First of all, the last line of this chapter really spoke to me. "If the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into." Wow. That totally summarizes everything I did wrong. I let too many harmful influences, parasites and distractions into my marriage that took my focus off what was important: my relationship with God and loving my wife through him.
Here's what I've narrowed it down to:
Work - I work way too much. It causes a lot of stress in my life. I often put my wife second to work. I knew that it bothered her, but my justification was that I was paid a lot of money to do what I do. I had an obligation to do it, even if it consumed nights, weekends, etc. What I failed to realize is that first and foremost, I have an obligation to God and to her. I've recently begun delegating work that I used to take on myself and made management aware that I'm offloading some responsibilities that I've retained over the years that I no longer feel are appropriate. It was a huge step for me, as it speaks to my control issues as well.
Television/Computers/Smart Phones - We wasted far too much time sitting on opposite ends of the couch, watching TV. Each of us on our own end with our own laptop or our own iPhone. There are so many other things we could have been doing together and enjoying each other.
I'm a very sarcastic person. All too often I used my wife as the butt of jokes at family gatherings. She often played into them, and joked along. It wasn't appropriate of me. Looking at the text from today, I am ashamed that I did not follow through and "protect your wife's vulnerability by never speaking negatively about them in public." She always acted like it was okay, but in hindsight, I'm sure she didn't appreciate it.
Obvious answer: control. I've pointed out before I have control issues. I get paid to control people at work all day. It's hard for me to turn it off when I get home. I have made changes in my professional life, as stated above, but have also sacrificed some control at work. I trust in God to guide me through the work day, just as I do at home. Some co-workers have asked if I'm okay, as I'm not as stressed as I was, I'm not as demanding, and I don't play into the gossip or drama like I did previously.
The answer I'm not very proud of: alcohol. I've always wondered if I'm an alcoholic. My dad was/is. It wasn't until recently when I noticed that I was looking forward to having a drink when I got home from work, that I realized I may have a problem. I didn't drink to get drunk. I actually never got drunk. I just enjoyed having a drink or two. But in hindsight, I think it may have contributed to my attitude and irritability. I wasn't angry when I drank, but I think over time it led to me being depressed or down.
Last night, during my conversation with my wife, she mentioned she was going to have a drink later. She said, "Is that okay? Or do you think it's wrong now?" I said, "It's totally okay for you. I've just chosen not to because I think I drank too much and that contributed to the situation we're in. Do you think I drank too much?" She said, "Yes." That hurt, but at the same time felt good, because she was being open and honest with me. I then told her basically what I just said above, how I felt it contributed to our situation.
Since I've started this dare I haven't had a drink. I've stated before, that although my life is a mess right now, I feel really good physically. I'm sleeping better, I've lost some weight, I'm not stressed or irritable. I'm going through one of the most stressful, busy stretches of work that I've been through in a while, and I've handled it far better than I ever could. I have a co-worker who is very high strung and I can't help but look at him and feel a little sorry lately.
I know I owe all of that to God and the work he does in me every day. But I also realize that it's because I've identified these harmful influences and parasites early on and made a conscious effort to get them out of my life early on in The Dare.
I just pray every day for continued strength to keep them out of my life permanently.
If you focus stays on Christ, and you depend on Him to fill you voids, the parasites and other things become easier each day to ignore.
You will start to see things in others now. Like your co worker. But here is the thing, they can also see the changes in you, and you are that testimony Christ wants them to see.
Same with your wife. Be patient and understanding, and do not expect her to understand your journey. It is you that has to be the testimony.
Funny you should say that. At work I tend to be the one's people go to to gossip. I don't know why. Maybe I encourage it. I just get along with everyone in the office, so people come to me to talk.
I used to play into it, but lately I've just been shrugging it off. A couple of people who regularly come to me to complain or gossip have actually stopped coming by. I actually replied to one of them by saying, "You just got to accept the things you can't control." He looked at me like I had two heads.
I also apologized to a co-worker when I slipped up and cursed. He said, "What are you sorry for?" I said, "I swore." He, again looked at me like I had two heads, and said, "Dude. What's wrong with you?"
I know people there have seen the change in me and that makes me happy that I can be a testimony to them. I know my wife has seen a change too, evidenced by her comment about "Are you too good for that now?" But she still hasn't let down her guard enough to accept it.
It is more than her not accepting it. It is more conviction, but thats OK. She needs proof of sustainability to ensure it is not a ruse.