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Monday, July 14, 2014

What was God thinking?


My parents Leon and Nadine Crooks, more than 65 years of communicating!

Notice the title does not specify WHICH sex is the opposite sex.  There is purpose in that.  I remember doing a sermon a few years back in which I pointed out that if only men were involved, then the names of colors at the paint store would be things like:  brown, tan, red, light red, dark red, orangish.  There wouldn’t be any color swatches named ocean breeze, summer sunset, dusty tangerine.  There would also be no such things as potpourri or those fancy scented warming oil lamps.  On the other hand, if only women were involved, probably there would not have been any of the careers that involved really dirty jobs like grease monkeys, and there might not be explosives invented for any purpose at all, and vast unexplored territories might still be unexplored as they chose to stay in their current village to strengthen their relationship bonds. 

Though there has been much emphasis in past decades about equality between the sexes (which is an important issue), those who have tried to advocate that there is no real difference between the genders are deluded.  Do you remember reading in recent years about the psychological studies in which they thought they would prove that gender differences are based on nurture, only to be frustrated to find little boys bored with dolls and little girls walking past things like toy monsters and toy machines to get to their dolls?  As well as being equally frustrated by the fact that toddler girls made vocalizations that were primarily words while the sounds coming from the boys were more like the vroom of cars or other non-word type of noises.  In the same time frame, there were brain analysts who determined that the left hemisphere of the brain is more intimately connected with the right hemisphere in women than it is in men.  So, it turns out we have BOTH potpourri and grease monkeys. 

I especially appreciate the insights from the book, Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, in which the author, John Gray describes particularly the communication gap that exists because men speak “Martian” and women speak “Venusian.”  It is similar to the theme of Deborah Tannen’s books about communication between the sexes.  I wonder if anybody has ever done a study on the cause of divorce in terms not only of the apparent problem, but in terms of the fact that the sexes comprehend, speak about and respond to the problems differently.  That is, there are times it is easier for me to talk through a challenge I face with another man, because he thinks the same way I do and innately understands what it is I am trying to accomplish.  To have the same conversation with a woman…even a woman as close as my wife…may require some additional translations that change and slow the process of communication.  One of the ways I have seen this is that sometimes a woman will say things in terminology that also addresses how the hearer might be feeling or responding, and so the communication can be so subtle and indirect that a man might completely miss the point.  (Not that I would ever misunderstand like that….)  Or, when a man says things, he may put the information out there so plainly, that a woman may wonder what he ISN'T saying, or what he REALLY means, not realizing that he actually DID say what it was he actually meant!  It can get very complicated.  Not always.  But plenty of times it does…I have seen it time and again in my office with couples I have tried to help.

Anyway, people talk about these kind of things in lots of studies, books, articles, magazines, television and radio programs.  But I don’t know that I have ever heard anybody really ask the question as to WHY things were designed this way.  That is, could there be a purpose in the difference?  Is there something unique that happens when the two genders come together in a committed relationship that enriches each of them?  Rather than allowing these differences to frustrate us, what if we chose to realize that they are trying to teach us something, to bring into our being something that would not be there without our relationship. 

There is an old story about the Hebrew words for man and woman from Genesis 2:23.  It is that the words in Hebrew for man and woman,  contain two letters in common, and one letter each that is unique.  The two letters in common form the word “fire,” indicating when one gender alone is present, fire is the result.  But combining the unique letter from each of the two words produces an abbreviation for the divine name of God, suggesting that when united together, man and woman touch something divine.  Maybe kind of silly, but I think there is a kernel of truth in it.  I know that my life has been greatly enriched by my wife and the other women, I have as friends, who see the world differently than I do and who have taught me things I would never have known apart from them.  And I would argue that I bring something enriching into the life of my wife, and the lives of my female friends, just as they do to me. 

It seems to me that all too often we miss some important things in life when we get frustrated or angry that the opposite gender doesn’t make sense, doesn’t act in ways we would act, doesn’t think the way we would think or doesn’t care about the same things we care about…whichever gender the opposite gender is for you.  I learned a long time ago, that I cannot be an expert in everything.  Therefore, if I am doing a project around the house or at work, I have learned it is wise to tap into the resource of the knowledge other people have. Taxes is a good example.  I hate figuring taxes.  So every year I make sure there is someone who understands and likes working on taxes who will come to my aid.  It is just smart to have that other perspective and expertise involved with my taxes. 

I think God designed the genders and marriage the same way.  When the Genesis story describes the formation of the woman, the conclusion is that she is a “helper suitable,” but which could also be translated as a “corresponding helper.”  Kind of a complementary or symbiotic sort of relationship is established.  And the idea is that each of us can be more than we are by ourselves when we allow someone from another planet (whether Venus or Mars) to join us in building something called a home and marriage.

Sometimes I wonder if our relationships would be a little easier if we quit assuming the other person should think/feel/respond/experience life the same way we do, and instead become investigators who try to understand what it would be like to see the world through the eyes of the opposite sex.  Or if it would be easier if we quit trying to decide which way of thinking/feeling/responding/experiencing life is better or right, and simply acknowledge the differences as each valid, and each bringing something different into the equation.  There might be a lot fewer misunderstandings and frustrations if we lay aside the expectations and simply assumed that there is much to learn from our spouse, if we are open minded enough to be willing to grow and learn from him or her.  I think God has intentionally provided a person to enrich our lives and understanding, to help us see the things we would not otherwise see, to teach us to value different things than we might otherwise value, and that if we refuse to learn from one another, we are creating the fire instead of touching the divine.  And it is in those fiery storms that many a divorce is born. 

I close with a simple comment:  if you have a member of the opposite sex who loves you as your husband or wife, then you have the wonderful gift of a treasure trove of riches God will bring to your life.  Don’t ever neglect or minimize the preciousness of the gift.  

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