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Those Pesky Idiosyncracies

27 May

It’s been said that married men should forget their mistakes. There’s no sense in two people remembering the same thing.

It’s also been said that marriage is a relationship where one person is always right … and the other is the husband.

Those jokes are funny, but not too kind to the menfolk!

Unfortunately, marriage is a sea of challenges that requires graceful navigation!

I was recently encouraged by a book about this complicated relationship. Elaine W. Miller wrote We All Married Idiots, a book that examines three things we will never change about our marriages, and then she offers ten things we can all work on to improve the husband-wife relationship. (1)

In one chapter, Elaine talks about learning to live with each other’s idiosyncrasies.

“Since living with idiosyncrasies is a part of marriage,” she wrote, “You might as well treasure those peculiar habits. One day you might miss them. I know I did.”

Elaine’s husband Dan was a tapper. He tapped on things. “I think in his mind the whole world is his trumpet as his fingers play a perpetual tune,” she said. “He taps the table when he eats, the steering wheel when he drives, the newspaper when he reads, the pulpit when he preaches, and my shoulders when he puts his arms around me.”

The tapping got hard to take. “If I let it,” Elaine said, “his tapping gets on my nerves. Many times I have said in an irritated voice, ‘Would you please stop tapping!’

“However,” she added, “when he was hospitalized and I was uncertain if he would live through the night, those words weren’t on my lips. I stared at his silent fingers, held his motionless hands, and pleaded, ‘Please, God, let me feel his fingers tapping.’

“Funny how our perspective on idiosyncrasies changes under different circumstances,” she said. “Many will admit the very thing that bugs them is what first enticed them to their beloved, and what they will miss the most when their loved one is gone.”

I remember reading about a woman who hated her husband’s snoring. She complained and poked him through the night. But after the man died, she told a friend she’d “give anything to hear that man snore again!”

Those pesky idiosyncrasies are simply more proof that we are all unique, and the truth is, every marriage has them. It is our attitude that makes the difference. Elaine explains that love is kind (according to 1 Corinthians 13:4). And what does that look like? “Being kind to your mate means overlooking those oddities that sometimes drive you crazy. The next time your love does the idiotic, remember this ~ you married an idiot and so did your spouse.” (2)

Elaine points out that the words “idiosyncrasy” and “idiot” both come from the same Greek root word (idio) meaning “common man.” In other words, we all do things that are a bit eccentric or peculiar from time to time.

As I thought about this, I realized how many times simple kindness and grace ~ and especially loving words ~ have acted like soothing oil in my own marriage. (Sometimes I can’t believe that my husband has put up with me this long!)

Rather than focusing on each other’s quirks, we’ve chosen to concentrate on what is good, pure, lovely, etc. (see Philippians 4:8). Some of those pesky idiosyncrasies remain, but they aren’t “issues” anymore. We’ve learned to love and accept each other and try to see each other through the eyes of the Redeemer we both love.

When I stop to think that God created me with unique idiosyncrasies ~ and He loves me ~ it encourages me to share the same kind of love with others, especially my spouse.

How about you? When you think about your spouse (or if you’re not married, a boss or a parent or someone else you have a relationship with on a regular basis), is there something that the person does that really bugs you? Could love, acceptance, patience and mega doses of grace ease your frustration?

(1) Elaine W. Miller, We All Married Idiots (Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas, 2012), p. 7.

(2) ibid, p. 7.

Elaine Miller is a member of the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA) and has authored two other books, Splashes of Serenity: Bathtime Reflections for Drained Moms and Splashes of Serenity: Bathtime Reflections for Drained Wives. http://www.splashesofserenity.com.

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Hope for Fools

1 Apr

Every had one of these April Fool’s Day pranks pulled on you?

  • Put bubble wrap under a toilet seat so when the victim sits, they are surprised by a loud “pop!”
  • Find an old bottle of nail polish. Unscrew the cap and set it sideways on waxed paper. Let the contents flow out into a puddle. When it’s completely dry, peel off the paper and put it on a friend’s important document.
  • Tape magnets to the bottom of an empty coffee cup. Attach to the top of your car and laugh as people frantically try to get your attention as you drive by.

April Fool’s Day pranks are fun, as long as no one gets hurt. But there’s nothing funny about a real fool.

An old Irish Proverb says, “Don’t give cherries to pigs or advice to fools.” It sounds like a scripture: “Do not speak to a fool, for he will scorn the wisdom of your words” (Proverbs 23:9).

The Bible has so much to say about fools. Among other things, fools despise wisdom (Proverbs 1:7), “feed on folly” (Proverbs 15:14), are reckless and careless (Proverbs 14:16), speak all their mind in anger (Proverbs 29:11), are quarrelsome (Proverbs 20:3), spout folly and speak before they understand (Proverbs 15:2; 18:2), believe everything instead of practicing discernment (Proverbs 14:15), babble on and trust only in their own thoughts and opinions (Proverbs 10:8; 28:26).

Fools mock the reality of God (Psalm 14:1), despise authority and grieve their parents (Proverbs 15:20). They build on “sand” (Matthew 7:26), waste resources and fail to prepare for the future (Proverbs 21:20; Luke 12:16-20), lack sense and delight in foolish behavior (Proverbs 15:21), flaunt their foolishness (Proverbs 13:16), and ultimately, inherit disgrace (Proverbs 3:35). To their shame, they don’t realize how deceived they are (Proverbs 14:7-9).

That sounds like a fool is hopeless, doesn’t it?

It’s just not so.

Lots of "Baggage"

I tease my husband Bob and call him my “April Fool,” because we met on April Fool’s Day in 1972. It wasn’t fair, because I was fooling him about who I was. I seemed to be a godly Christian girl with her act together, but inside I was a pile of messy mush ~ an emotional and spiritual wreck. I carried a lot of foolish baggage into our marriage.

But as I reflected on this, years later, I came to think that maybe it wasn’t all my fault. Henry Louis Mencken once said, “A man always blames the women who fools him. In the same way, he blames the door he walks into into the dark.” (LOL!) Smitten with love, my husband failed to see the real me. It’s a common problem with those who are “in love.” Maybe we should have taken more time to get to know each other before we slid those rings on eager fingers.

But God had a beautiful plan in mind. He used Bob to help shape my life.

An unknown author wrote, “Real friends are those who, when you feel you’ve made a fool of yourself, don’t feel you’ve done a permanent job.” My husband is my best friend (besides Jesus), and he has cheered me on for all of our married life, feeling I had some potential for wise choices, and guiding me gently to live in the truth of the Word of God. I like to think that God has honored Bob’s sensitivity, positivity, and faith.

The truth is, in God’s eyes, there is always hope for a fool ~ if the fool turns to Him for refuge and wisdom.

The Prodigal Son of Luke 15:11-32 was certainly foolish.

But this rebellious fool came to his senses and realized what he was missing. He remembered his father’s love and returned, repentant, hoping for even a bit of grace. And he got more than he hoped for. The father welcomed him and lavished love upon him.

Do you have a fool in your family? Among your friends? Don’t give up hope. God can use the simplest things to turn a fool around. He used pigs in a pigsty to wake up a rebellious, foolish son.

Your part?

Pray for fools. Pray for their companions (Proverbs 13:20). Love them. And as they open to your love, offer snippets of biblical wisdom (even if you don’t quote chapter and verse). It is the Word of God that will pierce the heart and conscience (Hebrews 4:12), and the love of God that draws the heart of a fool to fear Him ~ to respect and honor Him, leading to obedience ~ (Romans 5:6-9). When a person “fears” God, this is the beginning of wisdom and much-needed insight (Proverbs 9:10).

The wonderful truth is, God loves to turn the heart of a fool to wisdom.

Love, in Spite of Us

12 Feb

A funny Valentine’s Day story appeared in Reader’s Digest:

Richard B. Blackwell wrote, “Every Valentine’s Day, our campus newspaper has a section for student messages. Last year, my roommate surprised his girlfriend with roses and dinner at a fancy restaurant. When they returned from their date, she leafed through the paper to see if he had written a note to her.

“Near the bottom of one page, she found: ‘Bonnie ~ What are you looking for here? Aren’t dinner and flowers enough? Love, Scott.'”(1)

Scott clearly loved Bonnie in spite of her silly hang-up.

Some time ago, I heard my husband’s cell phone ringing and went to retrieve it. He had left it at home, so I called the caller back to let her know.

Then I thought that I should let my husband know. So I called his cell phone.

Yeah, you heard that right. Duh ~ one of my “blonder” moments.

My dear husband has experienced many of my “not quite connecting the dots” thought processes. He is amazed that anyone who loves apologetics, studies Church history, and conducts research for two ministries can come up with the lamest statements.

I’m not stupid, but sometimes my brain just doesn’t fire right…  you know? I heard that Einstein was the same way. I don’t know if that’s true, but it comforts me, somehow.

But my point here is, my husband Bob loves me, just the same. He understands how I function, and he accepts me because he just loves me.

It’s a wonderful picture of God’s love for me, only on a far deeper level.

I have nothing to offer God, in and of myself, because I continually choose the foolishness of sin. What a comfort to know that “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:7-8). He loves me, not for who I am, but for who HE is. And my love relationship with God all began with Him. “We love Him,” the Bible says, “because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

Love is a choice … and God chose to love me! I am amazed and grateful.

Aren’t you glad that God loves you, in spite of you (not because of you)? As Christians, we are “accepted in the Beloved” (Ephesians 1:6). We are accepted because of God’s love for His Son, and the loving sacrifice Jesus made on our behalf as a covering for our sin.

Makes me want to create a Valentine for “the Beloved” today. Why don’t you join me and post a note somewhere today expressing your love to Jesus? And take some time in prayer and meditation to reflect on His love and grace that gives and gives and gives … in spite of us.

(1) Reader’s Digest online, “11 Funny Valentine’s Day Jokes,” compiled by Amy Zerello

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