Yesterday’s gospel reading at church was the story about the weeds that grew up when an enemy sowed bad seed in a field planted with good wheat. The pastor told a story from his own childhood that dramatically emphasized the teaching about trying to get rid of weeds while a good crop was growing. His grandfather started a major conflagration because he simply tried to burn up a bull nettle which had gone to seed. The objective was to prevent the nettle from seeding the field, but the outcome was that the field was burned to a crisp and four fire departments worked all day to put out the fire. A simple, benign beginning led to a complicated, destructive end.
I know how that feels. Last night after supper my husband asked me when I expected to receive an item I had purchased on EBay. It sounds like a harmless question. However, when I tried to answer, I must have spoken with a tone in my voice. My husband responded to my tone with a tone in his own voice. The battle was on.
We rarely argue, but when we do, this is the sort of argument we have. We don’t argue about money or about the destination for our next cruise. When we talk about major issues, we discuss things. It is a reasoned conversation between two adults. However, let the subject stray to the right way to copy and paste a tracking number to the field on the Post Office web site, and the battle is on.
I have thought about this problem a lot. I even pray about it. Today I think I might be starting to understand what is happening. I think Satan is sowing weed seeds in the field of our life together. He can’t seem to sneak into discussions on major topics, because we are more vigilant at such times. We both know that weighty subjects invite disagreement, and we expect to need a peaceful resolution of our differences. It is a lot easier to catch us off guard when we are discussing something trivial.
One of the sad things about hurt feelings is that nobody can let go until the pain stops. The pain will not stop until the argument stops. The argument won’t stop until each of us has justified what we said and what we did and what we thought. Last night this verbal brawl continued for nearly thirty minutes. Eventually the dust settled, but nobody was happy. I have a real problem with this situation, because even now, thinking back to the whole episode, I do not know when the battle set in. In my memory, it seems as if we were having a quiet after-dinner conversation and suddenly things exploded. Neither of us remembers doing anything that should have struck sparks, yet both of us were striking enough sparks to light up the whole neighborhood. And like a dog with a bone, once we started, neither of us could let go. Each of us felt a deep need to explain to the other what the other had done to inflict a wound.
Satan is wily. Satan can use anything and anyone to spread his evil around. Last night, he used some innocent statement and an unintended tone of voice to inflict a wound in our relationship. Each of us actually believed that the other person had behaved with spite and condescension. We know better than that. When I consider the sorts of trials we have endured together, helping each other and supporting each other, I am baffled to see how easy it is for a trifling statement to be so easily misconstrued.
I don’t have an answer to this problem. I wish I did. I think it would be good if we could see how silly it is to act this way and start laughing about it. Sadly, I think if either of us had burst into laughter last night, it might have been the last straw. In the Bible, we are promised that if we seek wisdom and ask God for it, God will hear that prayer and give us the wisdom we need. We certainly need something. I’m praying for us to have the wisdom and insight we need to arrest any such future outbursts early. Our marriage is the best earthly thing in my life. To continue the image I started with, our life together is like a lovely landscaped lawn. Outbursts like our argument last night evoke an image of Satan blowing a dandelion head spreading those deceptively cute little pesty seeds all over the place. If we don’t put a stop to such things, our relationship is at risk of looking like a field of dandelions instead of a lawn. I think that if Satan finds himself unable actually to destroy our marriage, he is happy to settle for simply messing up our fun.