I am a brooder.
Yesterday morning in the mad rush to get Gus out the door for preschool my husband dug through Gus’ Lighting McQueen backpack, which had been abandoned in the corner since he got home on Friday. Oh, it was library day! Oh, he had to collect leaves to bring into school! Oh, we weren’t prepared at all! Quickly we scrambled to do these things too.
We should have prepared for school better the night before…or rather I should have prepared better. It was an annoying, stressful moment and in that moment my husband said, “You’re not really into this whole school thing yet, are you?”
It was a simple stupid statement said in a moment when I was already feeling like a bit of a failure. The type of thing you say when you are exasperated and stressed. The type of thing that doesn’t really mean anything.
But I took those words with me and as I changed the baby’s diaper and rinsed breakfast dishes and put on shoes, I thought about them, hard. I thought about them and soon a little voice was whispering in my ear.
“He has no idea what you do around here. He has no idea how hard it is to manage 3 little kids all day long. I’d like to see him try to do this!”
“Seriously, school just started, you’re not in the routine yet! Why does he have to say things like that and totally condemn you?”
“Can’t he help a little? Gus is his son too! Why does everything fall on you?”
And even though what the voice said was false and twisted, I listened. I nodded along and I grew more and more upset, hurt, mad. And then a thousand other stupid things he’d said, things that also didn’t matter, started pouring into my mind. This was just like that other time! I can’t believe how unfair this all is!
So that by the time Gus and Bill got in from collecting leaves in the backyard the brooding had totally transformed me and I was something very ugly. I was searching my thoughts, memories, for the most hurtful thing to say to him. And all over a silly comment, a silly comment like the ones I make, like the ones we all make without intending them to really mean anything.
And so, I’m a brooder. And the brooding makes me and the love I have for my husband ugly.
Last week I wrote about love being patient and how I realized that patience is the cornerstone of loving my little ones, and how challenging that is for me. In that same powerful chapter, 1 Corinthians 13, St. Paul also lists a few things that love is not. He wrote, “Love does not brood over injury.” In other translations this line reads, “Love does not keep record of wrongs.”
Guilty on both counts. But not only is brooding not love, it is the opposite. It destroys love.
This last week I started reading The Chronicles of Narnia to Gus. He loves it and we are already deep into the second book. He’s caught up in the magic rings and ideas of other words but what struck me is the presence of real, visible evil. Evil enters Narnia at the moment of it’s creation and even while it is protected by the tree, that evil is always lurking and looking for a way to creep in and conquer that world.
The idea of evil lurking struck me because it felt familiar.
Reading The Screwtape Letters, another CS Lewis book, was the first time I considered that something might actually be plotting against me, trying to corrupt me. Namely the devil. Sure, the devil existed, but in more of a general, battling angels, corrupting society, fanning the flames of Hell sort of way.
The idea that he took time to target little old me…well that was unsettling.
But if I’m going to be honest and really think about what is happening to me during those fits of brooding I can see his work, or rather, I can hear his voice.
Sure, maybe the laundry list of wrongs my husband has committed rises out of my subconscious or out of my emotional self or whatever you want to call it, but it doesn’t feel like that. It honestly feels like something is whispering in my ear.
I can remember a few times where my husband has said something or done something and the moment passed without any reaction on my part. In that moment whatever happened seemed perfectly reasonable, and it probably was. But then, as I sat and nursed the baby or took a shower or finished the dishes the whispering started…
Oh, I guess that was a really crappy thing for him to do. Oh, yes, I guess I am deeply hurt by that, now that I think about it. Oh, wow, I can’t believe that he would do that to me!
And by the time I am done with whatever task it was I am once again transformed by the brooding and once again the love has turned ugly.
I don’t really know why I felt compelled to write about the devil today. Perhaps I’ve been reading too much CS Lewis. And maybe this just sounds like I’m passing the buck, blaming the devil for my own habits of brooding and playing the victim in my marriage. But, in truth, I take the blame for every moment of brooding I have entertained and every fight it has created in my marriage because even though I felt someone was whispering in my ear, I listened.
I write this because the only way I have learned to pull myself out of these deep dark moments of brooding, which I am only occasionally able to do, is when I recognize who is whispering to me–Satan, the Father of Lies.
When I can climb out of the haze of brooding and objectively realize that these thoughts are evil, these thoughts are false and they aren’t mine and I shouldn’t make them mine—when I can acknowledge that these are the words of the devil–it is only then that I am able to silence him.
For the moment you shine light on the darkness the darkness ceases to exist.
And it is only when I stop listening to the devil that my love can thrive.