Marriage reveals that we are very different people. It takes God to help us handle – even appreciate – our differences. It’s not easy to have a very different person living in our lives, up close and personal!
Stuart and I are very different. You can tell just how different we are by looking at the titles of our books! Stuart is very positive by nature. He is an optimist, so he gives his books grand titles such as, What Works When Life Doesn’t or Eight Ways to Get a Life.
My work, on the other hand, reflects my natural tendency toward introspection, a sober spirit, and morbid thought patterns! So I have written books on Job, Jeremiah, and Lamentations, as well as a children’s book about suffering called Harrow Sparrow, which is a harrowing tale indeed! We are different in temperament and work habits; in fact, we are direct opposites. He always assumes the best; I always anticipate the worst.
Not long ago, Stuart and I were in a hotel in Chicago. In the middle of the night, the fire alarm went off. I leapt out of bed, threw myself into my best suit, grabbed my purse, computer, Bible, and notes and took off down the fire escape. Stuart followed leisurely in his shorts and T-shirt and didn’t even bring his wallet! He was sure it was a false alarm. Actually, it was a false alarm, but the incident highlighted our differences. As he joined me outside, he looked at me knowingly, and we both laughed.
We have not, however, allowed our differences to irritate but rather have learned with God’s help to celebrate and delight in them. For this we have needed Jesus, but for this we have had Jesus! Love always accepts the differences in others as a challenge and delight. Self always imagines everyone should be like it. Love thinks differently and allows others to do the same.
Paul talks about “growing up” out of our inherent selfishness into selflessness. “Love does not demand its own way,” he writes in 1 Corinthians 13:5. He tells the Corinthians that they cannot make love work unless they grow up and mature. Mature love is not selfish! In 1 Corinthians 13:11 it says, “When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child does. But when I grew up, I put away childish things.” To be selfish is to act like a child; in order to love, you need to grow up and put away childish selfishness!
One day we were visiting a family we hadn’t seen in a long time. The older children were bringing us up to speed on their lives and telling us their plans for the future, while the four-year-old waited impatiently for a pause in the conversation. His father noticed his dilemma and said to him, “Duncan, tell Pastor Briscoe what you want to be when you grow up.” Duncan thought for a moment and then said, “Bigger!”
That was a noble aspiration. Oh, that all of us were like Duncan, that all of us would want to be bigger people and grow up into mature human beings. We all need to grow up in the art of loving. If we don’t we will live lives that are inherently selfish. Do you want to be “bigger” in the matter of loving? I do.
Just Between Us