Keeping short accounts

Faith & Inspiration

“The affair between Boston and Ted Williams has been no mere summer romance; it has been a marriage, composed of spats, mutual disappointments, and, toward the end, a mellowing hoard of shared memories. It falls into three stages, which may be termed Youth, Maturity, and Age; or Thesis, Antithesis, and Synthesis; or Jason, Achilles, and Nestor.”

A biography—or even John Updike’s feature-length encapsulation “Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu” from The New Yorker that I’ve quoted from above—is a lifetime at a glance, with the advantage of a tidy and godlike perspective on matters that, when they were lived one ordinary Tuesday at a time, were not so clearly discerned. But as novelist and literary critic Updike teaches us, relationships, like novels, have arcs and falling action. And as the Bible teaches us, these stages are not pure helpless fate but have much to do with our own choices.

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My sister recently came to visit me for two and half weeks, which is a sufficiently delimited amount of time to make one conscious of its momentous duration. There was no wiggle room here to indulge years of sloppy flouting of the rules of God for healthy relations. Whatever would pass between us must be compressed into that time frame. Spats (and there were some) must be resolved forthwith; intimate words of appreciation long held close to the vest for just the right moment must find their moment before the return trip to the airport.

The edification inherent in this arrangement is by now obvious: If all of us would only see our marriages and friendships and long-term relationships like short-term ones (the former may not be as “long term” as you think; my first husband died at age 46), we would be more conscious of keeping short accounts with one another, and of not postponing the heart’s most important communications in slothfulness or the tyranny of the urgent.

My sister and I had a difficult encounter in the second-to-last day of her stay, concluding with her exiting the conversation and going up to her room. Under other circumstances we might have let this ride for months, and even thought the postponement wise. But both of us knew we couldn’t do that, so the Bible’s admonition about the sun not setting on one’s anger had to be literally followed, which, come to think of it, is a good way to implement most if not all Bible truth.

Andrée Seu Peterson
Andrée Seu Peterson

Andrée is the author of three books: Won't Let You Go Unless You Bless Me, Normal Kingdom Business, and We Shall Have Spring Again.


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