Shane and I did not need a marriage retreat to tell us that our personalities are extremely different. And we are usually quite hesitant about listening to advice based on psycho-babble or based on personality tests, because we know that God has made each person unique. Nevertheless, a couple weeks ago we attended a marriage retreat where our personalities were identified and categorized... and it was a good thing. Because ultimately it gave us a better understanding of how a marriage like ours could thrive.
When you're a Christian (like we both are) and you believe what the Bible says about men being created to lead and women being created to help (like we both do), and you see how God made that combo so beautiful and powerful, you want to live it.
Easier said than done.
The thing is, Shane doesn't have much experience in leading a "planner,"
like me, and I don't know how to help such a "peacekeeper" like him.
My biggest challenge with marriage is that I am a woman with a
mission and strong opinions. I do well with structure and goals and a
plan. For me, being right is most important. (Made in the image of God, reflecting his justice and order.) God made me sort of intellectually-minded, curious, and a do-er.
Shane's biggest challenge with marriage is that he is an
easy-going man with no agenda whatsoever. He does well with what he has
in the moment. For Shane, being nice is most important. (Made in the image of God, reflecting his love and mercy.) God made Shane more simple, playful, and a be-er.
At the retreat we were reminded that we actually do need each other and we are each okay the way God made us. He made each of us, and when he was finished he said "it is very good." And so there is a way we can fully be ourselves and perfectly complete one another.
I don't know yet what this is going to look like when we are old and seasoned in marriage, but last weekend I got a glimpse of what it could look like if we both decided to be okay with the way God made the other one.
Here's a real life conundrum. I think about stuff a lot and also am extremely sensitive to spiritual stuff. We both usually get frustrated when I come up with an idea. We both might even like the idea, but we both have this preconceived notion that Shane, being the God-ordained leader, should be the one to come up with the ideas and plans and dreams and goals, and that he should be the one hearing from God all the time. So if a thought originally comes from me, then it can't be any good. It is a threat to his manhood, and I am overstepping my bounds.
But at the retreat, God used the speakers to show us that it's okay for me as a planner to think and dream, because it's who God made me. It's okay that Shane does not come up with the majority of the ideas or plans. (He often is the one who actually makes the plans happen.) This doesn't make him less of a leader. It doesn't make me less of a helper.
"Why? How can this be okay?" we asked Jim, the speaker.
His answer was this: Shane can lead in the way he responds to me. He has the power to take my idea and do something with it... He can either respond pridefully and take offense to the idea, or receive it as a gift and possibly as guidance from God. After praying about the idea, he can even own it if he senses God's leading! After all, we are one flesh, are we not?
In this way, I have the freedom to be myself AND bless my husband!
In the same way, if Shane leads our family to be "present in the moment" by playing a game or watching a movie together or being the last ones to leave a gathering (every. single. time.)... it's not necessarily a waste of time or meaningless. (Wink, wink to all those planners out there... you know what I'm talking about.) In fact, some down time or conversation might be exactly what we should do.
The personal key to this working for me is:
Bringing my ideas, plans, dreams, goals, and opinions to Shane with humility and respect.
(Maybe I should start by learning what those are... ha.)
Likewise, instead of ignoring me and wishing he was more original instead of me, Shane can learn to value my ideas as an addition to his own personhood. Wife = great resource. As someone once said, do what you can with what you got. :)
And him with that whole "above all else, be nice" thing? It usually just annoys me, but when I look closely it's a lot bigger than "being nice." Of the two of us, Shane really has the biggest, most unselfish heart. I want to remember that his heart is an asset to me, a gift. Because, of all the benefits we have collectively, Shane's heart is what could really do the most good and bring God the most glory in this world.
And my wonderful better half will now complete my thoughts with the following:
"We really are each other's best asset. Learning to be okay with who I am plays a huge part in how I can view my wife as an asset. Knowing that I am 'justified' and 'okay' in God's eyes gives me the freedom to accept myself and her, and vice versa."