One evening my wife, Nancy, pulled me into our bedroom and said she wanted to talk. She closed the door so that none of the kids could hear, and she took out a list.
I was not happy to see a list. She claims it was an index card, not a list. But it had words written on it, so to me that’s a list.
“You know,” she said, “when our marriage is at its best, I feel we share responsibilities. We divide our work well and our kids see us do that and I feel valued, and I think that’s important for our family. But for some time, because you feel so many demands on your life, this value has been slipping.
“When our marriage is working well, I also feel like we both know each other’s lives. You know details about my life and I know details about yours. And I feel like that’s been slipping too. Lately I know what’s going on with you, but you don’t ask me much about what’s going on with me.” She went on.
“When our marriage is at its best, you also bring a kind of lightness and joy to it.” Then she reminded me of a story.
We were on our second date, in the lobby of the Disneyland Hotel waiting to get something to eat, and she had to use the restroom. When she came out, there were scores of people in the lobby, and I was in a goofy mood, so I said loudly enough for them all to hear, “Woman, I can’t believe you kept me waiting for two hours.”
Her immediate response was, “Well, I wouldn’t have to if you didn’t insist on having your mother live with us so I have to wait on her hand and foot every day.” She yelled that, right across the lobby, on only our second date, and my first thought was, I like this woman.
Nancy told me that story and said, “You know, when our marriage is at its best, you can listen and laugh and be spontaneous. You haven’t been doing that for a while. I love that guy and I miss that guy.”
I knew what she was talking about.
“I miss that guy too,” I told her. “I’d love to feel free like that. But I feel like I’m carrying so many burdens. I have personnel issues and financial challenges at work. I have writing projects and travel commitments. I feel like I’m carrying this weight all the time. I get what you’re saying, but I need you to know, I’m doing the best I can.”
“No, you’re not,” she responded immediately.
That was not the response I had anticipated. Everybody is supposed to nod their head sympathetically when you say, “I’m doing the best I can.” But Nancy loves truth (and me) too much to do that. So she rang my bell.
“No, you’re not. You’ve talked about how it would be good to see a counselor, or an executive coach, or maybe a spiritual director. You’ve talked about building friendships, but I haven’t seen you take steps toward any of that. No, you’re not.”
As soon as she said that I knew she was right.
But I didn’t say that to her immediately because my spiritual gift is pouting, which I exercised beautifully over the next few days. As I did, a question emerged in my mind: What is it that you really want?
John Ortberg, The Me I Want to Be: Becoming God’s Best Version of You (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009).