Doing Unto Others– At home

I just read an amazing article on marriage… I had to share. 

We’re All Different: One of the things that makes life in a church family challenging—and effective—is that people and their circumstances are so different. I can look around in church and see a home-schooling mother of five children, a lonely divorcee, an ambitious businessman and a starry-eyed teenage couple.

I can see my husband, too. Like other members of the body of Christ, Pierre and I are different. In the same way God puts varied members together to serve different functions in the church, I believe God plans that when two become one in marriage, their diversity would be their strength.

On days when I do not revel in my husband’s structured (I didn’t say “monotonous”) approach to life, the Bible reminds me that fellowship begins with acceptance. Pierre isn’t like me, and that’s okay. And when our selfish nature makes either one of us hard to live with, we find an answer in Ephesians 4:2-3: “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” That “bearing with one another” is a nice way of saying, “Put up with him; he has to put up with you.”

So I’m learning to recognize Pierre’s punctual, one-thing-at-a-time lifestyle as the perfect balance to my more “gymnastic” approach of spinning and flipping as I plunge into multiple activities and relationships. That diversity is our strength.

The Inside Story: It’s actually easier to deal with brothers and sisters at church because I can generally control the intensity of those relationships. If something gets too hard or too personal, I can pull back some. But with Pierre, it’s for better or for worse, and there’s no easy out. The Bible says to be “devoted to one another in brotherly love” (Rom. 12:10). That’s the core of commitment, and I’m committed to Pierre.

I want to show my “brother” at home a devoted, intimate kind of love. We know each other like no one else, which means we have the tools either to destroy or to enrich each other’s lives. Paul says, “encourage one another and build each other up” (1 Thess. 5:11). If Pierre is questioning his capacity to lead our family, only I can give him the boost he needs. When the pressure of work starts to wear away his confidence, I can help him bear that burden. And when I become engulfed in the whirlpool of multiple activities, this man who knows my capacities and my limits can steer me back toward my real priorities.

To honor one another, we make an effort to touch on special points of interest or talent and brag to others about our amazing spouse. Once I overheard Pierre telling friends that I had a special way with people on the fringe, making them feel a part of the group. I was encouraged. Somehow a mention of my strengths means so much more coming from the person who knows all my weaknesses.

Two-Way Street: The beauty of fellowship is that it goes both ways; it’s a mutual exchange. Christians get to share with each other the gifts of God’s grace. Marriage, too, is a mutual arrangement.

Things go wrong in a church family when some people set themselves up as the “givers” without being able to receive support and encouragement from others, or when some come only to “take,” exploiting the church for what it offers without desiring to love and serve as well.

Likewise, setting out to “get what you can” from your spouse is exploitation. It’s more subtle, but equally harmful to feel that you are the only one “giving” in your relationship.

I am learning to receive from Pierre. When I talk to a friend about somebody else’s personal life, I can count on my “few-words-a-day” husband to suggest that maybe it was gossip. Ouch. That hurts. But thanks, Pierre. I needed it. Because Pierre and I are different but also close, the give-and-take of exhortation rings true.

In Ephesians, when Paul exhorted spouses to submit to each other, he understood something about mutual service. This is the “washing each other’s feet” principle. When my partner does not or will not “wash” mine, I can by the grace of God make concessions, forget myself and do something special just for him.

One day as I worked furiously at the computer, my three children simultaneously had mother emergencies. I barked, um, balked and Pierre stepped in to deal with the situation. When I finished my work and went upstairs, expecting bedlam, the bath was drawn for me and tea was ready. My husband had “washed my feet” when I needed it but didn’t especially deserve it.

In John 13:34, Jesus admonishes his disciples to love one another. He knew that true fellowship in the new body of believers depended on that mutual love and care. God planned for the same loving diversity, intimacy and reciprocity to be lived out in the union of a husband and wife.

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