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The dream

How a simple phrase can change the heart

My husband woke from a dream in the night and shared it with me. He was describing that we were on a journey, and that I was angry with him “for some reason.”

“For some reason,” that’s what he said.

The narrative continued uninterrupted from there but in the manner of a conversation you’re struggling to stay with when you’re in the middle of heat stroke under a blistering sun at a garden party and you still see the person’s lips moving, but the trees are swirling around you and you’re one minute from fainting.

Is that how my husband sees me? Is that how he has always seen my eminently reasonable, cogent, and important arguments? My beautiful, persuasive logic? My unimpeachable verbal legal briefs addressing this or that unfairness in our arrangement? Has it amounted to this? He just sees me as being angry—“for some reason”?

The one who does not violate our wills yet has a thousand ways to move upon them.

There’s a hilarious scene in a movie preview I saw, where one guy tells his buddy about the girl who got away. “I thought we were going to be together forever. Then about a week later, right out of the blue, she sends me a ‘Dear John’ letter.” “Did she give you any reason?” “Yeah, I called her. She gave me a bunch of crap about me not listening to her enough, or something. I don’t know, I wasn’t really paying attention.”

The funny thing is that my husband really is a good listener. Therefore, I naturally assumed he was just like me. Turns out there is something about the male half of the age-old binary that I had not properly appraised. What I look like to myself and what I look like to my husband are two different things. What I had considered my policy of helpful continuous reminders of problems in our relationship appeared to him as the very definition of nagging!

If I had plunked down good money at the local counseling center, it would not have been more effective than my husband’s three words, “for some reason.” The transformation in me was immediate. The note to self was as strong as a vow. It is one thing to extinguish a bad habit because the Bible tells you to. It is another thing to do it because it’s having diminishing returns. God bless the soul who obeys for reason No. 1. But God is not averse to bringing about repentance by the second way either.

So individually tailored are God’s teachings, rebukes, corrections, and trainings (2 Timothy 3:16) that what avails for one of his children might not be His way with another. A simple yarn about a wealthy sheep stealer (2 Samuel 12) that reduced King David to tearful remorse might have left another man cold. People my age remember the kid in elementary school who got his ears boxed by the teacher for misbehavior, and it did nothing to improve his character. Whereas the tender student two rows over was horrified into permanent obedience.

“For some reason” is an innocuous adverbial phrase tacked onto the end of a sentence, and it was my undoing. It will change my interactions with the man I live with henceforth, not because I am good but because there is little use in implementing a practice so patently ineffective. Nagging has so little payoff that it’s amazing it has persisted as a tradition for so many generations.

Actually, I don’t even know if my husband meant it that way when he said “for some reason.” Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, as Freud admitted. Could it be he really couldn’t remember why I was angry in the dream so he simply related, descriptively enough, that I was angry “for some reason”? A throwaway observation. Still, the Lord knew how I would take it, and it was in His hands a “two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, … and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).

The One who does not violate our wills yet has a thousand ways to move upon them.

Andrée Seu Peterson

Andrée is a senior writer for WORLD Magazine. Her columns have been compiled into three books including Won't Let You Go Unless You Bless Me. Andrée resides near Philadelphia.


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