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Tim Keller on How His Wife Got His Attention

When Tim Keller moved his family to New York City to start Redeemer Presbyterian Church, he asked his wife Kathy to grant him three years of long hours, and after that, he promised, things would change.

Kathy agreed to Tim's request, but when the three year mark came and went, Tim said, "Just a couple more months." Still, the months flew by with no change. Although Kathy was incredibly patient and restrained, she did have to get Tim's attention. Tim writes what happened next:

One day I came home from work. It was a nice day outside, and I noticed that the door to our apartment's balcony was open. Just as I was taking off my jacket, I heard a smashing noise coming from the balcony. In another couple of seconds I heard another one. I walked out on to the balcony and to my surprise saw Kathy sitting on the floor. She had a hammer, and next to her was a stack of our wedding china. On the ground were the shards of two smashed saucers.
"What are you doing?" I asked.
She looked up and said, "You aren't listening to me. You don't realize that if you keep working these hours you are going to destroy this family. I don't know how to get through to you. You aren't seeing how serious this is. This is what you are doing." And she brought the hammer down on the third saucer.
I sat down trembling. I thought she had snapped. "I'm listening. I'm listening," I said. As we talked, it became clear that she was intense and laser focused, but she was not in a rage or out of control emotionally. She spoke calmly but forcefully. Her arguments were the same as they had been months before, but I realized how deluded I had been. There would never be a convenient time to cut back. I was addicted to the level of productivity I had achieved. She saw me listening for the first time, and we hugged.
Finally I inquired, "When I first came out here, I thought you were having an emotional meltdown. How did you get control of yourself so fast?'"
With a grin she answered, "It was no meltdown. Do you see these three saucers I smashed? I nodded. 'I have no cups for them. The cups have been broken for years. I had three saucers to spare. I'm glad you sat down before I had to break any more."

One thing this story illustrates for us is what righteous jealousy looks like. There are harmful forms of jealousy, but the jealousy that Kathy Keller had for her marriage and family was a righteous jealousy, a zealous concern to protect a covenant relationship. And this is the kind of jealousy that God has for his covenant people.

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