My husband is an extrovert. He’s social and he’s just about the easiest person to get along with. Then there’s me. I wouldn’t say I’m an introvert, per se, but I’m considerably less social than him. The other night, Steve says, “we weren’t created to live alone. We were created to be around others, to connect.” He said that in response to our conversation about how busy I felt life was getting, and how much he was loving the relationships he was building with some friends. When he said that, I knew in my heart that he was right, that I often get stuck in the protected bubble of my immediate family. And instead of agreeing and moving forward into the conversation on how that looks in our own life, I got defensive. I defended my introversion tendencies, my want to stay in the comfort of my own circle, which essentially is comprised of only a few. Instead of opening up the conversation about possibility, I closed the opportunity and became a stonewall of offense and “you married the wrong girl.” But really, he didn’t. He didn’t marry the “wrong girl.” It’s true, though that we are quite the opposite of one another, but really that is part of what works for us.
And by work I do mean we must work, but when we get off of the high horse of defending our positions, we complement each other’s weaknesses with the other’s strengths and vice versa. I read an article recently about how compatibility was one of the top components to a successful relationship. And my response was NOPE. But, I will be honest; it discouraged my heart because I thought, “Oh great! We’re doomed.” But really, there is no magic equation, no right combination or the right personality or compatibility that make a relationship successful. There just isn’t.
As we argued about our differences in opinion, it hit me: our differences are something to be celebrated instead of constantly being bombarded with unmet expectations, disappointment or control. As Thomas Merton said, “The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them.”This is where love starts: loving them fully where they are at.
I am not saying that the realization in that moment necessarily changed my way of being towards him and the conversation, because that is the nature of the pride beast, and the fight to be right often overshadows any realization I experience.
The bottom line is this: characteristics in someone else can be perceived as a positive OR a negative. Because obviously if we are referring to our own characteristics, they are all positive, right? WRONG. I digress. Essentially, I can point out most characteristics of my husband as well as myself and spin it however I want to, positive and/or negative. For example, “messy” can be perceived as a slob or it can be perceived as free. “Clean” can be perceived as OCD or excellence. And I think for most of us, if the other doesn’t line up with our own expectations or priorities or match our personality perfectly, then we tend to focus primarily on the negative spin of characteristics in the other.
Well, I want to love differently. How about YOU? This is for sure NOTHING I’ve mastered because I am (negatively viewed) a bit controlling, and (positively viewed) caring. I care. We all do, right? We all want intimacy and connection, and although we like to think that only those who are similar in characteristics will get that, that’s just not true. That is just a way to cop out of doing the work. Because love is unconditional. That means it is not swayed or convinced that “this is just too hard” or “we’re just nothing like each other” or “if only he/she would change that one thing, things would be different.” Yes, we all need to be refined by the Refiner, Himself. But for me, I need to lean more on the Maker to take that yoke. Is it easy? NO. Is it worth the work? YES.
If you are opposite or different than your spouse, where your spouse is unique in his or her design from you, then take heart, this is NORMAL. Embrace the man or woman they are, give to the realtionship in a new way, encourage, set free, give way to the REFINER. Give way to the Refiner about your stuff and definitaely give way to his or her stuff. May we let our unmet expectations, our wish that everyone operated on the same wavelength, our victim path to nowhere take us back to the heart of this scripture in 1 Corinthians 12:18-30
"But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.
The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together."
Maybe you're thinking that all this doesn't apply to you: "I'm not married" or "My spouse and I are identical personality types," etc. Well, sorry to say, it still applies. It's a guarantee. How about a sister, a friend, a coworker, a roommate? Start there. We are all designed differently from each other, and instead of withholding your time, love, or affection, you get to choose to love them just as they are and right where they're at. Giving your heart in pieces, half-heartedly to someone because they don't fit your mold, doesn't serve you and it certainly doesn't serve them. IT ONLY CAUSES YOU TO MISS OUT! (I mean, did you see Steve in his fannypack?)
May we love how Jesus loves us. May we see the other as a gift; one to be loved not in pieces at a time, not in our timing, not if and when it’s convenient, but now. FULLY AND RELENTLESSLY.
PLEASE LISTEN TO THIS SONG AND LET IT REMIND YOU OF HOW JESUS LOVES YOU. LET IT REMIND YOU OF HOW LOVE IS SUPPOSED TO BE.