1 Corinthians 12:13 – 26 – We were baptized into one body in a single Spirit, Jews as well as Greeks, slaves as well as free men, and we were all given the same Spirit to drink. And indeed the body consists not of one member but of many. If the foot were to say, ‘I am not a hand and so I do not belong to the body,’ it does not belong to the body any the less for that. Or if the ear were to say, ‘I am not an eye, and so I do not belong to the body,’ that would not stop it’s belonging to the body. If the whole body were just an eye, how would there be any hearing? If the whole body were hearing, how would there be any smelling? As it is, God has put all the separate parts into the body as he chose. If they were all the same part, how could it be a body? As it is, the parts are many but the body is one. The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ and nor can the head say to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ What is more, it is precisely the parts of the body that seem to be the weakest which are the indispensable ones. It is the parts of the body which we consider least dignified that we surround with the greatest dignity; and our less presentable parts are given greater propriety which our presentable parts do not need. God has composed the body so that greater dignity is given to the parts which were without it, and so that there may not be disagreements inside the body but each part may be equally concerned for all the others. If one part is hurt, all the parts share its pain. And if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy.
What a curious reading this is from scripture in which human beings are compared to body parts and how the body parts seem to be in conflict with each other. Curious as it may be, it is an analogy to which, I believe, we can relate to our life. Why? Because it is easy to recognize the many divisions there are in the world around us based off of people’s differences usually centered around: power, prestige, beauty, job status, life choices, faith background, and such. Many of us have experienced, at one time or another, the frustration of feeling envious of others or maybe feeling like we are better than some people because of the life choices they have made. This often comes out in the ways we compare our lives to them.
However, this same type of division often plays out in marriages and can be a great source of disunity and emotional wounds. Too often I see couples in therapy whose main source of division is in the fact that they do not see eye to eye on certain issues. Through these issues, they grow angry and frustrated with each other. Too often, we can see our way as the “best” way of doing or accomplishing something. As a result, we can find ourselves getting upset when our spouse’s feelings, actions or decisions seem to contradict our own. We loved the diversity of differences between us while we were still dating and getting to know each other. But now that we are married and making decisions together, we are not always as interested or enamored by the differences between us.
I’ve seen many couples who often agree to disagree because one or the other (or both) are unwilling to bend from their way of doing things and often don’t and won’t take the time to truly understand their spouse’s feelings and frustrations. They often try to defend their position by chalking up their spouse as just being difficult, uncaring or stubborn. I recently worked with a couple where the wife seemed to always get her way when it came to how the family spent their holidays, even though the husband tried often to express his discomfort with some of her choices. He even tried to state his needs when it came to wanting more of their own family time, only to have his wife discount his feelings as unreasonable.
Opposites do attract, often because we feel some excitement in being pulled out of our comfort zone into a new way of looking at and interacting with the world around us. But often, we fall back into our old patterns once life settles down. Our marriage connection and commitment calls us to blend our lives together and to become something more than what we can be on our own. To learn from each other. To build together on our strengths and to help each other become better in spite of our weaknesses and sinfulness. If we get caught up more in the differences and allow them to frustrate us, OR exert that our way is always the best way, then our message becomes, as the parable states, ‘I have no need of you (or your opinion).’ But God’s message in this parable is precisely this: God has composed the body so that greater dignity is given to the parts which were without it, and so that there may not be disagreements inside the body but each part may be equally concerned for all the others. If one part is hurt, all the parts share its pain. And if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy. In marriage we are called to share each other’s joys and hurts; to see value in what each one of us brings to this relationship and to use it for the betterment of both of us!