The Three-Letter Word that Undergirds Gospel Living

Loving across our differences requires the power of paradox.

“You and Ryan seemed tired Friday,” my friend Janey said when she saw me at church. “Everything okay?” We had been to their house for a Christmas party two days earlier.

“Oh, we weren’t tired,” I said, laughing. “We were fighting.” The sky had been falling in thick flakes that Friday, the city roads a congested crawl under a whitened sky. A few more stolen moments in the car alone had afforded us just enough time for an argument.

“When are you taking your vacation days?” I had asked Ryan a few days earlier. It wasn’t exactly his answer that I had been brooding about for days and finally took up on the way to Janey’s. He did, in fact, plan to catch up while the office was quiet over the Christmas holidays. Instead, it was more that he hadn’t asked me the same question, carelessly presuming that I had no pressing deadlines.

In the middle years of our marriage, we have often encountered this recurrent place of tension—how to share domestic responsibility and how to support each others’ professional ambitions. It’s a lot of muddled, messy work, trying to figure out whose needs are being met and whose are not, especially when you try doing it on the way to a dinner party.

Marriage is often held up as a model of Christian sacrifice—and of course, there’s truth in that. In Christian marriage, we choose to love, serve, and submit to one another, even on the days that wring us out bone-tired. But Christian marriage isn’t built on mute self-sacrifice alone. Our wedding vows don’t simply bind us to politeness; they also bind us to courage. In the midst of this tension, we find deep virtue in one little word: and. …

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