She’s classical. I’m rock ‘n’ roll.
She’s patient. I’m impulsive.
She’s soft-spoken while I can’t stop talking.
She’s practical—loves the details. I’m visionary—love the big picture.
She loves filling our evenings by cuddling up with a cup of coffee and reading together—just the two of us. I love that too but also crave adventure.
She loves going deep with a few close friends, while I want to be friends with everyone I meet.
She is an introvert, and I am . . . well . . . I am not.
She is strong in all the areas I am weak. We are different in so many ways, and yet we complement each other so well.
We haven’t always celebrated these differences. Earlier in our marriage, this was a point of frustration. We struggled to understand each other or value one another’s personalities, viewpoints, and preferences.
We are both driven dreamers who desperately want God to use us and accomplish great things for his kingdom in this world. But we were going about things in exhaustingly different ways. The driver in me would just go and go and go as she frantically held her foot on the brakes with all the strength she could muster while still seeking to honor and support me.
For the longest time, I thought she would eventually adapt to my way of doing things, and we would be able to find joy and fulfillment in running hard together. And in many ways, we have.
But in attempting to force her “to come over to the dark side” and join the ranks of extroverts, I was utterly failing to value her personality and see it for what it is—not as weakness, but as her greatest strength, a much-needed contribution to our marriage.
God calls my wife my helper (Genesis 2:18). He uses the same word to describe his Holy Spirit (John 14:26), the Helper who comes, not to let me stay “just as I am,” but to change me and sanctify me to be just as Jesus is. In addition to all the other eternally important things the Holy Spirit does in me, he sees all the areas I’m a bonehead and shows me a better way.
My goal is not to force or convince the Holy Spirit to be like me or do ministry like I do. It’s to submit to his holy, sanctifying genius to change the way I do everything—for the better—for the glory of God.
Obviously my wife is not the perfect Holy Spirit. Flawed, she needs the Holy Spirit just like I do. But God, in his mercy, gave me an equal who is not like me, to complement, help, and sanctify me. My goal should not be to force her or convince her to always do things my way. It should be to lead her by cherishing her and recognizing that our differences are our strengths.
How It Plays Out
This plays out in many and various practical ways throughout each week.
Like how I am terrible at resting. I stink at taking naps because my mind has a hard time shutting down from all the ideas and dreams running through it. I really love my work in ministry, and I get a lot of joy out of it. As a result, it’s hard for me to slow down sometimes, and Sabbath can be difficult for me. Meanwhile, my wife thrives on her Sabbath, and her passion for it has graciously helped to smooth off my rough edges over the years so that I quite enjoy it now. I know that I need it. The Bible commands it. But it took a wife who is great at it to help me learn to rest well. Sometimes the godliest thing you can do is take a nap, and she has given me permission to stop trying to achieve all the time, and just recharge.
Like how I tend to say anything and everything that comes to mind, often unaware of how it affects others. I say things as if I know what I’m talking about, even if I might not, and this can sometimes get me into trouble. I know the Bible commands me to be quick to listen and slow to speak, but I do not naturally excel in this area. Meanwhile, my wife is a great listener and generally doesn’t speak unless she has something of substance to say—something important to contribute to the conversation. Usually when she does open her mouth, it’s like, “Wow! That’s wisdom!” It took a wife who is great at this to teach me how to think before I speak and weigh the effect of my words. Sometimes the godliest thing you can do is shut up, and she has given me the freedom to not always have something witty to say, but to just listen and stay silent.
Like how I have never known a stranger, but it’s not my natural inclination to focus more on lasting, deep friendships. Left to my own devices, I would probably fill our evenings by hanging with new acquaintances and call that living in community. But having a wife who thrives on a few deep friendships has helped me see the value of really going deep with a few people who know all my junk and love me regardless. Who call me out on my idolatry and spur me on toward holiness. Who push me to love Jesus more. It took a wife who is great at this to teach me about true community. Sometimes the godliest thing you can do is say no to yet another dinner with people you don’t really know, and she has challenged me to walk closely with a few true friends, as opposed to swimming in a sea of acquaintances.
Something Different, Something Better
She is like a mirror ever before me, and through her strengths, I see my weaknesses amplified. She represents the beauty and character of God in many ways I can’t. She challenges me and stretches me, quite painfully sometimes. Dying to self always is. God never promised our sanctification would be easy.
I can choose to bulldoze over her and crush her natural, God-given personality, or I can embrace how it complements my own and glorify God as I give myself up for her. It seems to me that the latter is what God had in mind when he paired me up with her and formed this unbreakable covenant.
This doesn’t mean I passively stand by and let her grab apples she shouldn’t be eating. It means I defend her and hold onto her with a kung-fu death grip when the serpent comes in and tries to exploit where her introversion lends itself to different sins I may not typically struggle with.
It means we are striving to out-serve one another; to make the other more important than ourselves. To cherish our differences and be changed by one another. It means just like I am learning her strengths, she is learning mine. It means letting her have her way in the small stuff, and then leading strong in the big decisions that will alter our lives.
It means that I won’t stay “just as I am” . . . and neither will she. Together, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we will be something different. Something better.
I used to think, “Help! I married an introvert!” Now I’m singing, “Hallelujah! I married an introvert!”
Stephen Miller serves as pastor of worship arts at The Journey in St Louis. He writes regularly at www.stephen-miller.com, and you find him on Twitter @StephenMiller and on Facebook at Facebook.com/StephenMillerMusic.[schemaapprating]