A Not-So-Moving Experience

In the months leading up to my marriage to the lovely Mrs. Newton, many people have sincerely offered me advice on what I should expect from married life.

Communication is very important in your first few months of marriage, especially honesty.
Don’t let even small problems simmer or linger without being resolved.
On the other hand… don’t sweat the small stuff! Learn to exercise grace towards your spouse.
Be sure to budget often in order to avoid money problems.
Be sure to set a routine reading the bible or praying together.
Enjoy the bliss that comes with being newlyweds… because you never know how long it’s going to last!

People have been really caring in their… well, care for us. Friends and family are excited for us and just about everyone who has ever married likely knows how we both feel. But for all the things we have been warned about, moving never came to the fore of anyone’s thought.

Yes, moving. That age-old activity of packing up one’s possessions into wicker baskets, burlap bags, steamer trunks and Home Depot cardboard boxes in order to transport them to a new home. That exercise in patience, logistics, communication and hard physical labor that drives men to drink and women to seek the nearest dark chocolate dealer.

Last weekend, my sweet wife and I engaged in part two of my move from my house in Duson, Louisiana, to our place in Monroe, some 185 miles northward. The first big move happened in May, when I rented a U-Haul trailer and we spent a weekend loading up boxes and furniture. I managed to get about half of my stuff in the trailer before we ran out of time and had to get back to Monroe.

On Friday, when we arrived at my house, Shannon looked at the mess of construction boards, tools, dust and paint and said to me, “We can do this! It’s not nearly as bad as I remembered.” By the time we rolled out the driveway on Sunday evening, her attitude had changed to, “Just leave everything and let’s go!” In between was a lot of sweating in 90-percent humidity, sun exhaustion and bickering over my poor logistics and bad communication, among other experiences. By the end of our Sunday, I was a bull in a china closet, desperate to do things my own stubborn way, and she was physically and emotionally worn out.

Moving isn’t fun, especially when you are used to doing it all alone and now you have another person to communicate with! For all of my life, I never had to explain the scarce logistics of my thought process to another soul. I just conquered as I saw fit. Now, my dear wife is asking me all kinds of questions and wondering what my plan is! When I kept changing my packing plans to meet the changing situation, civility started to dissolve…

We survived the move, by God’s grace, with our love intact. And, despite a blown tire on my RV that forced us to spend the night in a hotel while waiting for repair, we are still madly in love. There is one more trip to make down to Duson to empty the house, clean it, and get it ready for sale (we cannot afford to have two houses!) but that will wait until later next month. We’re heading to Scotland for the second part of our honeymoon next week.

I think that moving is one of the more trying experiences a couple can go through. In moving, you have the perfect storm of communication, planning, flexibility, work and emotion, and that storm can spin out of control if just one of those factors goes amok. As Shannon and I were talking through the whole event after the fact, I wondered if maybe hiring a moving company would’ve helped our stress levels (if we could afford it, that is). Our conclusion? Nah. Probably not. After all, you still have to organize the packing of boxes, sort through decades of material gain, and exercise all the elements of the aforementioned storm.

Shannon has taped a scripture passage to the wall above our bathroom sink. It was intended to be a reminder for her, but it may as well be a reminder for both of us and, perhaps, you as well. It comes from Paul’s letter to the church in Colossae, an ancient Greek city. In it, the apostle exhorts,

“Therefore, God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, accepting one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a complaint against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive. (Colossians 3:12-13).”

Moving was a great opportunity to act out compassion, patience and forgiveness. I certainly know that I could have done it a whole lot better! Patience and stress are enemies. So are humility and selfishness. Forgiveness and the desire to be right… ditto.

All of these attributes that Paul lists are things that I consider to be elements of the all-sufficient grace of God. Compassion? Overlooks a lesser circumstance. Kindness? Overlooks the desire to ignore another. Humility? Overlooks one’s own pride. At the end of grace is forgiveness. God has forgiven us. We must forgive others, showing grace in the process.

A failure to act out of grace will always leave our spirits unsatisfied. I hope that the next time we have to move, grace will reign over any and all emotion, logistics and communication. Who wouldn’t want to experience a compassionate, kind, patient, forgiving move?