Blogger’s Note: This is the latest in a collection of daily posts outlining my journey to the Sacred Heart over the past year or more. See an overview and links to past posts here.
The weekend after my conversation with my spiritual director, we were house- and dog-sitting for our extended family, the Engels, while they headed to Virginia for their eldest’s Seton Home Study School graduation. They live on Maple Lake, so taking care of their black lab, Dusty, is like a mini-vacation for us (and an absolute blast for Bruno).
I couldn’t wait to get there with the family, to wake to the sound of loons on the lake and the peace that pervades that house, and to enjoy some down time with my family. I had it all planned out—we would head over after our Poland reunion Friday night and stay to have supper with the Engel clan when they returned home on Memorial Day evening (their idea). So I was dismayed when, earlier in the week, Jodi began to express that she would rather go later and get some work done around the house.
My solution? I asked her to make a list of what she wanted done and told the kids we had work to do during the week so we could all go to the lake on Friday.
It was a busy week, however, and the list was not forthcoming. I grew frustrated, until one morning during prayer it occurred to me: Perhaps it’s not so much that my bride wants certain things done, but that she just wants some down time at home. I messaged her that morning to propose that we get as much done as we could before Friday night, but that I take the kids to the lake that night, and she could come on Saturday, whenever she was ready. Her response was joyful and relieved—she hadn’t realized how much she just wanted to relax at home before heading over, but that sounded great.
I was pleased with myself for figuring out how to make a small sacrifice to my plans in order to love her better.
As word of this new plan spread to our children, it became apparent that some of them might rather wait until Saturday, too. I was disappointed to hear that, but figured I would take whichever ones were ready Friday night, and the rest would come Saturday with Jodi. We would still have much of Saturday and all of Sunday and Monday together.
Typical to a family with multiple teenagers, by the time Thursday rolled around, it sounded like most (maybe all) of the kids would be waiting until Saturday, and that it might be afternoon before they came out. I bit my tongue…until Emma approached Jodi and I with the prospect that she and a group of classmates had a project to work on together, and Sunday afternoon was the only time that would work for the others. She asked if she could get a ride back into town Sunday afternoon for a few hours—and I lost it.
I explained in shaking voice and excruciating detail that I had been looking forward to this family time for weeks; that we have limited summers and weekends left with our kids; and that I had asked in the past that when we have family plans, we not schedule things against them. I asked why, when other dates don’t work for teens in other families, is the assumption that we can change our plans—and answered, “Because it’s just Dad.”
I was hurt and angry. I went outside, then poked my head back in and told Jodi I would like to talk with her. God bless her, she came outside. God forgive me, I unloaded. I told her Emma was not to blame for not taking family plans seriously—she was. I told my bride that she always finds ways to accommodate everyone’s plans and needs except mine—“Because it’s just Dad.”
I was hurt, and I lashed out to hurt her. So much for figuring out how to love her better.
A chill peace settled on the house after that last conversation. I expressed my intent to leave Friday night as planned and stay at the lake with the dogs until Monday evening. Everyone else could come and go as they pleased. Our Poland reunion on Friday was lovely, and just after, I drove out to the lake, praying as I went for God’s mercy, Jodi’s forgiveness, and my own understanding and healing.
God has His reasons for all He does. He wanted me alone at the lake, to exercise (or exorcise) my heart. More on that tomorrow.