It was a normal Friday night at the Cochran house. We had just finished supper, bath time, and story time with Riley Grace. Patrick was grading papers for his classes, and I was putting Riley Grace to bed. After Riley Grace was snuggled in her bed with about fifty stuffed animals and goodnight kisses (along with fifty “last things” she had to tell me before I finally left the room), it was time for me to soak in my bubble bath (my Friday night ritual after a long work week). J I walked through the kitchen to the bathroom when I noticed the laundry closet was open. I peeked in to see that Patrick had washed some clothes. This is no big deal. He washes clothes often. But something about the laundry that night made me tear up. (And, yes, I do tear up easily, but not usually over laundry!)
Before I made it to the bubble bath, I stopped to sit next to Patrick on the couch. I just sat there and gazed at him until he looked up from his work to question why I was staring at him with a goofy look on my face. I said that I needed to tell him something. He immediately got nervous wondering if it was a good “something” or a bad “something.” I told him that it was a good “something.” I started tearing up and said, “Thank you for hanging up my wet clothes.” When he loaded the dryer that night, instead of drying some of my clothes, he took the time to hang them up because he remembered that I don’t like to dry those particular articles of clothing. He didn’t realize why it had meant so much to me (although he later asked if I was on my period…which I was, so that may have played a role in my tears over the laundry ;-) )
In that simple loving act, I learned a few things about marriage and was reminded of how marriage can and should point us to Christ.
1. Little things matter // Take time to know what matters to your spouse. Patrick and I have been married for almost four years. He has learned that I don’t like to dry certain items of clothing. He noticed, and he remembered. And he cared that it mattered to me. He knows that I like the dishes to be rinsed in the sink so that they’re easier to clean later (since we don’t always get to them right away…). He knows that I want him to tuck me into bed if he has to stay up and do school work. He knows that I like my coffee to be the color of chocolate milk. J And all of those things are small in the grand scheme of things, but I notice that he knows those things, and I see his love for me in his noticing and remembering. It doesn’t take much effort to notice and remember the little (and big) things that matter to your spouse, but we so easily focus on ourselves or are so busy with our daily tasks that we don’t take time to really see each other. Take the time to notice and remember what matters to your spouse. When you were dating and engaged, you noticed everything and wanted to remember everything. But when the busyness of life comes into play after years of marriage, it’s easy to believe that the little things aren’t that important, but they are!
2. Make the effort to accomplish those things, no matter how trivial they may seem to you // This may sound pretty similar to #1, but if you know what little things are a big deal to your spouse, then DO THEM! Take the time to serve your spouse in small ways. My husband comes home from work/school, eats supper with us and plays with Riley Grace until she goes to bed, and then starts doing more schoolwork once she’s asleep. He does lots of work at home into late hours of the night. He could go to bed earlier if he worked all evening, but he values time with Riley Grace and me very highly, so he takes a break from work to be with us. Once he finally settles into his studies each night, he usually drinks a cup of coffee, water, and maybe hot tea. When we were first married, I always jumped up to refill his cup or reheat his coffee. After a few years of marriage, I don’t jump up to serve him so readily. I might be working on lesson plans or in the middle of a book or movie, settling into a warm and cozy spot on the couch, and I just really don’t want to get up. That’s selfish of me when I know it means a lot to him that I notice that his cup is empty and refill it. He’s not chauvinistic in a way that he expects the wife to jump up when his glass is empty; rather, I know it means a lot to him that I notice the empty cup and want to serve him by refilling it. It’s a small task requiring little effort, but sometimes I’m too selfish to get up. As wives (even if your husband doesn’t notice/remember/act on the little things that mean a lot to you), we need to serve our husbands because Jesus served. HE is our standard for love, service, and humility.
3. Don’t let negativity overwhelm your interaction/conversations // Truthfully, many times when I tell Patrick we need to talk about something, it’s not a good “something.” Sometimes it’s a valid concern or complaint that is necessary to bring up, but other times it’s something that I am nagging or nitpicking about. I do not want Patrick to be anxious when I say that we need to talk about something, but if my conversation topics often point out a perceived flaw in him (not in me, of course…) or a way that I’m disappointed or frustrated, then it is understandable that he is not going to look forward to serious conversations with me. When he asked me the nature of my tears over the laundry, he had every right to think that I was going to complain about the way he did something in the laundry process…because truthfully I nag more than I like to admit to myself. What if I would have walked by the laundry closet to notice that he had put those articles of clothing in the dryer? Would I have felt like I needed to bring that up to him???... This night reminded me that I want to be positive and encouraging. I want to be my husband’s biggest fan, not his harshest critic. I want to build him up in love. I want him to cherish our conversations, even if it’s dealing with a hard topic, because I can be positive and encouraging in the hard times instead of negative and discouraging. Yes, I want to be honest with him if there truly is something on my heart, but I can work to say things in loving and encouraging ways, rather than demeaning or depressing ways.
So in all aspects of marriage, remember Paul’s words in Romans 12:9-13:
“Let love be GENUINE. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. OUTDO one another in showing HONOR. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, SERVE the Lord. REJOICE in hope, be PATIENT in tribulation, be CONSTANT in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show HOSPITALITY.”
And Colossians 3:14-15:
“And above all these put on LOVE, which binds everything together in PERFECT HARMONY. 15 And let the PEACE of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be THANKFUL.”
I pray that we will be strong and humble women in the midst of godly marriages who strive to put our husband’s needs, wants, and desires above our own. I pray that the small things that matter to our husbands will matter to us – because we are one. I pray that our minds and hearts are always focused on how to love, serve, honor, and respect the husband that the Lord has blessed each of us with. And I pray that the Lord will give us joy as we continually pursue marriages that mirror Christ’s love, devotion, and sacrifice. May you be encouraged to serve your husband in new and fresh ways! “Outdo” him in the ways that you love, serve, honor, and respect him!