“What mattered more than how hard a man rowed was how well everything he did in the boat harmonized with what the other fellows were doing. And a man couldn’t harmonize with his crewmates unless he opened his heart to them. He had to care about his crew.”
Thebook The Boys in the Boat, written by Daniel James Brown, is the story of the University of Washington, 1936 Olympics, gold medal winning, eight-man crew team. Much of the book is devoted to detailing the boy’s training methods and the necessary gelling of personalities that must occur for such a team to have success. In often overly romantic terms, as above, the author describes the incredible power and speed achieved when all eight of the rowers row in total synchronicity. It goes beyond the mere physical act of repeatedly putting an oar in the water and pulling. The boys can feel and sense one another’s movements, continuously adjusting their strokes to one another. When this harmonic state is attained, the boat is unbeatable.
Conversely, you can have a boat full of the strongest rowers in the world, but if they are out of sync, if they don’t “open their hearts to one another,” they’ll never realize their potential as a group.
In many ways, marriage is like rowing a boat. If you don’t understand your strengths, are not able to communicate effectively, or are not coordinated in execution, you’ll end up going in circles. This means you understand how God has uniquely made each of you and you effort to align your strengths and weaknesses for maximum output.
“Know thyself,” says the philosopher. “Think of yourself in sober judgment,” says the apostle. “You and the Naboo form a symbiotic circle. What happens to one of you affects the other. You must understand this,” says Obi-Wan Kenobi.
Obi-Wan was a hack. He just repackaged Paul, who said, when talking about the differences in giftings in the body of Christ, “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it” (1 Corinthians 12:26).
The first step in aligning to your spouse is understanding. Paul talks about the body of Christ in Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12, saying there is one body, but many parts. Spiritual gifts are like money in that God gives them to us to be used for His purposes, in part, the building up of the body of Christ. Marriage is just a two-person “church.” Do you know your gifts? Your spouse’s? You can take this five-minute assessment to determine your spiritual gifts. Consider that God has known you and your spouse since time eternal (Psalm 139) and that you are uniquely and specifically designed to exercise your gifts in concert with one another.
A quality spouse is like a crown to us (Proverbs 12:4). What does a crown do? It says, “Look at this person. He’s the king. He’s important. She’s the queen. She’s glorious.” It doesn’t complain how he never takes out that trash or that she burned dinner. Spouses who bring out the best in one another are like photoshop, feng shui or Spanx®. They cover up the bad things and accentuate the good. They intentionally work to put one another in the best possible light for others to see.
God intended for our spouses to strengthen us. He designed marriage such that the whole “oneness” of marriage would be greater than the sum of its separate parts. The foundation upon which this dwelling of glory is built is love, joy, peace, patience, lovingkindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (all of which can be practiced outside of marriage). But the eye-catching centerpiece chandelier of your manor of marriage is your ability to multiply your glory and effectiveness for God in each other.
This is modeled after how the church interacts with her bridegroom, Christ. We are called Christ’s “ambassadors” (2 Cor. 5:20). We “proclaim his excellencies” (1 Peter 2:9). Christ, likewise, “makes us holy...without stain or blemish” (Ephesians 5:26,27). We are to make Christ look as good as possible for others to see based on how we, his disciples, act. In turn, Christ works in us all things for good (Romans 8:28). And he creates in us a clean heart (Psalm 51:10).
For Veronica and I, here are some examples:
- Around our kid’s bedtime, I’ll ask her if she’d rather do the dishes or put the boys to bed. In our house, there is always work to be done, and this way, by allowing her to pick the task that is the least emotionally/physically taxing on her, we maximize our efficiency as a couple.
- We proofread each other’s text messages for tone and content. Frequently, I’ll revise what I’ve written based on her unique perspective and wisdom.
- Veronica hates making decisions. One of my top Strengths Finder® traits is Command. As you may guess, I can exercise this gift in a way that is a blessing or a burden to her. Love is not self-seeking, so I’ve got to first consider what she prefers and then take action to bring it about. In this way, we form a symbiotic circle of love. Not surprisingly, this is also modeled after Christ. He knew what we needed most (salvation) and took the Ultimate Action to provide what we needed.
In closing, consider the example of Christ. He anticipates, initiates, and satiates. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly (Psalm 84:11). So should it be also with you. God has given you good gifts (Matthew 7:11). Use them generously to bless the body, starting with your spouse.