An elderly gentleman feared his wife was getting hard of hearing. So he called her doctor to make an appointment to have her hearing checked. The doctor made an appointment for a hearing test in two weeks, and meanwhile suggested the husband try a simple informal test to give the doctor some idea of the state of her problem.
"Here's what you do." said the doctor, "start out about 40 feet away from her, and in a normal conversational speaking tone see if she hears you. If not, go to 30 feet, then 20 feet, and so on until you get a response."
That evening, the wife is in the kitchen cooking dinner, and he's in the living room. He says to himself, "I'm about 40 feet away, let's see what happens." Then in a normal tone he asks, ‘Honey, what's for supper?"
So the husband moves to the other end of the room, about 30 feet from his wife and repeats, "Honey, what's for supper?" Still no response.
Next he moves into the dining room where he is about 20 feet from his wife and asks, "Honey, what's for supper?"
Again he gets no response so he walks up to the kitchen door, only 10 feet away. "Honey, what's for supper?" Again there is no response, so he walks right up behind her. "Honey, what's for supper?"
Finally he hears this response: "Dog-gone-it, Earl - for the fifth time - we're having chicken!"
Spouse and I can relate. Living on this side of fifty, whichever side that might be, we are slowly losing our touch with what's going on. The kids are mumbling more. And so is Spouse.
But, what's even sadder is when we just plain miscommunicate. Call it our hurried lifestyle, or the men-are-from-Mars, women-are-from-Venus syndrome. But sometimes we just miss the boat.
One time I was frustrated with Mary,1 a friend. She's a dear person, and I usually just love her. But, this time she just was on my "out" list. I was planning a trip and wanted her to go with me but - though time and money were no hindrance - she just didn't want to go. She was stuck in her daily rut and couldn't find a way out. And I was disappointed with her unadventurous ways.
Dressing for work, Spouse was putting on his socks as I said, "I'm just tired of people who just want to do the same thing day after day. They don't want any fun in life. They just live a ho-hum life. And I don't want any part of it!"
Well, Spouse, who is not very emotional or sensitive, froze. Sock halfway on his foot, he just sat there. And I started backtracking, "What did I say that caused this type of reaction?" I thought as my mind raced.
But my mouth formed the words, "Honey, what did you hear me say?"
"Well," he slowly analyzed, "we were talking about our trip to Italy. Then you started in about this trip with Mary. Then you said you don't want any part of people who do the same thing every day."
I nodded encouraging him to finish.
"Dear, what do I do every day?"
And then I got it. He heard me saying that because he gets up every day and goes into an office to provide for our family, that I'm tired of him and want nothing to do with him.
I guess he's lived with estrogen long enough that he looks for hidden messages. But, this time it was so wrong.
"Oh, Honey, that's not what I meant at all."
And I realized that men really are from a different planet from us women. I jump from topic to topic trying to catch up with the speed of my brain. But, I forget to transition others to my new line of thought.
And, ever the crafty one, the enemy seemingly catches my words, distorts them somehow, and tosses them on to Spouse's ears. Trying to start an argument, Satan knows that if he can get us at each other, we won't have the power of being on the same team.
It reminds me of a story from the Old Testament: the population was building a tower to heaven, which displeased the Lord. When He saw it, He said,
Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them. Gen 11:6-7
It seems that speaking the same language makes us able to accomplish so much. Avoiding arguments, not having to take the time to backtrack, apologize, start over again, and make up for the hurt we've caused. When we talk so the other understands us, we can use our energy to move forward in life - discuss the children, our goals, finances, and adventures we want to have.
And, spiritually, I have found that when a situation arises where we're tending to disagree more often, or there is more confusion, I am learning to be quick to "bind the strong man" in the circumstance.
In the New Testament, we read
But no one can enter the strong man's house and plunder his property unless he first binds the strong man, and then he will plunder his house. Mark 3:27
When the enemy is prowling like a roaring lion,2 preventing my husband from hearing my words and true meaning, we stop and pray. I once heard a pastor share about a time when he found himself and his wife having a difficult time communicating. He stopped and said, "Honey, I love you. And I believe you love me. And we're just trying to talk about things." She nodded in agreement. "But, it seems like there are three involved in this conversation. Why don't you and I join together and go after ‘It.'"
Following this pastor's insight and wisdom, Mark and I pray.
"Lord, Mark and I love each other. We are trying hard to talk things through, but it seems everything we say is coming out wrong. Or we're hearing it wrong. It really seems like there are three of us in this conversation, so we bind the strong man so he will have no influence over us."
And you know what? It works. We calm down. I can hear his heart in his words, as he can mine. And we share on a deeper level than before. I believe that is also a spiritual principle:
And the strong man will become tinder, his work also a spark. Isaiah 1:31
When we bind the strong man, the enemy, Satan, the things he was trying to hinder becomes a spark that sets on fire an even better way of communicating and living. A more desirable vision for our future. We come away with ideas we hadn't even considered, or plans to try something in a new way. We are invigorated. The spark grows into a flame.
We find that the Spirit does bring new life and peace. And we have learned that all of life deserves our prayers. Even as we age, and our hearing diminishes and becomes testy, our ability to communicate should stay as sharp as ever.
Originally posted April 22, 2010.
Mark and Kym Wright are always learning to communicate better - by listening, and really hearing each other. They have eight children and currently live in Michigan, but call the South home.
1. Names have been changed.
2. 1 Peter 5:8