A Workaholic’s “Widow”

“Please don’t let the phone ring! Oh, please God! Don’t let it ring!” I whispered.

But it did—right at 5 p.m. I didn’t even need to answer it to know what would be said from the other end.

“Sorry, Girl,” my husband said sincerely as he used his favorite name for me. “I have to work late again.”

I hung up the phone—and crumbled on the inside. Once again there would be no period at the end of a long, exhausting day. The phone call merely offered a comma, promising much more sentence to come. Motherhood would have to limp along until “Goodnight Moon” put it to rest.

Bitter frustration scrawled itself sharply across my heart.

We had five young children and my husband was never home. He worked for a small Christian company where everyone wore a lot of hats and the work was never done. Yet my husband always tried to stay till it was. While I admired his work ethic, I was staggering under the load of hats at home. The gentleman in “Caps for Sale” made it look so easy.

The strain began to surface whenever we were together—like the evening he came home late and we fought about paper plate holders.

I had taken platefuls of Christmas cookies to neighbors and forgotten to bring back some of our wicker holders I had used to support them. But since I had mentioned a few days earlier that we needed new ones and he had said we couldn’t afford anything at that point, he thought I had done it on purpose as an excuse to buy more. Nothing I said could convince him otherwise.

I was boiling over—way over. Here I was trying to fill my time doing good things for people—since he was never home—and all he could do was find fault and accuse me of things that weren’t even true.

Furious, I ran out to the backyard to think. But I did much more than just think. Our children still wonder what happened to their big yellow Tonka truck they had left out by our shed. It just disappeared that night—after shrinking down several inches with the aid of a nearby baseball bat. Not my proudest moment. But it was either the toy truck or my husband. And in that case, I think I chose rather wisely.

Then a Christian financial planner came to speak at our church a few days later.

Maybe he can tell us how to afford paper plate holders! I thought sourly.

But the speaker had a slightly higher aim.

He spoke about God being sovereign and not making mistakes—even with our jobs. He said God knew beforehand the hours and pay that came with our jobs and could easily move us on if He wanted to. He concluded that we needed to be thankful for what God had provided and learn to manage both the time and money He had given us to work with.

A new perspective tapped gently on the door of my heart.

God was in charge of my husband’s job.

My job was to trust Him with it and change both my attitude and actions toward my husband. But how?

The question came to me—What if I were a single mother? Would I wait around angrily to get married again or would I create a family-life for my children on my own? I knew I would do it myself. So, what was I waiting for?

Like clockwork, the phone rang at 5 p.m. But this time, a very different wife answered.

After my husband’s sincere apology, I said just as sincerely, “That’s fine, Honey. I know what you’re doing is important. Don’t worry about us. The kids and I are taking a picnic supper to the park.”

There was a pause. “You’re going to the park … without me?” my husband sounded bewildered.

“Well, it won’t be the same without you. But you just say the word and I’ll throw in the extra hoagie I made just in case you could come.”

“No … I really do need to work. We have some important deadlines … You guys … have fun. I’ve got to run,” but he sounded much too deflated to run anywhere.

And suddenly, I loved him very much.

“Honey?” I said gently, “I just want you to know I’m going to be thinking of fun things I can do with the kids. It’ll help take our minds off missing you so much.  Okay?”

“But I don’t want you to do fun things without me!” He tried to sound like he was joking, yet I heard the truth behind it.

“Well, we don’t want to either, but we have to make the best of a hard situation. Okay?”

“Okay … Bye,” he said.

“Bye, Sweetie.”

And hope danced delightedly around in my heart.

My husband obviously wanted to be with us, he just felt obligated to work. But all that could change. In the meantime, my job was to “hold down the fort,” not only with God’s help, but with His sanction as well. Since He hadn’t chosen to make any changes yet, God must feel I was capable of the task at home.

So I would be.

I stopped focusing on my husband’s job and got busy with mine. Family life became an adventure I never knew existed. The kids and I homeschooled, planted a garden, read, played, sang, made things—and loved my hard-working husband. Everyday, he found a little love note with hearts and flowers written on the napkin in his lunch. I wanted him to remember all the goodness just waiting for him at home.

But mostly, I prayed. I didn’t want to be a single mom forever.

One evening a year later, the phone didn’t ring.

My husband came home a little after five and sat down quietly at the kitchen table.

“Well, I did it,” he said simply.

His oddly stunned expression made everything inside me freeze. I pulled up a chair and waited silently for the blow.

What did he do? Did he make some big, important decision without me that was now irreversible? My friend’s husband had just gone out and bought a car!

“Well, I did it,” he repeated slowly. “I finally told my boss that I would be happy to come in early, but would need to leave by five.” He paused and reached for my hand. “I just can’t do this anymore,” he said almost apologetically. “I just have to be with you guys.”

No objections here!

“So what did he say?” I wiped at my unexpected tears.

“My boss just said, ‘You got to do what you got to do. Family comes first.’ That was it. Here I’ve been struggling for a year to figure out how to be home with you guys and that’s all it took.”

My husband looked so sweet and confused that I just had to grab his face and kiss it.

And brilliant realization lit up every room in my heart.

While I had been busy doing my job that year, God had been busy doing His. In His own way and in His own time, God had wooed my workaholic husband back home.

The phone never rang at 5 p.m. again.

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