Trying to Understand

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Trying to Understand

IMG_3029Marriage may be the most infuriating, brilliant, amazing, and humbling of creations. The Apostle Paul actually describes it as a “profound mystery” in Ephesians, which is probably the best description for it. There are more books, seminars, Sunday School topics, sermons, and research about marriage than almost anything else, and yet most of us are still deeply confused about how to “do life” with another person.
I’ve been involved in the mystery for four years now and have experienced the full gamut of emotions. I have been more richly blessed, more deeply heartbroken, and more graciously forgiven than I could have ever predicted, but maybe that’s the point of the mystery. I may not have too much figured out about God’s design for the universe but I do know one thing about this mystery that is marriage– it’s about two people understanding each other. It’s about not giving up until you understand each other; sacrificing your own wants in the name of understanding; conveying your needs to help your spouse understand– It’s about looking at this person you’ve vowed to stand beside forever and saying, “I get you. I may not agree with you, and I don’t think the same way as you do. But I get you, and you’re OK to me.”
Now, let’s dive into the main problem with this idea. I said that you have to understand each other; I didn’t say you have to agree with each other. In order to further illustrate this problem, I turn to an event which in the Hitchcock home, we lovingly refer to as, “The Mop Incident.”
While on a Saturday trip to Sam’s, my husband and I stumbled upon the cleaning isle stocked with all forms of sanitary and disinfectant solutions for even the most stubborn of filth. It was at this point that we both realized we needed a piece of equipment to clean our floors, and the mop incident commenced. My husband thinks very logically and looks for the most efficient solution in any situation. He declared that a mop and bucket would be perfect; we could save money and clean the entire house with just a few drops of cleaner.
My eye, however, was drawn to the colorful “Swiffer” display. I tend to appreciate things that are pretty and will happily pay more if it makes my life easier. Sure, the pads and special cleaner were more pricey than the generic mop and bucket, but it would be easier, and in my perspective, better! We both stated our cases but ultimately went with the mop and bucket. I was not happy but planned to take my revenge through resentment, bitterness, and other forms of passive aggression.
The following weeks were tense whenever the house needed cleaning. I would pout and moan when the mop was brought out. My husband would become upset and impatient when I mentioned the Swiffer and how much easier things would be if we had gone with my choice. After weeks of arguing and nothing getting resolved, he sat me down and spoke from his heart. “Listen, do you know why I want the mop? Because it’s important for me to save money. Because that’s how I was raised, and I need to make sure I am providing for you. I don’t want to make your life harder. I want to make it better.”
His defenses came down, and he spoke from a place of vulnerability and openness. I understood what my husband meant for the first time and felt my own defenses melt away. Then I was able to say, “I understand you. And I wanted to Swiffer because I enjoy making the house beautiful and clean. The Swiffer would make that easier for me and allow me to love you in this way.” I could tell he understood me too.
At the end of the conversation, our ideals hadn’t changed. I still valued beauty and convenience; he still valued efficiency. But we had empathy–We put our defensive walls down long enough to see that the other person had a point. How mysterious it is that such joy and comfort stems not despite our differences, but because of them. I hope to always fight to understand and to be understood. And with that, we’ve decided to invest in a steam mop.
– From Michelle Hitchcock