Marriage has gotten me thinking about many things. My own marriage, while on the whole wonderful, has these little landmines that are sensitive to pressure and once triggered must be handled with the utmost delicacy. Sometimes you know what will set them off. Sometimes you don’t. Diffusing the landmines must be handled with care. And compassion. Especially if you are the one who laid the mine for the other to trip. My husband and I are very different people. I love to create and to live in the moment. I’m cerebral and I want to understand people. I’m relational and find connecting with people to be a significant accomplishment. My husband is a doer. He’s task oriented and looks at his day through the filter of what needs to be done. He values productivity and visible outcomes. In these differences alone we have landmines.
My husband and I stepped on each others landmines last night. I was hurt, as usual. He got angry and sulked. As usual. This is the pattern in our relationship, a pattern I’m attempting to change. I didn’t rush up to him and apologize for my “attitude” and I didn’t engage in his sulk. Instead, I offered him dinner, gave him a kiss on the cheek and told him it was quite alright if he wanted to stay home instead of joining my cousin and a friend for an evening of cultural enrichment and conversation. See, part of the reason he had his landmine set and ready for me to step on it was because he was feeling pressured to do something he didn’t want to do. He’s not a cultural arts guy. He’s an introvert and with a house guest, even one as kind and thoughtful as my cousin, it’s difficult to feel at home in his own house.
I gave him an out. And I opted to go with kindness instead of lashing out with the frustration of my day. That frustration had nothing to do with him. He just happened to step on a mine and arm a potential explosion. I had the ability to diffusing my own mine, so I did. I left him to the physical task of removing a tree stump from the yard and we girls drove away to have an evening of art appreciation and relational connection.
It was while we were admiring a wonderful bronze statue that something clicked in my head. I’ve been learning for the last couple of years about the relational aspect of God. How God wants to be in relationship with us. A kind and nurturing relationship filled with conversation, give and take and compassion. He delights in who we are and wants us to see ourselves as He sees us. And He wants us to share that same relational spirit with the people in our lives.
Too many people I know are all about the doing. Work harder. Make hay while the sun shines. Do, do, do and delay any sense of fun and gratification until later. Because, you know, work is its own reward. This focus on doing can drive a person crazy. Where does the doing end? When do you know you’ve done enough to be worthy of that gratification? Of peace and blessing and well-being? And when do you carve out time to be with someone? To nurture or be nurtured? To really get to know someone? You don’t. And because you are putting off the fun stuff because the doing is never-ending, you risk becoming cynical and disillusioned and disconnected.
Staring at that lovely bronze statue, thinking about the labor that went into casting the bronze, into sculpting every sinew and muscle, every detail, well it made me a little tired and quite a bit awed. It took work. It took time and dedication. It also took a vision and a passion. There was passion in the art we saw last night. A spark of being that was revealed in the doing.
Life isn’t either or. It’s not just doing and working or being and relating. We have obligations, jobs, tasks that must be done in order to have a life we can live well. But there’s a way to combine the doing and the being. It was there, staring at me in the face of a bronze gladiator and in the brush strokes of a long dead Japanese artist.
There is room in my husband’s world to learn to be, just as there is room in my world to value the process, or the work. But it is the relational that will bring healing to the weary soul and the relational that will help engage another in growth and passion.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments. (Mt 22:36-40)