It got ugly fast, the “discussion” my husband and I were having about the water pooling on the bathroom floor. Or, rather, it would have been a real discussion if one of us (guess who) wasn’t flying off the handle, putting words in the other’s mouth that had no business being there. I have a vague memory of accusations such as “are you calling me a hysterical female?” and “do you think I’m full of &*%#?” shooting forth from my mouth, as my spouse of twenty-eight years tried to reason with me. Patiently, he explained that the liquid could not have traveled the route I was convinced it had taken. “It’s physically impossible for it to have seeped through the grout,” he said more than once, as I, completely inured to the truth by this point, accused him of degrading me. In fact, he was doing nothing of the sort. He was simply unwilling to yield to me, choosing instead to blame the puddle on a simpler explanation: “If you put the liner inside the tub when you bathe, the problem will go away.”
“We’ll see,” was all I would concede, inwardly thinking, “There’s no way I create that much of a mess without realizing it. I’m too aware of my actions. Plus, I only use a little bit of water. Not even half a bath full.”
To his credit, my husband let the matter drop entirely, and we spent the rest of our precious down time after our son had gone to bed in peace. Thou shalt not go to bed angry, so the Scripture says (I extemporize). Let the shows you stream on TV to watch together heal all wounds.
Needless to say, the day of reckoning came quickly. I was in the tub, observing my near-daily baptism by immersion. As I sought the comfort and cleansing a soak in hot water seems to afford me, it came time to wash my hair. Reaching for the same plastic pitcher I use on my son’s head, I rinsed my hair several times before the uh-oh struck like lightening. I suddenly noticed that each time I upended the vessel, I was shutting my eyes. Queasily, I peered over the edge of the tub. Sure enough, there was a puddle on the floor precisely where I had pulled the protective inner curtain away.
It was all my fault. I mean all of it. Like a complete imbecile, I had been dumping water over my head, and it was was escaping in all directions, going places I couldn’t see because my eyes were shut. I had been doing the equivalent of placing fingers in my ears and chanting “La! La! La!” to avoid hearing vital information. And why was I choosing this particular form of idiocy? Because I didn’t like the feel of wet plastic brushing against one side of my body whenever I bathed. I was looking for an exact experience and went after it without giving thought to some very obvious consequences. So strong was my desire to have things my way that I became unwilling to listen to wisdom. I had jumped planets to a world where fantasy reigned, and the laws of nature—like how water behaves vis-a-vis gravity—could be broken willy-nilly
Feeling a hangdog heaviness in my heart, I dressed and went over to talk to my husband. As it turned out, I explained, I was the one full of &*%# and not him. He had been completely right about the grout. Water was not magically penetrating the bathtub and puddling at its base on the other side. It was ricocheting off of me and my blessed head. No laws of physics had been broken. The only thing shot to pieces was my pride. I’m not sure that I ever said the words: Will you forgive me?—but my husband absolved me anyway. I suppose after nearly thirty years of marriage, he has developed a high tolerance for the inanities that escape my mouth. He does not snatch at the bait I toss when I go off-kilter. For the most part, and I do mean most, he remains calm and lets the storm pass. Perhaps it’s because he knows that I love Jesus and that sooner or later, my Savior is going to step in and take over. He’s going to stop the destructive spree I’m on and help me see sense.
Then it’s time for me to do my part—admit my trespass and try to make amends. For what good is truth if, in our shame, we bury it so deep that it cannot form the bridges and shelters we so desperately need? I believe that the closer you are to someone in a relationship, the more important it is to thank them for what they give you. And, in my husband’s case, for what they do not. For the forbearance they offer instead of backlash.
I confess, while writing this post I’ve had one word on my mind the whole time. It’s not pretty word, but it’s a Biblical word, despite how it’s used in common parlance today. The text which contains it is the following, derived from the King James Version:
The ox knoweth his owner
And the ass his master’s crib
But Israel does not know
My people doth not consider
Do you hear the reverberation? Know the word the word I am thinking about?
I keep asking: why was I acting like such an ass that night? A dumb animal who doesn’t even know who provides her food (via the “crib”). In my case this literally proves true, since stay-at-home moms who moonlight as Bible scholars don’t earn much. (My husband jokes with me that I’m his tax write-off. I do not protest because I know what side my proverbial bread holds the butter.)
And the deeper, more disturbing question is: why was I so darn willful about the whole thing?
The only answer that I can come up with branches in two directions. First, I like my bath to be my haven, one of the few places where things go 100% my way. After years of raising a special-needs child (my 10-year-old boy has autism), I have had to forego many of my own desires. Some of them are quite profound, like being able to converse with him normally or have him be more flexible, more willing to try new things. I wish I didn’t have to cope with him melting down when being asked to wait or being told “no” when he really wants something. Autism, I have learned, doesn’t care if I’m tired, desperate for a certain outcome, or afraid of nightmarish behavior. In my opinion, autism gets its way much too often.
The other half of my answer is this: I’m a catastrophic thinker. I’m just waiting for hell to break loose in any given situation. Though I wouldn’t have been able to articulate it to you that night, I couldn’t imagine there being a benign explanation to the bathroom puddle, something easily remedied. I was convinced, without even thinking it through, that something was truly wrong with the tub that would turn into one more problem I’d have to confront. I often feel pretty maxed out just living my daily life, thank you. When it comes to collecting troubles, I don’t need any extras, especially those that slam into you from out of nowhere.
If one returns to the Isaiah text, God ruthlessly addresses Israel’s apostasy, lamenting their sinful behavior towards Him and each other. He is sick of their insistence on “doing religion” exactly their own way: making tons of blood sacrifices at the altar but living an altogether corrupt life. In essence, they want to immerse themselves in comfort with their eyes closed, stubbornly ignorant of the mess they are making of things, of how the Recipient of their ceremonial gestures might actually feel about them (see Is. 1:11–15).
One hopeful nugget does shine out amidst all the divine lambasting, however:
Come now, let us reason together
Saith the Lord
Though your sins be as scarlet
They shall be white as snow
Thought they be red like crimson,
They shall be as wool.
If ye be willing and obedient,
Ye shall eat the good of the land.
But if ye refuse and rebel
Ye shall be devoured with the sword
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken
As with Adam and Eve in Eden, the real treasure God gives His children is the ability to choose what one will do, with consequences clearly explained.
One is not predestined to be an ass.
Even the most depleted or fearful amongst us can still choose to look our Savior’s way and say, “Sorry.” His heart is to forgive you and feed you the good of the land, whatever that might mean in your context.
Sadly, I know that the bathtub debacle is not the last time I will ever be obnoxious to my husband. Gratefully, I know he will forgive me again, offering me truth and love until I can finally partake of them. In this he shines the image of his Maker most powerfully to my heart. You have the same power too.
Please save us from ourselves
From our insistence on our own way
From our devotion to false beliefs.
Give us instead the truth
And the humility to act on it.
And thanks for those boundaries of grace
That keep the mess contained
So often apart from our knowledge.
How we need them—
For ourselves, and for others!
So we pray in Your name,