My wife and I were invited for the premiere of a local television series at our Alma Mater- United States International University (USIU). We had our outfits ready the day before. The plan was to return home after work, freshen up then leave for USIU. We knew that we would be slightly late because I normally leave work at 5:30pm and the show was to begin at 6pm. To recover time, I asked my boss to leave the office early so that we would not miss the event. I knew my wife was at home from early afternoon and that I would find her ready seeing that we had little time. I left the office at 4pm and was confident or reaching USIU before 6pm. However, I was yet to face another obstacle to that goal- Nairobi Friday traffic. Needless to say, I was stuck in a sea of vehicles for more than an hour. I sent Turi a text message telling her that I would be late. She replied, “Ok dear.” I knew she would be dressed and waiting seeing that the traffic had eaten into our time. I should have been home by at least 4:15pm but instead I arrived home at 5:30pm. I parked the car and literally ran up the flight of steps to our apartment. Our apartment is on the fifth floor and there is no elevator. By the time I was at the door, I was breathless. All I had to do was shower, dress up and we would leave immediately.
I rapped twice on the door. No response. I could see the TV on so I knew my wife was at home. I rapped again on the door, clearly impatient and frustrated because I knew we would definitely be late. In no few moments, I heard the latch of the door slide from the inside and my wife opened the door. The sight of my wife punched the air out of me! There she was, beautiful as ever, smiling AND NOT DRESSED! She was not ready! In her hands were a mop and a bucket! She had been cleaning the house? Did she not know that we were late? Did she not realize that she had to be ready by the time I came? My face contorted and she saw that I evidently was NOT pleased.
“Sweetheart, you’re not ready yet!”
“I know,” Turi began “I was so busy cleaning that I…”
“Cleaning!” I interrupted, “Love, we are meant to be at USIU by now! You can’t be cleaning!”
“I know, but I was…”
“Oh my goodness! Tell me you have at least showered and you just have to dress up.”
“I haven’t showered yet, but I’m going to do so now.”
I could feel my irritation rising and I knew if I said anything else I would raise my voice or shout. So I calmed down but my irritation would not go away.
“Turi,” I began, “You’ll just have to dress up. You were home all afternoon; I don’t understand why you’re not ready. I’m going to shower, you go dress up.”
“No! I must shower, Ernest! I can’t go to the premiere without freshening up!”
I couldn’t believe her!
“But that’s not my fault! You were here the whole time! What have you been doing? This is not the time to clean the house!”
“I have to shower!”
“I am going to shower, you are getting dressed!”
Turi sensed that a potential fight was brewing. She walked away, heading to the bedroom.
“You don’t even know what I’ve been through this afternoon!” she cried as she marched away.
Her words calmed my aggravation. I stopped myself and asked myself the odd question. Could it be true? What if she honestly wasn’t ready for a good reason? The possibilities were endless. I was convicted by the Holy Spirit at how terrible I had handled the issue. It crossed me squarely that I could be the villain in this episode, so I decided to attend to her. My wife walking away told me that I had created an unsafe environment for her to express herself. I needed to recreate that haven. So I called her. I knew she would hesitate to come but I needed to let her know that I was sorry and that she needed not walk away again; I had to draw her in. Turi trudged from the bedroom into our living room where I was.
“You’re right,” I said, “I haven’t paid attention to what you have been through this afternoon. Please let me know how your day was.”
I learnt that day that how you say something matters more than what you say. Turi sensed immediately that even if she gave me a flimsy reason for being unprepared, I wouldn’t hunt her down for it. I realized that my tone of voice can communicate love even without saying “I love you.” She didn’t crack easily when I posed the question but she did crack eventually. I respected the fact that she was hurt because I had judged her motives. She had a reason to be hurt and I knew I couldn’t take that way. As Dr. Gary Smalley would say, “You have to respect the walls people put.” Don’t be satisfied with the walls but respect them. Eventually, love and sensitivity erodes the walls and the victims replace them with gates. Turi explained why she was late. She was helping me in a project that was due in about a month with a client from our church. The work was heavy and time was not on my side. She knew the work was a lot for me so she began the preparations so that when I began working, I would have less trouble and spend less time delivering. I was chagrined, at the least. There I was showing no grace yet she was helping me in my area of need.
“I’m sorry, love. I didn’t know.”
“You’re forgiven,” she replied.
“You know what,” I said, “Go take a shower.”
We were obviously late but it didn’t matter. We took our time to freshen up, clean the car, dress up and drive to USIU. We left the house at 6:30pm and anticipated arriving an hour later. The traffic wasn’t so bad, so we arrived in about 40 minutes. We were sure we had missed half the show but to our surprise, it had not even begun! The guest of honour was late and so they delayed the show to 8pm! I imagined the possibility of having insisted on Turi preparing without freshening up, rushing out of the house and not giving her a chance to explain herself genuinely then only to arrive and find the show wasn’t started!
Lesson: suspend judgement, always. Be slow to speak, quick to listen and slow to anger. Even if you do miss the show, you will have your wife by your side for the rest of your life. Don’t enjoy a two-hour show and end up with a two-week grudge. People are more important than things. When you honour them first, everything else will work out well.