So, my son’s birthday was yesterday. He had a few specific things that he wanted: a red-tailed catfish for his aquarium, and possibly a Lowe’s gift card for some tools, wood, etc for his projects. We decided to celebrate a day early because our youngest son was going out of town for a retreat and wanted to be there to celebrate his brother’s birthday. So after work on Thursday, I rushed out to Lowe’s first to get the gift card. That’s an easy present and was quick to check off the list. So then, I was off to the pet store.
As I walked in the pet store, a woman about my age greeted me. “Can I help you find anything?” she asked. So of course, I say that I’m looking for a red-tailed catfish. I was pretty relieved to not have to wander past all the aquariums in the huge space to find a little fish. So, then the man behind the counter, who is about my age as well, says, “We just sold the last one.”
Pause. What did he just say? You mean the one thing that this son asks for is not here…and it was just sold. Yikes. But as the wheels in my head starting turning, I said, “Was it a tall man about my age who just bought the fish?” Affirmative. The man behind the counter said, “Yes, and he bought a gift card as well.” Bingo. I laughed and said, I think that was probably my husband. “Can you tell that we don’t communicate too well?” The man and woman gave a knowing look and smiled. The woman said, “You’re not the only ones.” As I walked out the door I wondered if they were married as well. My guess is: affirmative.
So I walked out of the store and called my husband…who turned out to be the tall man about my age who had just bought a red-tailed catfish and a gift card. Turns out he had been to Lowe’s earlier in the day as well! Oh, brother. Nope, we are so not good communicators at all. Never have been. We are about as opposite as two people can be. But do you know what we have in common? Red-tailed catfish and Lowe’s gift cards.
When I called Buddy about the whole deal, we both laughed and I remembered a few things. I remembered that we have a lot in common. We love our kids, though often show it in much different ways. He makes me so mad about some things and drives me crazy with big issues like money and little issues like the thermostat set on FREEZING. He leaves a mess and laughs at things that I just don’t think are too funny. But then again, he can make me laugh in a heartbeat because he has a great sense of humor. He’s made a lot of mistakes in his life and is a recovering alcoholic with a lot of regret. But I see him trying to make up for lost time. Perfectly? No, not at all. But the attempt is so there and so apparent.
As I drove home and thought about the red-tailed catfish, I was really thankful to be reminded to focus on the common ground in relationships rather than the differences. Some differences are crucial. For a single person, my advice would be so different as common ground on key issues such as faith and beliefs so matters. It so matters because the man or woman you marry will change and lead your world. Be wise with choices. Take seriously to heart Paul’s words about being unequally yoked. But on this side of marriage? I stood on sacred ground 25 years ago and said “I do.” “I do” through ‘better or worse’, ‘richer or poorer’, ‘sickness and health’, ‘to love and to cherish till death do us part.’ I never in my wildest dreams (or nightmares) would’ve imagined some of the things we’ve gone through. But there is still common ground. There is still love. There is still hope. There are still red-tailed catfish to remind me that we care about so many of the same things.
I could write a book on the struggles in marriage. And I have a feeling that I’m not alone on that one, for sure! But one of the long chapters in my little book would definitely be…common ground. Be aware of the common ground and don’t lose sight of it in the midst of all of the struggles of daily life and the differences that can be so exaggerated with daily stressors. So many marriages end because we forget. We forget who our spouse is/was. Sometimes we need to be the ones reminding them of who they are. Or, we forget who we are…and then they can’t see us either. My book would not be a “how to” for sure. It would be a collection of stories of grace and hope and, here’s the key word…forgiveness. Because in order to have common ground, there’s gotta be a willingness to stand on it and we all have things we need to forgive before we can stand together.
Anyway, the birthday celebration was a success. The red-tailed catfish is doing just fine, and the son has gift cards to both Lowe’s and the pet store which are much more valuable had they been if his mother had been the one to buy them! I’m sure he’s glad that his Dad made it to the pet store before his mom! He knows us both too, and given the values of the gift cards would know that the lesser one would’ve been from me and the more extravagant amount would’ve been from his Dad. But in the end, he hopefully knows that we’d both run to the store and try to make his birthday more special. Hopefully, all my kids know that we, these two incredibly different beings, love them with all our hearts. And that is the common ground on which this family tries to stand. The ground is so shaky at times, but bottom line, I hope they know we are for them. And when we struggle? May we have some red-tailed catfish scenarios to help us to remember and smile.
Oh, and one last thing. I went downstairs this morning to find a mess in the kitchen…and…scrambled eggs on a plate for me on the counter. They were covered in saran wrap and cooked just perfectly. Buddy had called and said, “I made you breakfast” before he had left for work. So it is. Should I focus on the mess or the scrambled eggs? I’m choosing to focus on the scrambled eggs. They were delicious by the way. And the mess? The dishwasher is running, the counters are clear and the mess is gone. But being thankful that my husband made me breakfast? Thankfully, that will linger a lot longer than the mess.
Blessings to You and Yours~
“May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony
with one another in accord with Jesus Christ.”