“I wish we knew what God was saying,” a young chemistry grad student told the small group. “I’d try a different career if I knew God wanted me to. I’ve just been unhappy for a long time and I don’t know what it means.”
A slightly overweight woman with thick rimmed glasses spoke up, “I think maybe God is trying to tell you—“
“Diana,” Her husband, and the church pastor and leader of the small group interrupted her. “We don’t have to make everything spiritual. I think the church is a little scared of modern science.” He turned to the young lady. “Bridget, I think you can take the meds and see if it helps. We won’t be a very good witness if people always see Christians as unhappy.”
Bridget looked at the ground as she nodded.
Their son Noah toddled into the middle of them sitting around the living room, saw his mommy and daddy and said, “my diaper has green poopy in it.”
Everybody laughed. Diana scooped him away to the changing room and Roger said, “At least kids will always tell you what they are thinking! Alright, let’s call it. Most of you guys have midterms tomorrow. Get home.”
They got up, said goodbyes and filed out. “Good luck getting your sermon ready for Sunday, Roger!” “Thanks guys.” They all said goodbye to Roger, laughing and hugging as they filed out.
Only young Bridget asked him to say goodbye to Diana and Noah for her. “You got it,” Roger replied.
Roger was washing a platter when Diana came back into the kitchen. “Roger, I think he ate some of the—“
“The bananas. I know, Diana. I gave him some.”
“Why did you—“
“It doesn’t matter! Jeez! Green doesn’t mean he’s sick or anything.”
Diana slipped away into the other room as Roger moved onto some cups.
Diana hadn’t really reached to touch him in bed for a while. But he was okay with that. It made for undistracted sleep. He needed to be clear headed for his sermon on Sunday. She’d been unreasonably grumpy for a long time and he wasn’t about to let her get him down.
“Roger, I’m feeling…” She struggled with the word.
“You just need to sleep, D. We both need to get some rest. And walk Noah in the sun tomorrow. It’s that seasonal depression.”
“You never let me—“ Diana tried again.
“I know what you’re going to say. You’re tired. Your not feeling well. You’re sad and … lonely. But I can’t help it if you don’t have any friends, hunny. You just need sleep.” Roger didn’t want to have to worry about one more thing. He didn’t want his wife to stunt his mojo. She always seemed a little less happy than he was. He had learned he had control over his happiness, and he didn’t have to let anything get him down.
At midnight when Noah started crying Diana said flatly, “You take care of him. I should get my rest.”
Roger gave an audibly annoyed sigh and rolled out of bed and went to Noah’s room. Noah was standing in his crib and stopped crying when his daddy got to the room.
“What’s wrong, Big Guy? If you were just lonely too, I’m gonna head back to bed. I’m not gonna let you and mommy bring me down.“
“My diaper, daddy. I made a wet diaper.”
As his dad picked him up and laid him on the changing table he said, “You’re speaking in longer and longer sentences. You’ll have bigger words than me soon!” He started unzipping his onesy to check his diaper. “At least now we know what you’re crying about.”
But when he checked it, it was still dry. He almost said something but little Noah said, “Mommy said she wants to take us away from daddy.”
But little Noah just played with himself silently.
“Where did you hear that? Did mommy tell you that?” But Noah was just content having daddy there.
He probably didn’t even know what those words really meant.
Roger fastened and slowly zipped little Noah back up, who began talking gibberish. Roger picked him up and Noah pointed across the room. “Cars… Cars.” Roger set him on the ground and sat with him for a few minutes. Noah kept talking but for the first time in months, Roger didn’t quickly respond and correct him or try to teach him.
When Roger finally put Noah to sleep and went back to his bedroom, he crawled in more cautiously.
He stared at the ceiling. Eventually he said, “Baby, what did you want to tell me earlier?”
Diana turned half-way toward him and paused.
“Are you unhappy?” He asked.
“If I were, you wouldn’t want me to bring you down.”
“But maybe it is good for me to know if you are.”
There was a long wait. Then she said, “I was going to tell Bridget that feeling tension might be the way God is trying to tell her something is wrong.”
He replied, “Have you been trying to let me feel some tension?”
“You won’t let anyone ‘pop your mojo.’” She used his words.
He was silent for a long time.
“Is there something you need me to know… hunny?”
Now she was silent for a moment. “You haven’t listened to me for a very long time. I think there’s just too much to tell you now. I want to go stay with my mom for a while. I’m not happy here.”
“Is it just that I haven’t listened to you?
“And you have no empathy. And you don’t care when I’m sad, or lonely or hurting. I think you’re doing the same for others too. You just basically told Bridgett to get on meds tonight without letting her explain.”
“Okay. I see. I don’t want you to leave.”
“Then things are going to need to change.”
“Okay, what do you need?”
“I need you to listen to me. But honestly, I don’t know if you know how. I don’t know if you’ve ever really listened to me. Everybody likes you because you’re smooth and charming, but you don’t really listen to anybody.”
“Okay.” He breathed in deeply and after a few moments said, “Would you like to have coffee with me tomorrow during Noah’s nap? I’ll try not to say much.”
After a while she responded, “I probably won’t have a lot of nice things to say.”
“I’ll try to listen.”
She was quiet. “You won’t be working on your sermon or be your phone?”
“I’ll mean if I need to see a text, or get an idea for the ser—.” He stopped himself. “No, I’ll be present.”
“I’m sorry, hunny. I didn’t realize anything was wrong.”
“Yeah, because you always ignore any tension.”
He slowly reached for her hand. She pulled it away. But before they had fallen asleep she was touching his foot with hers.
Sometimes the reason we have tension in our life is because something needs attention. It is a teaching moment. It is transformation potential. It may be the gift of growth, but we often try cover over tension so we can stay happy.
-Raw Spoon. November, 2022