"Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;"
Eph 5:25

Monday, May 25, 2015

Narrowing The Margin

Recently I’ve been thinking about a book I read a while back.  The book is “Margin” by Dr. Richard A Swenson. The premise of the book is that progress has made life worse rather than better, and that we need to find ways to create “margins” of breathing room so we can relax a little.

My life has a wide margin, admittedly too wide at times.

  • I add extra padding whenever possible. I try to provide extra time when we go to visit family, so the kids can play with their cousins a little longer, my wife can visit her sister and parents.
  • I find ways to save money so we can have extra “mad money” for our annual trip to the beach.
  • I don’t always set the alarm clock on Saturdays, so everyone has a chance to sleep a little bit longer.
  • I pack extra clothing in the suitcase in case we stay one more night. 
  • I spend an extra half hour on the front porch before getting back to work in the garden.
  • I try to make side trips to see special things on the way to our destination.
  • I buy interesting items for the house – items that “speak” to me.

There are other things, but I think you get the idea.

Trouble is, my wife doesn’t have a wide margin. My “extra” often gets in her way and disrupts her plans.  My plan and her plan do not mesh, and that can problematic, to say the least.

What is the solution?

Consider the following verse:

Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.
(1 Peter 3:7)

Our wives need us to understand them. My wife in particular, needs me to understand the importance of her house, and that everything must be in place before anything else can occur.  An orderly house trumps all in her mind.  It trumps me and my plans, the kids and their activities, the supper table, the family vacation, everything.  It really is THAT important to her.

Admittedly sometimes I fail miserably at understanding her needs in this area. It’s quite easy for me to overlook the dishes in the sink or the socks on the floor so we all can go for a walk.  What I don’t pay attention to is the fact that my wife cannot do the walk until she is precisely satisfied with the house. She simply isn’t able to relax until it’s all done and put away. Otherwise she fixates (obsesses??) on the unfinished business (mess) that awaits her when she returns.

This is not all on her.  She has certainly given some on this issue of margin.

  • She has tried on many occasions to accommodate me when I wanted to take the family on a side trip away from the scheduled itinerary, or when I wanted to stay a couple extra days so I could see my siblings.
  • She has tried many ways to incorporate things like the dreaded  “ginger jar” into the decor.  She placed that jar in many places before giving it a permanent home in the attic.
  • She doesn’t nag about my extra long breaks or my messy environment.
  • She has amazing patience with my disruptive ideas.

Likewise, I have narrowed my margin to accommodate her need for order.

  • I have cooked dinner and washed dishes so she could organize the house. 
  • I have canceled plans so we could take care of things that are important to her.
  • I have put out of my mind many things that I knew would not work within her plan. I have promised her I would never ask for those things again.

Why do I bring this up?  I want to make sure that I abide by the limits of 1 Peter 3:7, and live with my wife in an understanding way.  I want to make sure that I don’t make her feel unloved or unsure of her value as an heir to God’s Kingdom. It’s up to me to make sure she feels understood by her husband (me).

So, when the rubber meets the road, I have to gauge how important the schedule/house/laundry/etc. is to her and narrow my own margin accordingly.  Will there be times when I have to disregard her wishes and plow through with my agenda. Sure. Of course there will. But those times will be few and far between. If I truly want to live with her in an understanding way, I will make what is important to her equally important to me.