I could tell that life was wearing him down. Maybe it was the quiet way he opened the door. Or perhaps the deep slow breaths. Whatever it was that tipped me off, I turned, ready for the look of defeat.
“I don’t know how to fix it.” The words are clipped and rough. I don’t think, in the four years we had been married, that I’d ever heard them come out of his mouth.
He’s been a mechanic for over fifteen years. Fixed hundreds of farm machines. Now, a year into running our own dairy farm, with corn in the fields and snow in the forecast, both choppers are down for the count. One needs money we don’t have. The other has a mystery ailment and is in the garage.
I try to think. What can I do? I serve him dinner. Listen to his frustrations. Feel sorry that I have no way of providing him the farm help he so desperately needs. I leave my dishes in the sink and layer on my clothes. I sit in a tractor cab, clicking the switches, waiting, hoping that the chopper arm will turn. It never does.
Finally, when my lips are almost blue and I’m starting to cough, he sends me inside. I walk in feeling the same sense of defeat. My mind scrambles to think of something else. Anything else. I make sure the laundry is switched and his heavy sweatshirts are in the dryer. I pull a hat on, covering my hair, and head out to the barn. He’s still working on the chopper when I start milking.
Half way through I am feeling the strain of doing chores myself. But I have to keep working. Doing something. He’s trying so hard to run this farm and it seems like I can do so little to ease his burden. I wish I understood mechanics. I wish I could look at the machinery and point out the issue. I wish I could handle the farm work. I wish my back was strong enough. That my wrists, with their tendinitis that flares up after tossing two bales of hay, would be tougher. I wish… I wish I could be a better helpmeet.
I’m standing by the red heifer when it hits me. In all my attempts to help, all my frustrations at my inability and his needs… it never occurred to me.
Oh, God… I stand at my sink everyday and pray over the prayer list. My little sister, who is struggling so desperately right now. The woman in my ladies group who is facing a hysterectomy. The friend with a two-month old baby in need of open-heart surgery. And in the middle of all these huge prayer needs, I forget. A day, a week, a month… the time flies and I forget the most important thing I can do for my husband is pray for him.
The last hour of milking, I do the only thing that really matters. I give up on me and the things that come from my strength- admit my weakness and lean on the One who is strong enough to form the world with a word.
And something clicks inside me. This is it. This is the most help I can be to my husband. I can go to the throne room. Crawl to His feet. Cry out His name.
I finish milking in silent awe.
Then blinking back tears, I listen as my husband tells the end of the story. The part I couldn’t see because I was busy on my knees.
The uncle that showed up to talk. Couldn’t help with the chopper but said, “Call me tomorrow, I’ve got a couple free days. I’ll be here. We’ll get the corn in.”
The phone call from his father. The one that was stuck in Pennsylvania and just made it home. The one who has been a mechanic for much, much longer than fifteen years. More like fifty. “I’ll be there tomorrow. We’ll get the chopper going.”
The next morning they came. His father helped him bypass a switch, and the chopper roared to life. My uncle showed up and ran a tractor for the afternoon and the corn soon in the silo.
God, help me remember. Only with You, for You, is there purpose and strength. Only in You can I be what my husband needs. And on my knees, I can do the most powerful work of all.