A wise and witty Christian counselor once said, “Your marriage is in trouble the day you realize you didn’t marry yourself.” My marriage is not in trouble, but the doctor’s advice is good. It reminds us that we are to expect certain things when we acquire a new, permanent roommate. Until now we had the house to ourselves, an entrenched routine, and a preferred order of things. Now we are to expect diversity.
The world seems to be in love withdiversity these days. Fine, here is diversity: You like morning walks, but he likes morning sleep-ins. You enjoy walking fast, but he enjoys a stroll. You talk fast, but he talks slowly. On the Myers-Briggs test, you are a strong “F” (“Feeler”), but he is a strong “T” (“Thinker”). You put the knives up in the drainer, but he points them down.
If we are not careful, we will fall into the trap of focusing on the negative qualities of one another—it’s actually the default mode of human nature. But if there is one thing we know from Scripture, it’s that we are not to live in the default mode; we are to live as “new creations” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
I was thinking about some minor irritants in my marriage: socks on the floor, empty water bottles here and there instead of in the trash, his inability to read my mind.
But Philippians 4:8 struck me like a thunderbolt:
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
I had never thought of that verse as applying to my thoughts about another person! I had taken it to be a vague exhortation about the thought life in general. But here I find that it tells me not only how to think about life but how to think about my husband in particular.
So I asked myself, what is it about my husband that is “honorable”? What is it that is “commendable” and “worthy of praise”? Why, after all, did I marry him? And what I learned from this self-inquiry was that though I had some disappointments around the edges, the main things about my husband are superlative—namely, his faith and heart for God.
When we find the things about one another that are “commendable” and “pure” and “lovely” and “worthy of praise,” we will find they replace the negative thoughts in the finite real estate of our minds. The praiseworthy things push out the lackluster things, and this transforms our entire outlook. Once again, the Word of God proves to be practical and just what the doctor ordered.