A couple months ago my wife Heather developed a rash on her face. I am over-sharing I know, but stick with me, she said I could. She went to a dermatologist and they prescribed drugs. Didn’t work. She did research on the internet and started trying other remedies. Maybe it was the chemicals in her lotions, and make-up? No change. She drove to across the state and saw a homeopathic doctor. He asked her a bunch of questions about her personality and then gave her “cuttlefish ink” to take.
I tried not to be hater, but come on, deep down I sensed that we had just flushed $91 down the toilet.
Maybe it was because of all my negative energy, but there was still no effect.
She was losing a little hope. Discouraged, we made an appointment with another dermatologist in Columbus to get one last opinion from the medical community. During their appointment, they talked about possible causes, and then the doctor asked her if I shaved regularly & kept my face clean. Heather wondered why the doctor would be asking about me. His response?
“You may be allergic to his face”
When Heather told me about the conversation I was baffled. Then I was offended. What? How are you going to pin this on me? Allergic to my face? That doctor doesn’t even know me.
A little third-grade Jon Shah deep inside me wanted to emerge…..”well, I’m allergic to your doctor’s face!”
But I suppressed that third-grader. Because I am 42.
So I just laughed a little. Because the whole thing seemed crazy to me…this was HER issue. This was HER problem.
I don’t have anything to do with this problem.
Heather and I have been married 17 years. To some of you that seems like an eternity (yeah, I’m talking to you h2o), and others probably consider us barely out of the honeymoon stage. We certainly don’t have it all figure out, but I have to admit, God has given us a pretty great marriage. Through all the ups and downs of life and ministry, we are still in love. We are more unified than ever.
And if there is one bit of practical advice I would pass along to married couples it is this…..
“I don’t have anything to do with this problem” is ALMOST NEVER TRUE.
Now maybe it is true with regards to medical ailments, I will grant you that.
The problem is, my selfish nature wants to apply it to everything. Family struggle? Conflict? Trials? My mind quickly jumps to what Heather should be doing differently. I am such a complete simpleton I can summarize my pattern of thinking in one sentence:
If HEATHER would <insert desired behavior or attitude here> THEN our life & marriage would be great.
It started with Adam, and continues today.
And we may have trained ourselves not to SAY that out loud, but that belief has taken root in a lot of hearts. In a lot of marriages. When I talk to couples, this is almost always where things get stuck. Two people, each focused on what the OTHER one should do to fix their problems.
And unaddressed this slowly creates bitterness, resentment, and death.
And the best marriage habit I have ever tried to develop is simply this….any time my wife is struggling, or we have conflict, or there is a problem of any sort in our family, EVEN IF IT SEEMS UNRELATED TO ME. The FIRST thing I try to do is step back and ask myself the question…
“What is God trying to teach ME here?”
- Because it is the practical, rubber meets the road application of this passage from Matthew 7: “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” Our marriage is a pathway to Christ-like character.
- Because this command in Ephesians is sobering. “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church…” I can’t begin to even articulate here the immensity of that call, but let me say that one thing Christ never does with the church….is say, “I don’t have anything to do with that problem.” Our marriage can model Christ’s love to the world.
- Because Heather and I are not business partners, or roommates, or BFFs, the Bible says we are ONE. Right there in Genesis….“Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” That is the nature of marriage. So it’s not “her” and “me” …. its US. We can’t escape the US. Our UNITY is more important than “BEING RIGHT”
And this isn’t just some false act of humility. In our 17 years of marriage we have found that when we ask this question there is almost always something for us to learn. (sometimes even when the issue is medical!) There is always a role that I am playing….or a lesson for me. Often it comes with the realization that I have the LOG and Heather has the speck.
When we ask that question it opens the door to God speaking to our character, attitude, communication, faith or our priorities. God shows us things we never saw before. He uses the trials to grow us up…..if we will take ownership, and respond with faith.
So the next time your spouse is not doing well. You have conflict or drama. Things are not quite right. Stop and consider the shocking possibility that YOU may be part of the issue.
They may just be allergic to your face.
PS Turns out that Heather may not be allergic to me. Well, not my face at least. She has been on some antibiotics that seem to be helping….