It’s All Your Fault

“You started it!” I heard myself shouting last night.

Really? You started it? I sounded like a child, and immediately I knew it. I also knew I should apologize for my part in the argument that was taking place, knew that I should not go to bed before taking care of things (Ephesians 4:26), but I was stubborn. I was proud.

I wanted an apology. After all, he had started it.

Even after I simmered down and had gone to bed, I reasoned that he had also gone to bed and wouldn’t want me to wake him up to apologize. So I left it. But this morning, I begrudgingly took the first step and said, “I’m sorry about last night.”

I think he mumbled an “I’m sorry too.” I didn’t really hear him, it was such an under-his-breath mumble. And you know what? That still rankled. I still thought he was the one who owed me an apology, a real apology and not just something mumbled without sincerity in response to my own.

It was all his fault, after all.

As I type this out, I realize how childish all of it sounds. As I stand back from it a bit, I also realize how much bigger my part in it was than it seemed to me. It all started with a nip on his fingers from a dog much too eager to accept a piece of pizza crust he was offering her. She’s a big dog, so a nip can hurt. He reacted poorly and shoved her away with his foot. I reacted and told him not to kick the dog.

“What big teeth you have!” “The better to eat you with, my dear...” (A lovable Rottweiler happily showing her big teeth.)

“I didn’t kick her.”

“Yes you did. I saw you.”

“You saw wrong.”

“Very mature.”

I don’t know if his mood was already down or grumpy, since I hadn’t seen him most of the day and we had just arrived home and were watching a show together with the kids. But from that moment on, everything I said to or even toward him he responded to by growling (okay, not literally, but you probably know what I mean).

I have never been good around grumpy people. The grumpiness affects me, rubs off on me, and I tend to growl back. Looking back on last night, I get the vague sense that everything I said going forward could have been interpreted as a criticism. As nagging. I am, all too often, that nagging, quarrelsome wife that Solomon warns against in Proverbs. And yes, I can see why he would growl at me for being like that.

When I look at myself, really look at myself, I hate what I see, especially when it comes to my family life. Why am I the worst around the people I am supposed to love the most? Why do I act, and react, like this? Why can’t I be better? Why can’t I change?

Why should I hope and ask God to trust me with something more if I can’t even take care with the people in my home?

Yet, all too often, I try to place the blame on those around me rather than myself. I don’t like to admit that I’m flawed—at least, not to others. I know that I’m much more flawed than I like to admit, than I want anyone else to know. And one of the easiest ways to try to get around taking the blame for something is to blame someone else. Even Moses did this, seemingly right up until the day he died.

What? Moses did this? Moses, one of the most revered men in Jewish history, the man the Bible calls “more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth” (Numbers 12:3)? The man who spent so much time with God that his face literally glowed?

Yes. In at least one aspect of his life, Moses blamed others for his own actions—actions that led to a severe consequence. You see, when God had told Moses to speak to a rock in the presence of the Israelites and, in so doing, “bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink” (Numbers 20:8), Moses was so angry with the Israelites for complaining—yet again—that instead of just speaking to the rock he hit it. Twice. God still provided the water, but pointed out to Moses that his actions dishonored God: They betrayed a lack of trust, and worse yet, prevented another opportunity for God to display his holiness to the Israelites. A God who shows that he can command even the rocks of the earth to provide for his people is a God indeed; one who has to break the rock open physically? Not nearly as impressive. And so Moses—and his brother Aaron, who had stood by his side through the incident—were forbidden from entering the promised land with their people.

Wow. A fit of anger, and then this. What he had been working toward for decades, denied to Moses. And as close as Moses was to God, as much time as he spent with him, I don’t think he could bring himself to admit that, yes, this was his fault. At least, he never admitted it out loud. Instead, he blamed the Israelites.

In his closing “sermon” to the Israelites (basically, the book of Deuteronomy), shortly before he was to die (and knowing his death was coming), Moses told the assembled crowd,

Because of you the LORD became angry with me also and said, “You shall not enter it, either.” (Deuteronomy 1:37)

Did you catch that? Because of you.

You started it. It’s not my fault.

But it was. Moses may have been reacting to others’ actions, but he was the one that turned a situation from one in which God would be seen as holy, in which God would be glorified, into one that doubters could later explain away as being “natural,” an act of human initiative. If Moses had obeyed God, had just spoken to the rock, how much more would God’s power, God’s holiness, have been revealed? What else was Moses getting in the way of by not owning up to his own mistake, by still blaming it on the Israelites?

How often have I taken away God’s glory by not trusting, not obeying? By instead clinging to my stubborn, childish pride and telling others, telling myself, You started it! It’s not my fault?

If only, instead, we can trust God and do as he instructs. Get out of the way and see how miraculously his holiness shines through, simply because of our obedience. Allow people to see him and not us.

And when we do fall? When I fall and block others’ view of God’s holiness? What might happen if, instead of stubbornly blaming others, I own up to them? I, instead, accept the blame and learn from the consequences? Maybe, just maybe, God’s holiness will start to outshine me again. Will start to shine through me.

Outshine me, Lord, Change my heart and let my life reflect your glory. Let me glow.

Supporting Arms

As a writer, words are important to me. I can (and do) spend hours finding just the right words to convey my message when I write, and a well-written worship song—especially one that echoes God’s own words to us—will have me raising my hands in praise. But all too often, finding just the right words to say eludes me. My mouth is much less wise than my fingers, often blurting out ill-advised words that have little thought put into them. In the moment, when what one says is what counts, I fall incredibly short.

Last night, I didn’t have the words to say. I felt helpless to help my husband. He was hurting, anxious, and a little lost, wanting to cling to and draw strength from God but not quite sure how to do so. His mother, in her late eighties, was admitted to the hospital yesterday. The doctors have located the problems but can’t offer any real medical solutions. My husband’s is a position many of us have been in, and at the end of the day I found myself, as I have in years past, trying to encourage and support him as he learns how to lean on God. But I felt incredibly inadequate to the task. And even as I offered Bible verses to respond to the concerns he voiced, I wanted to run and hide. I know how much supporting him in times like this will cost me, and I don’t have the strength to endure it.

That’s just it, though, isn’t it? I don’t need the words, and I don’t need the strength. Instead, I have to trust that God will provide both the words and the strength, for me and for my husband. Jesus told his disciples not to worry about what they would say, “for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say” (Luke 12:12, NIV). And when Moses doubted whether he was up to the task that God had given to him,

The LORD said to him, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.” (Ex. 4:11-12, NIV)

And although I forget time and time again—even as I am counseling others to do so—I need to rely on God, not on myself, for strength, for that is when his glory is revealed: “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness'” (2 Cor. 12:9, NIV).

What I do need to do—what I am called to do in times like these—is offer my husband what support I can. Sometimes, when the words to a worship song are right and it seems fitting to lift up my hands in praise, my arms tire but I resist putting them down until the verse or chorus has passed. At times like those I think of Moses, lifting up his hands and the staff of God in support of Israel as they fought Amalek (Ex. 17:8-16). When Moses lifted the symbol of God’s power and presence into the air, the Israelites prevailed in the battle. But when Moses began to tire and his arms fell, the Israelites began to lose. It is then, when he was tired and Israel was losing, that God called upon Aaron and Hur to come alongside Moses and lift his hands up for him, “one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset” (Ex. 17:12).

When I was facing my own inadequacy last night, I texted a friend of ours to (again) ask for prayer, letting him know of my own struggles. He responded, “You will be exactly what [your husband] needs when he needs it. God has equipped you with everything that you need to get through this.” God hasn’t called upon me to be strong, but he has called upon me to support my husband, to hold up his arms, to carry his burdens (Gal. 6:2). In turn, I am able to cast my own cares on him (I Peter 5:7) and, in him, find rest (Matt. 11:29-30).

This afternoon, as I struggled with finding the words to finish this post, our friend texted me again: “Praying for you today!” It turns out, that as I have been working (writing) to hold up my husband’s arms through prayer, through study, through understanding, others have been holding up mine in turn. The Bible doesn’t tell us that anyone came along to help Aaron or Hur, but in my imagination I can see a chain of people holding the arms of my husband, his mother, his family, and even me up in prayer. Even in the midst of uncertainty surrounding my mother-in-law, we can rest in the arms of our Lord and our brothers and sisters in Christ. Praise the Lord.