“Poverty and disgrace come to him who ignores instruction, but whoever heeds reproof is honored.” – Proverbs 13:18 [ESV]
During the early years of my first marriage, I was admittedly unskilled when it came to the “domestic arts”. Being a budding, young man in my early twenties, I had just barely begun living independently, and taking care of the house wasn’t exactly my forte. I’ll put it bluntly: I was a pizza-box-thrown-around-the-apartment, soda-cans-everywhere-kind of slob. So no doubt I lacked in certain areas.
Because of the unfortunate, frequent arguments I engaged in with my first wife, I tried to do everything I could to give her as little ammunition against me (yes, our fights got tempestuous sometimes) so that I wasn’t covered in the figurative brown gunk at the finish of a proverbial mudslinging match.
The Beginnings of Scott, the Laundry Expert
Case in point, one time I had gone by myself to the laundromat to wash all of our dirty laundry for the week. As some of you regular laundromat users know, there are very often times when not enough washers or dryers are open and free to use. In this instance, only three washers were available and I had at least four or five machines’ worth of soiled clothes and towels. So instead of heading back home to return to the laundromat later, I made the decision to wash everything right then and there. I didn’t care how much I had to cram and overstuff the machines; this laundry was gettin’ done today!
Well, my first wife and I had used powdered Tide detergent (do they even still produce this nowadays?) back then, and the results from over-cramming were disastrous. There was a coating of little, white soap granules everywhere in the clothes, all dried-up and hard to get off. My wife wouldn’t let me hear the end of it for the rest of the weekend.
Frustrated and determined to prove her wrong that I wasn’t an “idiot” husband, I made darn well sure that something this wouldn’t happen again. I was meticulous about the amount of clothing I put in the washing machine as well the amount of detergent I used. I checked every article of clothing right after coming out of the washer as well as right out of the dryer to see if any remaining residue from the powdery detergent. This one incident put me on a quest for laundry perfection!
After our children were born, I took that laundry obsession from doing everything from dexterously pre-treating any stains caused by toddler messiness to checking every single pocket for unremoved objects. Cleaning, color separating, stain-removal, folding, and on and on…no stone was left unturned. I checked for everything. I became a near laundry expert just so my first wife would stop bringing up the aforementioned incident and griping at me about it. I didn’t always task myself with having laundry duty in the house; but when I did, I executed everything with careful, ninja-like skills.
Fast-forward many years to the point after my second wife Darien are married and living together. In feeling out our daily schedules, it’s come to a point where I’m often doing the chore of doing laundry. So after the first few times after I washed clothes, small articles of clothing came up missing. Seeing this, Darien sweetly but still matter-of-factly informed me that I need to check both the washer and dryer a bit more thoroughly.
Now, I took a bit of mild offense to this. Yeah, I know these are machines that she’s used to using for years, whereas I just moved in and have no prior experience with these, but doesn’t she know…I’m no idiot! After all, I’m a laundry expert! She’s smart, wise, and has our best interests in mind, but (I hope you can hear the conceited stubbornness dripping in my words) I know what I’m doing! Why does she think she can get away with trying to teach me this?
The next time we were in the laundry room, Darien and I teamed up to wash and dry clothes. She requested of me to scoop all of the clothes from the washer to place in the dryer. “Is this everything, Scott?” she kindly asked. Well, of course it is, I mutter to myself. I’m not that incompetent! She then reached in, as effortlessly as you could be, and removed a pair of underwear and a small washcloth that hid at the front of the washer barrel that I had missed.
Oops. There was a “hidden” little space where minuscule laundry items like socks and undies could easily go unnoticed if you’re not looking thoroughly. I sighed. Come to think of it, I may have not been so much of an “expert” after all.
This small episode taught me a big lesson, and it was that no matter how much I think I know, I always have something to learn. I can never have the false thought that I know it all. No matter my age or my station in life, I must obtain a humble attitude, be that wide-eyed pupil eager to hear new truth, and be hungry to learn at every available opportunity, even in instances where I think I know a lot about something. German theologian Meister Eckhart once stated, “Be willing to be a beginner every single morning.” That’s paramount advice that we all should incorporate into our lives.
That concept is echoed all throughout the Bible as well. The Book of Proverbs, in particular, is chock full of directives urging righteous men to always be open to learning, obtaining wisdom, and, even if it sounds counter-culture, be willing to embrace discipline and rebuking from God. I especially love Proverbs 9:9:
“Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning.” [ESV]
It’s saying that those who are wise and righteous will embrace instruction, wisdom, and teaching!
If you’re an acknowledged veteran at your job or an authority in your field, don’t discount opportunities to continue to learn new things and even be mentored by those with perhaps less experience with you. In your marriage, never turn down insights or suggestions from your spouse; humble yourself and consider what they have to offer.
A wise man or woman will keep seeking, knocking, and asking for good advice. They will know that in “an abundance of counselors there is safety.” (Proverbs 11:14b)
Most importantly, we need to be humble and open to God’s teaching. It all starts with having a fear [AKA, a healthy sense of reverence and submission] of God. Proverbs 1:7 [ESV] declares: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” When we have awestruck respect and a deep acknowledgment of God’s holiness, power, and might, we begin to see the inadequacies of our own understanding of things to a point where we begin to be capable of truly grasping and abiding by God’s infinite wisdom.
Like a good Father, God will sometimes instruct us, guide us, and even rebuke us and correct us when we’re going down the wrong path or have an incorrect way of thinking. In Proverbs 12:1, it bluntly states that “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.” [ESV] It’s when we learn to love the teaching and correction of our Heavenly Father instead of relying on our old way of thinking that we’ll actually become as wise as we once thought we were on our own.
I’ve adopted using an acronym of ABT for “Always Be Teachable” with which I remind myself to never let myself get to the place where I think I know everything. It’s sometimes necessary to daily recite, “ABT!” to knock some sense and healthy humility back into me to keep fearing God and seeing if there are times I can learn from life’s experiences.