I should have known better.
The book I've been trying to read on how to be a better wife clearly stated this was not the proper response to the situation, but I went right on and responded anyway.
We've been going through what seems like a never ending broken refrigerator saga. We find someone to fix it, and he stands us up. We find someone to actually come and fix it, and it breaks again. We buy another one, and it doesn't fit. We get it to fit, and the water dispenser doesn't work.
Welcome to homeownership, we are told.
All this to say my frustration had been steadily building. Mike's frustration had also been steadily building, judging from the banging and huffing I heard from the kitchen as he ripped out our base board to create just enough room to literally jam in the new refrigerator.
And after he had worked so hard, soaked himself with sweat and cut his finger in the process, I came in and began spewing words of doubt, discouragement and regret all over him. We should not have bought this fridge. I think we got ripped off. Our kitchen looks so ugly now. Why did we do this?
Of course, what my husband hears is, It's all your fault.
Though I didn't intend to totally blame him, I've learned yet another lesson on how much my words affect him; they can leave him built up, eyes bright with encouragement or they can leave him torn down, shoulders slumped in defeat.
I realize this is how it starts. How two people who love each other and vow to love each other the rest of their lives become estranged roommates...maybe even total strangers.
With nouns and verbs and adjectives bunched and thrown and stuffed together without thought. With small skirmishes of careless words. With tiny decisions to make myself feel better at his expense. Over time, they have the potential to erode until nothing is left but a fragment of a thing that we once called a marriage.
I know this sounds kind of dramatic. But I really believe that part of being made in the image of God means that the words we speak have power behind them. We don't create oceans and mountains and stars when we speak, but our words do carry weight with enough force to create unity and peace, strife and bitterness, pain and joy. And it is a choice, a responsibility, to gather words that when spoken bring forth life instead of destruction.
As I stood there in our kitchen, offering words of apology and trying to sort out the mess my previous words had made, my husband asked me if I'd like to go outside with him to pull out elephant grass.
Of all things.
But another thing I'm learning is that even a simple word spoken with care and followed with love can carry enough weight to repair what many jumbled and reckless words broke down.
So I gave him the best word I could come up with, though it wasn't exactly eloquent and though elephant grass-pulling was about the last thing I wanted to do in that moment.
I said, Okay.
But it's funny because the weight of that tiny okay, that choice to show love instead of to self protect, worked it's magic while I picked and pulled and threw that grass into the garbage can with my husband. The burden of those previous syllables began to lighten, and I didn't feel so frustrated anymore. I won't pretend everything was picture perfect in a second, but it helped.
My one-word peace offering.
I'm learning sometimes a word is all it takes. Sometimes it takes many. And sometimes none at all.
Whether the next time calls for many or just a few, I hope I can be a good steward of the words I gather.