This isn’t the post I began working on for this week’s Monday’s Bouquet. It’s different. The word picture I was given this Monday morning has moved me in a different direction and moved what I was working on to the greenhouse to grow a bit longer. This is about differences.
How do you usually look at differences? As I ponder that question myself I begin to think of various types of differences and think on whether it depends on the type and the purpose and motivation of the difference. There are certainly opposing differences that are not healthy in close relationships. But what about other differences?
This Monday morning I walked into the kitchen to a bouquet of 3 different types of flowers. One of those flowers, the star gazer lily. is one of a few varieties that have a negative effect on me. My head begins to hurt. My sinuses get clogged. I feel miserable. I am obviously allergic to them. I immediately separate it from the bouquet and take it outside. I am now left with yellow roses and what I believe to be pink Alstroemeria, also known as Peruvian Lily. These two flowers are quite different. I don’t think much of the combination. I am more focused on removing the one that is dangerous to my health. I take a few photos, put the bouquet in its place on the mantle, and sit down in my usual chair across the room to read God’s word. It’s a normal Monday morning. As I look at the flowers across the room and the bird feeder outside the window, my mind goes to a particular passage of scripture. Thoughts of my daughter graduating college this year and prayers for direction and provision flood my heart. I sense I am to share the passage with her to encourage her in the Lord. I turn to the passage in Luke 12 and begin to meditate on these verses, praying and thanking God for His provision and care…
“Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap; they have no storeroom nor barn, and yet God feeds them; how much more valuable you are than the birds!” Luke 12:24
“Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; but I tell you,not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these.” Luke 12:27
My husband walks in the room, smiles as he looks at the bouquet, and then turns his smile toward me. He asks if I want to know why he chose this bouquet. I do! Can I just confess and shout out here that I love how God uses him to bless, encourage, motivate, remind, and teach me. I love how God is using these bouquets in our marriage, and in a new way as I hear his thoughts in choosing them. God uses him to lead me to grow…growing deeper in love with my Lord.. and with my husband. I love his heart! And savory and sweet are his thoughts and words that come from his sweet heart. Deep breaths.
He chose them because they reminded him of the sermon we heard the night before. We are so blessed to sit under teaching of some wonderful men of God. When he saw this bouquet, he was reminded of Point #6 in Dr. Chapman’s sermon, “7 Strategies for Improving Marriage,” ….. “Maximize your differences.”
He shares his thoughts about the differences in the flowers. Next to one another differences are clear and definite. Yet together they are more beautiful both as the individual flower they are and as the bouquet they are together. They enhance one another. My dear sweet husband! It’s cloudy and pouring rain outside yet sunshine with showers of blessing on the inside! He saw, and led me, to see the bouquet as a visual of marriage. Beautiful! I am reminded of the sermon not only from the night before, but also the one we vowed and desire to make our lives. And now I have this visual in my head that I am sure will remind me of maximizing differences whenever I see different flowers together.
To maximize our differences Dr. Chapman gives a few tools that help us to grow individually and as a couple, to have a healthy marriage. His encouragement is that we 1) identify our differences, 2) look at the assets in our differences, 3) replace condemnation with affirmation, and 4) use the differences to enrich our lives. As I look over the sermon notes I wonder if the other points he made had nuances of this one point on differences within them. Different ways we communicate, understand things, feel things, etc. Differences can be a big deal.
How do we handle differences? Do we let them harm a marriage?…or enhance a marriage?
I think one of the best things we did together early in our relationship was read and discuss Gary Thomas’ book “Sacred Marriage.” The book presents and answers the question “What if God designed marriage more to make us holy than to make us happy.” I recommend it to everyone. It put a lot of things in perspective that I believe we both think about on a daily basis. And we still have so much to learn! But there needed to be agreement in some areas that if different would be a recipe for trouble. Faith, perspective and values in major areas. They needed to align. But that does not mean there are no differences. Some differences are good.
Yet still, at times we look at differences negatively. Why? We easily forget in part because differences often stretch us… sometimes more than we like. They inconvenience us. It can be quite a challenge to look at them positively.
As I read my notes I begin to also read my notes from Dr. Rob Peters’ sermon that same morning. One of his points was that it’s easy to stay in comfortable places. Speaking in regard to transformation as we listen to and obey God’s direction, he mentioned a phrase that I think applies to everything that God uses to transform us to be more like His Son…the marriage relationship included. We are on a “journey of transformation.” I love that phrase! I may need to borrow it for a book title. In a marriage a decision and vow is made to take that journey together.
Much transformation can be accomplished through the relationship between husband and wife. The relationship is designed to help one another grow and flourish. Many, in addition to the husband and wife, are influenced and blessed through the relationship and in the process. It’s not always easy. But when we appreciate the differences it changes our perspective.
What about the flower I pulled out? It was pretty, yet it is dangerous to my health. So often things come into our marriages that can do harm. That flower needed to go. Note that I did not get rid of it because it was different, but because it is harmful. One of the other things that can cause harm is allowing our differences to come between us instead of allowing them to grow us and draw us closer to God …and to one another.
I choose to be thankful for differences. Just as a flower needs different things to grow; sunshine, rain, soil… Differences are used to bring about growth and transformation. Thankful for the One who uses them to make something beautiful even more beautiful.