Jim and I spent the day at his parents’ house in Mt. Carmel today. It’s one of the perks of Jim being laid off two days a week…we get to spend a day with them without anyone else around. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love Jim’s family. But he is the youngest of nine children and when the family gets together, it’s hard to get any one on one with his parents.
Norman and Helen have been married for sixty three years. They have it figured out. They know all the same stories and can switch off with the other while telling them. They know each other’s strengths and weaknesses and they know how to care for each other. They can communicate without saying a word; with just a look or an action, they seem to know what the other needs or wants. They also taught us a good lesson about how to “fight “with each other.
That may sound funny…but it’s a valuable gift. Here’s an example of a disagreement they had when Derek and Craig were younger:
We were all at the table eating lunch and Norman was in the middle of telling me a story when he said something that made Helen mad. Helen got up from the table, got a metal dish from the refrigerator, turned to set it on the table and smacked Norman in the back of the head with it. Norman turned to Helen and said, “Dammit to hell, Helen” to which Helen responded, “Sorry!” in a sing-song voice, complete with smile. Norman immediately turned back to me to continue withe conversation. While Jim and the boys shook with silent laughter, I struggled to keep my expression neutral.
From start to finish, it lasted about a minute. That is a good fight. Now, I’m not saying that the next time you have an argument with someone that you should hit them. But I do think that many times we have a tendancy to drag hang onto grudges for way too long. Whatever it was that Norman said didn’t drag them down for days and Helen’s “punch back” didn’t either. This is a funny example, but one that often comes to mind when Jim and I have a disagreement.
What amazes me about Norman and Helen is their ability to communicate with each other. Not to speak to each other but to communicate with each other. Now I realize, the fight I mentioned didn’t have a lot of dialog, but we have seen over the years how they quickly move from disagreement to resolution.
When Jim and I first got married, our “fights” would go something like this: One of us would say or do something to upset the other. We would both end up mad. Jim would leave without telling me where he was going and I would sit down and cry until he got back. Then, instead of talking about our differences, we would ignore the problem (and each other) for a couple of days until we gradually began to speak again. Then we would just move on…never addressing the problem, just letting it stay bottled up inside of us. Then about every six months or so, we would have an all out verbal barrage…it was ugly. And even then, we never really listened to each other…we just yelled and got it out of system until the next time. It was a total breakdown in communication.
We had to learn how to “fight”. We had to learn how to listen to each other’s point of view and how to speak our part without belittling or berating the other. We had to learn to trust each other and know that the other person was sincerely interested in our best interest. We had to learn how to communicate.
I was the same way with my relationship with God. Something would happen in my life and I would get mad at him. Then I would move on, never dealing with the issue at hand. Every now and then, I would break down, blaming God for everything wrong in my life. I shut down and shut him out for long periods of time, afraid of speaking what was truly on my heart and what his response to me might be.
During my Walk to Emmaus weekend, a wise paster named George told me that God wanted to hear everything that was going on in my life. That God already knew but he was waiting for me to communicate with him so that he could speak back to me and provide the comfort, forgiveness, peace…whatever was missing in my life. He told me in order to receive God’s counsel, I had to be receptive to what he wanted me to learn.
It was amazing…the difference between thinking about an issue and actually speaking it out loud to God. I would tell him whatever was on my heart and usually, by the time I was finished speaking, God was already moving me in the direction I needed to go. It wasn’t always easy, but it was always cleansing. I didn’t have to worry that God would reject me or turn his back on me. I had an immediate sense of acceptance and love, even if the issue wasn’t resolved.
As this relationship grew, so did my relationship with Jim. It took awhile; we would do well for a while and then one or the other would backslide into old habits. But step by step, we learned to trust each other and “fight” a good fight.
Of course, there have been people throughout my life that this doesn’t work with. People who don’t want to confront an issue or work out a problem. But even then, taking it to God starts me in the right direction. Whether I need to apologize or forgive, talking it over with God usually brings to light my part, my responsibility.
Is there someone in your life that you have a disagreement with? Are you able to approach the person and discuss it? If not, what can you do to resolve your part of it?
A long dispute usually means that both parties are wrong