(Post from Paul) A Better Man

Welcome to my life!

None of us, of course, can really know what the future holds; but when I consider the surprising “coincidences” that fall into place for us humans throughout our unpredictable lives, I find myself astonished by the way we’re often oddly prepared for things no one could possibly prepare for.  Maybe we all have an “inkling” buried deep in our unconscious where we notice the ‘foreshadowing’ events that completely escape the attention of our conscious minds; or, just maybe, God works with our lives in ways we can’t understand — in (to overwork a weary cliché) ‘mysterious ways’.  

The very focus in my life changed on July 18th.  That’s the day my life’s vocation changed.  These days, the work of a mental health clinician is my avocation.  My day job is taking care of Pam.  Looking back on twenty-two years of marriage I’m struck by the number of ‘lessons’ I’ve gotten to equip me to do that very job; and Pam is the one who’s been giving me the lessons.

Now, I’m not sure this is how it is for other husbands, but I’m pretty slow about figuring out what my wife is ‘up to’ — I’ve got firm ideas about what I think she’s up to; but, in truth, I haven’t got a clue.  Of course, even the slow eventually come to understand, and I understand now that she’s been spending all this time devoting her energies to the task of making me a better man — a man capable doing the job God has recently assigned to me.

At the risk of provoking universal objection from the female sex, I’m going to assert that we men actually want to be better than we are.  I know, I know.  When you consider all the resistance we put up, it’s easy to understand why wives become convinced that we husbands cherish our shortcomings above all else — but resistance is a ruse, a way to cover up for the embarrassment we all feel at being married to someone we know for certain is too good for us.  If we actually had a say in the matter, we’d ascend to a level where we merit the helpmate God has placed at our side.

If I’d had the wisdom to value what is actually precious in my life I would have taken notes.  I’d have studied.  I’d have practiced.  I would have done what every woman complains no man ever does.  I’d have listened.

And yet, and yet, in the teeth of all evidence to the contrary, I actually have been listening.  Yes, Pam, I have.  I’ve heard what you’ve said, but I listened to what you’ve actually done.  Amidst all your frustrations, amidst all your completely warranted observations that you’ve ‘taken all anyone could possibly take’, amidst all your temptations to finally give up on me, you haven’t given up on me, you actually have taken ‘more’, you’ve continued to teach, and you’ve continued to hope.

There’s a prayer, a prayer almost everyone knows.  It seems to me that everyone likes it as well.  People of all religions and no religion pray the prayer.  It’s the prayer folks call the ‘Serenity Prayer’ and I think there must be more refrigerators with the Serenity Prayer on them than there are refrigerators with food in them.  The prayer goes like this:

God, Grant me the Serenity

To Accept the things I can not Change,

The Courage to Change the things I Can,

And the Wisdom to Know the Difference.

I think the prayer is dumb.  Put that in your pipe and smoke it!  Specifically, I think it’s dumb to ask God for courage to change things.  Human beings are adept at denying the obvious and one of the obvious things about life that we all deny is the fact that you can’t change anything.  Our choices are clear — accept things, or be miserable from not accepting them.  If you can remember that formula you’ll have all the ‘wisdom to know the difference’ you’ll ever need.

Pam has put an immense effort, over the years, into the task of changing me.  She keeps forgetting what we all forget: God is God, and we’re just us; and our job is to get out of the way and let God do God’s job.  Thing is, though, Pam’s efforts haven’t been in vain.  I’m not talking about her efforts to change me — those efforts really have been in vain!  I’m talking about the other thing, the thing I’ve been listening to all these years.  Despite everything, Pam has accepted me.  She doesn’t always dance the dance of ecstasy when she accepts me, but after twenty-two years I’m still here — and she’s still right there.

And that’s where I want her to be.  I want her to be close enough for me to watch God use me to take care of her.  And, friends, let me promise you this — I’m not tempted to change one single thing about her.  I wouldn’t want a better woman.



About pamvbradford

I am a fifty seven year old banker specializing in government banking. I have a beautiful twenty-one year old daughter and a wonderful husband. My husband and I recently downsized, and purchased a beautiful condo in Watertown MA. We love our new home. I know I am a very fortunate person. I am surrounded by supportive family members, by supportive coworkers and by the marvelous support of our faith community at Sacred Heart Parish in Lexington MA. As the Psalm says, "There is nothing that I lack." My whole life changed on July 18, 2012 when I was diagnosed with a brain tumor. The news came from out of the blue. My tumor was removed by the marvelous Dr. Mark Johnson and his wonderful team of surgeons at the Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. The surgery truly was a miracle. I couldn't possibly have gotten better care. Now the 'easy' part is over. The tough part is to learn to walk with God in the midst of danger and surprise. My mood shifts from gratitude to fear and back again but I know God has a purpose for me. There's a reason I didn't die on the operating table. There's something that God wants me to do. This blog is my effort to share with others, with all of you, what it is that I am learning as I put one foot ahead of the other, live each day as it comes, and discover what it is that God has to teach me. Your prayers keep me going. Your love comforts me. Your knowledge and faith guide and teach me. God bless you all!
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One Response to (Post from Paul) A Better Man

  1. ronald lancaster says:

    Well said, my brother. I can also say that I am a “better man” for all of Pam’s influence in my life. Yup, little sister teaching big sister. I can’t wax poetic as you do, but trust me on this one. She has taught me by her example… honest, gutsy and so straight forward. My heart breaks daily for what she is going through. But to know she has you, her better man, and Liqa her better daughter there, gives me great joy and relief. Way to go , brother!

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