“Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades, or loose the cords of Orion? Job 38:31
For I will show mercy to anyone I choose, and I will show compassion to anyone I choose. But you may not look directly at my face…” Exodus 33:19-20 (NLT)
After a quarrel with my wife, I draped my hand over the steering wheel, let out a long sigh and pouted all the way to the mall. She sat as far from me as she could get and stared out of the truck window at telephone poles that blurred by. It was a dark time in our marriage. After nineteen years of busy, career-building and child-rearing—we sat as strangers in our own life.
That was fifteen years ago.
In the ebb and flow of life since—all of our children moving out, birth of four grandchildren, pastoring a church again, building a successful career as a third grade teacher—we have found our way together. Our dance of love is gentle, steady, and constant. Sometimes we slow dance in the kitchen now while supper is simmering on the stove.
Gradually, God has given us an intermittent ministry of helping couples in crisis. We have sat with couples in our living room and listened to heart breaking stories of betrayal, pain, neglect and anger. Sometimes they are on the verge of breaking up, sometimes they are just weary in well doing. We have ministered to single moms in our home and try to speak words of hope into lives where there is nothing but midnight. We sit with hurting couples. I am the one that talks the most. I’ve made a life answering questions that no one is asking. I talk, she listens.
Almost inevitably during one of those times someone will ask her a question and she always seems shocked that anyone wants to know what she thinks, but she flits a look at me and then she speaks words of wisdom that can only come from a combat veteran. Her words are few but they carry profound weight. But more important than the words is her presence sitting there on the couch. She is fully present and beams love and concern. She reminds me of the shy member of the Trinity—the Holy Spirit. Not drawing attention to herself, not so much speaking words of comfort, or words of wise counsel—even though words fall from her lips like petals from a rose—but her calming presence in the room is palpable.
I marvel at the quiet, deep and provocative ministry God does through my wife. I’m not sure those sitting on our couches or feel her hugs, realize what she is doing for them. Sometimes when you are hurting so badly you don’t remember the tender way a nurse or doctor touched your shoulder when you were pain until later, then their face flashes across your mind’s eye and warmth fills your soul.
When I look at how she is with people in our home, I see what the shy member of the Trinity is doing in the lives my wife touches.
When I was a boy living at nine thousand feet in the mountains of Colorado I liked to star gaze. I got a telescope for Christmas one year and a little book that described the constellations. The stars at nine thousand feet are like holes in the floor of heaven.
I loved picking out the Big Dipper, the Little Dipper and the North Star. I found Mars and the evening star, Venus. There was Orion, Ursa Major, and Leo.
But my personal favorite was the Pleiades or sometimes referred to as the Seven Sisters. As a boy they reminded me a kite with a long tale. But what was interesting about this open star cluster is that if I looked at them directly the individual stars would blur and dissolve before my eyes. But if I looked to the side just a little, and not look at them directly, I could see and count all seven sisters. The only way to see them with clarity was in my peripheral vision. The technical term for this phenomenon is averted vision in order to pick out a very faint star, you have to let your gaze drift casually to the space just next to it; if you look directly at it, it vanishes. At night, when you look directly at an object, you are using the center part of your eye, or the iris. This part of your eye is packed with cone cells (which see best in bright, strong light). When you look slightly to one side of the star, the starlight strikes that off-the-center part of your eye that has more rod cells (which see better in the dark).
I found that to be true about the inner workings of the soul of the bride of my youth. To gaze at it directly it blurs and vanishes—for it is shy. But if I listen to how she prays for our sons, daughter-in-law and grandchildren and how she prays for the children in her class; if I watch how she reads stories to our grandchildren, if I watch how she smiles and leans forward while listening to a hurting person’s story, if I look at the faces of brothers and sisters at church when she hugs them—I see more than I can take in.
How did I merit such shining star in my life?
God knew who I needed. He knew of my loud and blustery ways, he knew I needed someone to be the shy, steady and constant constellation in my night sky.
If you look away a little, you can see you need her too.
But I seen her first.