Once upon a time, my career was landscape design and installation. When I was entering the Church, my sponsor asked if I would install an irrigation system for him which, of course, I was eager to do – for the sake of business and because he was a friend. But I learned then, and many other times, that often those closest to us not only learn our faults but suffer from them. Installing that irrigation was slow and hasty at the same time. I was slow to get the job done and I was hasty to get it done when I was there. He was in a very different line of work, but when I apologized for the poor service he said he knew just what was happening. “Those closest to us get the worst service from us,” he said. He said he too gave the best service to strangers and the less-than-best to friends and family.
We would think the opposite would be true. But because we take for granted what we already possess, we don’t treat it with care like something yet to be achieved or acquired. When something or someone is close we “have” it, we know longer “earn” it. His friendship was mine, and I cherished it, but if his irrigation was slow to be installed and a little shallow, surely we would still be friends! He was put last in line because the other customers needed more coddling and coaxing. I could lose them. I needed to earn them. This was why my friend got the lesser service while strangers got the best of me.
Its not hard to scratch at this tendency and find deep problems. If wisdom treasures and loves what is worth treasuring and loving, then when our treasure and loves are closer to us, we should treat them in accord with what they are – treasures and loves. Yet, when we possess something, we stop searching for it, and often that means we stop pursuing it. If my friendship was a treasure to me, I should offer it my best service, not my worst. Yes, I’m sure there is a balance in business that ensures we gain and retain new customers while being diligent with existing ones. Yet, is it not true that often in work and life we are on to the next thing that tickles our excitable passions instead of treasuring what is right in front of us and worth treasuring?
I cannot help but think that marriage is the greatest example of this truth, just after God. So many men would speak of treasuring and loving their wives, saying with confidence that their highest calling and desire is to be a good husband. Yet, when actions are considered and measured, do we not take them for granted? Do we not assume their loyalty and intimacy is sure, in no need of pursuit? But love is just not like that. Wives are not like that. They are not trophies or prizes that we gain and then set on the shelf. The pursuit of courtship does not end at marriage. It changes. Once married, spouses have new graces and communions to share, and their becoming one flesh does not end.
How often does life get ahead of us, and we take our wives for granted? How often are they on the receiving end of our terse, course, and unloving words and outbursts? How often do they get impatience because the world drained our patience? Would our actions, words, and dispositions communicate that our wives are treasures worth loving tenderly and carefully? Wives do not want to be alone while we are at the ball. They want to dance with us there. They want us to find the lost slipper and tenderly return it, not snap at them because they lost a shoe. Pursuing a heart in marriage does not end.
Our wives are so close to us that they know our faults. They are most likely, therefore, to suffer from them too. In our words and deeds we must ensure that the world does not get our best, while they get the leftovers – or worse. Wisdom and love treasures what is worth it. Our wives are worth more than worldly pursuits, so we may we never forget to pursue them and manifest their worth in our words and actions.
Happy is the husband of a good wife;
the number of his days will be doubled.
A loyal wife brings joy to her husband,
and he will complete his years in peace.
A good wife is a great blessing;
she will be granted among the blessings of the man who fears the Lord.
Whether rich or poor, his heart is content,
and at all times his face is cheerful.
- Sirach 26:1-4