“You make me brave
You make me brave
No fear can hinder now
The love that made the way”
As the sanctuary filled with a congregation of voices singing these words from Bethel’s song “You Make Me Brave,” I felt his fingers reach for mine.
It was his brave act of the day.
You see, we’d had a rough month, my husband Ted and I. In fact, you could say we felt a bit like Alexander. You know, the little boy who had the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. Except ours dragged on and on and on for weeks.
While we hadn’t woken up one morning with gum in either of our hair or tripped on a skateboard before dropping any sweater in the sink, much like this literary poster boy for not-so-great days, we had one thing after another go wrong. Including a lousy car ride. If only our vehicle woes, like Alexander’s, could have been summed up by longings for a window seat.
Nope. Not ours.
Our troubles began with me and a dead car on a freeway off-ramp. Two hours from home and from Ted. In the middle of nowhere. Just me and our 8-year-old daughter and a car that had overheated itself to death.
What followed next was a series of frantic phone calls, a tow truck, a 30-minute $60 taxi ride, and a rental car. By the end of the day, I was physically, mentally, and emotionally beat.
Two days later, when we returned the rental car, we were over-charged. The over-charge demanding more than just our money. It cost us over an hour of time at the drop-off location along with tears of frustration as one of the managers attempted to pit Ted and me against each other. Both of us returned home exhausted.
It then took two weeks for the shop to even diagnose our car’s problem. And once they did? Well, the bill was enough to fund a weekend Disney World getaway for our family of six. Three weeks into the drama, we made the 2-hour trek to pick it up, only to find out 20 minutes after leaving the shop that the problem which had left me stranded still existed. Once again, our car needed a Mater-like lift back to the shop. Defeated, we drove home with one less car than we’d planned.
This was only the beginning, though.
On the heels of the rental car fiasco, came a stomach virus. And Ted’s blood pressure – an issue his doctor had been trying to manage for months – started inexplicably fluctuating again. The changes took both a physical and emotional toll on him. And us.
Yep, we had almost a month of what felt like terrible, horrible, no good, very bad … frustrations.
I wish I could say that Ted and I actively put into practice the words of James. The ones about “counting it all joy when you meet trials of various kinds.” Instead, we both got grumpy with each other. Very.
Fights. Lots of little, terrible, horrible, no good, very bad fights. Everything I’d written about in Team Us, we needed to go back and re-read ourselves. Yep, a communication sandwich or ten would have been helpful … if we’d only chosen to put the effort into making them.
But that morning, as we sang that song, Ted bravely reached across the frustrations and the grumpiness and the poor communication for my hand. Our relationship still strained, he put himself out there for rejection. Would I – his wife who wasn’t currently feeling connected with him – reach back? Or would I ignore his attempt? Would I shut him out?
As I felt his touch, I did reach back. I went against my feelings of hurt and irritation and disconnectedness and I interlocked my fingers with his. If Ted could be brave, I could be brave too.
Because if those terrible, horrible, no good, very bad weeks reminded me of anything, it was this: my feelings are fickle. They aren’t reliable. Sure, they can be convincing when I’m stressed and tired and grumpy. Yep, they seem real in those moments when I look at Ted and think, “Hmm … I don’t really like you all that much right now.” But they aren’t really.
The Bible confirms this. In the Old Testament, we read as God – through the weeping prophet Jeremiah – told the people of Judah, “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately sick; who can understand it?” How true this is. How much I need to be continually reminded of this truth about the heart. Ted’s heart. My heart.
You see, it’s in those moments when my feelings point me away from Ted, that I need to cling tightly to that promise I made for better and for worse. The promise that is weightier than dead cars and stomach viruses and weeks when we both could wear the shirt, “I’m with Grumpy.” It’s that promise that can and should trump my fickle feelings.
Every single time.
And here’s what’s interesting. I’m finding that when I do accept Ted’s hand – that is, when I respond with right action even if my feelings aren’t inclined to – that’s often the first step to reconciliation when we hit rough patches. Because my feelings? They’re fickle, remember? The funny thing about them is they’ll eventually follow where I choose to lead them. They’re good that way.
Maybe like Alexander, you’ve had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day recently. Or like Ted and me, a not-so-great month. Maybe it’s left you grumpy with your spouse too. If so, why not choose to be brave today? To reach across your own frustrations and take the other’s hand.
You may just find, like us, that with time, your feelings will soon remember how much you really do love each other, even like each other … bad days and all.
Ashleigh Slater is the author of the book, Team Us: Marriage Together (Moody Publishers). As the founder and editor of the webzine Ungrind and a regular contributor at several blogs, she unites the power of a good story with biblical truth and practical application to encourage couples. She has almost 20 years of writing experience and a master’s degree in communication. Ashleigh and her husband, Ted, have been married for more than a decade. They have four daughters and reside in Atlanta, Georgia. To learn more, visit AshleighSlater.com.