I was sitting on our neighbors’ outdoor patio a few weeks ago watching my husband play music. There, on the chilly wet lawn at dusk, he, his friend Jesse, and our neighbor Tait passed a melody between their three guitars—an activity musicians call “jamming,” which is totally alien to me because I play nothing but first-grade piano.
We sat in four lawn chairs while the rain turned the brick patio dark in spots. Since I felt illiterate and had no instrument in my lap, I watched the three men. Jesse has the heart of a true roving musician, blond hair, and a guitar that sounds like sunshine. Tait’s playing, and his person, wears a raw ease that make you feel welcome. My husband Jonathan and his Taylor guitar share a low, intuitive steadiness that carries substantiality into the world without apologizing.
“Do something, Jon,” Jesse said, pointing to my husband.
Jonathan began inventing a solo, tickling the neck of his guitar and puncturing the outside air with big, round notes while the others plucked along. The air swirled with sounds no person could make alone. They played and played this way. I saw the deep pleasure they derived from the way their varied sounds clanged them together. In their hands, jamming became an act of virility, adventure, and vocation.
Every time I witness a scene like this, which I often do these days, I feel my heart becoming a little more freed from its selfishness. For many years as an unmarried and healthily ambitious person, I fed myself on my own dreams. I wanted to write great books. I wanted to make great speeches. I wanted to become a wonderful wife, make beautiful food, and astound everyone with my creativity.
But part of becoming a wonderful wife—or even just a plain good one—is learning to take another person’s dreams into your own being. And that means, of course, no longer being devoted to the display of your own competence. It means getting inside someone else’s loves and praying to see with their eyes. That doesn’t mean your dreams have to die or fall by the wayside. But they do have to move over a little.
Recently I was explaining to Jonathan how all the women Beethoven had ever loved turned him down. Jonathan was incredulous. “But,” he said, “he’s Beethoven! How could they turn down Beethoven?”
“But they didn’t know he was Beethoven back then,” I said. “He was wandering through the woods, unkempt and unhygienic and boisterous and growing deaf.” That’s the thing about young women, I thought to myself. They don’t know which men will turn out to be great.My epiphany advanced: Who has more influence on a young man’s greatness than a woman whom he loves?
I think often about these things because I have married a man whose musical gifts are significant and not to be wasted. How can I treat him like the treasure he is? In a sense I share this question with every married woman, since every husband is not without praiseworthy qualities and that impression of God’s finger, his particular giftedness. God will help us learn the answer.