Monday, August 13, 2012

Mission: Perspective

A version of this article was published at Ignitum Today.

It’s interesting how different reality looks when it’s on paper, in neat paragraphs, all in the right order. There, I am a powerhouse. I am strong; I am adventurous; I am embarking on a mission with eternal consequences and not looking back.

But for all my talk of heroism and mission, I’m often tempted to throw in the towel, despair, and give up.

I wrote earlier about how marriage is a mission, and how Christian married couples, if they shine as beacons of virtue, can take the world by storm and save the world from its sexual dysfunction.

But right now I don’t feel like taking the world by storm, or shining as a beacon of virtue. I feel kind of sullen and selfish. I’m mad at my husband (of just over a month) for asking me to leave the dishes for him when he gets home from work. I’m mad at him for buying a stick shift (the former bachelor thought it was manly) instead of an automatic. I’m mad at him for owning four coffee makers when I don’t drink coffee and our counter and cupboard space is cramped.

And, after spending much of our engagement preaching loudly about how stupid it is to expect a flawless wedding day, I’m still trying to compose the perfect toast for the occasion, and trying to make myself have given it.

When I start writing, I start trying to take the world by storm again. I start thinking I’m better than everyone else, as if putting heroism and virtue into paragraphs was the same as living it. (I am virtuous. You can tell because I’m happy. Admit it – I’m just oozing with irresistible joy, and you’re about to convert because of it.)

It isn’t enough to say these things. We must live them. And yes, marriage is a mission, and it requires hard work and discipline, just like marathons and Amazon explorations. But I’m on duty even when I’m not feeling strong and adventurous.

Some days I’m ready for a fistfight or wrestling match with whatever power of evil would tempt me to love my dear husband less. Some days I’m ready to climb mountains and soar. But some days I’m just tired.

Some days I have a bad cold, or a stressful afternoon, or not enough sleep last night. I’m a woman, and some days my hormones do weird things. Some days I don’t feel like cooking, and some days we don’t have leftovers. Sometimes my sense of adventure just has to wait.

But I have to love anyway. My mission doesn’t change, even on days when I’m just not feeling it. I don’t have to feel strong and powerful in order to love deeply and steadily.

Maybe instead of wielding a sword and forcing myself to be happy, darnit, about the coffee makers, the stick shift, the offer to wash dishes, I should just shrug and look the other way. I’m annoyed about some petty things. Okay. I know that, in the past, I’ve laughed about the coffee makers, felt proud at how far my stick-shift driving has come, and been grateful for his offers to help with housework. Those were emotions, too, and they’ll come back.

I never promised to be passionate; I didn’t vow inexhaustible energy or permanent cheer. When I’m not in the mood to deliver a powerful blow to the enemy’s face, when all I can do is sigh and return to my work – that’s what I must do. That’s my fidelity and commitment. That’s the love and honor I did vow.

And, for the days I don’t feel like doing anything heroic – that’s my job. And I can do that.

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