present to rescue me still from my weaknesses so I can live a life that pleases him.
And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)