My wife, Patti, and I often laugh about the differences between us. And there are many! Personality styles, temperaments, habits, perceptions. On a sliding spectrum, here would be some of our more general differences: She’s an extroverted party girl, I’m an introverted book worm. She’s decisive and clear, I’m deliberative and nuanced. She’s a neat-freak, I’m comfortable with piles. She’s practical, I’m theoretical. She’s able to negotiate complexity with ease, I’m good with one thing at a time. She likes country, I like rock. She loves the city, I love the forest. She’s a night person, I’m a morning person. She’s detail oriented, I’m big picture. On that last point, here’s a wedding anniversary card I gave her ten years ago:
Some of those differences complement really well, others clash, others are tolerated. But both of us would be in full agreement that our presumption of a Jesus-centered marriage that’s a sacramental covenant, our daily life of prayer as individuals and as a couple, really is what makes it possible for all of those differences between us to become material for creativity and growth and color. And humor.
Faithful, thriving and lifelong love between two very different people, who are also sinners, is hard work. But love loves a challenge. My grandfather, who was a business executive, used to extol for me the virtues of manual labor, and the dignity of manual laborers. He would say, “The body was made for hard work.” I would say the same of love, it’s made for hard work. It thrives on hard work. Especially, love loves redemptive work, loves facing brokenness and leading it to wholeness. At least God’s love does.
One of my dear friends, who is a total lol character and is in quite a challenging marriage, says of her husband,
He’s a pain in the ass, but he’s my pain in the ass. I love all of him. But I always tell him, “And I’m fully aware that I’m your pain in the ass, too.” If we both get that, face it, embrace it and get on with it it totally works. But when one of us forgets they’re an ass too, and forgets that love’s a two-way deal, it totally breaks down.
They are both people of faith and they say that without their faith they would likely never have stayed married with all their differences and difficulties. Faith, she’s said, gives them a vision of what tough love looks like, gives them hope that God will provide in tough times, and makes them aware every day of the gravity of their marital vows as something God has joined. “It’s bigger than us,” she once said, “and when you get that it keeps all the small problems small and the big ones manageable.”
I once emailed her this line: “I think of marriage as being tasked by God with carrying your Sacrament through life like it’s a Communion Host that Jesus placed in your joined hands on your wedding day. And that Host is Jesus and everyone else in your life whom Jesus sends your way to be loved. Children, friends, neighbors, co-workers. And Jesus says to both of you: Hold this Host with reverence, don’t drop it, and when you die you can return it to me as your final and supreme sacrificial offering.” She replied to my email, “That’s perfect! And when I think of walking through life with [her husband] with joined hands all the time? And doing that while dealing with kids and in-laws and everybody else who just shows up into our marriage? With love!? Sweet Jesus! That takes a lot of patient balancing and coordination! That’s our 23 years in a nutshell! Pray we don’t drop it!!!”
Let me end with a pair of viral videos that capture humorously the marital difference. The first was a real BBC interview I posted a week or so ago, the second is a funny follow up. My wife sent the second one to me last night, because, in so many ways, This is Us…