April 19, 2017
"It's more important for your relationship to be right than to be right." I cannot count how often I've given that advice to couples who were stalemated in their marriages. Instead of working together as a team, they found themselves on opposite sides of an issue, both of them heels dug in, certain that their version of the incident was the correct one. It is always about more than whatever issue they face. It's about who is in control, a contest of wills. Those words, "to love and to cherish," recede into the shadows, replaced by the need to win at all costs.
It was some thirty years ago that I first learned this truth. Linda and I had had some sharp disagreement before leaving for work. I long ago forgot what was the issue, but each of us was absolutely certain that our version of the incident was the correct one. I left the house angry, not a good way to begin a pastor's day. Back then, we served a two-point charge, and I had my office in the smaller of the two churches. Since we lived in the community where the larger church was, it made sense to me to maintain a regular presence in the other community.
I'm not one given to hearing voices, so when I say, "God spoke to me," understand that it was his voice speaking to my heart. I know it was God because at the time, what I heard was the furthest thing from my mind. It was the exact opposite of my inclination that morning, and came in the form of a question. "Jim, which is more important? To be right, or for your relationship to be right?" No doubt about it, this was a God-question to which I knew the answer, even if I were unwilling to admit it.
As soon as I unlocked the church door, I headed to my office and reached for the phone. Before I could get to it, it rang. Linda was on the other end, apologizing for her obstinacy. I didn't let her finish. The fault was mine, and I knew then as I know now, that our relationship being right is far more important than my being right. Especially since I often discover after the fact that in fact, I had been wrong.
I wish I could say I have learned that lesson once for all, but it is one I have to occasionally revisit. But the clarity of God's voice still rings in my ears, and I know my responsibility. I only wish more couples were willing to learn this lesson. Married life would be much better for them. It has been better for me, and for that, I am deeply grateful.