The Problem With Paul







As a young mother and missionary, I spend lots of time with other women, often hearing about their problems.  If we're together long enough, we inevitably move to the fascinating subject of men.  Whether single and dating or wishing to date, or divorced or married with a family, these women's complaints about men are remarkably similar:  he's a workaholic, I never see him, he's not romantic, he doesn't have time for the kids, he'd rather spend his free time with the guys playing golf or tennis, he never helps around the house, he spends money foolishly, etc.  Listening to their stories, I can understand my friends' frustrations.  They often seem merited.  Knowing some of the men referred to, I tend to agree with the ladies.  So I nod sympathetically and listen and nod and try to relate to them.

But really, I can't.

That's what brings me to my problem--the problem with my husband, Paul.  Try as I may, I just can't fit him into any of those molds for men.  Let me explain.

First of all, Paul isn't a workaholic.  Don't get me wrong.  He works hard, he enjoys working and he's the first one to volunteer to help out someone in need.  But he's not a workaholic.  Maybe it's because he's such a family man, or maybe it's because his self-image isn't rooted in what he does.  Or maybe it's because he loves life too much to take it too seriously.  I'm not quite sure of the reason, but I admire the way he fits the task to the time and still manages to have some left over for me.  Oh, there are many days when he's called on unexpectedly or works late into the night.  A missionary's schedule is never eight to five.  But he almost unconciously carves out moments in his day to stop and talk to me, to reassure, to laugh, to care.

And then there are his beautiful eyes.  They tell me in a hundred different ways that he loves me.  And not just his eyes.  His words, too, always tender and caring, rarely impatient.  He handles me with care.  I feel safe with him.  Never worried about if I'm living up to his expectations of me.  I know that blissful feeling of being accepted as I am.

Paul is not macho--not for a minute.  But I guess he could seem to be--until you looked into his eyes.  That's when you'd see the gentleness, the warmth, the good humor, the love, the faith, the calmness that characterize this man.  I don't think Paul could ever intentionally intimidate someone.  That's not the way he leads.  His style is to lead through modeling and then handing the reins over to another, to give him a chance to learn and lead.  Paul isn't threatened by another person's success.

As for spending time with the guys, well, Paul is very competitive.  Always up for a good game of tennis, or raquetball, or best of all, soccer.  And I've rarely found a board game or card game that he hasn't played at some point in his life.  But I don't feel that he plays sports and games to escape from home.  He needs activity and exercise.  And it's often through sports that he meets men with whom he can later share about Christ.

I guess you're beginning to understand the problem with Paul.  Or maybe it's just my problem.  I married a saint.  Now I know theologically that as Christians we are all saints and joint-heirs with Christ.  But there are saints and then there are saints.  In fact, I used to think I was rather saintly.  But when you marry a saint, a real saint, you soon find out how terribly unsaintly you are.

I have a personality that is off the charts on the emotional point.  Up and down I go, like a roller coaster.  But not Paul.  He is cool, calm and collected.  That used to really bug me.  I just wanted him to get mad every once in awhile.  But not Paul.  He's a saint.

He loves to play with our sons and has at different stages in their lives done very unfatherly type functions:  changing diapers, getting up in the night, rushhing to the emergency room, you get the picture.  He will even on occasion buy feminine products for me at the store.

Well, I imagine by now, you're beginning to get the picture.  The problem with Paul is that there is no problem with Paul.  And that makes my work really hard as I try to relate to these other women's real problems.

Perhaps you're thinking, "There has to be something he doesn't do well."  Yes, yes, you're right.  In fact, there are many.  He can't cook, sometimes wears mismatched clothes,  prefers playing with kids to business discussions with men, forgets to shave, cracks his knuckles, leaves cabinet doors open, and I could keep going.  But really, these are so petty.

When we were dating, I had a whole list of expectations for "my perfect mate" that he didn't meet up to.  I could have told you some things I literally hated about him.  Isn't it funny how I thank God for those traits now?

I guess I've changed over the years.  Perhaps I'm learning to count my blessings instead of complain.  Maybe I'm learning that those things that used to bug me about Paul are precisely the tools God is using to chip away at selfish me and make me more like Christ.

I used to think I was more "spiritual" than Paul.  I knew more Bible verses, could talk more theologically, spent more time in prayer.

Then we got married, and I saw the difference.  I knew a lot about God, but Paul lived it.  He taught me through actions and simple words.  He wasn't out to impress anyone.  And I suppose that by his attitude, he's accomplished just the opposite.  People are impressed.  Not impressed in the eye-brow raising, high society way.  They're impressed in their hearts.  Paul leaves them, and me, with a warm, simple, caring impression.

And that's not such a bad problem to have after all.        


Elizabeth Goldsmith Musser, c1991