Friday, June 13, 2008

Two Made One by the High Price of Gas

“It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law,” Jesus replied (Mark 10:5).

I’ve seen it coming for a while now. Marnie and I have had some conversation about it, wanting to make sure we’re on the same page. We’ve been thinking about how to make this part of our marriage work. Today, we took a step together and crossed a threshold into a new chapter of our relationship.

Today we rode to work in the same car.

The fact that Marnie and I serve the same church means we office in the same building. But being under the same roof during the day is about the extent of the similarities in our work. Typically we have very different obligations during the day, an entirely different set of meetings, and a different plan for when we’ll be able to head home at the end of the day. No problem – we just drive two cars to work every day. We park right next to each other at home. We can surely do that at Peachtree.

But lately the price of a gallon of gas reads like a very poor score in Olympic diving competition. The higher those numbers go the more absurd it seems for one family to drive two cars to the same place of work. So we’re looking at our schedules trying to identify those days that will allow us to share the ride. When God intended for two to become one I’m not sure he had carpooling in mind, but it works for us.

However, today the experience of sharing a ride taught me something about myself and why the “two shall become one” plan sounds easier than it actually is. The ride share reminded me of something I’ve long known: I’m selfish. I like having a car to myself.

When you’re in the car alone . . . you can choose the music, you can crank that music as loud as you want to or you can think through the day in silence, you can pull through the nearest Starbucks drive-thru without offering an explanation. The solo commute means no one else to deal with. And sometimes this feels very good.

But to make this is way of life is an affront to what God intended for us. A chronic indulgence of self is what Jesus called “hardness of heart” and he named it as the main reason that God’s plan for marriage is regarded by so many as an unattainable ideal.

Hard heartedness can be mean and uncaring. But most often it’s simply self indulgent, leaving little room for the other, sometimes resenting the demands others place on the “self.” A hard heart is the ever present enemy of family life, and marriage in particular.

And here’s where there is hope and good news for families and marriages and relationships of all kinds. God delights in changing hard hearts. What frustrates us is the reality that this work is God’s and God’s alone. You cannot change the heart of your spouse. You cannot do much to truly change your own heart. But God can. The union that “sticks” and triumphs over the calloused heart is a union that God makes. It is “what God has joined together” (Mark 10:9).

The irritations of family life are red flags that point not to the flaws of those around us, but to the hardness of our own hearts. A hard heart shows itself in hundreds of little ways. Pay attention today to your heart, and invite God to work in your heart as only God can.

Merciful God, my heart is deceptive, allowing me to feel right and entitled, causing me to chafe at the presence of others around me, even my own family. Forgive me and change my heart. As you work in my heart, work in my home. Teach me to love others – especially my family – as you have loved me. Amen.

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