In a Stew

For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. – Genesis 2:24 (NIV)

One of my husband’s favorite dishes is beef or venison stew. A good stew, however, takes time. All the ingredients – meat, vegetables, herbs, and spices – must be mixed together and allowed to simmer for several hours before serving. He says he likes the stew even better the second and third day after I’ve made it because the different flavors have more time to blend.

The best stew I ever made was when we’d lost our electric power for three days after an ice storm. I cooked the batch in a cast iron Dutch oven on top of the woodburner. It took all day, keeping a slow fire in the stove, but the aroma of homemade stew, made the old-fashioned way, filled the house – and whet our appetites. I had to watch the fire, though. Too much heat, and the stew would burn. Too little heat, and the vegetables would still be crunchy, the meat raw, and the stew flavorless.

A lasting, satisfying marriage is like a good stew: It takes time for all the ingredients of both personalities to blend together.

Like a stew, which must first come to a boil before simmering, a marriage also has boiling times, especially in the early years. Bringing a stew to a boil allows it to get hot enough for the vegetables, stiff and resistant at first, to begin to soften. Yet, when allowed to simmer together, each vegetable still retains its individuality – a carrot does not turn into a potato. But at the same time, each vegetable lends its unique flavor to the whole and receives the flavor of the other ingredients. But it must soften first, and that’s what takes time. Cook it too quickly, and you get crusty, uncooked vegetables that stand out but don’t blend into the whole.

Too many couples mistake the first turbulent years of a marriage as a sign the union isn’t working out. Instead, their personality traits, stiff and resistant at first, are being softened so that they can add something to the whole, as well as absorb flavors from the other. Yet each spouse does not get completely absorbed and lose his or her individuality. God made each of us unique, and we retain that uniqueness even after marriage. Like the herbs and spices added to the stew, each spouse’s uniqueness adds flavor and zest to the whole.

As time goes by, we sometimes get too busy and allow the fire to die down. The stew stops cooking and cools. But, to get it cooking again, all we have to do is tend to the fire. So with a marriage. Our many roles and responsibilities consume our time and energy, and we assume the stew is cooking. “She knows I love her.” But she needs to hear it every day. “He knows I love him.” But he needs to see concrete evidence – like his favorite meal on the table after a long, hard day.

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25). “A good wife . . . is far more precious than jewels . . . the heart of her husband trusts in her . . . she brings him good, and not harm, all the days of her life” (Proverbs 31:10–12).

A man and woman become married in a moment, but it takes a lifetime to make a marriage, where two individuals, with all their different personality traits, like the ingredients in a stew, truly become one.

Dear God, thank You for seeing us through the boiling points and the cooled-off times in our marriage. Amen.

Read and meditate on Genesis 2:19–24

(c) 2017 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.

Travelin’ Together

 

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).

Dean and me, hiking the trails at Great Smoky Mountain National Park, October, 2014

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.