My first year of marriage to my dear wife Anne was marked by more fights than I ever imagined. The first of our peers to marry, we were feeling our way forward without much instruction or friends to talk it over with. As two people learn to live together, there are the inevitable opportunities for conflict because two people just do things differently. Anne, still a college student, liked to stay up late studying. I had to be at work early. I liked the toilet paper coming out from underneath; she preferred it coming over the top. It was all the stereotypical points of conflict. There was a bigger problem, though. I was sure that Anne was doing these things to bother me. And she needed to understand how much it bothered me, so I would purposely do things to aggravate her. She might respond in kind, and you can imagine the escalation.
We made it through that first year, and after almost twenty-eight years of marriage I look back on my attitudes with a combination of shame and mirthful disbelief. My default setting now is that Anne would never purposely do anything to aggravate me, and if she inadvertently has, it must be because she forgot or just didn’t think about it. So I wonder, what made the difference? How did I change my attitude toward living with my wife? In a word – kids. As God gave us children, the marriage stopped being all about me. We had a common purpose and job. When you are on your hands and knees on the floor at 3 in the morning cleaning up vomit, you realize you need each other to do the job before you, and more than that, that you trust this person to help you more than anyone else in the world. Kids can be a great selfishness killer. It isn’t always the case, but having kids (and for us it took a lot of kids) has helped to suppress our natural self-centeredness.
I say “can” because one can still be selfish and have kids (even a lot of kids), but the Holy Spirit is working in the believer’s life to conform him to the image of Christ. That is almost always difficult. For us He used a big family; for others He may use a different means. But if you are God’s child He will be working on and with you to make you more like His Son. We want to be working with Him and not against Him.
So what does this look like in our marriage now? Anne still likes to stay up later than me. But when she is reading in bed next to me I think, “She needs time to unwind after this day. I hope this helps her,” rather than thinking, “She’s not considering me.” We still have our preferences about which way the toilet paper goes, but it just doesn’t seem to matter that much anymore. I simply can’t imagine Anne doing anything to purposely hurt me. Is this because she is a perfect woman? No. As with many of us, she has her same besetting sins she has had for years, as do I. But as we work together to prepare the arrows God has entrusted to us, I know we are both headed for the same goal, and there is no one else I would rather have with me.
1Pe 4:8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.
Sunday, June 28, 2009
Posted by Tim at 2:58 PM