Chad and I had only been married for about six months when he said it. We were arguing, stressed by the constraints of our first year of marriage. Money was unbelievably tight, and work and every day responsibilities just kept coming at us from all directions. It felt nothing like our carefree dating days, when we would clear our schedules to spend huge chunks of time together. Now we lived together but had to spend every day with other people, and when we were home, we were tired and cranky. We were too broke to go have fun in the incredibly fun city where we lived. I was homesick. And, I was spoiled.
There is no telling what I said to him on that day. I know whatever it was, it wasn’t kind or thoughtful or loving. But, I remember exactly what he said to me. He said it in passing, and it was really a ridiculous addition to the already ridiculous things we were probably volleying back and forth. But, that thing. That one thing. I couldn’t get it out of my mind.
The Bible says that Satan prowls around looking for someone to devour. I don’t know if he whispers in our ears, but somehow that one thing that Chad said in passing kept threatening to eat me alive. The lies kept creeping into my mind. Even though in every way Chad was living out the truth that he loved me and that he was glad we were married, I kept hanging onto the idea that maybe all that time–ten years–he was wishing we hadn’t ever gotten married.
Then, one day I woke up and I realized that there was no evidence in our life anywhere that proved the lies that I was holding onto. Nothing except that one silly statement that a boy made one day in the middle of a silly argument. And, I let the lies go. Finally I completely trusted in the truth that he had proven to me over and over again–he loves me. He really does. And, he has since 1997, when we shared our first kiss in a parking lot in Lubbock, Texas.
I just recently told Chad about the struggle that was always lurking in the back of my mind during those early years of our marriage. Guess what? He has no memory of that day whatsoever. The one statement that I had mulled over for years wasn’t even significant enough for him to remember uttering it. And, all the awful things I said to him that day? He doesn’t even remember having an argument.
The heart of a woman is a tender thing. I know our society has spent years trying to convince men otherwise. But, a woman’s heart needs careful handling. Words shoot straight through it like an arrow, and she carries the scars for longer than most men would ever realize. What men seem to be able to shrug off, women wear like a badge of shame and insecurity. What men seem to quickly dismiss as an invalid criticism, women often take to heart and assume that it’s true. I’m not sure what these things say about the way God created the sexes. I like to think that He created women to be more sensitive because He wanted to use our compassion and our tenderness for His glory.
But, I wonder how often women are walking around with some words hanging over their heads that were thrown out in passing. I wonder how many women reading this have one statement that they just can’t let go of. That is inspiring all sorts of lies in their mind. I wonder how many men understand the power of their words.
Most husbands I know are wonderful people. They love their wives. They want to see their wives flourish and be happy and find fulfillment. I wonder if they realize how much power they have to help make that happen? Their words can cause their wife to bloom and grow or to whither, dying on the vine.
We all say silly things that we regret. Marriage is filled with mistakes and I’m sorrys and forgiveness. Our relationships ebb and flow through all of the different phases and stages and stresses and joys. Husbands, won’t you handle your wife’s fragile heart with care?
Women, don’t let Satan use some ten or twenty year old words to devour you. I wasted so much energy worrying about that one silly statement, when the man standing right in front of me was proving in every way that his life was completely dedicated to God and to me. Let go of the lies. And, no matter what has been said to you through the years, no matter how many hurts you carry, no matter how bruised up and scarred you feel, remember that your worth comes from God, not man. And, He says you are wonderful.
Just a few days after Chad and I argued, he stayed home sick from work. I came home to find a spotless house and a sweet handmade card on the table, filled with precious words that I still remember to this day, seventeen years later. He realized early on what his words mean to my tender woman’s heart. And, in all these years, he has given me plenty of sweet words to collect, nourishing me in the simplest ways, kind words, spoken as truth over his wife. I hope that I return the blessing in my own ways.
Words matter. Err on the side of grace and kindness. And, husbands, handle your wives with care. They are much more vulnerable than you probably know.