Nathaniel and I have been married for six years. And the longer we're married, the more I'm convinced that what causes marriages to suffer is the little things. The pastor that did our marriage counseling told us this time and time again. Marriage, he said, isn't 50/50. It's 100/100. If you try to make all things are equal, then you'll start keeping score. Then you'll start trying to make sure that what you do is matched by what they do. No, he told us, it won't work unless you both give 100%.
How true we have found this to be.
At too many times, there's this imaginary T-chart in my brain. On one side is the list of all of the things that I've done that day. On the other is the list of things Nathaniel has done.
Every little thing I did that day is on the list. The only thing I count as Nathaniel as doing is leaving for the day and going to work. And what does this lead to?
That's what it leads to. It leads to a big ugly black mess of resentment that sends deep life-draining roots into my heart. I see myself as better than he is. I would never, never in a million years say out loud that I am better than he is. But I would think it. And when I keep that ongoing who did what list in my head, that's what is really happening. It becomes me vs. him.
Marriage is not always equal. There will be times when yes, I am doing more. Just as there are times that Nathaniel does more.
I'm setting my marriage up for failure when I keep a list. It robs me of peace, it robs peace from us. It makes me watch that equality meter, and as soon as I feel that I've fed it enough quarters, I want to stop. I want all things to be equal, or at least to feel equal.
But you and I know this can't be true. Fairness isn't about equality, its about getting what each one needs.
Right after Zoe was born and Eric was born, I was in a season of need. Almost the entire first year of Zoe's life, I was in a season of need. Not once did Nathaniel complain about this. He encouraged me and built me up. He loved me. He gave me 100%. Some days it was all I could do to give 10%. Now it is my turn. This is my season of 100%.
This is also when I learn what love is and how little I understand it and how little I can do anything to deserve it. True love is self-sacrificing.
I love 1 Corinthians 13 from The Message,
Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.
We're in an unequal season right now, Nathaniel and I. It's hard for both of us. For me to give more and for him to need more. Yet what I need to learn, now and forever, is that this is when I need God more. He becomes what I need and only what I need. The excess that I give is more than made up by what God gives to me. And as we keep looking for the best, not looking back, not keeping score, God will sustain us to the end.