No month has so many expectations put upon it like January. It’s almost certainly unfair. January is responsible for changing lives, refreshing relationships, beginning new careers, losing weight and quitting smoking. That’s a lot of responsibility for one month.
January has two neighbors who don’t understand the pressure it lives under. December, which does come with the risk of depression, loneliness and financial strain, is still far more festive, filled with wonder, joy, and merry-making. February is an underachiever with only one problem: Valentine’s Day. But once you make your dinner reservation, or realize you will again be alone while everyone else is exchanging chocolates and dreamy gazes, February can rest easy because 96% of all New Year’s resolutions have failed by the end of January so there’s nothing to prove. That gives the second month of the year a fresh feeling without actually challenging any of your old habits. That’s a nice combination.
With March comes a reality check that the year is slipping by. “It’s already March, can you believe it?” March is traditionally blustery, and that’s a nice metaphor for the panic that comes with not being where you expected to be. We might snicker at our failings into February, but March snaps us back to accountability, and this year Easter adds a gravitas to March that makes it almost too holy to argue with.
April is a rogue without any serious holidays or events that begin or end anything. It’s perfectly frivolous and foolish as it dangles the hope of Spring before us, then sends one last frost. May, like March, has an air of sobriety because Mother’s Day and Memorial Day both mean honoring those who sacrificed themselves for others (who may or may not be grateful).
June, July and August are notoriously lazy and undemanding unless you count going on vacation a chore. I do not, despite the cost and family interaction required.
September is calloused and tough, and goes on automatic pilot after Labor Day because school begins to get really serious. For those of us who watched our kids waste the summer, it’s sweet payback. October is completely irresponsible as months go. It makes no demands of any kind. The leaves change, not us, and all we have to do is watch. Then it ends in a costume party and free candy. Very selfish.
November is family and, depending on your family, can be delightful or exhausting. Often both. It’s my personal favorite because I love to cook big meals, eat all day, and drink specialty beers brewed with otherwise forbidden ingredients like pumpkin and allspice. November always means the best nap of the year, and that means everything will work out just fine. And then it’s December again, and, as I said, it does not understand January. No one renews his gym membership in December.
When I look closely at my life I am often tempted to ask God “why?”
Why do I have such excellent health?
Why am I still employed?
Why do my children and I have such good communication?
Why am I happily married?
Why have I never gotten a speeding ticket?
Have you seen what’s in my heart Lord? Why are you even still living there? It must be too small and dark a place for someone like you. I even tried to take credit for my blessings as if I could bring them about on my own. I’m not even cooperating with you half the time! Doesn’t that irritate you? Don’t you think you could have picked someone more deserving than me to pour all this out on?
I am not sure why you keep blessing me, Lord.
What have I done to deserve all this?
Proverbs 14:4 says, “Where no oxen are, the manger is clean, But much revenue comes by the strength of the ox.”
Marrying a man is a trade off, like having an ox around. Men are a lot like oxen, and I am speaking from experience. We are usually bigger and stronger and less astute than women. Again, my own experience. We are basic, and designed to work (whether we like it or not). We come with consequences, occasionally messy ones. Sometimes in the house-would-eventually-be-condemned kind of way, sometimes emotionally, financially, socially or spiritually.
Perhaps it’s more accurate to say that men generate mess as a byproduct of being men. We plow ahead, ox-like, stomping forward toward some goal and for us to do our thing, other things have to take a backseat. That can look really messy. This is true of women to some degree, but my experience has been that women are better balancers of the consequences of their work. I am more ox-like.
But the good news according to the proverb above is that there is great reward with an ox! We are worth more than the mess we create. An empty manger may be more convenient, but there’s less value in it than a messy one.
This is an excerpt from my upcoming book on raising daughters.
Not that any man deserves it, but your little princess is going to put you on a pedestal. Crazy, scary, even laughable I know, but you and I get to be automatically awesome to someone, and considering what reactions we mostly evoke, that’s pretty cool.
Before the sheer magnitude of this misplaced worship crushes your brain, let me assure you that this is good for her – as long as you and I don’t try to stay there. We Dads get to represent the first impressions of God to our kids, and then help them transfer those attachments to Him. But as we come down to earth don’t underestimate this symbolism of something larger, stronger, and more secure than any mere man. The way you smell, the way you dress, the way you cough or sneeze – as repellant as some of those might be to your friends and co-workers – can be funny and warm symbols for your daughter. These are little touchy-feely creatures. My littlest girl loves to borrow my t-shirts to sleep in. I never, no matter what, refuse her. She is literally wrapping herself in her Daddy. I want to create afterimages when she is grown and on her own. Remembering is part of identity, and identity is reinforced by symbols of attachment.
The great thing is that some of the kinds of symbolism she will find meaningful are almost effortless. Things like my bald head, my nightstand items, my favorite movie. Sometimes you can help your daughter without even leaving your overstuffed easy chair.
I quit flipping open the Bible to find God’s will because I found He was only speaking from middle of the book, on the right hand pages.
I don’t believe most women are natural arguers, I think they are reasonable skeptics. They require more convincing than men since most men think highly of their own judgment and will believe anything they came up with themselves, or solves a problem quickly so they don’t have to deal with it. Women often, sensibly enough, require reasons and often a compelling presentation to be comfortable. Discomfort equals interest – loud, and persistent if necessary.
The scenario is all too common: husband sees an issue, makes a fantastic snap decision to fix said issue and then, eventually, remembers to tell his wife. Who then begins to show interest by asking questions. He becomes annoyed, she persists, and they begin to argue. He of course finds her unreasonable, and totally responsible for starting the argument. But she is not trying to be difficult – though she may be – she just needs more information and adequate time to process it. Especially since the decision came entirely without her input. In fact, the less she feels a part of the process, the more skeptical she will be, and the more seemingly argumentative.
If you are the insecure or impatient type you will dismiss this behavior as nagging or quarrelsome. And if you treat it as such, you will be training your wife to actually become nagging and quarrelsome. If on the other hand, you take the time to answer all of her concerns – patiently – you might actually find that you haven’t thought things through as well as you had assumed. Of course it’s better to include her on the front end of the big stuff. But for those times you forget and shoot from the hip, it might be a blessing to have a natural skeptic around.
Men, getting in touch with your “feminine side” is a total waste of time. You don’t have a “feminine side” – all your tender emotions are there because they are masculine. They came from God the Father. Society has named them and categorized them “feminine” but they aren’t exclusive to women. Don’t believe me? Look at the men of Scripture. David’s psalms, Jeremiah’s sorrow, Moses’ fears, Solomon’s poetry. Still not convinced? Look at Jesus’ tears and God’s gentleness, and the Holy Spirit’s patience. When you stop feeling there’s a battle between being masculine and experiencing all of your God-given emotions then maybe you can stop focusing on yourself in a relationship.
If there’s a feminine side to get in touch with, it’s hers. That’s why you aren’t communicating or getting along. You aren’t going to figure her out by studying yourself. And don’t expect to ever comprehend a woman, settle for apprehending. That means you can grasp her enough today to build a wonderful life together without exhausting what will be there tomorrow. She was designed to be a mystery and not a puzzle. Puzzles are solved and when they are, their interest is gone. She is a mystery and mysteries were created to be delved into, and wondered over, and ultimately appreciated with some sense of awe. There is no end to a mystery, just another layer, so don’t quit because it gets tougher. The one who endures will be rewarded.
When you’re a kid, God is God, and that’s enough.
As a teenager, it’s all about feeling God’s presence and love.
In your twenties, it’s about what you can do for God.
In your thirties, it’s about what God can do for you.
In your forties, God disappears so you can rethink everything you thought you knew about him.
In your fifties, it’s about focusing on what’s really important since you don’t have much time left.
In your sixties, it’s about telling everyone what you’ve learned about God, the world and other things.
In your seventies, it’s about becoming comfortable with the idea of meeting God face to face.
In your eighties, it’s about becoming impatient with meeting God face to face.
In your nineties and beyond, God is God and that’s enough.