I look back on that time in our marriage, and the memories still sting my heart like tiny cactus needles. We survived falling apart, but mending the mess was a slow, pain-filled process. We recognized how we had intentionally hidden parts of ourselves, assuming the other person wouldn’t understand and would therefore reject us. We noticed our patterns of communication, paid attention to what triggered our pain points, and examined the beliefs we had about ourselves, each other, and the world. We faithfully attended our therapy sessions, which included lots of tears, occasional yelling, and working through the same problems again and again.
I often wondered, then, if it was worth it — worth being in the marriage, worth putting in the effort for an outcome I wasn’t guaranteed, worth keeping at it when I couldn’t even imagine what a future together might look like. And the only thing that kept me grounded was the redeeming power of the gospel. If miraculous and impossible things can happen in Christ, such as resurrection from the dead, surely there was hope for us in our marriage. Surely we could change for the better, and it would be worth it to wait and see what God might do.
In Matthew 19:26, Jesus says, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Though this verse has been used too flippantly in the church as a way to gloss over difficult circumstances, during that season of marital hardship, I held on to it for the promise that it is. It anchored me in hope, giving me the sustenance I needed to try and commit to our marriage for another day, another month, another year.
Mending a marriage or any other relationship is not always possible, but when it is, the hardest part can be doing the simplest things, like having a conversation, asking questions, and staying curious about the other person to get to know them better.
Isn’t that what we all want? To be fully known? Wholly seen?
Even though my husband has thoughts and emotions beyond what he shows, it’s difficult for him to access them and find the words to express them. By asking him directly about his feelings, I give him the opportunity to stay present with himself, figure out how to describe what he’s feeling, and then verbalize his thoughts to me. By asking questions, I open the door for him to take up space, be himself as much as possible, and create connections between us.
The questions will vary based on different relationships and situations, but the key to asking the right ones is to stay curious, which is different from being nosy. Curiosity keeps us tender to each other’s humanity.
When we don’t know someone, it’s easy to dehumanize them and treat them as if they’re an object made for our judgment. We can make assumptions about their character, their background, their family, their life, and feel justified as we do so. But when we stay curious, we keep their humanity in view. Curiosity helps us remember that the person we share a home with and the acquaintance on Facebook are both individuals made and loved by God. We may not agree or have the same values. We may never become close with that other mom at school or that neighbor across the street, but we can genuinely care for one another. We might even find that we laugh at the same things or have similar passions. We might learn we have a shared pain or we’re on a similar journey in life. And perhaps then, even when all hope feels lost, we can take small steps toward mending the gaps created by our differences.
Ask yourself: What is one small step I can take toward mending a relationship with someone where our differences have created a rift?
This story from Grace P. Cho is an excerpt from our new book, Come Sit with Me: How to Delight in Differences, Love through Disagreements, and Live with Discomfort. In this book, 26 of our (in)courage writers help you navigate tough relational tensions by revealing their own hard-fought, grace-filled learning moments (like in Grace’s story above). They show you how to:
– delight in your differences
– honor and value others even when you disagree
– connect before you correct
– trust that God is working even when people disappoint you
– live and love like Jesus by serving others.
Whether you’re in the middle of a conflict without resolution or wondering how to enter into a friend’s pain, Come Sith With Me will serve as a gentle guide. Discover how God can work through your disagreements, differences, and discomfort in ways you might never expect.
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