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A couple drove down a country road for several miles, not saying a word. An earlier discussion had led to an argument, and neither of them wanted to concede their position.
As they passed a barnyard of mules, goats and pigs, the husband couldn’t remain silent. He glanced at his wife and asked sarcastically, "Relatives of yours?"
"Yep," the wife replied, "in-laws."
Conflict within our marriages and families is, unfortunately, all too common.
Last week our church began a study about building strong families, and I spoke about the reality that strong families know each other. This perhaps sounds like an obvious point, but, as I told our folks on Sunday, knowing each other requires work.
It takes time and a concerted effort to really know the unique people in our families. But, for the Christian, knowing one another isn’t just a common-sense way to build stronger families; it is actually a command of God.
In the Bible, I Peter 3:7 says, “Husbands should live with your wives in an understanding way…”
Other translations of that verse say that husbands are to “give thought” to the way they live with their wives so they can do so “according to knowledge.”
The Bible’s instructions in this verse to husbands (and in other verses to women, and still other verses to parents) are that we must do the hard work to get to know our families.
Of course, this is easier said than done, and one of the reasons is that men and women are so different. Again, this may sound like another obvious point, but there are some “enlightened” folks who would try to tell that gender differences are simply a social construct and that there are no inherent differences (besides anatomy) between the sexes.
In fact, a few years ago I saw a Time magazine cover that was heralding a groundbreaking study which found that (drum roll, please), men and women are different! Did we really need a multimillion-dollar study to tell us this?
(And in another item for the “did we really need a study for that?” department, on March 29 of this year, the Reuters top new story of the day was this: “Study: Junk Food Addiction May Be Clue to Obesity.” You think? But I digress.)
One of the great differences between men and women is the way we communicate.
For example, studies tell us that, on average, each day women say twice as many words as men.
I heard about a husband who read an article to his wife about this interesting fact. Upon hearing this, his wife replied, "The reason has to be because we have to repeat everything to men.”
The husband lowered his newspaper, turned to his wife and said, "What?"
But it’s not just that women say more words than men. I’ve noticed that often there are different definitions for the same words.
This can lead to all kinds of misunderstandings and conflicts within a marriage, so as a public service to men everywhere, I’d like to pass along some “female” definitions that were given to me by a thoughtful woman some time ago.
“Fine.” This is the word women use to end an argument when they feel they are right and you need to shut up. Never use “fine” to describe how your wife looks — this will cause you to have one of those arguments.
“Five minutes.” This is half an hour. (However frustrating this may be, guys, this is equivalent to the “five minutes” that our football game is going to last before we take out the trash, so it’s an even trade.)
“Nothing.” This means “something”, and you should definitely be on your toes. “Nothing” is usually used to describe the feeling a woman has of wanting to turn you inside out, upside down, and backwards. “Nothing” usually signifies an argument that will last “five minutes” and end with “fine”.
“Go ahead.” This means that at some point in the near future, you are going to be in some mighty big trouble.
“That’s OK.” This is one of the most dangerous statements that a woman can make to a man. “That’s OK” means that she wants to think long and hard before paying you back for whatever it is that you have done.
“Please do.” This is not a statement; it is an offer. A woman is giving you the chance to come up with whatever excuse or reason you have for doing whatever it is that you have done. You have a fair chance with the truth, so be careful and you shouldn’t get a “that’s ok.”
As hard as it is for us to understand at times, the family — that is, a husband and wife and their children — is a God-designed and God-defined institution.
It was God who designed men and women to be so uniquely different, while at the same to be so uniquely complementary – physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.
And though I still get the occasional “fine” or “that’s ok” from my wife, I say with the French, “Vive la différence!”
Chuck Souder is on staff at Shelby Christian Church. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org