Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
"I don't know." He could hear his voice climbing, louder, higher in pitch. He was stabbing his towel at the dishes. He knew he should have made the phone call earlier - the one to the cable company - to ask about the addition on their bill. He had told her he would. But, darn it, he was busy. He'd had to attend yet another foolish-get-nothing-done meeting, and he'd been volunteered to oversee the next presentation by the same guy who had called the meeting. Again.
Picking up another dish from the drainer, he watched his wife as she washed. The same motions, over and over. Pick up dish, submerge in soapy water, wipe with the sponge, check, wipe again, rinse. She hadn't answered his outburst yet. She was doing that thing she did. The thing that annoyed him more than anything. That tiptoeing thing. He knew she knew he was close to the edge. He knew she could hear it in his voice. He hated that she could hear it in his voice, but after 20 years of marriage, what did he really expect....someone who couldn't read his mind?
"I can't read your mind, you know..."
Uh-oh. She really was doing it again, she knew exactly what he was thinking. Here was the place where she would talk about the importance of communicating. He could feel his eyes roll before he could stop them. She was going to use words like frustrated, and confused - talk about how she felt - how he made her feel - tiptoeing around the fact that it was his fault. God forbid she actually tell him right out that it was his fault. He didn't make the phone call. Done. He hated that she felt so cautious - so skitter-y. Times like this, he thought, she was actually afraid of him.
He stabbed the towel at the next dish and allowed it to clatter on the countertop. He knew they weren't really getting dry the way he was handling them - and that noise just now had been a little bit satisfying... It sounded like how he felt - a bull in a china shop - his wife the china. He didn't know how to dance around issues.
"I'm just confused, I guess..."
Yeah, confused, my foot. This was her way of saying it was his fault by way of being her fault. Confused, ha! Slam, went another dish.
She jumped. Then looked at him. He could see it start, the nose was getting red, the eyes were watering. She was going to cry - over some silly dishes and a mistake on the cable bill. She had her hands in the water, still as dead fish in the suds. And he had the sudden urge to take her in his arms and protect her. Protect her from her tears. Protect her from her pretended confusion - from her tiptoeing around his temper. Stupid temper. Stupid phone call.
"Don't cry," he pulled her wet hands out of the water and reached his arms through hers, turning her toward him, away from the sink, away from the dishes. "Don't cry. I had a rough day. One too many meetings about things that don't matter."
She had her brave face on - the one that just let the tears fall silently from wide-open eyes - the one that said she desperately wanted everything to be alright. The face that asked why-do-we-make-an-argument-out-of-everything?
And he didn't know the answer. He knew that when she cried, his temper melted away. He tried to shake the thought out of his head. When she cried... his temper melted away. When his temper melted away, they talked. When she cried, they talked. What an emotional roller coaster that must be! No wonder she tiptoed - she already knew where the roller coaster was. She knew the exact turn, hill, roll, and curve.
He turned her face up to his; he was onto something. It didn't have to be that way. They really did need to communicate more - she was right. But they needed to do it in a healthier manner. He needed to keep the anger and frustration out; she needed to stop tiptoeing around straight issues - like a missed phone call. They needed to talk. He looked down at her, a smile gathering on his mouth. I'm sorry, he mouthed. Me, too, her eyes said. He took her hand and squeezed it. She squeezed back. His smile grew wider. Maybe, in a little while, they would talk, maybe they would even use words....
Heavenly Father, help us to communicate clearly without the muddying effects of temper and manipulation. Help us to love one another in our words and our actions. Help us to feel your peace and to translate that peace to others - especially to the people we love the most.