Fr. Matt was our guest speaker at a recent Date Night, the purpose of which is to enrich marriages. We had an incredible turn out and as I sat there smiling to myself and thanking God, Fr. Matt spoke on some common communication challenges. A counselor had shared with him a baseball scenario that could equally be applied to couple communication, or any human interaction.
In baseball there are pitchers who throw junk balls to see if the batter will go after them. The same could hold true for our spouses. One may have had a particularly bad day and comes home in a rotten mood spewing out a “feeling statement” at high speed, “I hate that I always come home to a mess; we live in such a pig sty.” The Mrs. who may have had an equally challenging day has a couple of options:
1-Like a junk ball thrown to see who will swing at it, she can see the statement for what it is, “his feelings” after a tough day, and step back from the plate letting it fly harmlessly by. They are after all his feelings and feelings are not necessarily right all the time.
2-Step up to the plate and take a whack at the statement. This can be a swing and a miss in which case the batter now gets angry enough, throwing junk balls of her own. Worse case, she can make contact with the full weight of her being, and a volatile interaction can begin where there was previously only a wild pitch.
When I heard this analogy I quickly realized with deadly accuracy which kind of batter I am: the kind who swings at anything.
You would think that after light has been shown into the darkness that one is much wiser, sees clearer. Not so with me. Perhaps I’ve been hit with a wild pitch way too many times? Sure it makes sense in theory but, why oh why, can’t I do it in practice?
Just today, a junk ball was thrown by a co-worker in my direction. This person throws junk balls all the time. Most smart people see it for what it is and step way back, in fact they put the bat down and go get a beer until the inning is over.
I step up to the plate and for the life of me swing and swing and swing. “You’re out!” See I’m lucky if I am out, because it is so much messier when I make contact. Kicking dirt, throw downs- and not the kind that Bobby Flay shows up at. Nope, the ugly kind of apology level, tail between my legs kind of contact.
“Toxic waste on aisle five, send in the Haz Mat crew!”
You see, Jesus had it all right when he gave us one commandment, “love one another as I have loved you.” Now go practice on your neighbor. What? My neighbor? But Jesus you don’t understand, they are so nasty and mean. They don’t even go to church, and don’t get me started about their kids.
Jesus just rolls his eyes and loves on us like there’s no tomorrow. I swear sometimes I hear a huge sigh from the heaven when humanity is particularly cruel, or stupid, or forgetful, or hateful, or….
So this person that we said “I do” to. What about them? They were kind of cute and sexy and funny at one time. Now pershaps they bug us something awful. Jesus says, love them anyway. You know why? They are your means to heaven! What? Yes, they are your ticket to heaven if you love them through the bad times, the poor times, sick times and beyond.
Guess what? You are no picnic to live with either.
What I’m trying to say is the kind of love that keeps couples together for a lifetime is the kind of love displayed on every crucifix. Self-less love poured out for the good of the other.
Poured out for the other.
The only way we can do it is through Jesus, with Jesus, and in Jesus. He is the strength on which we rely, the guarantor of success, and the means to make the bitter taste oh so sweet.
I’m still a rookie after thirty four years married, but I am getting better, because I’m letting go of me and relying on Jesus more and more.
As far as swinging at junk balls…someone please just take the bat away from me and bench me, I’m just not ready for the big leagues yet.