I had a startling revelation the other day: I realized I loved my wife. Whoa now! I can tell you’re taking that the wrong way. For almost four decades I have covenantally, joyfully, romantically, faithfully, and knowingly loved my wife. So this was not a new revelation. Rather it was a new insight into the reality of how that love finds expression. Let me tell you a little bit about it.
Pat gets up each morning at 5:32. As a consequence, by that time I have to be up, finished with all my bathroom reading, shaved, showered, and the bathroom available for her use. Likewise, by then I need to have completed my use of any water downstairs – that is, to have made and consumed my 16 ounce tepid-lemon-water-gulp-down drink, have refilled that glass with ice water to drink while Pat and I do devotions, and have ended any incidental water uses such as washing my hands after removing a mouse that met its Maker during the night!
All that must be done prior to 5:32am when Pat jumps into the shower. Otherwise, I would have to wait and take my shower after Pat takes her shower. That is something I do not want to do. Why? Because I hate having to use the squeegee blade to get the water off the tiles of the bathtub/shower walls. It’s a rule universally acknowledged in our household that the last one out of the shower has to squeegee down the tiles, otherwise we’ll be inviting the uninviting specter of growing green mildew taking up residence within our residence!
Well, on the day I had this revelation about loving Pat, I was taking a shower about 11:30 in the morning. She was long finished with her shower. In fact, I too had finished a shower earlier that morning, but since then I had been to Larry’s Barbershop where Lori cut my hair. Always after getting a haircut I immediately go home and take a shower. Gotta get all those itchy little hairs off the back of my neck!
So that’s what I’m doing that morning, and am almost done with my shower. All of a sudden it dawns on me that I’m going to have to squeegee down the tiles. Ugh!!! Then it crosses my mind that Pat will never know if I don’t do it. Most likely she won’t even be in the bathroom until that evening when she gets ready for bed. I could just not do any squeegeeing and she’d be none the wiser.
Ah, but I am a dutiful person, and soon realize that I do want to do my duty. I resign myself to the fact that I’m going to have to squeegee down the tiles.
While contemplating that sad fact, a little ray of revelational light begins to illumine the dark corners of my mind. “Does this make you sad, John, that you have to squeegee the tiles?” “Yes, it does.” “So, why are you going to do it if it makes you sad rather than joyful?” “Because I want to do it to please my wife.”
Aha! There it was. It was the bright, joyful sunlight of revelation. I wasn’t going to squeegee the tiles merely out of duty, I was going to do it to please my wife.
The questioning voice in my mind said, “You know, she’ll never know that you squeegeed these tiles, don’t you? And if she never knows, how can it be pleasing to her?”
I thought this a very acute question. It pressed me. As it pressed on me, it brought forth this realization: “It does not matter if she ever knows of it or not. I find it very pleasing to do that which I know is pleasing to her.” “What, you don’t care if she knows what you’ve done?” “Sure, I’d be glad for her to know, but her knowing about it is not why I want to do it. I want to do it because I know it will please her. The very doing of it, thus, is a joyful action to me. I love her and want to do what’s pleasing to her.”
In the blaze of that revelation, duty became joy. Well, to be honest, it was still a job not to my liking, but I found great joy in dutifully doing it. As I swiped the tile walls with that despised squeegee bar my soul was rejoicing in loving my wife. And in that I found great joy.
I’ve continued to think about that revelatory insight. It seems to me it has application in my relationship to God. By and large I am a dutiful person. That means I can be a but of drudge at times, just doing things because it’s my duty to do them, not because of any great joy in doing them. Some of you are like that too. Is that wrong?
Well, yes it is. But, then again, no it isn’t. Here’s how I see it. If I only did the things I wanted to do, the things that brought me real, immediate joy, then a lot of what I’m responsible to do would not get done. So, that’s why it’s not wrong to do things out of duty.
On the other hand, there’s plenty that I do from a sense of duty for which I have a pretty poor attitude while doing it! That’s not a good thing. That’s why it can be wrong to do things simply out of a sense of duty.
As you should know, the other day was not the first time that I got a haircut, went home, took a shower, and ended up having to squeegee the tiles! It was the first time I reflected on why I was going to do what I was going to do. It was a revelatory moment of reflection initiated by God. He graciously granted me a glorious glimpse of what was going on in my dutifully doing my duty.
Obviously, I’m not always as reflective as I ought to be. That’s why I can be a drudge at times. On the other hand, only doing what brings me immediate joy or satisfaction – and I’ve done my share of that too! – makes me somewhat superficial and irresponsible and self-indulgent.
“…only doing what brings me immediate joy or satisfaction – and I’ve done my share of that too! – makes me somewhat superficial and irresponsible and self-indulgent.”
When push comes to shove, I need to be both. The Lord Jesus has things for me to do that are just as onerous in my sight as the thought of squeegeeing down the tiles in the bathroom. I need to do them. But I need to do them with the eyes of my heart fixed on loving God in the doing of them. That’s what transforms duty into joy.
I thank God for His showing me my love for my wife. I pray that likewise He will give me revelatory moments of discerning my love for Him. It is my prayer that God will graciously grant each of us glorious glimpses of the love He has spread abroad in our hearts toward Him.
In the Joy of the Lord,
John H.C. Niederhaus