Many years of being an emergency physician taught me how to quickly assess a patient and determine what needed to be done. Looking at the patient and the monitors, I could call out orders – meds, IVs, breathing treatments- and my great staff jumped in and did them.
Many years of being a restaurant manager taught Neil how to quickly assess the dining room and determine what needed to be done. He could read his customers instantly and know who was getting impatient, who didn’t like their meal, who needed something at their table; and he too, could direct his staff to do what was required.
We were two adults used to “bossing” people around and were both very good at what we did. That was great for our jobs, but it was terrible for our marriage.
Quite often I would come home from a twelve hour shift, still directing people. “Neil, clean that kitchen up from dinner, OK?” Countless times, Neil would come home from a busy night still in charge. “Colleen, you need to sit down and stop flitting around the house.” Within minutes, two supposedly mature adults would be acting like children.
Quit telling me what to do!
You’re not the boss of me!
You need to listen to me!
Many a heated argument followed as the conversation deteriorated, and before long doors were slamming and tempers were steaming.
Our early marriage years were spent repeating this cycle an embarrassing number of times. Gradually the arguments became exhausting, and we both started working to change. I made a conscious effort to take off my doctor hat when I got home and put on my wife one instead. I learned to choose my words before I spoke, and tried to remember basic courtesy: be respectful and considerate, say please and thank you. And for his part, Neil did the same. Neither of us was chief of the household, or manager of the home front. Neither of us had the right to command each other or act like supervisor. And you know, even though we never got it down perfectly, those simple, obvious changes made a big difference.
Though I learned my lesson with Neil, I still find myself slipping into bossy mode when I shouldn’t. Even my prayer life can be affected: Lord, you really need bring the warmer weather – all the flowers are going to die. My prayers can slip into petty mode, too. Confronted with a strong temptation that lures me, I can find my brain thinking: You are not really the boss of me, God!
Luckily, my arguments with Neil come back to mind quickly. Telling a spouse what to do is bad enough; telling the creator of the universe what to do is completely ridiculous and terribly disrespectful! Remembering how I had to reorient my conversations from bossy and resentful reminds me to reorient my prayers, too.
In contrast to Neil, God really is the boss of me, and fortunately for me (and you?) He doesn’t get childish or slam doors in anger when I slip up!