On the Side: December 2018
The Dark Road
by Carol Shrader
My 12-year-old looked at me as we approached the exit for our usual shortcut home and said “Mom, I think we should go the long way. I can’t see well enough tonight to look for deer.”
And I heard in that statement an immense pressure to keep us safe. I heard in her sweet voice, the weight of staring into the dark and straining to see any animals that might on a whim jump in front of our vehicle. And I heard in my baby girl’s voice cares that I never intended her to carry.
That road is dark. And because it is protected land, the deer know to stay in those woods. So, you rarely have a conversation in Mississippi where someone doesn’t mention the time they hit a deer on the Natchez Trace, or were in an accident swerving to miss a deer, or were hit BY a deer. You get the picture. Apparently, I have been “on the lookout” a bit too strenuously. I have voiced my fears a bit too often. And I have asked for help in the lookout so much that it left my girl thinking there was no way we could safely navigate that road without her help.
Now, before we go on, please rest assured that Cate and I had a long conversation about how it is my responsibility to keep HER safe, not the other way around. And I think she understands. But man, that conversation still rattles in my head.
How often do I unknowingly burden my loved ones with the weight of expectations? How often do I say something in passing that becomes a burden they pick up and carry around?
I am guessing here, but I bet it is pretty often.
Wade and I are preparing to finalize the purchase of our home for this upcoming move to Delaware. The house situation has dominated our thoughts, conversations, even dreams, for months and months. We have literally been in numerous contracts that fell through for a number of reasons. But today, we are less than two weeks away from closing, so I am taking slightly deeper breaths.
In the midst of the home search, I made an off-hand comment about the outward appearance of one house. It was ok but didn’t excite me. I really didn’t mean anything beyond a casual note. My husband took it very seriously. The search is complicated by our need for accessibility for our sons and open floor plans for the wheelchair to navigate. And now, my husband was desperately trying to find a home that met those physical needs and also LOOKED on the outside in some undefined way that would excite me.
He was carrying a load that I placed squarely in his hands and, yet, I was oblivious for weeks.
In the world today, marriage can be billed as 50/50—an equal partnership. The world says that you meet his needs, he meets yours and all will be well. The world says consequently that if he doesn’t meet your needs—and those can be as undefined as the exterior of the home we searched for—then you are free to walk away.
Oh, maybe your friend in your mom’s group told you her husband gives the littles their baths every night so she can have some down time. Or maybe one of your friends doesn’t ever have to wash the dishes, her husband believes that to be his contribution to the evening meal.
I wish I could look you in the eyes as I say this: comparing your medical marriage to a non-medical one could stack steamer trunks of baggage onto your husband’s back! Expecting—demanding even—a 50/50 split in responsibilities in the home could pile the weight into those steamer trunks you have asked your husband to carry.
Now don’t get me wrong, I am not saying your husband is never going to wash a dish or give your child a bath. I am not saying that at all. But I am saying that every single day your husband goes to work and quite possibly has the life of more than one person in his literal hands. His hours are long. His stress is real.
And if we choose to whine, complain or compare—passively or overtly—about some assumed 50/50 partnership, we are heaping more burdens onto his back, rather than offsetting some. We are, frankly, choosing to NOT serve alongside him, but rather demand he serve us.
“Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife” (Proverbs 21:9, NIV 1984, and Proverbs 25:24, NIV 1984).
Oh listen, I know. You don’t mean to be quarrelsome. You might not even describe yourself as such. But when we are counting on our man to meet all our needs, there are going to be times our needs turn to whines, and times our whines turn to nags, and times when all we seem is quarrelsome.
Sit with me here. I had triplets who were two years old when we started residency. I understand wanting some 50/50 help. I even understand quarreling about it. This is not a case of the pot calling the kettle black. I am here as a pot, saying, hey kettle, sit next to me, I think we can be friends.
Because I know you are also doing hard things. You could also have a stressful job. You could have children at home. You could be far removed from any other family and tangible help. I know.
“The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail” (Isaiah 58:11, NIV 1984).
Doesn’t that just make you swoon? I want to be a spring whose waters never fail—I want to be a well-watered garden.
“And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19, NIV 1984).
Read that one again. Who will meet all your needs? Not your man. Not your children. Your GOD will meet your needs. God will hold you. He will strengthen you. He will soften your heart so that you can choose to minister alongside your husband. (He can even soften your tongue so you don’t send your guy to the corner of the roof!)
Sometimes, navigating our medical marriage can seem as challenging as avoiding deer on the Natchez Trace in the dark. But dear ones, we know the one who can light the path. I’m praying this month that you let Him light the way!
Carol Mason Shrader is wife to her wonderful Wade, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon, and mom to Benjamin, Mason, Claire (21 year olds) and Cate (who just turned 13!). She is preparing to move – again – and begging God to keep her garden watered in the transition!