By Bro. John L. Cash
A lot of young married people come and talk to me about problems in their marriages. Usually they’re upset about something that their spouse said to them. The other day it dawned on me; Susan and I don’t argue as much as we used to. Now, mind you, I’m not saying we never have a disagreement or cross words. But I’ve noticed that the daily bickering we had when we were newlyweds has come to a halt. That has made life a lot more pleasant.
What has made the difference? I’m not sure of this, but it seems like Susan and I both try to put the best possible “spin” on whatever the other one has just said. What I mean is that anytime anybody says anything, there are at least two ways to “take” what the person said. C.S. Lewis wrote that Satan causes strife in families by getting people to assume the worst intentions and tone when others make simple statements—sentences that would be very innocent if typed on a piece of paper.
Allow me to illustrate. When we were newlyweds, Susan was 19 and I was 23. We were the youngest pastoral couple in our brotherhood in the state of Mississippi. We had been invited to a banquet and all of the other pastors and wives would be there. After meticulously fixing-herself-up in preparation, she asked me, “How do I look?” I said (what I thought was a compliment) “Wow, you look really cute.” (I meant to convey the idea that she was really an attractive young lady.) Imagine my confusion when she was very annoyed and said, “Cute?! What do you mean by that? I’m not six years old.”
And then the argument began.
Well, flash forward another 30 years. Not too long ago, we had the same situation arise. And Susan asked the same question. And I said, “Wow, you look really cute.” This time Susan’s reaction was a little different. She said, “Cute? Ok…I’ll take it!”
I guess we’ve been married so long that we realize that if we’ve stayed together this long, we must truly love each other. And somebody who has loved you so long isn’t going to go around deliberately saying things that are going to hurt your feelings. (I hope I’m growing as patient myself with putting the best “spin” on the things Susan says to me. You can ask her about it when you see her.)
This is a principle we find in the life of the Lord Jesus. You know the story, the one where the foreign woman asked Jesus for a healing for her daughter, and He told her He had first come to the people of Israel. He said that it’s not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the “dogs.” And the term “dog” was the very unpleasant word that the Jews used to refer to those who were Gentiles. What a thing, for Jesus to call a woman a “dog”!
But did you notice that this woman does not take any offense? Maybe it was because Jesus was smiling (and teasing) her when He said it. Maybe it was because she had figured out how loving Jesus was and that He would never say anything to hurt her. Nevertheless, she puts the best possible “spin” on Jesus’ statement. This lady does not waste her time being offended, but instead says, “Yes, but even the children’s puppies eat the crumbs that fall on the floor.” I picture her smiling back at Jesus as she gives Him “a dose of His own medicine.” She is telling Jesus that He is so wonderful that just a crumb from Him will heal her child. And He praises her for her great faith. (Matthew 15:28)
So how are you “spinning” the things your spouse says to you? Accepting the things said to you with love and grace is probably the best gift you could give to your spouse—and also to your marriage.
Dr. John L. Cash is the “Country Preacher Dad.” He was raised in Stuttgart, Arkansas, and has spent the last 30 years being a country preacher in the piney woods five miles south of the little town of Hickory, Mississippi. (On week days has a desk-job at a public school, where he used to teach Latin on closed-circuit-television.) He and his lovely wife, Susan, live in the parsonage next door to the Antioch Christian Church (where the weather is supposed to be 80 degrees for the cantata this weekend.) Their kids include Spencer (age 24), his wife Madeline (age 24), and Seth (age 21). You can send him a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.