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Last year, as Jenny and I celebrated our 7th year anniversary, I wrote on the 8 lessons we’d learned in our marriage. These are tough humbling lessons we’ve learned by observation and experience. You can read last year’s post here. In keeping with this tradition, this is what we’ve learned in our 8th year of marriage.
YOU CAN BE BOTH RIGHT AT THE SAME TIME.
Time and time again in our 8 short years of marriage, Jenny and I have had to make decisions, be they simple or complex ones, and both of us were right, at the same time. Let me share two examples.
Buying a car.
We had a Polo Vivo for 5 years, and last year we felt the desire to buy a new car. It was time for a new car. I wanted a specific type of car and she wanted a different type. Yes, we wanted a new car, right? And yes, we agreed that we needed a new car, however, we had different takes on which car we should buy. We were both right, right?
Saturday morning breakfast.
It’s our tradition to go out for breakfast every Saturday morning. Saturday morning is time for us to eat, converse, and for Jenny to unwind from her hectic weekly schedule. This question always comes up, “What would you like to have for breakfast and where?” This question comes up because we don’t have a set place where we frequent. We always try out different restaurants just to jazz it up a bit. Because the breakfast joints are in proximity to each other, as we drive there, the haggling begins. “I want to go to Doppio Zero, I wish for their livers dish,” Jenny says. “Last time we ate what you wanted, I want to go to Mugg and Bean, I wish for their salad dish, it’s my turn now,” I say. A standoff ensues. We want to have breakfast, right? We want to spend time together, right? We were both right, right?
This is what we are talking about.
In thinking through this, we aren’t saying that all decisions are right. There are times, yes, that one of us is wrong, wrong in a deeply sinful way. For example, I’ve wanted to spend money on stuff that I think I wanted but the reality is I was just being greedy. Jenny in those times has had to call out my greed. I’ve had to call out Jenny on the same. So yes, we know when a decision we are making is selfish and sinful.
A conundrum, standoff or impasse surfaces when you are both right. And the question arises, whose right are we going to follow? I could as a husband throw my weight around and say, “Hey listen here Jenny, I am the head of this home. So it’s my way or the highway.” Jenny conversely could say this, “My submission to your leadership is voluntary, not obligatory. I don’t have to follow you on this one. I also have rights as a child of God to be heard.” We are both right and our rightness creates a conundrum, a tension.
In this case, who lays down his right to be right? Perhaps I should because the Bible says that a husband should love his wife as Christ loved the Church and gave up his life for her. (Ephesians 5:25) I could argue back that perhaps Jenny should submit just like Jesus submitted to his father. (Ephesians 5:24) So, we are both right, however, someone has to blink first. Someone has to give up their right to be right.
How do we resolve this tension created by our both being right? Either of us has to lay down, sacrifice, lose their right to be right. This is huge.
Jenny and I don’t believe this tension is resolved unless you understand the gospel of grace. We think it’s impossible to be self-sacrificial if you don’t know what Jesus has done for you. The gospel of grace—the good news of who Jesus is and what he has done for us, has been our lifesaver. The gospel of grace has freed us time and time again from our sinful selves into humility, freedom, and joy. Jenny and I frequently say to each other we don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell in enjoying our marriage because we are two very strong-headed individuals. That it’s the gospel of grace, thus far, that makes our marriage work. Without the gospel of grace, we would have headed to Judge Judy’s show a long time ago.
This is rather counterintuitive because you’d expect us to give you tips, keys, steps or principles to living a self-sacrificial life. Oh yeah, your heart and mind want easy solutions. You, however, don’t know or underestimate how deeply sinful you are. You also overestimate your capabilities of dealing with the deep sin in your life. You believe you have within you adequate resources to help you deal with the sin that easily trips us. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Tips, keys, steps, and principles are often easy solutions, or as we say band-aids, to deep psychological issues. They deal with surface issues. The gospel of grace goes deep into the bone and marrow of our souls. (Hebrews 4:12 NLT) Observation has taught me and Jenny that without the gospel, you and I have no chance against the enemy of our souls.
An older gentleman with many years under his belt in marriage said this to me, “Marriages don’t fall apart because people don’t love each other. Marriages fall apart because both spouses have a view of things they believe is right and are determined to make sure it’s their view of right that prevails.” He explained that the term irreconcilable differences should actually be irreconcilable rights. The spouses were always right but unwilling to lay down their right to be right or one was forced to lay down their right all the time and with time got fed up—this is so true for women.
This is the lesson Jenny, and I have learned in this 8th year of marriage. That we can be both right at the same time, and we have to so often, lay down our right to be right at the same time—a constant tension that we live with. The gospel of grace has repeatedly helped us resolve the tension by pointing us to Jesus—how Jesus gave up his right, humbled himself even to death on the cross so that Jenny and I lay down our rights and serve each other.
This is a humbling process. We are not saying this laying down your right to be right is smooth sailing. It’s a constant fight against the urge to be selfish, the need to be right, and the desire for power and control. And this fight is waged in the deep recess of our hearts because by default we are, here we go, SINNERS.
So yeah, this is what we’ve learned in our 8th year of marriage. We get to, hopefully, keep the gospel of grace at the center of our lives and enjoy many more years.
That’s what grace looks like.
Photo Credit: Jenny and I at the Hartbeespoort Dam, North West Province, South Africa.