Marti introduced herself to me last night. We shook hands. I told her my name was John and she asked me if I spelled it with or without an “h.” What was she doing? She was illustrating that as a couple, we have a choice. Having gone through the devastating reality of sending our 15-year-old son away to a place that will provide for him what we could not, we can let this reality drive us apart as we each deal with the guilt and failure by sinking deeper into our own isolation and irritation, or we can realize that this reality has significantly altered us. We are simply not the people we were before, and the positive side of that is that we are now new. Our relationship is new. Let’s find out who we are. Thus, the introduction.
My wife is brilliant. Of course you could say this is true of any relationship, every day, since we are always in the process of change and thus there is some sense in which we do not know who we were yesterday, but even more so after going through something as devastating as this. This is vital. Failure to do this is to fail the relationship. This is why so many marriages end in divorce after going through some kind of personal trauma. Instead of embracing each other anew, they go further into isolation and drive each other further and further apart until they are beyond reconciliation.
I mentioned in yesterday’s Catch how little things in our relationship were suddenly magnified — how I suddenly had to be right about the dumbest things. That’s the way we’re headed if we don’t realize we are each dealing with a new person now. And part of dealing with that new person is realizing what the Bible does and does not say about relationships. (And what is does not say is almost as important as what it does say, because so many teachers have tried to make the Bible say what they want it to say, instead of really finding out what it says with no pre-thinking going into it.)
The following, therefore, is a bit of biblical reinterpretation I offer to you in Marti’s words to consider in terms of not just marriage, but all relationships. I’m also going to suggest you read the following many times over — maybe print it and put it on your refrigerator — because this kind of re-directing of our thinking won’t happen overnight. This is inspired.
There is, however, no real manual offered on the market on how to recover from loss or to repair what is broken. Not even the Bible is available as a “How To Fix Her Up”er. Rather, the Word is a comforter, a source of unending discovery, and a collection of words that the Spirit interprets into our hearts.
The Bible will not tell us how to maintain or improve our marriage, but it will convict us on how to love completely.
The Bible does not tell us how to hold onto each other, but it can, if we let it, gather the arms of the Father around us both.
It is not a book of personal conviction; it is the heart of conviction.
The Bible speaks to the isolated, but it will encourage the need to identify and then reach out to others.
The Bible will not tell us how to raise our kids, maintain our homes, or save our marriages, but it will help us recognize what we are really missing in our lives.
The Bible will not tell our partners what they need to change for what we need, but it will illustrate how we can accept the differences with joy.
The Bible will never tell us that we must be all things for all situations in all areas of our partners’ lives. The Bible will not address our differences in biology, personality, upbringing, current responsibilities, and life experiences. However, the Bible will help us to understand the numerous perspectives we have from one another. These different perspectives were never designed to create conflict.
The Bible does not appreciate timelines, so, therefore, does not penalize one person for being farther behind than the other, or consider one person’s pace better than the other’s.
Also, the Bible does not consider an “A” personality better than a dreamer — in fact it counts both as being desirable. Strength is not considered a Godly characteristic and should not be confused with someone who is supportive. In fact, the Bible teaches strength often gets in God’s way while asking that we come alongside as the preferred way of caring.
The Bible is full of those who act out of emotions — and God likes that. The Bible is also full of people who take turns with emotional control — and God likes that too. And while I do not know if the Bible supports those who find the other’s silence frustrating and infuriating, I know John is often irritated when I pressure him to talk.
The Bible offers no sure way or single path that couples follow who do well together. There is no formula, no sure series of steps that will guarantee a good outcome. Each couple starts at a different place, has different problems to deal with, has different resources available, and brings different histories (including different past experiences with other losses), different values, and different personalities to the situation.
So each couple’s journey is unique – and why I will always be with John for this journey we share, and I trust he will be with me as we struggle to build a connecting and always-challenging relationship before God.
And the journey we share is not dependent on whether John understands or has experienced my pain or loss, nor am I expected to know his. We are, however, to embrace one another — always — in all situations in all areas of our lives … until death do us part.