Marriage: Merging Grace—The Art of Two Becoming One
“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” Mark 10:8
Two becoming one. Great concept but easier said than done. For this relational connection to best happen after a wedding, merging grace must surface early and sustain long as the non-negotiable principle behind two people being joined as one.
Merging grace. It’s a struggle for me; ask my wife.
By nature, I am independent, selfish and demanding. Like now, during the Port Mann Bridge construction project, with my competitive nature, I am more likely to speed up in traffic and cut in (even cut you off) than to slow down and let you go first. To merge seems to take something I don’t have.
Yet, I have seen merging grace in a marriage and it looks amazing.
Merging grace is like “Dancing with the Stars”. The winning pair of professional and celebrity is a magnificent combination of fluid motion and dynamic unity. The blending of talent and strength is seamless in its choreography and displays oneness in mind and movement. The dancers seem to know what the other is thinking, anticipate their next move and are always complimenting each other – never competing. They engage, encourage and esteem their partners to bring the best out of each other. They don’t win alone. When their dance is done right, they are conscious of not stepping on the other’s toes and usually end in an embrace. Brilliant!
That is a great picture of a fabulous marriage with merging grace. But what do you do if you resemble the grace of King Kong?
I am defining “merging grace” (my own words) as the choice to compassionately and selflessly blend your life with that of your mate’s. On one hand, it is making an effort to offer yourself freely and frequently so you have an equal voice while on the other, you quiet your confidence to include your spouse with the goal of real collaboration. The grace to merge may be best expressed when I love when they don’t deserve it, when I keep trying to understand and when I forgive freely. In becoming one magnificent, integrated dance, we reflect God’s plan. We enjoy marriage more, too.
It is moving from “me” to “we”. Trite but true. Research maintains on average it takes about 10 years of marriage for a person to get over himself. I wish it was that short. I find, the deeper the selfishness, the grander the arrogance and the stronger the independence, the longer the journey of merging.
I have haunting memories of my graceless attempts at merging. Selfish, blaming, arguing and not listening well. I claim full rights to “jerkhood” for the first five years of our marriage (my wife maintains at least six). The problem even lingered beyond our 25th wedding anniversary as I distinctly remember asking God for one whole year to ‘please make me into a man who is gracious.’ It was actually written in the front of my Day-Timer (yes, back in the day when paper ruled).
As a Type A personality, we aren’t the only ones who struggle to merge. To withhold yourself and your perspective from your spouse out of insecurity or fear equally thwarts the connection. It’s too easy to hesitate and be compliant and then to blame your partner if things don’t go well. Don’t wait for all the stars to align before you share yourself – the sooner the better.
What if you are impatient, critical and driven to excellence? In this case, you have more than a little arrogance about your perspective. You over-value your views and question your spouse’s input. Merging is equally hard if you are insecure and indecisive and don’t think you have something to offer. You tend to devalue yourself and the input you can give.
If you are like me, you have heard your share of people say that marriage reveals how selfish you really are. Merging is more than tough stuff when you add coming from different backgrounds, histories, likes and dislikes, hobbies, pastimes and beliefs. We haven’t even touched on diverse personalities.
Someone once mused, “yea, two become one alright – but which one?”
How can two dance as one and move toward being seamless and inclusive? Below are the practical steps that will help get you there. First, catch God’s heart on the matter in the following verses.
“Here is a simple, rule-of-thumb guide for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them.” Matthew 7:12 (MSG)
“If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.”
Philippians 2:1-4 (MSG)
“Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you
will have the right response for everyone.” Colossians 4:6 (NIV)
STEPS TOWARD MERGING GRACIOUSLY IN MARRIAGE:
- LET GOD BE THE CATALYST: You need Him dearly to help you merge well in marriage. Only He can reveal and root out the innate selfishness or paralyzing fears we often possess. Braid God in daily.
- FIGHT FOR EACH OTHER: Accept that moving from ME to WE is far harder than we think. Remain committed to work through every stress and never give up on “US”. A good marriage is worth the work.
- GIVE UP YOUR INDEPENDENCE: Lay down your agenda to blend with their life. Don’t try to win arguments – win at understanding. Integrate don’t annihilate. Find a win-win whenever possible!
- VALIDATE EACH OTHER’S PERSPECTIVES: Respect and value the unique opinion your spouse will bring. Believe that God brought you a life partner as a valued compliment to who you are and what you know. Listen well to them.
- ENGAGE YOUR VIEWPOINT: Believe that God doesn’t make junk and that your contribution matters. Stronger and better marriages are when both perspectives are integrated in marital decisions.
- OWN YOUR STUFF: Past personal and relational baggage surfaces in marriage like no other relational context. Deal with both your hurts and your personality quirks. The sooner you tell you spouse about issues that inhibit you, the better.
- FORGIVE TO A FAULT: Be patient with the changes needed. Make allowance for each other’s imperfections. Always try to show love and kindness. Give your spouse the benefit of the doubt.
Believe that God brought you together and that His plan is not just for you to receive His saving grace for life but His merging grace for a great marriage. I’d love to hear how your dance is going. Contact me.
© Dr. Dave Currie – October 2012