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Opinion | Family

Fighting with My Husband and the Work of Shalom

Do I proclaim radical love for the world even as I neglect to care for those closest to me?
Fighting with My Husband and the Work of Shalom
Image: Karpova / Shutterstock

Jonathan stopped by at midday to pick something up at the house, and we had a fight. I would call it an argument, but that sounds too reasonable, like we were coolly debating opposing sides of an issue. Logical. Rational. Collected. The stuff to make marriage therapists proud.

This was hardly that.

Because most often what we’re arguing about—in this case a decision about our daughter’s schooling—isn’t really what we’re arguing about. What we are actually arguing about is our fears, anxieties, identities, and hopes. We were really arguing about how we love our daughter and feel a chasm—a terrifying chasm—between our responsibility for her and our ability to bear it well. We were grieving the reality of our limitedness and our inability to rescue our daughter from suffering in our broken world—and even in our broken family.

And we were arguing about the sharpness in our voices, and who interrupts whom, and how often, and about a passing comment he made yesterday and a look I gave this morning.

These are the patterns in family life that make it hard to be patient and gentle and kind. I’m not mad that you threw your shirt on the floor today; I’m mad about the last 300 times you’ve thrown your shirt on the floor. Or, more painfully, it’s not just that I’m mad about your criticism today, it’s how a pattern of criticism, comment by passing comment, bumps up against my own patterns of sin, woundedness, ...

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