For some reason, when I stand up to preach a sermon (my vocation) I can present my thoughts with clarity. But when I am in a personal conversation I often utter things that leave me befuddled and my conversation partner dismayed. My wife asks, “Why is it that when you are doing ministry you have such wisdom but when you enter this house you turn into a halfwit?” I just tell her it’s a gift—one I’m happy to share with her.
One particular conversation will remain current in our relationship forever because it is eternally quotable and uncannily useful. But it was an accident.
I can’t remember the conversation before but I do remember that I was in trouble—lots of trouble. I had said or done something insensitive (probably a combination of both) and was not doing well formulating an apology.
Paul tells us, “Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry” (Ephesians 4:26). Well, it was too late for that. We were laying in the dark, in silence. And I knew it was my turn to say something. Something helpful.
What should I say? She clearly had the upper hand because I had been the dolt who had opened my big mouth before consulting the wisdom centre of my brain (which, as previously alluded to, is only open during business hours).
Thoughts were racing through my mind. I remember feeling very disappointed in myself for treating my wife so poorly. I didn’t feel like a very good person at all.
I also knew that the words I had said previously had been very hurtful. As had my attempt at an apology thus far. I hadn’t meant to say what I had said and I was sorry. But I couldn’t figure out the best way to say that.
Finally I decided to just say, “I am sorry.” But as I began to let the words out, I thought, sometimes I am such a useless person. So, my planned words and my unplanned thought combined to fill the dark void with the immortal words, “I’m a sorry person.”
I heard it come out of my mouth, so I knew I was the one who had said it. I felt it going wrong but I was already committed to making a statement and so I had to finish. But it was not what I had meant to say. Great, I thought, I’ve done it again. That didn’t help at all.
Then I heard something very unexpected from my wife. It started as a bit of a sniffle, turned into a giggle and soon she was convulsing with tears of laughter. When she was finally able to catch her breath, she said, “Truer words have never been spoken.” Then she went back into hysterics and I joined her in tears of laughter and relief.
There is something very healing about a good laugh. It has the power to turn bitter tears into sweet ones. And that’s just what happened that monumental night. The tissue box was still being used on my wife’s side of the bed but for a very different reason.
I say monumental because both my wife and I have a new technique for disarming potential setbacks in our relationship that involve me blurting and her hurting. Upon hearing me say something bordering on insensitive she now stops, turns and says, “You know, you’re a sorry person.” And I gingerly step across the eggshells I just dropped, wrap my arms around her and say, “Yes. More sorry than I can say. I love you.”
see the "Parently" section of this blog.