Early in marriage with my wife, Sara, we had some unspoken expectations on the division of responsibilities. She was to cook and do laundry - that’s what my mom did. I was to take out the trash and kill any mice - that’s what her dad did. The problem was we didn’t communicate these expectations to each other. So when I saw laundry needed to be done, I would wait and watch her behavior near the full laundry basket. Does she notice? Can she see it? She just put some clothes on top - it was so full the new items tumbled off onto the floor. She must have seen that. Ah ha! She picked up the fallen clothes from the floor and carefully balanced them on top of the pile. She saw it. She knew!! Yet she did nothing! Why doesn’t she do anything about it? Doesn’t she know her role in our home?
I can assure you this same observation and monologue occurred in her mind regarding me and the trash bin in the kitchen. Right down to the balancing act of the items that didn’t fit. It was a setup for fights and arguments for years to come. We were slow learners - actually stubborn and prideful, more accurately.
Now, Sara is extraordinarily giving, serving, and loving. Everyone who knows her would agree. She would usually act first on the trash, laundry, food, cleaning, bearing of children, and other stuff like that. And I would happily allow it, thankful God had blessed me in such a generous way. Everyone who knew us agreed God had blessed me. And they told me. I don’t know of anyone mentioning the same to Sara about me.
My life currency was power. I was seeking equality at worst; me winning at best. A continual balancing act.
I viewed marriage as a planned tie. If the balance swung, then there should be a correction. She did what I wanted, therefore I get her flowers to correct the balance. I screwed up, therefore I get her flowers to correct the balance. Our local grocery store went through a lot of flowers because of me. Well, not really, but they should have. Most compromises in our early marriage sought a tie. Nobody lost. And nobody won.
As you can probably guess, Sara resented me. Maybe not at first, but eventually - after a longer time that you would think. She is very giving, serving, and loving after all. However, she also was keeping score. Because Sara is a giving soul, she would relent... and eventually resent. We weren’t reconciled. She still felt she had lost - our arguments - and the game of marriage.
What we needed was a game changer. As I realized how I was hurting my wife, I couldn’t figure out how to repair our relationship. We loved each other, didn’t we? Sara willingly gives, serves, and loves. That’s enough right? Right??
It’s not enough, but it’s all there is when power is your life currency as it was for me. One person losing is the best outcome... for the other person. Each expects to win about half the time. Or...*sigh*...tie. This is the Holy Bliss of matrimony?? It’s tiring - exhausting, really. And it wears out.
Counseling led us to seek more ties and less of Sara losing. More of me losing. This was unfun too. When power is your life currency, you can only see in terms of winning or losing. Sara and I did not experience the winning; the life abundant. Power was our currency and we lost.
Power seeks one’s own. Power keeps score to ensure balance -- or wins. Power stands up and fights. Power protects me. What’s the alternative? What is the opposite? I Corinthians 13 lists some antonyms for us:
I Corinthians 13:4-7
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
I knew God loved that way, but I didn't think it was possible for me to love that way. I didn't know what to do.
The struggle of equality - the failure of power currency drove us to search for a fix. Any fix. With power as my life currency there is a power differential I want to protect. However, with love as our life currency there is still a power differential, but it is a voluntary giving up of power, of sacrifice, of loving another. I tried a couple of things from I Corinthians 13. I tried loving with patience. Then I tried loving with kindness. With God's power, it worked!
What we found was that God’s plan of continual submission to one another gave peace and led us to a closer relationship of love. It’s a mystery to me, but one of the most worthwhile mysteries God has led Sara and I to thrive within: depending on God to lead us in love as the source and author of love.
Now, I do the laundry sometimes - well, the easy stuff like towels, you know, no sorting required. I have a couple of signature dishes I cook for us. I even take the trash out - assuming I can’t cram it down anymore. And that’s God’s love in our house.
Published on 08/27/2019 @ 3:47 PM PDT