Thursday, August 9, 2007

looking out for each other

I am (and you may laugh, if you like) a fan of Dr. Laura. In that I enjoy listening to her while I do housework, I appreciate the encouragement she gives to parents and spouses to be good parents and spouses, and I find the issues she deals with on her show thought-provoking. I don't agree with her on everything (I think, for instance, that she doesn't really understand forgiveness - though, to be fair, she isn't a Christian, and so I don't expect her to share my theological views on forgiveness), but I do enjoy and deeply appreciate her work.

So, when I saw her newest book at the library, I picked it up, and I'm about halfway through. It's a lot like her show: easy to absorb, mostly right, encouraging and thought-provoking. The thought-provoking part might be the best part. Reading it in snatches since Wednesday has left me thinking a lot during the day about marriage, what makes a good marriage, and what specifically makes my marriage good. Which is good pondering material as I clean the house, feed the kids and take the occasional, much-appreciated, nice, long shower. (We just got back from camping and I am - oh so truly - all about the running water.)

I've always known - since before we were dating actually - that one of the things that really works between Adam and me is that we are good at doing things together. Once, when we were still just friends, we cleaned out a really disgusting fridge together (it was at the end of an MK retreat) and even though we were, you know, cleaning out a really disgusting fridge, we had a grand old time. That's when I discovered that Adam was a good guy to have with you if you wanted ordinary life to be fun. He's just really, really good at normal things, at day-to-day stuff, at chores, at meals, on walks, at games. In fact, the perfect man for me to marry. (And so, dear reader, I did.)

But though that is still true (truer than ever), this time around, thinking about our marriage and what was good about it, I came up with a new answer: the longer and longer the time is that we've been married, the more Adam and I look out for each other. In fact, we've started looking out for each other so much, that we're starting to look out for ourselves less and less. It's coming about that I don't have to tell Adam when I'm dead tired, and really need a bit more sleep. He notices and gets up with the kids on those Saturday mornings and lets me sleep in an hour, without me having to ask. And it's coming to be that while he won't bother to notice that he's stressed out, but I will, and I'll help him get back to his normal, calm self.

And this new development, coming about now and not earlier, I think, because it has just taken us this long to really get to know each other, is so very good. It lets us both be at the same time less selfish, and more loving.

Someone might say, "Well, you could be taken care of just the same if you both just looked out for and took care of yourselves." Well, maybe. But isn't this so much better? I don't have to look out for me, because someone else is doing it. And I can, instead, focus my attention on someone outside of myself, and learn more about how to love. And here's the thing: I can do it because I'm secure. I don't have to worry about me, because someone else is worrying about me.

It's two gifts in one - or maybe three. It's the gift of being loved, the gift of loving, and the gift of being able to let go of myself.

And (St. Paul was so wise) it mirrors the love Christ has for his church. Isn't that why we can feel safe loving anyone at all? because God first loved us? If I didn't believe that my heavenly Father was watching over me, I don't think I'd ever take my eyes off myself long enough to look out for anyone else. I'd be so scared, so anxious to see to my own needs, that I'd never take the time to see to someone else's. But because I know that my Father loves me, and will take care of me, I can devote time and energy to people other than myself. I can be a parent to my children only because God is being a parent to me.

And it's just so cool to see that principle, that part of God's love for his people, being mirrored in our marriage. God gives me, in the very tangible love of my husband, a picture of the spiritual truth of his love for his Church. He's like a priest who knows that the kids need an object lesson in order to understand the children's sermon. It's just so cool.

There. That's my deep thought for the day: I can take care of Adam because he's taking care of me, and he can take care of me because I'm taking care of him, and really, that can all happen because God's taking care of all of us.

And here's to books that make you think. (Thanks, Dr. Laura.)

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

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