On some days, you’ll find our wood floor covered in a literal path of puzzles. They’re some of my favorite days because it means my four-year-old and I worked hard together to make meaning and beauty out of jagged pieces and parts. Her tiny fingers handle the fragments, turning them this way and that, until she discovers how they connect into whole pictures of mermaids swimming, princesses celebrating, planets spinning.
Like those puzzles, my husband and I are a mess of jagged pieces and parts: he is introverted, I’m extroverted; he is extremely self-disciplined, I’m a little more loosey-goosey; he learns by research, I learn by doing; he is great with numbers and technology and music, I like words and books and podcasts; he is a planner, I am more spontaneous; he is a realist, I’m an idealist; he lives in the future, I live in the now.
Initially, this myriad of differences attracted us to one another, but over time, they became a source of conflict. For example, going on vacation for me meant picking a place and taking off to explore it; for him, it meant researching, calendarizing, and planning. By the time he was ready to go, I was bored and on to the next thing. He felt under-appreciated; I felt over-scheduled.
Mike Mason, in his book The Mystery of Marriage, says,
“True oneness is distinguished less by its sameness than by its differences. One partner is a man, the other a woman, and that's just the beginning. One is sociable, the other reclusive; one likes a down quilt for sleeping, the other a light blanket — and only half a light blanket at that! How can two such opposites ever be one? Might as well ask how a glove fits a hand. Oneness arises from differences fitting together, from contrasts corresponding."
Puzzle-solving requires understanding how “differences fit together” and “contrasts correspond.” Similarly, creating an undivided marriage — the picture of what Jesus describes as two people becoming one flesh — requires that we handle gently our jagged differences and contrasts, turning them this way and that, until we see how they fit together and correspond.
In our marriage, my extroversion encourages my husband to be more social; his self-discipline inspires me to become more self-controlled; my ability to live in the present has helped him to enjoy the now; his realism grounds me and gives traction to my idealistic notions. Sure, our differences still cause quarrels now and then, but ultimately, understanding how to make them work together grows us toward a likeminded, team approach to marriage.
How did we get to this place — this place where oneness is arising from differences fitted together? Intentional discussion.
Specifically? We take time to deliberately discuss “becoming one flesh” in every aspect of our marriage from the spiritual to the physical, the financial to the vocational, the physical to the moral. When we take the time for such focused discussion, we grow closer; when we don’t, we inevitably grow apart.
My hope is that you, too, will sit down with your spouse to plan ways you can grow together. To assist you in the process, my husband and I wrote Undivided Marriage: When TWO People Become ONE Flesh. It’s a devotional born out of 25 years of marriage and can serve as a discussion starter for you and your spouse. It’s short, practical, and we pray it’s helpful, too.
In the meantime, happy puzzle-solving as you build a marriage undivided!