When Ike and I first got married, our personalities landed on very different ends of the spectrum between justice and mercy. While I have always been a “truth speaker”–meaning I see things in black and white, tend to be dogmatic, and speak my mind before pausing to listen–Ike is a peacemaker. He is very intuitive, has a great grasp on the complexities of a situation, and he understands people. Whereas I am quick to cast judgment, Ike is slow to speak and slow to become angry.
Early on in our relationship, this difference created problems. I accused Ike of failing to speak on matters of truth. I pushed him when I thought he needed to be pushed, and I became even angrier when he didn’t share my sentiments. “How does this not upset you?” I would ask. Of course, my criticism only provoked defensiveness in him, and the conversations unraveled from there.
This difference in our personalities has resulted in more arguments than any other issue in our marriage. My criticism of Ike’s graciousness betrayed a lack of trust in his judgment, and that was hurtful to him. My criticism was also ineffective. No matter how firmly I stated my case, no matter how crystal clear I believed the truth to be, Ike was not to be moved by force. Rather than convince him, my strong-arm method neither changed his mind nor endeared me to him. In fact, it did just the opposite.
Which is why I slowly began to change. Because conviction and argumentation had proven to be fruitless methods of persuasion, I adjusted. I noticed the strengths in Ike’s personality, and how it won him the respect of everyone he knows. I noticed the manner in which Ike’s humility and gentleness draw humility and gentleness out of me, even when we’re arguing. I realized that, through his patience and his willingness to listen, Ike’s words have a kind of weight and authority that cannot be won with superior skills of reasoning or numerous educational degrees. He has all of those things, but it’s not the reason people respect and love him.
Meanwhile, I recognized the weaknesses in my justice-oriented thinking. It’s not that justice doesn’t have its place–Ike would tell you that God has used me to make him a bolder man–but truth without mercy is only a hammer.
I therefore worked to change my ways, and my personality eventually followed. If you ask anyone in my family today, they will tell you that I have changed. Because of the way God uses Ike, I am a different person now than when I got married.
This change has had repercussions outside our marriage as well. As I have changed, the way I do ministry has changed also. In the same way that I assaulted Ike with truth, I am tempted to do the same with Scripture. When someone’s life is out of line, my instinct is to call it like it is–SIN. I can get pretty judgmental pretty fast.
Fortunately my marriage to Ike has resulted in pastoral growth. I am learning to listen and to meet people where they’re at. I’m learning to be patient with others and journey with them as they grow, occasionally screw up, and grow some more. I am learning to be more humble, and to get out of the way to make room for God.
Before I met Ike, I desired a marriage in which my husband and I could serve God better together than apart. Years later, God has answered that prayer beyond what I could have imagined. I truly am a better disciple because of Ike. Working through our every day interactions in the privacy of our home, God is making us into better servants of the world outside.
How has your marriage changed you?