If possible, so far as it depends upon you, live peaceably with all. – Romans 12:18 (RSV)
Early in our marriage, Dean and I rented a canoe and set out to navigate the Clarion River. Although my husband was more familiar with using a paddle than I was, I ignored his directions and paddled the way I thought I should. The result was our canoe, instead of cruising down the river, went around in circles.
Good thing I took note of the lesson I learned that day (work with each other, not against each other) because over the past 43 years, I’ve needed it – through raising three kids, building a do-it-yourself house, changing jobs, and losing both sets of parents. But nothing, not even that canoe trip, challenges our relationship more than a road trip together.
Dean does the driving, watching traffic and road conditions, while I read the map and road signs, letting him know where the exits we want to take and the rest areas are. While he depends on me to play the role of navigator, he doesn’t appreciate it when I help him drive, such as pointing to the car ahead and shouting, “Brake! Brake!” Or flinching or gasping when it looks as though that tractor trailer is too close.
I’ve learned that if I want my marriage intact at the end of the trip, it’s better, when my navigating skills aren’t needed, to keep my nose in a book or magazine and not on the speedometer or traffic.
Just as we had to learn to paddle together when we went canoeing as newlyweds, we’ve had to learn to travel the road of marriage together. We haven’t always been in sync with each other. Sometimes I paddled one way and he another, an, once again, we ended up going around in circles.
After more than four decades, I’m still learning that “he who keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble” (Proverbs 21:23), and that a soft answer does diffuse a tense situation (Proverbs 15:1). I still fight attitudes and feelings that could easily put us on the wrong road – Selfish Street, that leads only the town of Heartache.
“Make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification,” St. Paul wrote in the first century. Those words are especially needed in the home, where I long to let my hair down. It’s hard being nice all the time. Sometimes I don’t want to be nice. I don’t want to say the words or do the thing that makes for peace. I want to be mean, to retaliate when someone hurts me, to have the last word. But I know such actions lead only to more strife.
“As far as it depends on you” means I’m responsible, not for what he says and does, but for my own actions and reactions. It means keeping quiet when he tries a new route to see if it will save time but it adds it instead. It means biting my tongue and saying something positive through missed exits, wrong turns, slow pokes, blind drivers, and time-consuming detours.
“It’s better to live in a desert than with a quarrelsome and ill-tempered wife,” Solomon wrote in Proverbs 21:19. I don’t want to be a wife whose nagging is “like a constant dripping on a rainy day” (Proverbs 27:15). I’d rather be the wife of Proverbs 31, who brings her husband good, not harm, all the days of her life (v. 12).
Lord, help me to be the wife my husband needs so that he can be all You plan for him to be. Enable me to be a true helpmeet. Amen.
Read and meditate on Romans 12:9–18
(c) 2017 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.