Last week, a frazzled-looking businesswoman came up to me and asked for help finding an address. I didn’t recognize the address, so I apologized and wished her well. But then she added, “I’m supposed to be there for a meeting that started five minutes ago.”
Now her problem felt urgent to me, too, and it just wouldn’t work to say, “I’m sorry. I wish I could’ve helped.” I went into super-Southern-hospitality mode and said, “Give me just a second to call my wife, and I’ll get her to look it up. We can get you to your meeting.”
I put my phone on speaker, and when my wife picked up, I said, “Hey, honey!” in a tone that accidentally sounded like a cross between a giddy boyfriend and a weatherman.
The effect on her was immediately noticeable. She replied, “Hey, honey!” in a tone that sounded like a cross between a giddy girlfriend and a kindergarten teacher.
I must stop here and note that, after two years of marriage, most of our phone calls involve life maintenance (a reminder to pick up some mustard, a question about what time I’m getting home, etc.). When we talk over the phone, I often sound rushed, preoccupied, and – at times – irritable. But the presence of the helpless businesswoman, combined with my desire to be helpful, inadvertently caused me to soften my tone.
In a matter of minutes, my wife and I worked together to find the address and get the lady to her meeting. But hours later, I was still thinking about how my wife’s tone changed when, instead of bulldozing my way through the conversation, I talked to her like – well, someone who loves her.
It occurred to me that, quite regularly, when I speak to my wife I sound like the guy at the Wendy’s drive-thru. It’s not like I’m yelling or being rude, I just sound like I’m taking care of business. I want to keep an eye on that, because, you know, she’s the queen, my bride, the love of my life; and if I let my tone sound too familiar, I’m afraid it will spread to other areas.
Maybe the next thing to go is that I’ll stop opening her door or putting my arm around her in church. Or maybe I’ll stop praying for her before we go to sleep. Not to say that I think every day of our lives is supposed to feel like a first date – but I want to use a tone and have a touch that regularly reminds her that she’s loved, that she’s worth it. As I look at the long-term marriages around me, I realize that’s going to take some work.
People can say what they want about the Bible being a chauvinistic book, but there’s plenty in there about men’s responsibility to esteem their wives. We’re told to love our wives like Jesus loves us (Eph. 5:25), to be considerate of her (1 Peter 3:7), to be joyfully faithful to her (Proverbs 5:18-19), to praise her (Proverbs 31:28-29), and to see her as the crown upon our heads (Proverbs 12:4), among other things.
I figure I can at least make an effort to apply those scriptures when it comes to my tone, not to mention all the other areas where they apply. It will certainly bless both her and Jesus, and as the years go by and it becomes a habit, I can only imagine how she will respond.