Relationships and Getting Along #1, The Great Underpants Incident of 2014

Hi all,

I think I’ve found a way to get out of housework – just mess up enough that Barb finally says, “Okay, okay, please, you always do it wrong, just let me do it from now on.”

Of course I don’t try to get out of housework, nor do I try to mess up, it just comes naturally.

 

As Barb has accurately observed, I use the washing machine like a trash can for clothes – I toss the dirty clothes in there until full over the course of a few days, hers and mine, and when full I just pour in detergent, shut the lid and do a load of laundry without a clue what clothes are in the machine. That explains why her red shirt was tossed in with my white underpants, a white t-shirt of mine, and some of her lightly colored things as well, turning everything a uniform color of pink.

 

For a few days until we could buy new underwear I just hoped the Father ordered my steps enough that my mother’s voice in my head telling me ‘Always wear clean underwear in case you’re in an accident’ would be proven false, as beneath my jeans I was wearing hot pink underwear that I would not want any emergency room attendant to see. I had imaginations of being carried in on a stretcher calling out in desperation; ‘I don’t normally wear pink underwear, really I don’t!’ before passing out. That wasn’t my first laundry offense, for by the time of the Great Pink Underpants Incident of 2014 we’d already been married 36 years or so. This was just the latest of offenses and the one that required new laundry rules.

 

I seem to always think and often say to Barb (usually under my breath) the ‘Man’s Prayer’ from Canada’s The Red Green Show: “I’m a man. I can change. If I have to. I guess.” And if I am really in trouble I fall back on the Red Green motto in pretend Latin: ““Quando omni flunkus moritati” (When all else fails, play dead)

 

So now that I am forbidden from washing any clothes of Barb’s it makes my life easier. I still see the washing machine as the dirty clothes hamper – but now I just throw mine or Chris’ in and ignore her pile of dirty clothes. Sometimes I look over at her pile and think; ‘I can do her clothes without harming anything’, and then I recognize that has to be from Satan and quickly rebuke any thought of doing her laundry.

 

No one told me this when I was a kid!

Nobody sat me down and said in premarital counseling in 1978; “Son, when you get married you are committing yourself to a lifetime of personal growth, change, development as a person and in Christ. Don’t think for a second you will change her and let not her think for a split second she will change you. You and Christ in both of you will change each other if you are both flexible, teachable, humble, transparent and honest, and willing to be stretched more ways than you can imagine. And part of that means there will come a day when you will have ruined enough clothes in the washing machine she will tell you that you are banned from washing her clothes. Go with it son, lay down your life for your wife and stay away from her laundry pile.”

 

If Barb’s pastor, Reverend Staton who married us, had said that to me I would have smiled broadly like a 10 year old child trying to be polite to a rocket scientist using technical terms to explain the velocity of a rocket leaving earth’s atmosphere in relation to the pounds of thrust and the pull of gravity considering the weight of the rocket and altitude of orbit desired. Picture a big toothy grin and wide eyes in which there would be nothing behind them to signify intelligent life. That would have been me back then.

 

I did it my way

When I gave my heart to the Lord when I was 16, no one told me I was signing up for a lifetime of constant change and personal growth. I thought of it as a sort of adventure, a great eternal explore, a brave new world in the kingdom of God, and first and foremost was that I had a Father again.

 

But when Barb and I started dating and I led her to the Lord (she was 15, I was 16 years old) I experienced my first real challenge to change. It seems so simple now, but a few months into dating Barb said “You always ask me what I want to do and where I want to go, but no matter what I say we end up doing what you want to do and going where you want to go.” I had to really and truly look down inside and examine myself and my history of decision making with her. I had to be brutally honest and humble and admit she was right. Where is THAT chapter and verse? Where wast THAT in any of our prayer and praise meetings of 1974 and 1975?

 

I learned for the first time that Barb is not one to make such an accusation unless she had the ammunition to back up her claim – with decision after decision recited to me, which meant for us at that tender young age date after date and meal after meal. No decisions more serious than that, but it helped each of us grow in Christ and together.

 

Decisions were like “I want to see x movie what do you want to see Barb?” She would respond “I would like to see Y movie” but then we would go see X movie which I could justify by ticket price, or the time the movie started, or we’d be out early enough to grab a bite to eat with our friends, or some well founded reason like that which I thought I was right for the overall, big picture view of the night. Up to that point I thought she saw what I saw of the big picture and how the night would flow perfectly. All she wanted was to see Y movie. The result was I thought I was making the decision for our greater good, but in reality she never got what she wanted. Ouch.

 

Fortunately I was growing in the Lord in other areas, so I had developed an attitude that every challenge in my life, even the challenge of a girlfriend I thought I was in love with, presented an opportunity to become more Christ-like. My earth-dad was out of the picture of my life in these matters so it was the heavenly Father who helped me work through the question if I was in love with her or not.

 

When He asked me “Would you give up your life for her?” it caused deep introspection, even at that young age of 16 I realized one does not offer a light weight answer to a heavy weight question the Father God asks. After a few days of searching my heart, I told the Father “I can answer your question now. Yes. I would.” I thought that would be that – I knew I was in love, yippee, yippee. But when He answered “Laying down your life for her may or may not mean in front of a firing squad, but it always means laying down your life in little ways for her every day. Your ideas, your plans, your thoughts, your priorities, serving and loving her as Christ does the church.” It rocked my teenage world with the sudden realization of what saying “I love you” to her meant. I was signing up for a life time of change, and it scared me.

 

And that is why NOT doing her laundry for her is laying down my life for her – no more pink clothes

When she made doing her laundry off-limits part of me wanted to react like that 16 year old kid who could explain the big picture that I saw and how having me help with her clothes (I could learn my lesson, really I could) would be the best big-picture decision I could make for us all. But the older and wiser me realized my big picture view meant nothing if her white and flowery unmentionables turned out pink when I did laundry.

 

Friend, neighbor, co-worker, or spouse, loving your neighbor as yourself first and foremost means personal growth for us. As I so often say, anyone can say they are born again, but their righteousness remains unproven and unseen. God has therefore designed His righteousness in us to be proven within the frame work of relationships. And that starts at home. Another ‘incident’ from the life and times of John & Barb next week. Until then, blessings,

John Fenn

 

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