I think it’s funny that Justin Bieber’s latest hit song…, What Do You Mean? Is asking the million dollar question my husband’s asked me for years. Now, I’m not saying I am a BIG Justin Bieber fan, but I do think he’s onto something BIG. A felt need perhaps? A spoken request by men to understand what makes women tick. Or tock? You know, something to give them fair and proper warning. Like on a roller coaster, you want to know when to grab hold for dear life, for fear of being sucked out. That kind of warning is helpful.
My husband can attest — often times — there is no fair warning. An undone toothpaste cap or a wringing wet hand-towel, might just be enough to set off a string of emotions, replaying a Christmas faux-pa from ten Christmases ago. And I’m sorry; who knew the tree trunk was crooked and made a better sling shot than a Christmas tree!!?? The squirrels appreciated shelter, while our tree took a long winters nap. A blue spruce snoozing right where it landed after my husband heaved it like a football off the back porch. But no worries. I’m over frozen candy-canes. I’ve learned to let-it-go.
In fact, God’s word reminds that I’m a new creation. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old is gone, the new is here.” (2 Cor. 5:17). I can fall back on truth. Although, I may not be the most effective communicator — I can improve. I don’t know about you, but I get pretty excited thinking of other aspects of my character as a “new and improved.”
I mean, the kids used to get giddy when there was a new and improved box of cereal coming out. A new toy? A few new spoonfuls of sugar? Cereal chants could be heard from aisle 2, back to aisle 8. Yaaa new cereal! And I wonder? Would a new and improved mom really be that bad? Maybe a mom that gets groceries on a regular basis and never sighs because the dryer lint is taking over the laundry room like a Wooly Mammoth. Really, who needs Reality TV?
Besides a new improved mom wouldn’t dare have three, or four, laundry baskets heaped of unmatched socks delicately teetering to the ceiling. Can I hear a, “Yaaa mom?” The improved mom would be a delight to a house of three sockless children and one sockless honey. “Never underestimate the power of the flip flop people!” The unimproved mom might say. Besides, she may miss the morning banter and familiar familial question: Do we have any clean socks? It’s funny though. When I say, “They’re in the dryer,” they never ask “What do you mean?” They know when I say “They are in the dryer,” that the socks are permanently pasted to the sides of the dryer drum because I didn’t have the courage, nor the time, to peel them off and start another basket of unmatched socks. Sigh.
Say What You Mean … And it’s true. My husband no longer asks “What do you mean?” when I say and do things. Not as much, anyway. I think he’s picked up on a few tendencies over the past twenty-something years. For instance, he knows what I mean when he asks, “What’s wrong?” and I reply “Nothing.” He knows there’s definitely “Something.” Unfortunately for Jerry — It is rocket science.
And when he comes home from work, and I’m pounding the life out of lifeless hamburger. When he asks if everything’s okay. And I respond with, “It’s fine.” He knows “fine” is simply a code word for, “I happened to hit the bright yellow, radial-mega-tractor-tire strategically placed around a pole, that I completely didn’t see, while backing out of the parking lot at Agramart leaving paint the color of the sun on the back of our white-white vehicle. I mean — I broke it!” Poor guy gets the venting-version most days. He just smiles and gives me a hug. No inquiries — no in depth depositions needed. Just hugs. And I mean it when I say “I’m fine with that,”’ I think?
What Do I Mean??? … However, scripture encourages to “Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No,’…” (Matt. 5:37). God knows effective communication is a primary source to relational bliss. Jerry is unable to know (or even guess), what swirls and clashes in my mind. And although many women are exceptional mind-multitaskers — we still need to communicate in a mono-focused (Oh yea, made that word up.) manner. Asking yourself, “What is the succinct message I’d like this person to walk away with? Can keep efforts in check. And I know this sounds like Basic Communications 101, but try being concise when you’re in a hearty discussion (fight). It’s a little like stopping a Christmas tree in mid-air when it’s been heaved at warp speed. It can get hard to stop the jabs, and a sticky mess if you don’t.
Early on in my marriage, however, every intense conversation (disagreement) came jam packed with emotions (hormones), making it difficult to sort through. Let alone, handing the baggage to my husband and saying, “Here unpack this — just let me know what you come up with.” He would ask questions like, What do you want me to say? What do you want me to do? Ummm…??? Sometimes I didn’t know what I needed or how I needed it. Still don’t some days. But I read God’s word—allowing him to Renovate. Besides, God knows what to do with all my baggage.
Mean What You Say … When our daughter was in nursing school, she came home with a statistic claiming 75% of marriages with a chronically ill child, end in divorce. And although, at first glance those numbers seem inflated, dealing with any illness can keep stress high and words at a minimum. Admittedly, functioning was difficult when our oldest daughter became ill. We leaned into our faith like oaks lean heavy from a storms rage. Our roots deep, but our leaves took a major beating. Life hurt.
And because a painful crisis is just that — pain-filled — I couldn’t look into Jerry’s eyes without feeling more of what I didn’t want to feel. Silence rushed in and settled like a dense fog over our relationship, that no amount of date nights would lift. Our communication strained, we prayed often, and made few words count. Which meant I better mean what I say. Filtering my words through sheer exhaustion meant valuable words like “I’m sorry, and “I love you,” were all the expressions our hearts needed while dragging our tired toes to bed at night. God knows — and so do best friends: Sometimes in life — there are no words.
For me, silence is often when prayer overcomes. And unlike Justin Bieber, God knows the million dollar answer to the question, “What do you mean?” He doesn’t even have to ask. And I’m really “fine” with that.
“…Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matt4:4). All Scripture Referenced NIV.