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The other day while sitting at a never ending red traffic light I had a revelation. Maybe it was more like an affirmation than a revelation—but whatever it was, it rocked my world.
In the wee hours of the morning I’d slung myself into the car to drop my baseball man off at the airport to rejoin his team. On the drive to the airport we fell into the predictable drone of conversation: things to be done around the house, pressing needs of my ministry, and the endless cycles of baseball moves in the minor and major leagues that make his head swoon. After dropping him at the curb with a quick hug and “Be safe…I love you”—I pulled away with the vague feeling that I said that phrase more out of habit than heart. Fresh on my mind were the differences in the way we handle things, and the chasm between how he expresses himself and how I make myself known. When you’ve been married a long time, it’s easy to put your spouse into a box and label it “Your Annoying Ways,” while believing the label on your box reads “My Better Way!” There at the traffic light my unconscious labeling was about to rip apart.
In a strange progression that looked like a mental list written by God—I literally saw images of countless things Bobby had done for me in the few short days he was at home while on mandatory break from managing the AA minor league team for the Toronto Blue Jays. I saw the pillow and bed sack he bought for my upcoming trip to Uganda; the lap top computers I’m taking wrapped in a tight quilt of bubble wrap; and the tree branches he trimmed after hearing me barely mention they were a bit overgrown. I saw my green jeep filled with gas; the corn-thin crackers I love delivered on the front porch after he ordered them for me on Amazon; and the ripped Adidas bag I constantly use to travel hand-sewn from corner to corner. Tears began to stream down my face as I pictured him running out of the house the night before so he could change difficult lightbulbs at our daughter’s home a few blocks away, and how he took a picture of he and our oldest daughter Brooke out of its frame, and headed to Walgreens to make a copy of it after she mentioned it was one of her favorites.
If author Gary Chapman ever needs a poster boy for his book Love Languages, my husband would be on the cover of the chapter titled Acts of Service. It’s how he communicates, how he feels important, and how he shows his love. Me? I’m all about words of encouragement. Words, words, and more words…and that’s why we sometimes clash.
Sitting at that traffic light I realized something for the first time in over thirty years of marriage—I love the way he is, and I don’t want him to change one iota. He’s comforting, safe, and down-right kind. I used to think that in order to have a fantastic relationship we had to see everything not only eye-to-eye, but from the same eyeballs! Now my eyesight is changing. We can get so hung up on our differences that we forget that differences can make relationships great….if we let them. Our marriages, children, friendships, and colleagues can benefit from us giving our differences some room to breathe.
Since my revelation at the traffic light I’ve been marking moments where I see differences as a positive in a relationship rather than something I need to run from or change. I’ve seen these moments not only in my marriage—but in my interactions with my kids, conversations with my friends, meetings with my ministry team, and even in my casual interaction with people I’ve just met.
Although we process and express things differently, most people are coming from the same launching pad…we want to love and to be loved. If we can learn to not be annoyed or threatened when people don’t act like we do, we’re one step closer to loving people like God does—without agendas. Part of my need for people to act and react like I want them to comes from a deeper need to control. The trouble is—control is a slippery slope. It’s as old as Eve in the garden, and never produces the results it boldly boasts. We’re not meant to control one another—we’re meant to love one another. What a freedom we give to others when we let them be who they’re created to be, rather than try to shape them into who we want them to be.
Leave it to a red light to offer such inspiration. I’m glad the light wasn’t green…I may have blazed right through and never learned a thing.