For years, every Friday at 2 p.m. you could find me in the exact same place: on the couch with a cup of tea and the phone to my ear, my best friend Andrea on the other line. Those conversations, especially in those first lonely years in Nebraska, were my lifeline.
We talked about everything from potty training to shoe sales to home décor, and often, we talked about our husbands. Or, I should say, we complained about our husbands. We bemoaned. We rolled our eyes. We shook our heads. We commiserated. We didn’t typically complain about big things or important stuff. We simply griped about the everyday annoyances of living day in and day out with the same person.
Finally, during one of those Friday afternoon phone calls, Andrea put a stop to the complaining. She admitted that when her husband got home from work on Fridays, she was often so riled up from picking him apart over the phone, she picked a fight with him in person. Andrea was right – I realized I often did the same. Turns out, what we’d assumed was harmless complaining was actually fueling an undercurrent of negativity and discontent in our marriages.
I was reminded of that lesson as I thought about the reading and sermon for this week on Exodus 20:17: You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife.
At the heart of coveting is comparison: dissatisfied with our own lot, we want what others have. Complaining about my husband may have seemed innocuous enough, but over time, it began to weave subtle but pervasive threads of dissatisfaction and discontent.
Suddenly, instead of appreciating Brad’s many gifts, I couldn’t get past the damp towel on the bathroom floor or the sneakers left not in but right next to the shoe basket by the door. Instead of celebrating his many fabulous qualities – like the fact that he cooks dinner from scratch every night (and I don’t mean frozen raviolis) and makes my coffee every morning, even though he’s a tea-drinker – I focused on his few flaws.
Coveting and comparison – whether it’s your neighbor’s spouse or your neighbor’s house – can sneak up on you. Before you know it, you’re pining for what you want, rather than grateful for what you have.
I’m grateful Andrea put an end to our husband-griping, but I still fall into my old habits from time to time. Recently, as my sister described the renovation work her husband was doing on their kitchen, I found myself wishing aloud that my husband was handier around the house. “Yeah, but when Brad’s home from work, he’s really home,” Jeanine pointed out. “He’s not working on yet another project.”
Last night, I watched from the window as Brad and the boys engaged in a full-out water-balloon war in the backyard. And instead of focusing on the kind of husband he’s not, I was grateful for the husband he is.
Questions for Reflection:
Do you ever catch yourself complaining about your spouse or partner? Have you ever thought about how complaining might be connected to coveting?
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