Have you ever heard the trite expression, “Well you know opposites attract” and find yourself agreeing with and even, at times, resenting what is a painful realization? While often true in marriage, that tension between those from “Mars and Venus” is one of the most misunderstood and undervalued gifts of our nuptials. In his book What Did You Expect, Paul Tripp challenges us to deal with the differences of our spouse with appreciation and grace instead of distain and acrimony. He wisely builds this practical theology upon the following observations:
“Celebrating the Creator, we will face our differences with hope. God places lilies next to rocks. He places trees next to streams. He causes bright sun to follow a dark night. He made the muscles of a lion and the delicacy of the wing of a hummingbird. One way God establishes beauty is by putting things that are different next to each other. Isn’t this exactly what God does in marriage? He puts very different people next to each other. This is how he establishes the beauty of a marriage. The moon would not be so striking if it hung in a white sky; in the same way, the striking beauty of a marriage is when two very different people learn to celebrate and benefit from their differences and to be protected from their weaknesses by being sheltered by the other’s strength.“
Wow! What a DIFFERENT perspective than trying to change my spouse to be “just like me” which supposedly would “make my marriage so much better.” Nothing, as God’s creative work testifies, could be further from the truth.
General revelation, what we know of God through creation, testifies of these takeaways for your marriage and mine between two very distinct persons:
- We can face our marital differences with gracious HOPE.
- We can see our marital differences as graciously BEAUTIFUL.
- We can celebrate our marital differences as graciously BENEFICIAL.
- We can lean into our marital differences as graciously PROTECTIVE.
- We can embrace our marital differences by pursuing gracious UNITY.
Too often marriages begin with puppy love that is built upon an attraction not really toward the other but subtly toward self…and the “most relationally compatible” spouse is often just another means of self-worship. Could it be that the greatest need in your marriage and mine is to give up the immature, idolatrous desire for our spouse to fit our agenda? Lose the dream of how your husband or wife is going to help you fulfill your own dreams and build your own kingdom. Realize that God, the One who brought you together and is keeping you together, longs to take your mutual differences and build His kingdom! A kingdom, by the way, that does NOT even see them as “differences” ultimately; it views them as diversity…when sanctified.
Add to that the perspective of special revelation, what we know of God through His Word, and differences are presented as a permanent, COMPLIMENTARY part of the Lord’s will for His people:
Re 5:9-13 “And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth. And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands; Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.” (Notice the glorious range of creatures and characteristics worshipping Jesus here!)
If God and His heaven not too good for amicable differences, then neither are our marriages-made up of two God-created and redeemed individuals who will one day stand shoulder to shoulder and sing at the top of their newly-expanded lungs in the glorious setting described above! Heaven someday and “heaven on earth” today is achieved not by UNIFORMITY, everybody being the same, but through UNITY around the throne and in the kingdom of Jesus. That oft-misunderstood diversity is actually what allows, not hinders, the One upon the throne to show off His multifaceted grace like raw light through a rough-hewn prism possessing various edges and profiles! Is that happening right now in your marriage with all of its otherwise “irreconcilable differences,” the number one cause of divorces in the United States at 43% with infidelity only clocking in at 28% (According to Institute for Divorce Financial Analysts)? Will you choose to change-not so much your spouse as your outlook-where needed?
Earlier in this same book, Tripp provides our engaging, inspiring conclusion, “What does this practically mean? It means the trouble (differences) that you face in your marriage is not an evidence of the failure of grace. No, those troubles are grace. They are the tools God uses to pry us out of the stultifying confines of the kingdom of self so that we can be free to luxuriate in the big-sky glories of the kingdom of God.”
Tripp, Paul David. What Did You Expect? (p. 52, 67). Crossway. Kindle Edition.