Marc and I had a decent sized fight last week – big and frustrating enough to actually make me at a loss for words. You can ask him – that doesn’t happen much. Words are my forte. They flow from my mouth like a rushing river when I’m upset, my arguments clearly outlined in my mind almost instantly. It’s a strange and mostly unhelpful skill since I’m neither a lawyer nor a politician. My kids don’t use logic, so it’s of no use in that realm. And I’m pretty sure Marc loathes my undefeated debate record from high school. But I can’t help it. I’m wired to present my case, defend my case, and end with a lengthy closing argument. In this instance, however, I was so angry, feeling so hopeless, I just gave the hell up. Whatever. That was my closing argument. That’s when you know things are bad – when you’re beyond mad, beyond furious, all the way to I don’t give a damn.
I saw Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt in concert a few days later. It was my fourth Lyle Lovett concert (I knew almost every word to almost every song), but the first time I’ve seen John Hiatt. I’ve long appreciated Lyle Lovett’s gift of phrase-turning – his ability to be both funny and poignant in the same breath. But I realized that John Hiatt is a master wordsmith, too. Lyle has a creamy voice that sinks into your bones and a sweet, light touch on the guitar, so it’s easy to hear the words that sit on top. In contrast, Hiatt’s gruff voice and hard-strumming guitar mask his wisdom. But it’s under there, and worth digging for.
I sat in the fourth row, so close it was like being in a living room watching the two of them banter casually, each playing his favorite songs for a friend. My proximity gave the lyrics a weight and immediacy they wouldn’t carry if heard from the back of a large theater. When Hyatt sang what I’ve always thought of as his cliche song Have a Little Faith in Me, I heard its’ cut-to-the-bone truth and how it applied to us.
An’ when your secret heart
Cannot speak so easily
Come here darlin’ from a whisper start
Have a little faith in me
An’ when your back’s against the wall
Just turn around an’ a you will see
I’ll be there, I’ll be there to catch your fall
So have a little faith in me
Cause I’ve been loving you for such a long time, baby
Expecting nothing in return
Just for you to have a little faith in me
You see time, time is our friend
‘Cause for us there is no end
All you gotta do is have a little faith in me
It’s a simple idea – don’t give up on me – but what a nice way to say it. My secret heart could not speak. My secret heart was pissed, and confused, and forlorn. But the song says Remember who you’re dealing with here. He’s not your enemy. He’s your partner. And this is forever. You catch his fall and he’ll catch yours.
It’s extremely cheesy, but I made Marc sit and listen to it. And I had him follow along with the lyrics as the song played. Yep. I’m not joking around with this making-my-marriage-work thing. I won’t settle with biding our time until a better day comes along. I’m all-in, and that takes effort. It takes sitting down with the lyrics of a song written by a love-embattled writer, with experience in the area of relational strife, and paying attention. Whatever is no good. Trusting that we’re on the same team, having faith in each other to catch our mutual fall is better. Under John Hiatt’s scruffy vocals is hard-won wisdom, and I’m willing to listen. Luckily, so is Marc.
I’m not dumb enough to think that a song is going to change everything. The lyrics aren’t magical. The tune tugs at the heart but it won’t save us when we’re beyond angry. Which will happen again. But the right words can point me in the right direction. A well-written paragraph, or sentence, or phrase can stick with me forever and help shape my perspective. Shakespeare has advised me. Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds, or bends with the remover to remove. So has Paul the Apostle. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud…it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. And now, so has John Hiatt. Next time my own words won’t come I’ll remember this song. And refuse to simply give up. And have faith that Marc is my ally even when it doesn’t feel that way.
Here’s to the beautiful, difficult odyssey of marriage. And to to all the writers who help along the way.