Melanie and I are making notes that will help us write a book about my/our stroke experience eventually. At the moment I tell people I don’t know how that book will end. But I do expect to spend some time talking about the subject of the communication difficulties that we’ve seen. In fact, I’m going to do so now.
Melanie urged me to do some eye exercises as I sat next to her for my tube feeding. I am not supposed to talk while she pours the liquid down my stomach tube. But I wanted to explain why I had stopped doing them where she could see me. (To make it easier for Melanie to reach me and hold up the food funnels I now sit looking down a dark hallway instead of out a window.) Talking and moving my diaphragm doesn’t let liquid smoothly slide into the feeding tube, so I had to be still. I invited Melanie to take the moment of my enforced silence and tell me her thoughts without my interruption. After a few moments making up her mind, she did so. Her reasons were reasonable. Like Melanie herself. I would have been wiser to listen from the beginning.
I would also argue that Melanie might have found my thoughts and experience interesting, maybe even of value. What she had to say went directly opposite to one set of instructions I had received. But she hadn’t heard those instructions. And she had already thought her way to her conclusion and was starting her conversation there.
It’s how I begin most of my conversations with God. Serves me right to get a taste of it back. And I have concluded that the Holy Spirit, indeed, will speak to me through my wife plenty often enough that I do well to listen and listen closely. (She may speak as to whether she finds this works reciprocally for her.)
Even after deciding that God will often speak to me through my wife, a difficulty remains. I need to correctly interpret what she says and does. It’s easy for me to make a mistake there. One example I’ve lately had to get clear about is her method of handling frustration with me. What happens is, when she runs into an objection from me (something unreasonable on the face of it since she has already been carefully thinking about whatever the problem at hand is) in order to avoid unpleasant argument or temper, she chooses to “give up” and withdraw. By the time I have realized I should let her explain she has gone on to something less stressful. Often it takes a real effort on my part to convince her I really do (finally!) want to hear what she’s thinking. Further, I have to realize that her walking away isn’t because she hates me. Just the opposite. Really. Hooda-thunk it?
I reflect that I see this pattern in myself even when God is trying to speak to me more directly. You see, I consider myself pretty reasonable and it’s a shock to discover God’s ways are not what I’ve already figured out. I am dealing with this, for example, four months after my stroke. God still hasn’t fully explained Himself to me about that. Or I’m not listening closely enough.
When Paul had a similar conversation, God’s response was, “My grace is sufficient.” Well, yes, that’s probably true. Let me rephrase that. Certainly it is true. But is that all You’ve got to say about it, Master?
Probably not. Which is why I must work harder on my side of the communication effort. The careful listening side. And I would do well being a little less sure that I’ve already got things figured out and any contradictions are intended to insult me.
This recovery season is taking a long time and for lots of reasons.