I want to have a body scrub,” she said quietly, when her husband came into the room to carry her to the bathtub for her evening bath.
“What body scrub?” He asked. He wasn’t frowning, but he wasn’t smiling either.
“Strawberry body scrub. You bring down the box of The Body Shop from the rack. It’s there. I want to try it.” She stripped off her clothes as her husband locked the door.
She sat on a towel spread out on the bed. He squirted the thick scrub and began to rub it on her body. The sweet strawberry scent covered them both. “This is like a pure strawberry jam,” he commented while concentrating on spreading the red “jam” peppered with little black seeds, the fruity scrub and his strokes smoothing out and soothing her skin and flesh.
“I think these little black beads are the strawberries’ seeds,” she said with contentment in her voice. Then they were quiet for a while as her man did his job. She is learning not to talk too much when they are together like this. Or complain. She knows the consequences to her comments and complaints. He doesn’t like them.
“Are we done yet?” He finally asked.
“Yes. I’m ready for the bath,” she answered as she ran her hands on her smoothened skin. “This scrub makes the skin soft and silky, especially the backside. I want that when you touch me in that part, it doesn’t feel rough,” she said, smiling. They have been married 16 years, but oh, it wouldn’t hurt if she flirted with her husband from time to time, would it?
“Well, when I touch you there, I don’t notice the roughness. My mind focuses on the task at hand,” he answered, poker face. But she knew better. This was his game. He loved bantering with her about intimate things. And yes, she believed him when he said he didn’t notice her external imperfections. Having been ill these many years, there were long seasons when all she could manage was a sponge bath or none at all. But he came to bed and lay beside her night after night (except for those times when they fought and wanted to give her space), not minding at all how she smelled. No, he’s never finicky.
There was a time when her unwashed hair had tangled up so badly it had formed a thick, heavy nest on her head. But he didn’t comment then, only to offer to untangle it. And during the times that she could shampoo her hair, she intentionally snuggled in his chest to let him know her hair smelled good, for a change. The way he gathered her in his arms and buried his head on her hair and kissed it was exactly the same way when she was unwashed. He still kissed the top of her head even when she had a nest of a tangle.
When she looked (and felt) so sick and unsightly, he never showed any traces of distaste. That’s the no. 1 thing she likes in him. She doesn’t have to feel ashamed with him. She can be herself around him and never worry that he will be turned off or his love wane. Still, there were times years ago that she had felt insecure (but that’s another story).
Done with the body scrub, he braced himself to carry her to the bathroom. “Oh, I’d be very slippery!” She said, chortling a little. There was one time when he lifted her out of the bathtub, wet and bare, she almost slipped out of his arms. Since then, he would cover her with her robe first.
And she was slippery and wiggly! Weak from hardly-suppressed laughing, he almost dropped her. But he didn’t. He never ever dropped her. Not even once, these past 20+ years that they had known each other.
She can trust him that much. She can trust his love that much.
But in her heart and mind, the unpleasant spats almost always surface. She easily sees his defects and faults like a laser. And not too long ago, her heart had screamed silently, “I don’t like him!” No, she didn’t hate him and she knew she would always love him, on a foundational level, but liking a person, or a man, is a different thing, right? Or maybe she got that idea from a blog… Or a movie? Was it her favorite North & South by Elizabeth Gaskell? Margaret dismissed John Thornton’s profession of love and marriage proposal with “I don’t love you. I don’t even like you.” Ouch!
But yes, she does believe that a woman has to like a man for their marriage to even prosper and succeed. She has to like his manners, his attitudes, his integrity, his character, his principles. To sum it all up: She has to admire him. And if she is really honest, her man has those qualities (and annoying ones, too!).
Maybe she had focused too much on his imperfections (like his inability to communicate and articulate with words and express himself from the heart) and not on his works. But oh, how she would love for him to talk, and talk from the heart the words that she had been longing to hear from him all their life together. But he had told her clearly twice (when he was pressed to answer) that he was not a man who talked like that. She was stunned and dejected those two times.
The third time, there was a slight twist. He told her not to expect him to talk like that but just to see his works.
One time, she accused him of not admiring her watercolor paintings. “Why do you say so?” He asked.
“Because you never say so,” she answered pointedly.
“When I drive to Greenbelt to buy your very costly Winsor & Newton paints, that means I admire and support your work,” he said evenly.
“Yes! Yes, of course!” And she laughed, satisfied. If she could dance, she would have. She wanted to try Winsor & Newton paints but didn’t know they were that expensive (~$18 per tube), but he bought them anyway, not informing her beforehand.
But she forgets. If she is honest enough to admit, she has the habit of comparing their marriage to others. When would she ever learn that that would never work? Comparing just brings her deeper into feelings of dismay, disappointment, and dissatisfaction.
She knows her husband never does that thing – comparing. He is so uncomplicated like that.
But what possesses her heart is the sadness that she can’t seem to brag about their marriage, their love story, like other wives do. She often sees only the ugly and imperfect parts, rarely the grace-filled beauty.
Maybe that’s the product of a perfectionist mind – it focuses on and magnifies the flaws, the good parts covered by dusts of high expectations and disappointments.
She knows so well that her husband is a perfectly imperfect human being, as she and all others are. That’s why people need a Savior. The Lord Jesus is the author and perfecter of their faith and all the other things attached to it: Christian attitudes and character, love, spiritual maturity. He is the author, perfecter, and transformer of their lives.
The Lord has taught her that only by His grace poured out into their hearts, and them pouring out this same grace to each other, can their marriage become beautiful. Grace received and grace given. In the deepest sense and practice of the phrase.
She will learn to love their love story. Because in the end, it’s really God’s story.
(Photo from Pinterest).
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Journey with Jesus,