The black laundry basket full of clean laundry had been sitting there in the middle of the laundry room for a few days waiting for some attention--my attention. Day after day, I gave it a hasty glance and then just stepped around it. But, I finally decided this past weekend that now was the time to finally take care of business and maybe even win a couple of brownie points with Dalia, if I'm lucky. In general, when I make up my mind to take care of the laundry, I do a good job of getting the clothes sorted into hot, warm, and cold piles and getting them through the washer and dryer gauntlet. After removing them from the dryer, I toss them into the laundry basket and well, I lose my motivation. I know. It's shameful. My mother, the queen of laundry, would surely shake her head at her wayward son. Yes, I know mom. But, I just don't like folding clothes and putting them away. But, what I really (seriously really) hate are the socks. I think I could face the rest of it if I didn't have to deal with those annoying socks.
This past weekend Dalia was away visiting her parents. And, I decided I wanted to get that haunting laundry basket emptied before Dalia got home. I sat down in the living room with the college football game on and started the folding process. And, as predicted, all was going well until everything else was done except those annoying socks. Now, to be fair, it isn't all socks. Some socks are easy because they have distinctive colors or patterns that make it easy to find the match. Piece of cake. But, what about all the black socks, brown socks, and white socks? Matching socks is a royal pain. But, slowly, pair by pair, I get most of them matched. But, inevitably, just when I'm a few socks away from finishing my toil, I'm stuck. Where is the matching sock for this one? Where is the match for that one? I washed all of the clothes in the hamper. I'm sure neither Dalia and I just wore one sock. Where in the world is the other sock?
So, it is this silly ritual that I face every time I muster the energy to deal with the laundry basket--a growing number of single socks without a match. So, in my exasperation, I leave all the single socks in the basket. I figure eventually the other one will show up. As the weeks and months pass, one laundry load after another, the number of unmatched socks grows.
But, where do lost socks go?
I'm sure the six-year-old version of me would just blame the sock gremlins. But, I'm at a loss because every time I get to the bottom of the basket, the number of unmatched socks grows.
Really, where do lost socks go?
My Useless Marriage
Though somewhat facetious, it is relevant because, without its match, the sock is useless. And, herein lies one of the most important lessons that I've learned about marriage.
Without my mate, my marriage is useless. Don't get me wrong. It doesn't mean that I am useless or that Dalia is useless. God created us each with innate and inherent value. But, my marriage, the union ordained by God is useless for the purposes for which God ordained it.
Our churches are full of marriages as useless as single socks.
God intended for Dalia and me to be a mutually submissive pair--equal in every way. As a pair, the Arnolds were supposed to advance God's purposes on earth through the synergistic power of our skills, abilities, and interests. As a Christian pair, the Arnolds were supposed to walk according to the Spirit in agreement as agents of God's transforming power. With thirty-four years of marriage under our belts, the Arnolds should have developed into an indomitable force wreaking havoc on Satan and his minions.
On that much-anticipated summer day, thirty-four years ago, Dalia and I vowed to become a pair. But, it has taken us decades to learn and embody what that really means.
Like so many other Christian couples, we lost each other--not in presence but in essence.
Married but Missing
In the early days, Dalia sometimes struggled with loneliness while I pecked away on my computer keyboard in the other room. If she became frustrated with me for any reason, I rationalized away her response and chalked it up as her being too emotional. If things that she prioritized weren't that important to me, I ignored them if I could get away with that. She didn't feel that I listened to her. I was too immature to understand the difference between hearing and listening. Don't get me wrong. We had some good aspects to our marriage as well. But, the essence of us as a pair--the potential for what God wanted to do in and with us as a couple was missing. And, for many years, we didn't even know the magnitude of the problem.
Where do lost socks go?
Dalia and I are not alone in this struggle. As a counselor and marriage ministry leader, I have heard countless laments from Christian wives complaining how their husbands are missing as spiritual leaders in the home. Testimonies abound of Christian wives who are disappointed with the paltry amount of time their husbands spend with them and working with them to properly raise the children. When everything has been sorted through, we are left with the conundrum of the Christian wife who feels alone in marriage--suffering loneliness and often mental health challenges as she goes through her routines of home, work, and even ministry without the emotional (and often physical) presence of her husband.
I've witnessed numerous accounts of Christian husbands decrying how their wives are missing as financial contributors to the household expenses, spending frivolously, and leaving them to bear most of the burden. Too many Christian husbands also struggle with the lack of fulfilling physical intimacy with their wives. We are left with the Christian husband who is alone in marriage--disoriented in his priorities, distanced from his children, and over-invested in work and sports because he struggles to find the balance that his wife would bring to his life.
On and on it goes with seemingly no end in sight.
Satan is steadily disempowering our Christian marriages with the insidious lie from the darkest recesses of hell itself that it is ok to be MARRIED BUT MISSING.
Here we are, a room full of lost socks touting how many years we have been married when in fact we've been missing far longer than present. Staying in the same house, eating from the same fridge, and sleeping in the same bed without truly experiencing marriage as a pair.
Where do lost socks go?
In His Presence
Our only hope to reunite the pair that stood face to face at the altar is to submit to the Holy Spirit that is within each of us--allowing its power to pair us through grace, sacrifice, and servanthood. Our lives and marriages must become evidence of God's presence.
Through my own journey of spiritual formation over the past three years (daily morning devotionals alone, evening devotionals with Dalia, weekly fasting), the Holy Spirit has been better able to do its work in me. It has changed my marriage forever. Dalia and I have grown to finally get a better understanding of the power God intended for this pairing more than three decades ago. Dalia is excited about our marriage because she believes her husband is really hearing from God. I'm excited about my marriage because finally, we are both fully present--making us available for God to use for his purposes.
So, really, where do lost socks go?
I'm still not sure. But, I do know that lost husbands and wives need to air our dirty laundry and be convicted when we are "married but missing". Then, we must make the daily decision to pick up our cross and walk as a pair in a spirit of agreement as led by the Holy Spirit.
Blessings going forward,
Dr. Harold and Dalia