when differences are many - 5 years of marriage

He runs past me, racing from the kitchen to the back deck of grills (seriously, we have three out there), #1 Dad spatula in hand. “Three-minute timer as soon as I walk in the door,” he calls as he slams the door behind him. Timing is essential in these culinary endeavors, and if I’m to be of any help at all, I must make sure the timer starts when that door opens again.

 

My husband inspires me. As he spends hours and energy and pays careful attention to every detail imaginable to create a delicious meal, I find myself in awe. Not of him, per se, but of the way God has wired my husband to lead me to worship Him.

 

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When God joins two people in a covenant of marriage, it’s highly likely those two people will have their differences: differences of preference, of opinion, of tastes, of ideal days and vacations. Different interests, values, aspirations, and perspectives. Different thoughts on ways to be restful and restored and different vantage points on the way of seeing the world. God is gracious in this way, not only in using the other to sanctify us, but also to let us see more of Himself.

 

These differences help us appreciate God's creative wisdom in His workmanship (Ephesians 2:10). God provides glimpses of Himself in each human being He creates. When we grow in appreciation of His creative expression in another human being (especially one we've come to know intimately), our capacity for worship of our Creator increases.

 

Ben is quite opposite from me (cue the chuckle of agreeance from those who know us). Ben is a man of strong opinions, thick skin, and quick wit. He lives with a drive for excellence, a yearning to experience, and a heart to serve anyone and everyone. Nothing is too intimidating for him, and he is especially enamored by those things that give him a challenge.

On this day five years ago, I woke up before any of my bridesmaids and spent time praising God in His Word and soaking in the beauty of the moment. We had a lovely breakfast together, a time where I intentionally shared how each one of them had shown me a glimpse of who God is, and a relaxed time of getting ready, giggling, and talking about my new last name. I'm not sure exactly what Ben did all day, but somehow, it involved ping pong (this information, I found out on stage before saying, "I do.") Our officiant said he'd never seen a groom more relaxed in the hours before wedding his wife.

But this is Ben. Confident, strong, relaxed, welcoming a moment with the highest amount of fun his creative mind will provide.

I remember filling out our pre-marital counseling homework. We had to write our top five hobbies/interests. When the wife-counselor read through them, she said, “It looks like you don’t have much in common. This may lend for some difficult times in your future.” In my naiveté, I think I giggled with no worries, happily consigned to join Ben at the hip for any of his hobbies.

 

As time wears on, her words come back to me. They dangle over the difficult times born from great differences. They whisper to me the deep need of my heart. When yearnings for shared interests and desires for greater intimacy sprung from a common love create tension in my marriage, these words testify to the need for something greater, Someone greater to hold us together.

 

During each challenge we’ve faced, God has drawn me more into Himself. When differences surface and these yearnings and desires threaten to outweigh my commitment to love my husband with Christ's love, God empowers me to love beyond my desires with a fresh glimpse of the most unlikely pair – the LORD Almighty and me, His own creation.

 

This God, who abides in redeemed sinners, He teaches me that enduring love involves great cost.

 

Jesus, the Holy One—utterly different and set apart from man—humbled Himself and put on flesh. He became like us in every way with great purpose. He entered in; He made Himself low; He removed every barrier that separated us from Him.

 

This is the God we serve and the example we follow.

 

If God graciously chose to enter covenant with His own creatures, with us who sought rebellion over sonship, then hope remains for man and wife in covenant who live with plentiful differences. Hope not in the shaky foundation of common interests and shared hobbies. But hope in something sure and steadfast, unshaken by the aches and pains of sinners living in close relationship with one another.

 

Hope in the God who laid Himself down for His friend. Hope in the God who entered in, walked with, and cared for those He loved. Hope in the God who forsook glory and gave His life away for the good of others.

 

The grace that binds our marriage together is that we love because He first loved us.

 

When we deny self and follow Christ, when we lose our life to find it in Him, when we lay our life down for His glory, we create the room needed to take in with our eyes and our hearts a glimpse of the wonder of God's love. And we receive a greater treasure than any human relationship this side of heaven could ever offer us: God Himself.

To love is not simply to share a bond over similarities; to love is to lay down your life. To love is not to have the same preferences, but to seek another’s good above our own. To love is not to be served but to choose the road of lowliness with intent to honor the other. To love is to sacrifice. To love is to bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, endure all things. 

 

When we fight our flesh to love in this way, with abandonment of self-interest, it's here that God pushes us outside of our finite agendas and makes room to show us more of Himself.

When I choose to overlook offenses instead of carry them in my heart, I feel the weight of Christ's costly love.

When I surrender to my husband's preferences with intent to enter into his joy, I experience a piece of the upside-down Kingdom.

When I seek his honor rather than seeking my own acknowledgment, appreciation, or praise, I connect more deeply with the lowliness of the Servant King and receive the poor in spirit's blessing.

When I get outside of myself to understand his heart, God makes room in my own for compassion, grace, and appreciation.

When I believe that God, in His kindness, says that Ben in all of his differences, is His very best for me, my heart responds with humility and rejoicing, both of which make love abound.

 

The gift, then, is to love those who are different from us (and isn't everyone?). Our hearts become exposed of its need for a greater love than we can conjure up ourselves. When we confess this need to the God who delights in unity and proves it in blood, inviting Him to inspire and empower our love, the Kingdom comes in both our hearts and theirs.

 

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I have come to appreciate our differences. My husband's ways of thinking and doing regularly dislodge the wishes of my kingdom. Entering his world and pursuing his heart require a dependence on Jesus that might be absent if he was like me. And in setting myself aside, I gain the privilege of knowing him in a way that brings the awe where I first began - this awe of God's creative wisdom that compels my worship.

 

Ben has this way of making meals worthy of remembering. He labors tirelessly in this craft, and his culinary creations tend to evoke this sense of awe that presses you beyond the food itself. His efforts create an experience for those who taste, an experience with potential to compel worship of the One who created him.

 

He inspires me. Though my gifting is entirely different, as you might have guessed, I take note of this moment. Father, may I work as diligently as Ben does in the calling that You have given me so that others might praise You when I have given You my best in writing.

 

As he watches the pizza dough bubble perfectly on the grill, I get the timer ready and whisper to Harper how I have just seen a new glimpse of our Creator in the culinary ingenuity of her daddy.

 

Happy five year anniversary, sweetie. I adore you.

grace & peace,

Lauren