What really set the little piggy’s brick home apart from the others – was it the bricks?
Or was it the mortar?
I think this question touches on the real reason why I’m trying to go through this whole exercise of blog writing – I think I’ve been pretty ok over the years at working on the ‘visible building materials’ – the straw, bricks and wood – these materials are all different in quality, but produce a similar result on their own… A substandard home…
What are these in my example? I guess I mean the visible gestures, the birthday presents (just about?), Christmas when it comes around, and all the things I probably have to do in between, plus a bit more when I’m feeling committed – but essentially, ‘keeping up appearances’, keeping her happy, ticking the boxes…
As far as I’m concerned, we have a ‘decent’ marriage – we communicate, we give each other time, we fight, we forgive… But as I wrote here, something still isn’t quite there yet.. I’ve been wracking my brains over the last couple of weeks about how to describe it, or what I can do to ‘fix’ it. (Because that’s what us guys do best, right? Spanner, hammer, saw – it’ll be better, surely? And if I’m not too handy, I’ll call my handyman, give him a few bucks and job done…)
What I’m beginning to see is that to have a truly healthy marriage, it’s like building something that will last. All of the ‘visible gestures’, these are like the building materials – they’re essential – they’re what our joint memories are made of – the happy times, the moments, the dates, the holidays, the gifts – the things we hang on our walls. Sometimes I might do something simple, like straw, sometimes I might splash out on a few bricks…
But have you ever wondered what set this little piggy’s house apart? How did it stand up against the might of the wolf?
You guessed it…
He used cement.
Take a look at this English country garden wall:
Take this beautiful English country wall, for example – it looks beautiful, but try to put any pressure on it, try to put a roof on it… And it will fall apart.
What about our marriages? I’m pretty sure our marriages are meant to provide ‘shelter & cover’ for each other, for our families, for those that come into our homes, for our community. But a marriage built without mortar will struggle to stand the test of time & pressure.
So what is the mortar?
Good question. Why do you think I’m on this journey? I don’t have the answer fully… yet.
I’m sure there is much more that can be said, but what I am learning at the moment is that all of the ‘less visible’ communication that goes into our marriage creates a picture. The way I talk to my wife, the way that I treat her in front of the kids, the way that I support her choices, her decisions… The way that I stand up for her in front of our friends (and even my family?).
How do I look at her when she comes in with the shopping? Do I say thanks for a job well done or jump straight to the bill to see if she’s overspent?
Whose side do I take (even if I disagree with how she’s gone about doing something?).
What about the little things? The thank you’s, taking time to actually kiss her goodbye before she leaves the house for the day? The coffee in bed, the flowers for no reason? What about serving without pulling a face? Or helping with the jobs that somehow have become hers for some reason?
This picture, even though it is not always communicated explicitly weaves its way between every single visible gesture, and feeds the bigger picture. She may not be able to put her figure on why, but if we take the time to do this well, one day she will know without question, whatever storm may come:
“I am loved. I am valued. I am honored. I am appreciated. I am respected. I am safe.”
There have been days of my life when I have given a grand gesture and undermined it entirely with every single other bit of communication – this is like laying the most precious stone into the brickwork of your home and cementing it in with acid!
And this is something that takes time – if you (like me) haven’t started very far down this path, it can’t be fixed overnight. It can’t even be subcontracted to a handyman. There needs to be mortar between every single brick in a wall. It needs to be even & consistent.
So here I stand, before a challenge, to get mix cement!
I once told a dear family member on the day of his wedding: ‘God has called you to build a home for your wife and for your family – make sure you build it well.’
I knew back then what I thought the picture should look like. I guess now I feel I’m learning what skills it takes to get the job done excellently.
Am I happy with building a shack that can barely protect us against English drizzle? Or will I actually take the time to invest in crafting a shelter that can open its doors to my piggy brothers when the wolf comes blowing, or even my community when it gets really stormy?
I guess I know what my answer is. But turning that into day to day life is probably something else altogether.
If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward.
1 Cor 3:12-14