Here is the one another that I learned very pragmatically. I doubt if Galatians 5:13 had every registered on my radar. But, you know something I’ve learned over the years is that God may teach us an aspect of his truth through daily living and later confirm that truth from his Word. This was a case in point.
Our first year of marriage was not under ideal living conditions. We were living hundreds of miles from my wife’s family and sixty miles from my family (who could not have been of much assistance since they were retired and living on Social Security, a very small pension and what they could raise on the farm). I was a full time graduate student bringing in a paltry income. Pam was the bread winner. Economics on the one hand and very limited inexpensive housing on the other hand dictated that we live in a campus apartment that consisted of one large room and a large bathroom. I built a divider in the large room to separate a living space and sleeping space. The bathroom provided for her the opportunity to bath and cook simultaneously (as she likes to say).
Our second year of marriage we moved to an apartment adjacent to the church where I had been called to be the youth pastor. Life now changed. It was not only study every night, but activities, meetings and discipleship/counseling with youth most evenings. Shortly after the move to this new apartment and immersing in the youth ministry it became apparent that our time together was going to be very limited. Pam would get home from work about 5:30, unwind a bit and then cook dinner. By the time we were finished eating, it was time for me to depart for one reason or another. As I pondered this situation a thought occurred to me—“You can learn to cook and have dinner ready when she walks in at 5:30 and that way you can have an hour together after dinner (at least on most nights).”
I decided to surprise her. I spent the rest of that week going through cookbooks from after class until she came home. The next week I had dinner on the table when she walked in the door. Now you need to know that I had never cooked anything other than eggs and toast. Some of those meals were not to great, but the hour we had together every day to talk, share the day’s experiences, pray and laugh together were great.
Without realizing it, I was serving Pam (yes, it benefited me, but that is the side benefit that comes from living out these godly protocols). Over the years there were many other similar situations though not as dramatic. For several years after we moved into a new home around which there was a lot of mud and not much grass, I would thoroughly clean and wash the kitchen floor on Friday afternoons (before all the fancy equipment we have for such a task today). Two children and two Shelties provided plenty of grime to make my efforts worthwhile.
There are four commons ways (you can add to the list I am sure) by which we can serve one another in our marriage relationships: Caring for one another, pinch hitting for one another, carrying our responsibilities, supporting (or bearing one another’s burdens).
Caring for one another can take lots of forms. Ten years ago I had quadruple bypass surgery. Pam and I often joke that when one of us is sick that we need a third party in the marriage since neither of us is very sympathetic. She kept her normal profile of not being sympathetic, but she did a great job of caring for me (you don’t realize how helpless you can be until you find yourself post serious surgery). She made sure I had and took my meds. She walked with me to encourage me to exercise. She changed our eating patterns to accommodate my health.
Obviously, she did some pinch hitting for me during this recovery time. This service on her part took many forms. She went to meetings for me. She ran errands that I should have run. She typed papers that I should have typed.
Sharing chores is another way of serving one another. When I was serving in that youth ministry, Pam was right in there with me; so much so that she often refers to the time when we were youth ministers. During those years whenever I did some special activity with the boys (coaching a softball team or going camping) the girls would want her to do the same activity with them. Now you need to realize that Pam is not an athlete. So coaching a softball team was way out of her comfort zone. But she shared my responsibility by jumping in and giving it the old college try. There were lots of laughs at her expense, but she continued to engage.
We serve one another by carrying our own responsibilities. I often have counseling cases where one or the other mate sits in my office angry at the irresponsibility of the mate. Since the economic crash of 2007 there have been several women come to counseling whose husbands had chosen the pathway of depression or pride (not willing to take a lesser position that was below his rank) when they lost their jobs. Both extremes left the wives carrying the responsibility for the family. One husband responded to me when I suggested he take a part time job at big box store or a fast food establishment to at least provide groceries, “I did not become a professional to take such a job”.
The last implementation of serving one another we will consider in this essay bearing the burdens of our mate. While burden bearing is not limited to spiritual struggles, it seems to be the main concern in Galatians five. This whole book is about struggles people have with their walk in Christ. Being in various aspects of pastoral ministry for fifty years I have seen this fleshed out in a variety of ways. Sometimes it has been when a mate is struck with a terminal disease and begins to agonize with the why question. Sometimes it is with the loss of a job and the anger that comes with it. Sometimes it is with the death of a child and the anguish of the soul. The couples that bear these burdens together (helping each other to process the loss, bolster faith and encourage through the Word) weather the storms of life and gain strength for the journey.