I made my way to the end of the line at our suburb’s semi-annual children’s consignment sale—the Mega Hot Tot Sale!!!!—as it had been irresistibly advertised. My eyes followed the impossibly long column of women waiting to check out around the perimeter of the middle school cafeteria through the glass doors before it turned out of sight. A husband pushing a stroller found his wife in the line and asked if it was really worth waiting for an hour to save a few dollars. A fair question. But I was committed, as we had already promised the children that they could come and bring their St. Patrick’s Day money with them, so I placed the Veggie Tales movie and light saber on the girls’ Easter dresses at my feet and prayed that my husband might find some way to keep the children occupied as they all waited in a different section of the building. When I had internalized just how long I’d be standing there, I recognized it for the gift that it was, and suddenly and immensely enjoyed letting my eyes run over the winding line again. The moms chatted, admired their finds, smiled and waved to children who were far away across the building with their fathers, or gazed quietly into the consignment expanse, everyone enjoying the morning respite.
Except for the woman ahead of me. And her girlfriend. Or maybe they were enjoying themselves. But it wasn’t long before their conversation had me completely engrossed. The first woman was exceedingly animated as she described in excruciating detail just how her incompetent her husband was. He brought his dishes to the counter, and then just left them there, right on top of the dishwasher! When he cleaned the bathroom, he just sort of ran a rag over the sink—like blehbedyblah–instead of scrubbing off the grime behind the faucet. And when she was out, he didn’t even switch over her laundry, like she had asked him to. And don’t even get her started on his failings as a father. Why, she was so mad at one point, she called him at work and chewed him out so loudly that the whole office could hear, which, she reluctantly admitted later, was a little crazy, but you know? And her girlfriend did. Her husband was the same way.
A pit was forming in my stomach as I listened, guilty from eavesdropping, horrified at the open hostility this poor woman—and man—had to endure in their marriage, and so sad as I imagined the husband and wife continuing on this way until they eventually annihilated each other. I thanked God, like the Pharisee, for not letting me be like that woman, made sure to smile at all the husbands I saw during the duration of my time in the line, and smothered my husband in kisses and thanks when I emerged from the sale and found him and the kids happily playing on a giant boulder outside of the school. But later, at home, the woman’s comments stayed with me, and I had to admit that the tendency of wives to be hard on their husbands—even if their thoughts remain mostly unspoken–is a universal one in this fallen world and something to be resisted.
A few days after, I felt a desire to do a little research into the writings of St. Ignatius of Antioch. I found on New Advent the seven letters he wrote around 107 A.D. as he was being led to his martyrdom and clicked on the one he wrote to St. Polycarp because those are my husband’s favorite baby names. And almost immediately the mystery as to why I was reading this and not Facebook status updates was solved. In the letter to St. Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna, St. Ignatius sends his friend fraternal encouragement and direction, and later in his letter writes, “Speak to my sisters, that they love the Lord, and be satisfied with their husbands both in the flesh and spirit” (Ad Polycarp, 5).
Oh man, I thought, the Holy Spirit is serious about this. So I thought I’d speak to my sisters about it, too.
Copyright 2012 Meg Matenaer
Image Credit: Mary R. Vogt