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On the Side - April 2012

The Rule
by Carol Shrader

My husband and I have a hard and fast rule for maintaining a healthy marriage. It is important. It is non-negotiable. It has saved our relationship for years.

The rule has been broken on occasion and always – always – results in pain, heartache and despair. To the extent that the occasional lapse only serves to remind us that we must at all costs adhere to the rule.

The Rule. All caps, even. THE RULE.

What is so crucial to maintaining our marriage? What ONE rule could, if broken, cause such abject heartache and despair?

Well, here it is: My husband must never – under any circumstances – ever hint, suggest or offer that he might arrive home “early.”

I really wish I could chuckle and tell you I am joking. But this is the absolute truth. Absolute.

Early in his medical training, early in our parenthood, I did not yet understand the necessity of such a rule. Wade would tell me he might be home early – completely cushioning himself with the “might” – and I would be watching for him eagerly. Only to get a call, two hours later, that an emergency had detained him and he not only would not be home early but instead he would probably be late. Sigh.

Fifteen years ago this month, we became parents for the first time – times three. The birth of triplets forced us to develop a flexibility that neither of us knew we possessed. It was necessary. Wade was a medical student and I stayed home with the triplets while running a dorm for undergraduates. I was strong, determined and fully capable (through Christ’s strength) unless that is, my man said he would be home early.

Because let’s face it, coming home early meant I would have that oh-so-sacred of words….HELP. And ladies, when we anticipate receiving HELP, don’t we prepare our minds for just that, letting down our guard, relaxing our resolve and preparing for even the tiniest of breaks?

Oh, I did. And so, when the triplets were about three, I made a realization. I realized that I grew quite short-tempered around 5 o’clock ONLY on the days when I had thought Wade would be walking in the door at 4:30. I realized that I became overwhelmed with despair at the tasks surrounding suppertime ONLY on the days when Wade had suggested he would be home before suppertime. I realized that I had a complete inability to juggle the needs of my three preschoolers getting ready for bed ONLY on the days when Wade had said he would be home for bed and wasn’t. Oh, that was when I realized we needed THE RULE.

Let me be clear – the problem was not with my husband. He is an orthopedic surgeon. Emergencies arise – and especially as a resident and fellow – his time was not his own. I firmly believe that we are a team in his calling to be a surgeon and as a team, it is my job to understand the demands on his time. That has always been a goal – always been a priority for me.

No, my friends, the problem was the battle in my own mind. On those occasions where Wade thought he might be home early and didn’t come home early, I took my eyes off of my one-and-only strength to be a Godly wife and mother – Jesus Christ. I put my eyes firmly on the perceived rest of having another adult in the house; on the extra-hands and extra-lap; on the idea of a team taking care of the children. And oh my goodness, dear ones, I became completely, utterly, hopelessly incapable.

I am drawn to Matthew’s account of Peter and Jesus in the storm.

“…’Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.’ He said, ‘Come.’ So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, ‘Lord, save me.’ Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’ “ Matthew 14: 28-31 (ESV)

In shepherding our children, and in honoring our husbands, we are called to walk on water, my friends. We are called. And walking on water is only possible, when we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus.

Please re-read the verse -- and do not miss the fact that when Peter began to sink, he did not call for one of the other disciples to throw him a rope, a life preserver, a ring. No, he called on the ONE that could pull him out of the depths and set him on firm footing again.

No matter the season you and your family are in – whether you need our rule or not -- may I encourage you to keep your eyes focused on the things above, the one that can give you strength, sustain your days and grant you an ability to love, honor and encourage your husband.

Peter cried, “Lord, save me.” Jesus’ response was immediate. Immediate. There is no greater help than that.


Carol Mason Shrader loves to be surprised by her husband arriving home early from his job as a pediatric orthopedic surgeon at Phoenix Children’s Hospital. She and Wade have four amazing kiddos – Benjamin, Mason, Claire (15 this month!) and baby Cate (6).