Monday, January 19, 2015

When Compromise Isn't Possible

The general wisdom is that marriage is made up of a lot of little compromises. And that is true. You compromise on how to schedule your days, on who should do which chores, and which mother's banana bread recipe you will use.

But sometimes you can't compromise. You'll either spend your money this way or that way, and you can't do both. You'll either vacation in one place or another this year. The two activities you want to sign your kid up for are at the same time, so you have to pick one or the other. Some of these decisions don't matter much in the long run, and you're happy to go with the flow and give in, seeing possible benefits to the choice that wasn't your first. But what about the times when compromise isn't possible and it is clear to each of you that your way is the right way, and your partner's way will have some bad long-range consequences that you don't want to face? What then?

Of course there are no one-size-fits-all answers here. Some of these decisions are big and damaging, and I can't begin to address those. Sometimes there is a moral right or wrong, and obviously we are never called to support a morally wrong decision. Definitely call a professional to help you walk through those things.

But some of these no-compromise decisions are not that big in the long run, but they feel big to us. When I recently found myself disagreeing with a decision my husband made, I had some choices to make about how to respond. Maybe some of what I learned is generally helpful in these no-compromise situations where you don't get your way.

1) Pray. I prayed both for the ability to understand my husband's perspective and for things to turn out well for our family. Not only do our prayers cause God to act on our behalf, but they also help us be at peace. God knows what is best, and he will work things out for those who love him. Perhaps some of the things I fear will come true, and perhaps this wasn't the best decision. Even then God can redeem it. He can make this turn out for the best.

2) Have a civilized, kind, calm discussion about your concerns, but once the decision has been made, leave the decision in the past. Move forward and don't continually bring it up and gripe about it. Even if you turn out to have been right, don't repeatedly say so. This one is very hard. But the price you'll pay for harping is too high. It will damage your marriage and make moving forward in life and in your relationship much harder.

3) Continue to go through the motions. Last night was pizza night, a time-honored tradition in our marriage. I didn't want to have this "date," but we did it anyway. Marriage has its ups and downs, and on some level we need to keep acting like we're getting along even when we aren't. Because that is how we find our way back to one another. If we let the traditions and romance slip, it becomes easier and easier to not bring it back. And then a little disagreement turns into something much bigger and harder to recover from.

4) Support the decision. Here again, you have to put your feelings aside for the good of your relationship. The kids and the world need to see you as a unit, supporting one another. Speak well of your spouse. Think of and give thanks for all the things you love about him or her, and all the things you agree on. Find a proactive way to make the best of the decision you don't agree with: Organize yourself for the purchase you didn't want to make. Buy a vacation planner for the trip you aren't excited about. Help your child be excited about the activity you signed up for by going out and buying the equipment they'll need. Or help them deal with the disappointment of the decision that wasn't their first choice by planning something else fun. I did not do a good job on this yesterday, so it's time to give myself grace for my attitude and make a fresh start. No more whining.

5) Take care of yourself. If the no-compromise decision makes life harder for you in some way, give yourself grace. Plan an afternoon of pampering or a weekend away. Get together with friends for fun and moral support (but not whining!). Give yourself a treat not as a "you owe me this" kind of thing, but as a way to acknowledge that you're mourning a loss and need to be allowed to do so. If we don't take care of ourselves, we won't be able to move on and support our spouse. In that sense maybe I should've listed this one as number 2!

Your turn: What do you do when you can't come to agreement and a decision has to be made? I'd love to hear your solutions!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Pray for Nigeria

Last night I read about this tragedy in Nigeria. It's the kind of thing you can't quite get your mind around. It's the kind of thing you don't want to get your mind around. Possibly two thousand people murdered in one town. People running for their lives. Too many bodies to count. Children and parents being lost from one another in the chaos, with no guarantee that they will ever be able to find one another. Unspeakable tragedy that hits a little too close to home.

You see, Nigeria isn't just a distant place to me. These images, things I saw six short years ago, are still fresh in my mind. And I think, if a few circumstances were changed it could be me, my children, my town. Lord, have mercy.

O Lord Christ, whose death for sinners was a death of suffering, look in Thy divine compassion upon all those who, at this hour in which we pray, in prisons and in all places where there is fighting, hatred and bitterness, are enduring torment at the hands of their fellow men. All extremities of pain are known to you, Lord; may the upholding of your presence be made known to them. If they have ever heard your name, may they now remember it; if it is strange to them let them not be strangers to your courage and your peace. Lord, we know that you who know all, and love all, and have suffered all, have had each of them in your heart from all eternity; yet still we dare to pray for them, knowing that your mercy will accept our prayer and your love use it in the ways that are known to you alone.
--from A Diary of Prayer, compiled by Elizabeth Goudge

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

One Word

I'm what you might call a late adapter. Whatever the change is, or the latest craze, I finally jump on board right about as it's ending. So I've never participated in the "one word" phenomenon. But this year I've decided to take up the challenge.

My word for the year--the thing I definitely need more of--is patience. Patience with myself when I don't live up to expectations. Patience with my children's development, which seems to take place in fits and starts. Patience when my husband's plans are at a difference pace than mine. Patience with how long it takes to get back in shape when you haven't exercised in way too long. Patience with this process of figuring out where God is taking my "career" (using that term loosely).

I was struck this morning by these words: "The Lord told Joshua, 'Today I will begin to make you a great leader in the eyes of all the Israelites. They will know that I am with you, just as I was with Moses'" (Joshua 3:7). Joshua's leadership was a process of becoming. God knew that people wouldn't accept his leadership overnight, and even a striking miracle like the crossing of the Jordan was only a step in the process. It was a beginning, and God would orchestrate the middle and the end for the good of his people.

My life feels like a slow process of becoming lately. College bills are only a few years away now, job offers are not pouring in, and I can't see yet what God is up to in my life. Sometimes I wish the process could be sped up or at least that I could see that everything will work out (by which I really mean work out my way) in the end. But God doesn't work that way, so what I really need is patience. Contentment and gratitude in the waiting. Grace to take each day as it comes, accepting today's manna rather than worrying about how God might provide tomorrow.

I suspect it was a great encouragement to Joshua and the Israelites when they reached the other side of the Jordan River, entering into the promised land, and ate from the land for the first time. Scripture tells us that "No manna appeared on the day they first ate from the crops of the land, and it was never seen again. So from that time on the Israelites ate from the crops of Canaan." (Joshua 5:12). The thing the Israelites desperately needed to sustain them in the desert--daily manna--was no longer needed in the promised land.

What I needed yesterday may not be the same as what I need today. But I can trust that God knows what I need for today, and he has promised to provide it. This year I hope I can learn a bit more about waiting patiently for God's provision, being as grateful for the process and the meager beginnings as I am for the triumphs and fulfilled promises.

Do you have one word for the year? I'd love to hear what it is!