Someone has said there are four stages to life: you believe in Santa Claus; you don't believe in Santa Claus; you are Santa Claus; and you look like Santa Claus. My wife and I are at the empty nest stage, that's kind of in-between being Santa and looking like him. It took us about 10 minutes to get used to this stage. I have raised three daughters (God doesn't send a son to a house where there's already a man), and pastored a church at the same time. I feel like the guy who went through seminary and never believed in original sin. About 20 years later, he ran into one of his professors. The professor asked if he still didn't believe in original sin. He said that, after raising teenagers and pastoring a church, he not only believed in original sin, he also believed in demon possession.
I'm now back to living with just my wife, but she's gone to visit the girls, so I'm home alone. I'm like most of you guys - I really "out punted my coverage" when I got married. Not only is my wife beautiful, but she's organized. She believes cleanliness is next to godliness, and everything has its place, and it better be there.
I knew I was in trouble when she wanted to clean up the rice at the wedding before we went on the honeymoon. If you look in her closet, it's color coded, and all the shoes face north. She's so thorough, she even proofreads a Xerox copy. That's probably why God brought her into my life. I think that cleanliness is next to impossible. My life is random haphazardness. I have a photographic mind, I just lose the film. I try to get it together, but when I do, I can't remember where I put it.
In clinical terms, Penny would be a compulsive neurotic. I would be what's clinically called sloppy. So, God brought us together. Why? Because God likes to laugh, that's why.
Now I have to admit Penny has gone overboard a few times. On vacation she used to want to clean up the car at every stop. I finally convinced her that's unrealistic, and we decided to follow my plan: Enjoy the trip, and hose out the car when we get there. There are other times when she cleans up things even before I'm through with them — like the time I got up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night and she made the bed.
I have to admit, however, it has helped me. I read the paper in one sitting. If I ever set it down, it's gone. I always keep my eyes on my Diet Coke glass so it won't end up in the dishwasher. I once asked her, "What do you think God's trying to teach me by having you pick up things before I'm through with them?" She said, "He's trying to teach you to enjoy things while you have them, because you never know when you're going to lose them."
I have learned a lot being married to Penny. For example, I am neater. I used to think God made poster beds for pants, shirts and underwear. I think it was the underwear that hung on her post that really got to her. You might say we had a few brief problems.
Now, I'm home alone thinking about what life would have been like if I had remained single. I just looked in the refrigerator and played the "Unsolved Refrigerator Mystery" game. It's a great game. You find a friend and take 10 things out of the refrigerator and guess what's under that green penicillin stuff, and the one who loses has to eat it.
Well the game is over, and I lost, so I'm just sitting here in my chair looking around the house. I look around and see all the beautiful matching towels. We have regular towels that match the color scheme. Then we have guest towels that match the color scheme, but are just for guests. Then there are the "touch-me-not" towels that are for decoration only. And, of course, we have hand towels to accent the bigger towels that help bring out the appropriate color.
Now if it were just me, I would have two towels — one wet and one dry. Alternate each day for about six months, then throw them away and get two more towels.
If I were single, I probably would have one chair and one big TV and, of course, the remote control, appropriately named for all of us dysfunctional males with MGMCTVD (Male Genetic Multi-Channel TV Disorder) who want to be remote, but in control.
When I look around, I see that Penny sure has put a lot of beauty in this place. No wonder God said it was not good for us to be alone. When God looked down He wanted to see something worth looking at, not two towels, a chair and a TV.
I read the other day that single men commit 80-90% of all crimes in the USA. So what do we do? We send them to prison with other men. What we should do is start a dating service, so they can find a good woman.
Well, got to go. The phone's ringing. It's Penny! "You're coming tomorrow!?" Man, I've got to get this mess cleaned up quick. Where's that water hose?
Charles Lowery is pastor of Hoffmantown Baptist Church, Albuquerque, NM.