My co-worker "lost it" at work yesterday. Another staff person provoked her with a comment that set her off. Stress had frayed everyone's nerves. The ensuing scene escalated like an out-of-control wildfire--a reminder of the damage that can be done by our tongues. Angry words can never be deleted or erased from memories. Not that we purposely dwell on them, but verbal assaults leave scars.
For one short moment, I breathed a sigh of relief that it wasn't me. Whew! I'm thankful I'm not the one "over the edge." Then I remembered a night in December. All seemed peaceful with powder-dry snow blanketing the countryside. My husband Randy and I were exhausted. He had just come home from a long day, driving the school bus, and running our small video store. Life in a small town in an idyllic setting seems like a dream come true, except for the reality of how tough it is to make a living. Almost everyone has at least 2--usually 3 jobs.
I was getting dinner ready, when suddenly we heard that unmistakable sound that precedes dog regurgitation. We both raced to find out whether Kramer or Kosmo (our two very lively Jack Russell Terriers) was about to upchuck. Too late. Kosmo had already lost his lunch and probably his dinner, too, under the guest room bed. Then he darted around the house madly in search of house plants. He's discovered a soothing effect on his throat when he eats them after vomiting.
I tried to stay one step ahead of the half-crazed pooch, putting every single plant up out of dog's reach. Once we had that situation under control, we were faced with cleanup. We surveyed the situation, realizing it would require a complete bed breakdown to reach the mess. Well, before we broke down the bed, we both "broke down."
"If there wasn't so much crap in this room, maybe it would be easier to clean up," Randy accused.
"Well maybe if I was home more, I'd have time to keep up with the housework. My tone matched (um, I think more like trumped his.)
Randy shoved the mattress off the bed, breaking a few trinkets (including the porcelain wishing well bank I'd gotten for my 8th birthday.)
That did it! My soon-to-be academy award performance had begun. I screamed until my vocal cords hurt, carrying armloads of junk out of the bedroom. I even threw a blender on the floor from the stash of stuff our grown son Chris had left with us. Randy looked on in amazement, then quietly put his coat on and drove off into the snowy night.
The adrenaline rush propelled my cleaning momentum. I tore the bedroom apart, cleaned up the doggie mess, shampooed the carpet, and put everything back, spic and span. Then I realized it had been two hours since Randy had left...I slumped into a chair, exhausted, hurt, ashamed of my behavior--and worried sick about Randy.
I had learned a long time ago that nothing I did could cause Randy to drink or cause him to stop drinking, for that matter. He alone made those choices. Yet--after my angry outburst and added to Randy's discouragement and exhaustion, I couldn't help but worry about him settling into the one bar that would still be open and washing down the evening's events with alcohol.
"Oh please, Lord, please bring him home safely."
To my great relief, Randy came home sober. Nothing else really mattered. I asked forgiveness. He did, too. We were both too tired to talk. Randy was up early the next morning and out the door for his bus route. I got up to enjoy the early morning quiet. Just me and God, and two sleeping dogs.
When Randy walked in, he handed me a steaming mocha--my favorite. We hugged each other and laughed. We didn't have to say a lot or try to psychoanalyze what had happened last night. It felt good being able to offer each other grace. It's not about ignoring or glossing over bad behavior, but loving even in the worst moments.
I remembered all that when I hugged my co-workers yesterday, and we all carried on with the day. Amazing grace. How sweet the sound...