Like many married couples, my husband and I are as opposite as the North and South Poles and as different as night and day. His idea of fun is a crowded party; mine is a quiet evening at home. He flies by the seat of his pants; I organize everything right down to the plastic container lids in my kitchen. He likes Thai food and sushi; I’m a steak ‘n’ potatoes gal.
How can two such different people serve together without it turning into a cat and dog fight?
The Pot and the Pigeon Hole
A friend once described the difference between men and women in a way I haven’t forgotten. He said most men view the various areas of their life like a series of pigeon holes. Work, marriage, parenting, church, entertainment and hobbies are separate “holes”. They open one, work on it, close it, then move on to the next. These “holes” or different aspects of their life don’t connect or cross paths.
For most women, the various aspects of their life not only affect each other but commingle and coalesce as if they were lumped together in one huge pot—the laptop they left sitting on the kitchen table when they left for work, the cap their husband left off the toothpaste tube, and the 200 boxes of Girl Scout cookies their child agreed to sell are all mixed together in one giant kettle.
While sometimes the roles are switched—the wife is the hole-keeper and the husband minds the pot, the point is – how in the world can such dramatic differences be good? Why do opposites attract?
Because God designed it that way. The Apostle Paul said our spiritual family—the church—is made up of many parts that serve various purposes so the body can function as a unit (1 Corinthians 12:12-20). Our physical families are simply an extension of this metaphor.
If a husband and wife were both big-picture people, the mundane details of life—paying bills and maintaining a balanced family schedule—would go unmet and lead to disaster. If both spouses were detailed-oriented, they might get bogged down in specifics, bicker over preferences, and never accomplish anything.
This is why complementing spouses who serve together can be such a benefit to the receivers of their service. They bring at least two sets of skills to the table instead of one.
What’s more, husbands and wives know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. This gives them an edge when they’re working to meet the needs of others in a group setting (1 Corinthians 12:21-26).
It’s like draft horses. A single draft horse can pull a whopping 8,000 pounds. Hook two draft horses together and you’d think they could draw twice as much. Nope, they draw three times as much or 24,000 pounds. The real kicker is, if the animals train and learn to work together prior to the contest, they can actually draw 32,000 pounds or four times the weight a single horse can draft.
In the same way, married couples can “pull more weight” because they already have an established relationship. It takes years for unfamiliar co-workers or volunteers to develop this kind of trust and knowledge of each other.
Familiarity Breeds Gratitude
That knowledge of our spouse can be used for good or for ill. You’ve heard the phrase “familiarity breeds contempt.” Jesus was subjected to the repercussions of this statement when he returned home to Nazareth during his ministry years and couldn’t perform the miracles he’d done in other towns (Mark 6:1-6). His old neighbors complained, “Who does this guy think he is? We know all about him and his family!”
We, too, can dismiss our spouse’s strengths because we see the weaknesses others don’t. Consequently, we forget how amazing they are until we see them in action serving others. When we witness their compassion, patience, decisiveness, and wisdom, it helps us refocus on our spouse’s strengths. It also reminds us how we, their complementing partner, are designed by God to counter-balance their weaknesses.
For example, the “fun level” of any gathering my husband and I attend increases exponentially when he steps into the room. Kids of all ages flock to him because they sense his childlike spirit.
Me? I’m the guest who instinctively picks up the trash and replenishes the food platters. I make sure the coffee machine’s power cord is tucked safely under the rug so nobody trips over it.
Just as a cat can’t bark, I can’t light up the room like my husband can; as a dog is unlikely to share his bone, my husband is less likely to replenish a party tray than he is to eat from it. Are either of us “better” than the other in our service? Of course not, we’re simply meeting different needs (1 Corinthians 12:28-30) and growing in our appreciation of each other.
Serving Fosters Appreciation
When we accept our operating systems are as different as Android and Apple, recognize as teammates we can carry a greater load, and acknowledge each other’s unique gifts, the result is more than just service to our community, it’s deeper love, intimacy, and appreciation for one another in our marriage.
As we sow a service of love and sacrifice for those outside our family, our marriage reaps a harvest of affection and self-denial. When we sit down and discuss our plans for serving those in our community, we reap the benefits of unity and communication. And as we minister together to those in need, we garner the gifts of admiration and gratitude for one another.
The truth is cats and dogs can have an astounding, inspiring, and mutually beneficial relationship when they recognize their differences and realize just how much better life is when they serve together.