I was exhausted that night; so tired that the milking units seemed to weigh thirty pounds each. I grabbed a five gallon bucket and tipped it upside down in the alley, sitting on it between switching machines. I may have fallen asleep a few times.
Half the cows still had to be milked when his voice came across the tie-rail, “All done, Hon.”
Relief flooded through me. My husband’s chores were done. Now he could lift milkers for me.
Except he didn’t show up. I changed milkers, and then looked around. There he was, by a cow. But what was he doing? Clipping cow tails? Now? When all I wanted was for him to come and help me? Why in the world would he decide to do that when I had explicitly told him how tired I was?
I bit back frustration. For the next set of changes I rehearsed confronting him. I needed to explain that when I say I’m exhausted showing me love meant coming to me– not picking some random barn chore to accomplish.
I carefully constructed the conversation. How I would talk about The Five Love Languages. Maybe even offer to read it to him? How I would discuss the concept of the “love tank” and the fact that he was leaving mine dangerously low. I needed his presence and his help, not random acts of service.
It would be a good conversation. I would share my heart. I would be honest. I would be real.
Then the whisper came. What about giving thanks for what your husband is doing? I shrugged it off. Remnants of One Thousand Gifts and… Oh, right. The Bible.
I sighed. Okay, God. I understand. I need to give thanks even for the things that aren’t what I want. So, thanks that he is clipping the cow tails. They’ll probably look nice. Not getting a face-full of manure is beneficial. It’s not what I need right now- but it’s good.
There. I was thankful. Even in the middle of something hard.
Now, where was I? Oh, yes. Explaining to my husband about the love languages. Because, after all, this is a really important concept. And he really needs to know how to show me love in the language I speak.
The pin-pricks started about then. The voice that [some days] I am desperate to hear and beg to speak… and [other days] I want to shush.
Is it your husband that needs to change, or you?
Does he need to show love differently- or do you need to accept the love he is offering?
I looked over at him. He smiled brightly at me. “Don’t they look nice?”
I mumbled something that was affirmative and went back to milking. A few minutes later I was done and came out of the milk house to tell him I was going inside.
He said he was going to finish. I said okay. I went in. I sat on the sofa and read a novel.
A little while later he came in and went into the bathroom. I heard rustling around, and then, “Tash?”
I stifled a groan and went to see what he needed. My breath shortened. His hand was held out. It was blistered and bleeding. “I got them all done,” he said brightly, “it’ll be so nice for you. But the scissors were a little small.”
I carefully washed red welts and burst blisters and the cloth was streaked with blood. And my heart broke.
Oh, God. Oh, God. Why do you even bother with such a selfish sinner like me? You give me a husband who bleeds for me and I try to accuse him of not loving me?
But it’s nothing new, it’s what people have been doing for generations.
We look at the man whose hands bled, whose side was pierced, whose back was torn to shreds for us and say, “That’s nice but what I really needed from you was… [fill in the blank]…. and you didn’t do it so, probably, if you’re there at all, you don’t really care about mankind (and especially not me).”
And it’s true and I’ve said it.“What you’ve done is good, Lord, but what I really need from you is–stop my pain. Take some of the weight off me. Give me some relief here. Show me you’re there. Show me you love me.”
Give me relief? Show me love?
No. No. No!
Teach me, God. Teach me.
Teach me to feel the love you’ve given. Teach me to accept your bloody hands as the deepest offering of love.
And Lord? Teach me to accept whatever love my husband gives.
Teach me the languages of love. All of them.
Let my kind of love be the kind that accepts what others offer- no matter the language. Let my kind of love be the kind that gives and gives and gives.
The way we learn the ultimate love language is by seeing what is true and accepting what is before us with thanksgiving.
May we all learn to embrace this type of love.
edited re-post // a version of this story was published in Proverbs 31 Woman in 2012