It was two weeks after the unofficial start of summer, and I couldn’t believe my family was dealing with sickness again. The sickness had already hit my 3-year-old the previous week—but like most things—it couldn’t keep her down for long. We spent the weekend inside and I relaxed as much as my girl and her 5-month-old brother would allow. So I managed to stave it off, for the most part. My husband, however, wasn’t so lucky. He needed a lot more rest than usual.
That evening, we agreed that I would take the kids to the gym. It seemed like the perfect plan, giving him time to nap.
I was glad I did it. But when I returned, seeing him still asleep and no better off than when we’d left, made me feel anxious.
I rushed upstairs to get my son ready for bed and start a bath for my daughter. When I finished, I found myself making dinner much later than I wanted to. With tired feet, I scoured the refrigerator for something easy to make. I eventually decided to roast vegetables and reheat some leftover chicken.
As I scattered cauliflower and brussels sprouts on an aging sheet tray, the calls of a yelling preschooler beckoned me. I quietly grumbled. When I drizzled them with oil and showered them with spices, the wails of my baby boy startled me. I silently complained. But with a sigh, I coated the cauliflower in lemon juice, drizzled the brussels sprouts with honey, and lifted up a silent prayer.
I leaned over and placed the tray in the oven. As the aromas wafted through the house, I got my children settled for the night and headed back to the kitchen. Halfway there, I stopped and caught a glimpse of my husband resting. My spirit calmed.
I suddenly realized I had an opportunity to lighten the load for my husband. Instead, I was adding to it by seeing his sickness as an inconvenience that disturbed my own plans for rest. I needed to show him my kindness instead of my frustration. I needed to love him as I loved myself, and I needed to treat him as I would have wanted to be treated. I needed to see him as my most precious neighbor.
Sometimes we give so much of ourselves to others, we have nothing left to give our spouses. Other times, we focus so much on what we want, we never consider them. That’s not the way Jesus calls us to love.Jesus calls us to a love that, among other things, doesn’t insist on its own way. It’s a love that isn’t irritable or resentful. It is also a love that bears and endures (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).
Knowing this, I see it’s not only important to show hospitality to those outside our homes, but those who are already there—especially to the one God gives us to cleave to and become one with. When everyone is well, things are going just the way we want them, it somehow seems easy to do. But when there’s sickness, frustration, and we’re tapped out, it can take some grit and more grace than we know we need to rectify the myriad of hard-hearted moments we’ve already had and love well.
So, as I finished making dinner, I prepared a plate for my husband and I thought about how—much like a little lemon juice and honey— our actions can flavor a marriage. How the bitterness comes when we refuse to put our partners before ourselves and we stop acting in love. And how treating our partners as precious neighbors can sweeten even the sourest of moments in our lives. I thank God for that, and the things He uses to save us, sanctify us, and help us see that.