There is a stack of boxes along the wall in our bedroom that has been there since we moved into this house. There’s only three or four of them and they don’t have much stuff in them anymore, but we’ve never completely unpacked them. In fact, they never even get noticed anymore. They have become a fixture in the room. An unintentional part of the décor. We fully intended to unpack those boxes but didn’t get around to it on the first day… or the second … or the third. And then, after a few weeks, we noticed them again and started to unpack a few things but got distracted and have never really touched them again. At this point, they’ve become another place to stack folded laundry or important papers that need to be filed (that have also been forgotten about). It’s like they have become so familiar that they disappeared.
This isn’t the only time something like this has happened. I remember a small table Erin and I received as a wedding gift. It was about the size of an end table but taller. When we were moving into our first apartment, we didn’t quite know what to do with it. So we set it by the front door to get it out of the way. And it stayed in that same spot the entire time we lived there. I can’t say for sure if it actually looked good in that space or not. After a while, we just became so conditioned to it being there that it actually started to feel like it belonged.
I think our brains have a way of filtering out familiar things from our thoughts so that we can focus on the things that are new or out of place. I guess this is necessary. I mean, if we noticed everything around us as if it was the first time we ever saw it, we would probably feel pretty overwhelmed and wouldn’t get much done. But this auto-pilot prioritizing does have a terrible side effect. It makes us remarkably prone to take the most reliable things in our lives for granted. The people, places and things that are a part of your everyday life and routine tend to fade into the white noise of the background or get overshadowed by newer, more pressing and short term things. The parts of your job that used to excite you become routine and mundane. The beautiful view of the lake that you pass by every morning doesn’t even catch a glance anymore. And perhaps the most devastating, the wife or husband that once stole your breath when they walked in the room now hardly gets eye contact when you’re talking to them, that is if you’re even talking to them at all.
Erin and I have been fortunate enough to work together for most our married lives. Some of you might not count that as fortunate, but we do. We have had to learn through trial and error how to balance things and set up some ground rules about how much home stuff can be talked about at work and work stuff at home. But overall, we’ve always enjoyed relating to each other as both co-workers and spouses. The biggest problem that it presents for me is the tendency to get so used to Erin being there that I start to take her for granted. I don’t realize just how unbelievably blessed I am that I get to do life with her. I forget that I am married to a beautiful woman that never ceases to amaze me with her mad organization and planning skills, her uncanny ability to manage a ton of relationships better than I manage any one of my own, her excitement and wisdom in raising our children, her passion and commitment to love and serve God with her life, and countless other qualities that make her better than I deserve. I somehow forget that this is the person that is sitting next to me in the car when we’re driving to work. This is the girl that is working in the office down the hall. She is MY wife! She chose ME!
But I often talk to her like I hardly notice she’s there. It’s pretty shameful really. I could let myself off the hook with the “well, I’m a guy and we just don’t think that way” excuse. But, while it’s true that men do tend to compartmentalize their lives more than women, it doesn’t make it acceptable. Not if we’re called to love our wives “as Christ loved the church (Eph 5:25).” So, I’m trying to find ways to remind myself to remember her, not just the fact that she exists, but who she is. I’m thinking of resorting to calendar alerts on my work computer and phone. I know it sounds lame, but I really need to do better at this and it seems that if I don’t do something to bring her to the front of mind than my brain may just put her in the background and that makes me a crappy husband. She is more important than a stack of boxes or an awkward shaped table. She deserves more of me than my peripheral attention.
So, what are your thoughts or ideas about how we can keep this from happening? How do we keep the most important and reliable things and people in our lives from falling into the background?