Making Adjustments (2)
Lewis recognises a sacrifice when he sees one. That is why, reflecting on his sixteen years marital journey with Martha, he does not fail to identify all the adjustments his lady has made for him and their children — emotional, physical, time, and even career adjustments — that helped to vanquish the fear he used to entertain before entering this marriage.
Recounting them in a letter to Martha makes those sacrifices sound out of this world, but to Lewis they are real and unforgettable.
But — and here is where you've given me a sweet surprise — what I feared did not come upon me; rather, something beautiful came to me. Initially, I noticed how your speed and my slowness conflicted, especially whenever we had to go somewhere together — church, outings, travel, market, shop, or visiting.
You would be ready long before I would be, and then you had to wait. Sometimes, as a result, we would be late or fail to arrive as early as was required.
I could read from your actions that you were not too amused with my slow coach attitude, but never once have you lost your temper because of it.
That has been truly golden, my lady Martha. You've been gentle with me and borne with what I consider to be my utmost physical weakness.
I've now realised that you've adjusted to this so well that you've slowed down to my pace. Yes, I have also tried to speed up a little bit, but every now and then I lapse back to my slow motion, and still you've come alongside me.
I've even noticed that whenever we are walking together and you see me lagging behind, you deliberately slow down in order for us to walk side-by-side.
And when you really want us to speed up, you hold my hand, palm-to-palm, not to pull me along but to get me close to you.
Maybe the very thing I dreaded — your speed, your active- ness — was the very thing my inner being craved for. Maybe it is true after all that opposites attract.
But I really doubt if mere opposites without a quality inner character will bring any positive attraction. I believe the attraction of opposites is admirable only if something beautiful comes out of it — as in your case, Martha, for you've not used our differences to intimidate me but to show me your love.
I will tell you another adjustment you've made that has added much value to our marriage and made it the best in the world. It's the best because I know no other marriage, and I'll not give up this one for any other.
When I was growing up as a young boy, I found something peculiar about my “days” and my “nights” that used to work against me somehow. I noticed that I worked better at night and not so well in the day, so I often worked deep into the night.
Consequently, waking up early in the morning to do chores before school was quite a hassle for me. Unfortunately for me, I carried this rather unusual habit into university and to my job place as a young marketing executive.
It's been a struggle, especially managing to report to work in time. Once I asked my boss if I could report to work at 9 a.m. and close at 6 p.m. instead of the traditional 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. working hours and he gave me an emphatic no!
I never related my situation to my marriage until during our counselling sessions when we treated the subject, “adjustments in marriage”.
I realised I was up against an uphill task when I once asked you when you normally wake up from bed and you said 4 a.m.!
You had your devotional quiet time and meditation at dawn while the Lord and I met at night. How were an early riser and a late one going to adjust?
But, Martha, you're a great woman. These sixteen years, I've seen you've made a tremendous shift from being both an early riser and staying late to meditate with me.
There have been times when I've tried to rise up early for our quiet time together but only dozed off. Yet, you've always accommodated my weaknesses.
I'm still trying to adjust to the mornings, but I think you've noticed how I'm struggling. I don't feel very comfortable that you are the one who has to wake up early and prepare our three children for school.
Now, here is the mother of all the adjustments, for you did what is an unthinkable thing to do these days. For our sakes, mine and the children's, you decided to make an all-time sacrifice; you resigned from your fine job as a midwife.
“Are you sure you want to do this, Martha?” I asked you when you mentioned this to me.
“And why? Why would you do this?”
“Well,” you said, and I watched you speak those golden words, “For your sake and the children's. Your work as a marketing executive is demanding and you are a church leader serving the Lord.
The three children we wanted are all here now. With both of us working we have to leave them at the nursery from morning till evening.
Think about it, my dear. If this continues for long we shall become absentee parents . . . what am I saying? We've already joined the APC — the Absentee Parents' Club! We must do something about it, and, looking at the circumstances, the best thing is for me to resign.”
I'm not sure I've reconstructed your statement exactly, but I believe it was along those lines. Knowing how much you had already adjusted to our living situation, I didn't know how to react to this one, and I didn't give my permission immediately; but you persisted until I was certain your decision was well thought-through and not half-baked.
“But . . .” I hesitated, for I had one concern.
“What?” you asked, and when I still hesitated, you said it; for it was obvious you knew my concern. “You are thinking about the two salaries we need in order to cater for our family.”
“Yes,” I said, nodding vigorously.
“I've thought about it, Lewis,” you said. “I'll learn a new skill.”
You did learn a new skill: dressmaking. I still can't believe how a midwife could turn into a fashion-designer in two years!
You used most of your savings to pay your home-tuition fees; and you managed the salary I brought to the house in such a way that it kept us going. We took a few loans, but by and large we got by.
Today your sewing brings in more money than your midwifery salary used to, and yet you've had time for our growing children. I can only say thank you, Martha; thank you again very much!
Anybody reading this letter will think I married an angel. Well, I'm glad I'm writing this letter to you personally and not to anybody.
Let anybody think what they will, but I know I didn't marry an angel, Martha. Why, we've had our arguments and small fights.
As I write these praise words to you, of course, I know about those times when we've argued over petty as well as significant matters — like when you wouldn't listen to the complaints I brought from my workplace the other day because you were busily designing and sewing for your customers who needed their dresses for Christmas.
You saw the fury in me that day, didn't you? — and I saw your fury too! I was so furious I went to the main switch and cut the electricity power, plunging the whole house into darkness!
That day I did what the counsellors said we should not do: carrying frustration from the workplace to the house and unleashing it on spouse and children.
I forced everybody to bed that night, sewing or no sewing. Then it was your turn to burst out in anger and you did it quite well! Who said I married an angel? Yet you are like an angel to me, Martha, despite our little conflicts.
Even then, I remember it was you who, before rising up at your usual dawn, asked me if I was still angry with you. I was quite ashamed and couldn't talk.
“So you're still angry with me?” you asked again.
“Yes,” I said.
“So am I, but I'm sorry!” you said. And you said that so softly I felt even more ashamed for treating you like that when you had sacrificed so much for me. Although we settled it, I still feel ashamed about it.
I could say more, but it's all wrapped up in these few words. Happy Sixteenth Anniversary, my dear; you've been more than a helpmate to me. You've been the missing rib by my side. Because of you, I'm a happy husband. I just wanted to tell you this.
Your husband, Lewis