Tamara and I married in 1983. I love my woman. She’s gorgeous, gentle, sees the best and believes the best in everyone. She is a fierce warrior with an emotional IQ that’s off-the-charts.
We married and settled in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I was twenty-nine, with an MBA from the University of Southern California running a tech startup. On the weekends, Tammy and I lead worship at a small Vineyard Church we’d help plant.
Clift Richards, a CPA, and pastor of our Church, invited me to join him for lunch with Christian several Christian leaders visiting from the region. You would know their names.
The instant I sat down at the table I felt a rush of self-importance. I looked around and thought, I’ve made it. I’m with my peers. I’m in the minion. My pride swelled to full capacity before the waitress took our orders. Right before I took a bite of my cheeseburger, one of the leaders elbowed the guy sitting to his left. They looked at me and laughed.
“Son, let me tell you something. You’re green. God ain’t going to use you if you don’t learn to be kind to your wife. You hear me, son?”
I was listening. I wanted to disappear into my chair and die.
He repeated himself at twice the volume causing people near us to turn around in their seats and stare. “Son, are you listening? If you don’t learn to be kind to your wife, God ain’t going to use you.” I don’t know how he sensed kindness wasn’t my strongest attribute.
I came home and told Tammy what happened. She cried. I was, to put it bluntly, difficult. I argued for sport and would not yield to make peace. I was a kind, generous, compassionate and considerate man as long as my needs were met. If not, I turned into a Class-A jerk.
A year later, we moved to Washington DC where I worked for Herb Ellingwood in the Reagan Administration. I was thirty, and nervous working for the President of the United States’ lawyer. Herb and his wife adopted Tammy and I, teaching us how to live as radical believers in the murky waters of DC politics. One evening, when they’d taken us out to dinner, Herb raised a political issue unfamiliar to Tammy.
I blurted something condescending to her, “You don’t know about that?”
Herb shot me a harsh glance. I disappointed him and embarrassed my young wife.
Herb used the opportunity to teach me an object lesson. He looked at me and peppered me with questions about an intricate political issue. I was unfamiliar with the matter and blushed in shame. Message received.
I was a fraud, a hypocrite if I didn’t treat my wife with kindness. I was a joke of a man if I didn’t apply the golden rule to my number one neighbor.
I vowed, with God’s help, to become a kind and merciful person. You must ask my wife and daughters if I’ve succeeded. I hope they tell you this old dog learned a new trick or two.
You want a rich life now? Wealthy in the next life? Confess. Dump your arrogant conceit at the foot of the cross and receive God’s merciful forgiveness. Where possible, make amends to those you’ve offended. I do this a lot, sometimes more than once a day. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. John 12.24 ESV
Treat everyone you encounter, everyone you know and work with, with respect, courtesy, and genuine interest. I want to make friends. I don’t want to leave a trail of offended enemies hanging around who might return to snap and bite.
Try your best to get along with people who irritate and bug you to apoplexy. It’s difficult sometimes. I understand. But you can win them over to friendship or, at least, peaceful coexistence. If not, they’ll wander out of your life. Or, the Grace of God, they’ll stay put and you will grow to love them.