Monday, June 3, 2013

The Only Happy Wife

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Old couple in love
Recently I sat at the kitchen table and had a belly-laugh with my husband.  The two of us are sometimes like conjoined twins.  Except backwards.  Two bodies, one brain with the same bizarre sense of humor.  I could try to explain the joke; it was all about prayer, confession and this book we've been reading, but I assure you it would fall flat. Snorting, I laid my head down on the kitchen table catching a glance of my eldest daughter rolling her eyes at her crazy parents. 

You might suspect us of irreverence, but it's actually pain transformed into humor.  These days our relationship has gained a lot from sharing a laugh at the hard times.  We've struggled together with our rebellious hearts.  We've laughed together so we didn't cry over how to discipline the 4 year old without losing our minds.  We've read books together and talked over the theology.  We've read the Bible together and learned from each other.  We've always been happy but our happiness is deeply grounded these days.

Why do I bring it up?  Because of another conversation, one that was devoid of all humor.  There's a girl in our lives.  A little too old to be one of our children and too young to be our little sister.  She's precious to us. Her own father died long ago; my husband was the first man of integrity, kindness, and grace in her life. She calls him "Captain" in memory of the Walt Whitman poem.   When she's having trouble with work, study, boys, or life, she'll call and ask for him, just like I call and talk to my Dad.  

She's visiting these days and we were out shopping together.  She took my arm, leaned on my shoulder and sighed, "You're the only happy wife I know."

She looked around at the important women in her life, family members, coworkers, a boss she's close to, and found that they are all miserable in their marriages. Each one of them has been a role model for her. Strong women one and all, they differ in other respects such as money, education and prestige.  Among them, I am the only happy wife.  I asked her, "Are they happy (in general)?" And the answer came back, "No".  Not only am I the only happy wife, I am the only happy girl. 

I'll be talking to her the next couple of days.  What to say?  She's not yet a Christian, so the advice I give my girls and my mom gave me, "Find a man who loves Jesus and loves you," doesn't quite ring true.

Her other female mentors had this advice. "Be careful in your marriage!"  I agree with them wholeheartedly; our marriage partner helps to determine our destiny.  I added, "Be careful with your marriage!"  Marriages are fragile and easily broken.  

I pointed out to her the need for mutual submission in marriage. There's a reason that Ephesians 5:21 begins the passage on love and respect with the admonition to submit to each other.  Or take Philippians 2 which bases unity in putting others ahead of ourselves in imitation of our Savior.   It's one of the keys to a happy marriage.   I said, "Sometimes I give in, sometimes Captain does."

"Compromise?" she asked.     

"Sometimes there's no compromise.  We just have to put the other person first."  I replied. "No one can have their way all the time."

"You give in to Captain!" she said with a glint in her eye.  She's observed my attempts at submission incredulously for years.  

"Nope, more often Captain sees what I want and gives in to me.  He loves me you know." Her eyes softened. 

I'm not sure what else to say.  I don't know how to explain that its the sharing that's the thing.  We've shared laughter and pain.  We've shared funerals, weddings, births and baptisms.  We've shared minuscule efficiency apartments, a house, and 3 different homes abroad.  We've shared showers, sleepless nights, and single-sized beds in ratty hotels!  We share communion.  We share our girls.  We share 15 years of memories. We share our love for the Lord.  We share.

I laughingly say we share one brain but it's very near the truth.  We are unified.  Two made one.  I respect the Captain and put his wisdom first.  The Captain adores me and wants to please me above almost everything.  Two become one. It's a great mystery. Consider this:

In the same way, a husband should love his wife as much as he loves himself. A husband who loves his wife shows that he loves himself. None of us hate our own bodies. We provide for them and take good care of them, just as Christ does for the church, because we are each part of his body.  As the Scriptures say, "A man leaves his father and mother to get married, and he becomes like one person with his wife."   This is a great mystery, but I understand it to mean Christ and his church. So each husband should love his wife as much as he loves himself, and each wife should respect her husband. (CEV)

 A mystery of sharing. 

What would you say?  What makes you a happy wife?  Are you the only happy wife you know?

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