As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17 (NIV)
“This is NOT what I signed up for!” I cried out to God as I sat cross-legged on the bedroom floor of our first apartment, my eyes stinging with hot tears. Out in the living room sat my husband — bewildered, completely exasperated, unable to handle his wife’s volatile emotions.
I was a brand new bride of just six weeks. Our thank-you notes for the wedding gifts hadn’t even been sent! But already I had buyer’s remorse. Or I guess more accurately, “bridal remorse.” All I knew was that this “Happily Ever After” thing was not-so-happy after all.
The first few years of my marriage were rocky and rough. I had envisioned a relationship of marital bliss. Flowers. Candlelight dinners. Holding hands at the movies. Long strolls on the beach.
Then the wall of reality hit. Instead of the candlelight dinner, it was burnt roast. When he once again came home late from work, I wrongly interpreted that as him caring little about my culinary efforts. We didn’t get to the hand-holding at the theater much because we couldn’t make up our minds about which show to see. And I strolled on the beach, all right — all alone — just after I stormed away from my husband following yet another argument.
Although we possessed a mutual love for each other (really we did) our personalities and approach to life could not have been more different! In fact, we joke today that if we went on one of those online dating sites, instead of matching us up as perfect soul mates, the computer screen would blink a bright red message “DO NOT DATE! TOTALLY INCOMPATIBLE!”
Often, my husband and I just plain rub each other the wrong way. Yep. We’re different. We are what I call “sandpaper spouses” and our rough-around-the-edges relationship often finds us turning to God when we feel like turning away from each other.
When we encounter conflict, I am verbal and process my thoughts quickly, backing him into a corner. He prefers to pause and ponder before sorting his thoughts or sharing his feelings. This difference makes him view me as critical and combative. And I label him an avoider, accusing him of caring little about resolving conflict.
When making decisions, he is methodical and thorough, carefully weighing all options. I prefer to decide in a snap and forge ahead to the next thing. This difference causes me to label him as indecisive and tempts him to brand me knee-jerk and impulsive.
Having a spouse who faces life differently can often tempt us to attack each other. But what if instead we were to flip the situation, and see things that rub us the wrong way as blessings instead … that enable our spiritual growth?
Today’s key verse states, “Iron sharpens iron.” If your kitchen knife is dull, you sharpen it by grinding it against a rough stone, not by rubbing it on cushy cotton. In the same way, the rough patches in our personalities can help sharpen us in the areas of love, compassion and patience — mostly patience!
And I know from experience that my less-than-perfect marriage has grown my prayer life immensely as I take my concerns to God during times of tumult.
My husband’s slower-paced decision making causes me to pause and pray before I forge ahead and consider other options I might not have thought of initially. My verbal processing encourages my husband to talk through issues rather than stuff his feelings inside, where they might fester and explode later. And our different philosophies teach us patience and perspective.
Will you join me today in thanking God for sandpaper spouses? Rather than our differences driving us crazy, instead may they drive us all straight to our knees.
Father, I want to see the differences in my marriage as opportunities for growth as I take my concerns — and my attitudes and responses — to You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Colossians 3:12-13, “Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the LORD has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” (ESV)
Hebrews 13:4a, “Marriage should be honored by all …” (NIV)
REFLECT AND RESPOND:
In what ways does dealing with personality differences in marriage help to smooth out your rough edges? List what it has done for you. (For example: developed patience, driven you to prayer, etc.)
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