As our little car swooped down the road, fresh spring air swirled in through the open windows and the four of us grinned. Turning a little from the passenger seat, I gleefully asked my daughter sitting behind me, “Well??? What are you going to have?”
We had made plans to go to this restaurant two weeks in advance. I was dressed up. I put on some makeup, remembered my jewelry for once. Even the baby was in a fabulous mood.
I passed my phone with the Yelp version of the menu back to my daughter while I weighed the merits of chicken cooked one way versus another.
We were halfway there when his phone rang.
“Uh-huh. Uh-huh. 7:30? Ok. See you then.” He hung up, turned to me soberly, and said, “We need to head back.”
Do you know how hard it is to get a family of four ready to go out to eat at a nice restaurant?
Do you know how hard it is to explain to a seven-year-old why some things are more important than a promised dinner out?
Do you know how disappointing it is to consider going from a four-and-a-half-star meal (dishes done for you) to a throw-it-together-at-home meal (dishes extra)?
And in that moment, looking into my husband’s eyes, I realized:
I can be a victim, or I can be a partner. It’s my choice.
MY SITUATION IS NOT UNIQUE
I once complained to my mother-in-law that he was always gone in the evenings, that a spiritual emergency here or there would take him away even when I thought our plans were secure. She said to me in a very even voice: “It’s like that for many of us.”
How true that is. My situation is not unique. It applies to anyone whose spouse is on call, whether that’s an ob/gyn going in for a birth, or a professional engineer going in for a system failure, or an architect hitting project deadlines.
It’s really a simple mindset shift.
In most cases, one parent has to be priority: work while the other is priority: family. When one of you is called to an emergency, the other has to steady the ship.
Is the one who holds the hose steady less worthy than the one who sprays the flames?
I chose not to pursue a career rife with emergency because I like to steady the ship. I like to hold the hose. I like to cheer the warrior on and stand on the rooftop waving to the sailor as he returns. Have I mixed enough metaphors yet?
My point is that I can begrudge the bumps in the calendar, or I can be the secret weapon.
I AM THE SECRET WEAPON
I know now when Abouna is called to an emergency–whenever that is–I am also called to step it up. He sacrifices time and energy in a direct way to help fix something. I sacrifice time and energy in indirect ways. In prayer. In reviewing homework assignments and signing off on test papers. In figuring out what he will need when he comes back. In bringing security and peace to our home and our hearts.
As for our fancy dinner out, I chose to be a partner. I chose to model that behavior for my children and make them partners and not victims.
We went to the restaurant anyway. We ordered our meal curbside. The man packaged it carefully and delivered it all the way out to me with the most encouraging smile. We drove home raving about the smell of the food and enjoyed it at our own table, with our own silverware.
And we saved daddy’s portion for him because he had to forgo dinner entirely to help a beloved child of God reinflate a spiritual lung (so to speak).
We snuggled in bed and praised God for our soft and cozy covers and our warm and full bellies. We prayed for Abouna and for the people he was serving.
And when he came home earlier than expected, he found a happy wife to hug him and encourage him and feed him and tell him the rest was in God’s hands.
Because my attitude is critical to the success of our joint endeavors. Because all great adventures start with the right mindset.
And “I am the master of my fate, / I am the captain of my soul.” (Henley)
If you want to read more about my adventures in figuring out what it means to be the wife of a priest, pick up my e-book–Becoming Tasoni: 15 Best Posts on #ThatTasoniLife . I curated for you my 15 favorite posts on the topic from my first two years as tasoni. These are the most honest and raw posts (and a couple of fun ones) that mark my journey from peace to confusion and back to peace. For the price of one venti frappe, you can have coffee with me 15 times!