“And the two shall become one…” (Genesis 2:24)
In the heart of every human being lies the desire to belong. It is primordial, primeval, linked somewhere in our deep memory to our need for survival. To be outcast is to be sentenced to death. To be shamed is the worst form of punishment. In our modern world, when we are deemed unworthy, physical gates do not bar us from the safety of our community but the gates are closed nonetheless.
All of us have known the cruelty of school cliques, social cliques and perhaps ministry cliques. Some have experienced the terrifying power of psychological bullying – mean girls, ruthless boys. Did you make the team, the squad, the court? Do you fit in? How many friends are on your Facebook page? Did you get accepted, asked, invited? Are you in or are you out?
Life is meant to be shared; we are supposed to feel “in.” We are meant to live in community, in relationship with others. People may drive us crazy sometimes, but still we need each other. Some of us are born introverts – we replenish our spirits and souls best in the company of just ourselves and God. In fact, everyone needs time alone – regularly. But in the same way, everyone needs to be in the company of others as well – regularly.
After turning his back on society and finding his way into the Alaskan wilderness with only himself as a companion, Christopher McCandless discovered that he missed people. He missed, in fact, the very people he was trying to escape. He became profoundly lonely. He realized that life was not meant to be lived alone and that, “Happiness is only real when shared.”
Isn’t it true? When something really good happens, we can’t wait to share it. My mother passed away seven years ago, but in a moment of victory or happiness, I still think of her and want to give her a call and share the news. The same holds true with tragedy. When a crisis occurs – when the doctor calls with scary news or when our world is shaken – we need the companionship of others. We need someone who loves us, who truly cares, to come alongside of us and share in our experience. As a woman, one of the best things about being married is this: The question, “Who will I go with?” is forever answered. I belong to someone; I have a mate. We are a pair, a couple, a set. We are no longer single, we are double. We have a tennis partner, a dance partner, someone to sit next to at the table, and a date for the rest of our Friday nights. We are a couple; we belong to each other. Two really are better than one, in a host of ways.
John and I have walked through some very hard times together: the death of dear friends; the loss of long-term relationships; many hospital visits; moving cross-country three times. We have also shared some really wonderful times: travelling in Scotland and Ireland; speaking together at conferences; snorkeling in Mexico; realizing a life-long dream of buying a ranch. And then there are the “in-between” times: making the boys’ lunches in the evening; texting each other when we are out and about; saying our bedtime prayers together for 25 years.
But we have also seen some really lonely years in our marriage. And to be lonely in your marriage is the loneliest feeling of all.
When John and I moved to Colorado, Luke had not yet been born. Sam was just over two years old and Blaine was only nine months old. I worked part time a couple of evenings a week, but John was the primary breadwinner. I spent my days at home raising, nurturing, playing with and caring for our boys. As a man, John was finding his place in the work force – challenging himself, desiring to grow personally and professionally, as well as wanting to provide for his family. He worked hard and wanted to prove himself. After Luke came along, John went back to school to earn his Master’s Degree in counseling. It was a great program and I was 100 percent behind him.
But he was really busy. He still worked full time, traveling the country doing conferences many weekends a year. He was given Mondays and Tuesdays off to make up for the weekends he worked. And Mondays and Tuesdays were spent at the university. On a rare day off, in much need of rest and refreshment, John would take our one car and go fishing. Spending the day on the water brought life to him; God was meeting him there. More than half his days off were spent on the river by himself or with a friend. Not with me. Not with our sons.
It was common for him to be gone every day of the week for three or four weeks at a time. The longest stretch we went was seven weeks in a row of John being away from home every single day. The pattern went on for two years.
Somehow in my heart I knew God was moving in my husband. I understood I had to let him go and not demand he stay home. When he was home, John was completely present. But those were hard years. For both of us.
John has a circle of things he loves to do. It includes fly-fishing, rock climbing, working on cars, hunting, reading, and just about anything with adventure in it. I have a circle of things I love to do. It encompasses going to movies, working in my garden, talking, taking walks, worshipping and reading novels.
I am also the mother of three sons. I live in a household of men. I love them passionately, but it can be lonely at times being the only woman around. I long for real relationship with them and have been praying for ways to connect.
John just gave me a ping-pong table for Christmas. My family had a ping-pong table while I was growing up and I spent hours playing with my brother and dad. Those are sweet memories for me, times of real connection with my family. Now I am playing with my sons and my husband. We are spending time together doing something we all enjoy. Big sigh. Yay!
There is an ebb and flow to the companionship of a marriage. During hunting season, I don’t expect to see John much. But afterwards, I do expect him to come home and re-engage with me. There are seasons when the two of us are “connecting” well and seasons when we aren’t. I don’t like it when we aren’t, but that is all part of life.
What you want to do is create an environment where, over time and with intentionality, you nurture companionship. You really have no idea what depths of companionship are available until you venture into those waters, and hang in there for many years. Who knows all that God has in store for both of you?
The goal of marriage being oneness doesn’t mean the two become one person. It means the two separately become better people. That’s what John and I have learned to do. Together.
Ask God to show you if there are any issues in your marriage that are getting in the way of you and your spouse enjoying true companionship. Ask Him to help you create an environment where companionship and oneness are nurtured.
“Lord, please open the eyes of my understanding to see what issues may be hindering me and my spouse from enjoying the companionship with each other you intend for us. Thank you for giving us the inspiration and grace needed to create a nurturing environment. In Jesus’ name, amen.”
Adapted from Love & War by John and Stasi Eldredge.