Finding Your True Identity in Marriage

Excerpted from

Not Your Parents' Marriage: Bold Partnership for a New Generation

By

It was Monday, January 13, 2003. We had just finished signing the papers to purchase our new house. For the first time in almost three years, all of our possessions would finally reconvene under one roof, and we were some kind of ready! I (Jerome) pulled the loaded truck into our new drive-way so we could carry hundreds of boxes through our new garage into new rooms in our new house. It all felt very, uh... new.

You've done it, so you know the drill. Your wife unpacks the kitchen; you do the garage. She helps the kids open their boxes while you do the really important stuff like wire up the surround sound. But let's dig a little deeper. Your differences go far beyond which rooms you tackle first. The bigger differences have to do with how... and why.

When we moved, Kellie was amazing. She was a woman on a mission! By Friday almost every box had been opened, every room set up, and-I kid you not-she had pictures on the walls. Of course, I was busy too, but in a different way. In between the required "manly" stuff (hooking up the washer and dryer and rearranging couches), I was picking out shelves to go in our study and directing landscapes where to plant cypress trees in the backyard.

Yes, I'm drawn to technical things like hooking up the CD player to the intercom, and Kellie is drawn to decorative things like bedspreads and curtains. But it's more than that. She wants things done. ..to get them done. I want the same things done ...so I can enjoy the experience they'll bring us. Kellie is more goal oriented while I am more process oriented. She is more practical, and I am more creative.

Our differences pop up at odd times and in odd places: ordering dinner in a restaurant, planning a worship service, going grocery shopping, or counseling another couple. Kellie sees the root issue, discerns the goal, and seizes the moment. I want to relate, understand, and work the ideas. She enjoys beauty but is passionate about function; I value function but am passionate about beauty. She wants to conquer; I want to connect.

But wait a minute. Isn't it usually the man who wants to conquer and the woman who wants to connect? Isn't the husband usually into goals and the wife into process? Do the familiar stereotypes really fit anymore? Can broad categories even come close to accurately describing men and women today? And what about the Bible? Does God's story describe femininity and masculinity in timeless detail, or is there some latitude for individuality and uniqueness among God's creations?

So many questions. So many different answers!

Kellie and I discovered early on that we don't fit neatly into the conventional boxes associated with manhood and womanhood, particularly as taught within traditional church structures.

Another thing we discovered is that the same is true for many of our friends. Apparently, we're not the only oddballs around! It seems that men and women now feel the freedom to express themselves in a greater variety of ways and yet remain deeply biblical.

A third thing we discovered is that much of what has been absorbed into the church's understanding of roles for men and women finds its origin in cultural ideals of the mid-twentieth century rather than in the pages of Scripture. In other words, the evangelical understanding of masculinity and femininity may be more informed by Ward and June Cleaver than by Jesus and Paul. (In case you're not old enough, the Cleavers were the idealized family showcased in the hit television show Leave It to Beaver, which aired from 1957 to 1963-and seemingly forever in syndication.)

In chapter 6 we pointed out the benefits of establishing a partnership that is not shaped by predetermined roles but rather expresses itself in a series of flexible functions within the home, workplace, church, and community. If roles in marriage are not defined biblically but individually, according to each couple as they live together in oneness, then we're left with questions regarding personality types: What is characteristic of men, and what is typical of women? Does the Bible limit males to certain personality profiles and women to others? And how do your personality types shape your partnership?

Building Boxes ... and Breaking Them

Personality profiling is not a new concept. The classic temperaments of sanguine, choleric, melancholy, and phlegmatic have been around for twenty-four hundred years. But the last few decades have seen an explosion of interest in and resources for understanding personality, motivation, and gifting in deeper ways. Each of the handful of personality tests we have taken has given us a different and helpful set of lenses to further perceive the mystery of who God created us to be. The goal isn't to push people into a defining box but rather to describe personality trends and tendencies, affirm people's wiring, and then release them to be who God made them to be!

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