My father and I simultaneously experienced a paradigm shift with respect to my mother. One day it dawned on us that her new habit of asking the same questions over and over and her inability to get the hang of a cell phone after repeated instruction was not deliberate obtuseness. Once we realized she couldn’t help it, all annoyance dissipated. We were no longer even tempted to be impatient.
My husband is a man who can do almost anything with his hands: create a jewelry box (and the jewelry to put in it), paint a framable landscape in oil, build a ship in a bottle, repair a broken house and its contents. Also, he surpasses me in Bible knowledge, understanding of culture, memory, and problem solving. Most importantly, he has more faith.
So when we got married, I expected him to be not only my spouse but also my father, financial advisor, accountant, and “guy Friday” who would balance my checkbook, solve all my children’s woes, discern instantly when I was sad, and remind me of all upcoming appointments.
This did not necessarily come to pass. (Plus, he is lousy with directions.)
What I learned, in both the case of my mother and my husband, is that annoyance is the direct result of expectation. That is to say, faulty expectations inflame annoyance. Where expectations are unreasonable and (dare I say) idolatrous, annoyance is guaranteed. Does not Scripture say that our quarrels come from our wrongful desires (James 4:1)? The more perfect way is given:
“Put on, then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another …” (Colossians 3:12-13).
What is the key to “bearing”? Knowledge. Knowledge of the fact that everybody is good at something and stinks at something else. Leonardo da Vinci was a painter, sculptor, engineer, mathematician, geologist, botanist, inventor, and writer. But he wasn’t good at finishing things. Are you really going to get on his case for that?
Another wonderful thing came from my breakthrough: I discovered a whole new role for myself as my husband’s helper. While I was placing him on a pedestal, I saw nothing in myself to contribute. But now that he is not God anymore but a man, and I am a woman, also endowed with a mind, I see little ways I can fill in the gaps. Today, for example, I set out on the table a birthday card and stamp and pen for him to write a note to his son this evening. I realized that I am more likely (by default) to remember such occasions than he is.
If Jesus is willing to “sympathize with our weaknesses” (Hebrews 4:15), it would be strange indeed for us to show annoyance with the weaknesses of others.