Friday, 8 March 2013
The Lesson of the Butter Dish
Many people have asked me if Elizabeth and I felt strange because we never had an opportunity to know each other before our marriage.
The fact is that we did not feel like strangers. After marriage we began to talk as if we had known each other for many years. Of course, we both had known the same intimate Friend, Jesus Christ. We both desired to copy His character traits in our lives. This God-factor made a difference.
Sadly, many people today leave God-factor out. God is definitely interested in our well-being. He wants to show His greatness through our family. Whatever the psychological makeup of a couple, God has designed every family with great potential to glorify Him.
It is true that many people take factors like health, wealth and status into account when considering marriage. Many think of the God-factor, but only in terms of their own material prosperity. When such people experience material loss, they question God and even blame Him. If we entrust God with anything, we can be assured that everything will be perfect. It may not be perfect according to our terms, but we must remember that we have a limited perspective. God makes everything perfect on His terms.
Coming back to my marriage, I say that it was ‘God-arranged’.
In this context, a God-arranged marriage means an arrangement that involves the ‘Altar Test’. This is when both parties put everything on the altar and give up their rights and expectations. In a way, a God-arranged marriage is like purifying gold in the furnace, where all the unwanted elements burn away, leaving only the best.
Elizabeth and I wanted to seek God’s kingdom first through our lives together. It was a thrilling and encouraging experience to be with friends who sincerely prayed for us and wished us God’s best.
We knew we were going to have an exciting future because we had several friends who had prayed for us. We thought of all the things we could do in the future, with the backing of supportive prayers from sincere friends, a great family heritage, education, and all the abilities God had given us.
We were well received by our friends in the church and our social circle. We were given opportunities to exercise leadership, which helped build our confidence. We felt we had been prepared by God in a special way for each other, and that we were ready to set an example as a deeply spiritual family. After all, we were mature and needed to achieve so much for God through the many opportunities, He had given us. We also sensed the need to get ourselves better equipped for God’s work—although we felt our prayer life and our daily devotional life were strong, at least by normal standards.
Why, then, did some minor matters begin to bother me?
For example, during those early days, we enjoyed a quick breakfast of bread, butter, jam and boiled eggs. It was my habit to cover the butter dish or replace the lid of the jam bottle as soon as I used these items. My wife’s habit, however, was to leave all the lids and covers off, and to close them only when breakfast was over.
I didn’t like to see the butter dish and the jam bottle left open. I did not want to tell Elizabeth about it or force her to change her habits, but I did wish she would close them up the way I liked it!
I decided that the best way to deal with it was to close them gently myself every time I found them left open. I hoped she would follow my good example in a few days. When this didn’t happen, I figured she had not gotten the message. So I began to close the containers more forcefully to produce a good clicking noise! This would let her know that I wanted them closed. But even that failed to change her. My wife still left the jars and butter dish uncovered.
Now what was I supposed to do? Was I going to have to live with such an annoyance all my life? Even after enjoying a nice breakfast, the unclosed lids haunted my thoughts. I began to think about the lids even while I travelled to my office. She did not close them! She did not have the sense to follow what I wanted! Why can’t she close them?
I began to get worked up and irritated—and once even ended up getting on the wrong bus. My frustration continued to bother me even after I reached work. It affected my thinking process, and I began to ask question like: “Why did God give me this kind of wife? What happened to the prayers of so many friends? Is this the kind of wife God wanted me to have?”
It’s amazing how easily we come to believe that our foundations are being shaken. We need to recognize that God has many ways of speaking to us. I learned from C.S. Lewis’s book, The Problem of Pain, that God sometimes uses pain as a kind of megaphone to get our attention when He wants to speak to us.
In this situation, God spoke to me and taught me some great and valuable lessons. In the midst of my agitation, he answered my angry questions. But the answer was far different from what I had expected. He told me, “Until you change your attitude, your wife will continue to keep the butter dish and jam opened. Until you stop getting agitated and view your wife differently, she will not close them!”
Now I could see more clearly what was happening.
I had been saying that I wanted to accomplish God’s purpose in my life. God was testing my desire to accomplish His purposes by giving me the ‘right’ kind of wife—one who would help me to see my own weaknesses and faults. God wanted to develop my personality, and He provided the right kind of tool with that purpose in mind. He was using my wife as a precious tool in His hands to chip away the rough edges of my personality. My pastor could not do it. My mentor could not do it. My supervisor at work could not do it. The best tool God could use was my own wife. Therefore, I should not get worked up when I go through hard times. Instead, I must say, “Thank you Lord for my wife!”
It wasn’t long before my wife discovered the very same truth, especially when I behaved contrary to her expectations. She also began to thank God for me. (she probably had to thank God more often, because of my rough and selfish nature!) Before marriage, we were two; after marriage we became one. We both benefited from being used as God’s tool on each other.