Erring on the Side of Grace

I stand in the waiting area, watching the patrons of the restaurant while I wait for the hostess to take my husband and me to our table. We are on a date for the first time in weeks.

Exhausted, the last effort I desire to engage in is conversation, but I love my husband and we haven’t talked like grown ups in days. We need this date night. We need real conversation. We need to talk about something other than how rude it is to spit out your unwanted food on your plate or how much 3 + 4 equals.

But I just want to sit and be quiet. No demands. No expectations. I don’t want to have to think of that ever growing list of topics we need to discuss, because every time we discuss them (finances, work, the kids’ behavior, sex, extended family relationships, etc.), I always end up feeling even more exhausted and beaten down. The discussions are all so serious. So life and death. Heaviness pervades me nearly all the time if I stop to sit down and think. Especially when I sit down and think. I don’t want heaviness on a date. I want to smile and feel calm and pleasant.

A quiet date. I just want quiet. I just want to exist at the same table as the man I desperately love. The fact that he is there is enough. I don’t have to hear his voice to know he’s there.

So, we sit in silence for awhile at the table. We may even check a text message or two that comes our way. I might read that blog post from John Piper I ignored earlier in the day when the kids were vying for my attention.

And all the while, I know what the people at the tables around us are thinking. I feel their thoughts pricking at me like daggers. I see their arched brows, their shaking heads, the corners of their mouths angled in disapproval.

I know, because I’ve thought the same thoughts about other couples, too.

How sad. They aren’t even talking. They’re interacting more with their phones than they are with each other. They must have a really bad marriage. They’re more like roommates than lovers. I feel so sorry for them.

 I thought those exact same thoughts before I had kids.

I don’t think those thoughts anymore when I see a couple sitting silently at a table.

Now, instead of assuming the worst, I assume that they are exhausted. I assume that neither of them wants to cook dinner. I assume that they want to spend time together, and since neither of them want to cook, they found themselves in this restaurant where someone else can bring the food and refill the glasses and wash the dishes. I assume that they have run out of words for that day. I assume that they love each other deeply, so deeply that they have reached that place in their marriage where they don’t have to fill up their dates with conversation just for the sake of conversation.

They can simple exist together at the same table, secure in their love.

I could be wrong. They could be in a marriage so broken that they no longer know how to speak to one another. They could be in the midst of a terrible argument that they have paused for the sake of decorum. They could be ready to slit each other’s throats with their steak knives. I don’t know.

But I do know that it’s far less judgmental of me to err on the side of grace. It’s far more loving of me to assume that they are weary, too. It’s far more gracious for me to assume that they just want a quiet date without any expectations. That they just want to feel calm and pleasant. That they just want to sit near each other and exist in that quiet, comfortable place of being quietly known and loved.

After all, they can always take the long way home and talk each other’s ears off in the car.

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