It says something about me that I always have a story. And whatever it says, it’s not good. I mean who looks for a storied person in a spouse, right? Only Will Jackson does. Actually that’s not what he was looking for either, but that’s what he got. Poor baby.
On Saturday, we had our usual baseball double-header. Will’s game and Nate’s game overlapped, meaning we had to take two cars. At Nate’s game I parked in a different parking lot than Will.
During the game when Nate was about to bat, a man came around with a question. It should be noted that I thought I had met this man around town and chatted with him about the overlap of his sons’ and my sons’ swimming and baseball interests. But I guess, in retrospect, it’s extremely unlikely that it was him.
Anyway, he was saying, “Does someone here have a gold car? Anyone have a gold car, because I’m blocked in.” I knew I wasn’t parked behind anyone and I definitely didn’t have a gold car.
“Anyone here have a gold car or a blue van?” Nope, I thought. But Will looked at me with eyebrows raised and sunglasses on the tip of his nose, as if to say, “Did you block somebody?” Or maybe even, “Is your van bluish?” But I had a nice firm, “no,” to all these questions.
Nate singled. We cheered. The next batter got the third out and this meant Nate was going in as pitcher. Then the “blocked” man was back. With a very different question. And a statement.
“Does anyone here have a gray van? Because I just hit it.”
I popped up because I do have a gray van and knew with certainty that this was the van he hit.
As I hustled up the little hill, the situation became clear. This was almost certainly not my acquaintance from local baseball fields — that is unless he drives a semi-truck for Harris Teeter! I hadn’t been paying attention to his uniform or understanding the true situation at all. It was not some car blocked by a “gold car” or a”blue minivan.” It was a huge tractor-trailer trying to angle back into an alley between the ball field and the back of a grocery store.
The damage is hardly severe: taillight smashed. However, Will was not pleased. We had a fairly quiet but also quite contentious discussion right there on the bleachers when I came back. I don’t know the last time we had a public disagreement, but this was a reminder of how dreadful it is. The issue for us is information processing. I’m too literal. I was not blocking some car in. I knew that for sure. And my van is not blue. I knew that for sure too. But Will’s little eyebrow move was his communication that I’d better go check. His information processing, not having seen where I parked, left him with the seed of doubt that I could be involved in this “blocking.” And honestly, if Nate wasn’t on deck I would’ve been more likely to go assess the situation. But “hindsight is 50/50” as Steve Spurrier once said.
And I bet if you’ve been married for a while you have had occasion to implement conflict resolution involving vehicular damage too. Cuz baby this ain’t a first for us. In our first year of marriage Will got smashed into by a guy running a red light in New Orleans. Fortunately, Will was unharmed and the other driver pulled over momentarily, reeking of alcohol, slurred out, “Take it to Sammy’s garage,” and drove off.
We also had one car for years. This was its own trial. In the late 1990’s we lived in a high rise apartment and our assigned parking in the garage was next to an Oldsmobile 88, which is a ginormous, boat-like machine. One morning when Will was backing out and I was the passenger, Will got caught on the Olds’s bumper. Do you know what he did? He floored it.
“What was that?” I said.
“I had to break free from the beast,” he answered.
He’s hit parked cars. I’ve rear-ended people and been rear-ended. One time I hit his car. I was just getting over the H1N1 virus and was thinking maybe getting out of the house for a few minutes would do me some good. It was before I had Lasik and was going to get my glasses adjusted (Sammy had a gift for bending them out of shape about every other day, and wearing glasses that are three inches higher on one side of your nose is not an esteem-booster). Anyway as I backed out, groggy and feeling terrible, I clipped Will’s car. I was convinced that the dent formed could be plunged out, but alas my plunging efforts did not prevail.
So what do you do when you have conflict involving vehicular damage? Do you try to listen well? Do you try to understand how your spouse could’ve reasoned through, however erroneously, their action, or in this case, inaction? It doesn’t really matter what the conflict is. In fact, it doesn’t matter if there isn’t any conflict at all. Being a good listener is vital. And despite that comical Klondike ad, listening well comes naturally when we are patient and kind.
So I’m praying today that my own marriage will be characterized by patience and kindness flowing like a fountain that never runs dry. May my marriage and those around me embody the words of Paul from 1 Corinthians 13:4a:
- Love suffers long and is kind (NKJV)
- Love endures long and is patient and kind (AMP)
- Charity suffereth long, and is kind (KJV)
- This love of which I speak is slow to lose patience—it looks for a way of being constructive (J.B. Phillips NT)
Or as Peterson paraphrases Paul in the Message:
Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.