Sunday, September 12, 2010

Helpmate


Mechanical Helper, Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, 1940 - 1945
photo © 1945 The U.S. National Archives | more info (via: Wylio)
I've had the extreme privilege of working with my husband for the past three years.  And I have honestly loved every minute of him being my coworker.  People asked us if we got sick of each other and I can honestly say that we didn't, as long as we had something we were doing, something we were working towards.  

I've been thinking a lot lately about how grateful I am for our marriage.  I believe we have something unique and special, a type of marriage that is more than a friendship, more than a romance, more than a home.  But we truly are each other's help.  I don't really know how to describe it, other than by saying that we are better together.  And I don’t simply mean that we’re better when we work as a couple.  Individually, we are made better by each other.

Freshmen year of college, first semester, when I was fresh-of-the-boat of suburbia, I had a freshmen seminar in sociology.  It was one of those great classes where there were under 20 of us and we sat in a circle and had real conversation every time we met.  My professor was a very old man, decorated with degrees and tenure.  He was great!  For the first class, he brought his wife, and I thought, "Aw, that's cute."  But, he explained that she was also a sociologist and that while he was the official professor, there would be two of them teaching us.  And she came to every class.  Not only did we as students debate things, but we saw this old couple debate items of sociology between themselves.  And then we'd see them finish each other's sentences and call each other pet names.  It was great; they were equals and they sharpened each other in real ways, not just theoretically.

The first glimpse I had into the inner workings of someone's Christian marriage that was like this was probably J and MB Miller.  I remember my time at GMS with them, living just down the hall from them and their two small boys, and seeing how they worked well together, listened to one another, helping each other in unique ways.  That was the first time my eyes were opened to a marriage that is "to the full" (John 10:10). With my deepening involvement with Navs, I began to see more of these types of marriages.  I saw couples in which the man and woman were equals: helping each other, loving each other, critiquing each other.  I saw couples in which the woman would know exactly what the man was going to say and vice versa.

Working with Josh, I have experienced this type of teammate marriage, and it is amazing.  Part of the unknown for us right now is how to continue this in our new phase of life.  Josh will be starting a very intense program.  I will not be learning what he learns, or at least all of it.  I'm sure I'll get glimpses as I am around him and his friends.  But things are about to change.

I want to fight for this teammate aspect of our marriage though.  He is better when I am his true help.  And I am better when he is my true help.  It's great to have someone who is your equal to debate with, process with, and give you feedback on relationships, work, and how you spend your time and money.  Of course, it sucks sometimes in healthy, sin-killing ways, but I wouldn't change this give and take for anything.

The reason I'm thinking about this is that I've been writing about Erik Erikson for my freelance assignment, and in so doing have discovered that he seemed to have a marriage like this.  His wife Joan seemed to be his primary editor, critiquer, inspirer, and cheerleader.  After he died, she gave an interview explaining why she had proposed a revision to his famous theory on human development.  In the interview, it is clear that she was not only his wife, but also his teammate in his work. They both contributed to the work only he got formal credit for. Her revision to his work hasn't received nearly as much attention as it probably would have received if he has published it before he died.  But I can tell that his thoughts and her thoughts were so woven together on the subject that by the time they were 90 they probably didn't even know who came up with what theories originally.

All of this to say, I like my husband.  I like the way we work together.  And we'll have to find a new way of doing this.  But you better believe that the work he does is a result of our working together (at least when I have time).  I will be his main editor, critic, study buddy, and more.  And it is a role and a high calling that I love and hope to do as long as I am able.
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