(Note: The following was written by me for our Church newsletter in February 2009. This was long before I knew that I would be a widow. None the less, the marriage principles I wrote about are still true today.)
Remember the excitement of a birthday during childhood? For me the anticipation almost equaled Christmas. I looked forward to my special day. The party was about me, the presents were for me, and hearing “happy birthday” all day long meant people were thinking about me. It was great! I still enjoy the occasion when it rolls around but “happy birthday” is no longer one of my top favorite days—and it’s NOT because I’m getting older!
Right behind Easter and Christmas and far ahead of my birthday is my next favorite day of the year. It’s the day I hear “happy anniversary” from my wife. It is our day; a day we remember the beginning of our journey through life together. Every August 24, we eagerly say to one another “I did and I still do.”
There is a spiritual principle that has changed my attitude–no longer about me–and has made my anniversary one of my top days every year. The principle is “no longer two, but one” (Mark 10:8, NASB). The application of this principle helps guard our marriage from relationship injuring actions. Mark 10:8 teaches that our two individualities are joined together. Our individuality is never lost but our marriage has formed a new “oneness.” This oneness leads to the mind-set of “we are in this together.” When we are in it together then we understand that what happens to one happens to both. For many it is easier to accept this principle when the hurts come from outside of the relationship. However, the principle still stands when it is coming from the inside of the marriage relationship.
Let me try to illustrate.
If you are one who has used a hammer to drive in a few nails then I’m pretty sure the experience of hitting the thumb has occurred. What happens afterward? Probably the hammer is set aside–maybe thrown? Then grabbing the thumb while uttering a few choice words. Even without knowing you well I am pretty sure that you did not hit your thumb intentionally. The hand does not intentionally hit the thumb with a hammer because the resulting pain is felt throughout the whole body. Yet this is exactly what couples do when hurting one another. As one begins to apply the marital principle of “no longer two, but one” the idea will click that if one brings joy to the other then both receive joy; if one hurts the other then both are hurt. In other words, the unkind, unloving words or actions do not dole out punishment to one’s spouse…the hurt is to both, husband and wife.
Sooner or later there will be another project and it will involve a hammer. And sooner or later the thumb will get smacked again. The same is true in a marriage relationship; sooner or later he or she will hurt the other again. When this happens take a cue from the memory of a throbbing thumb:
1) Set aside whatever it is we are using to hurt the relationship. Pick it up again later using more care.
2) Comfort what has been hurt.
3) Use choice words such as “I’m sorry,” “I was wrong,” and “forgive me.”
Employing these steps will lessen the hurt and eventually, with practice, you might become more proficient with the hammer.
While re-reading through this newsletter article I couldn’t help but wonder what the last year or so of Carrie’s life might have been like if this principle was not already in place. Perhaps this principle is part of the reason I was able to be present–physically and emotionally–with Carrie as the cancer ebbed away her life. (see article: A Husband as Caregiver. With that thought, I can wholeheartedly concur with my February 2009 self and encourage marriage partners to learn this principle!
…and my birthday…. it’s in February…. I expect presents.