The afternoon we first arrived at the Bed and Breakfast on the shores of western Newfoundland, I headed straight for the beach. I didn’t know it was high tide when I saw several meters off shore a couple of large rocks breaking the swells like solitary giants guarding the beachfront.
Our nine-year-old daughter wanted to wade out to those rocks. But I hesitated. I was worried about what danger lurked at the base of those rocks never-mind the strong riptides that usually surge around these things. I just couldn’t see what lay underneath the swells.
Early the next morning as I looked out over the waters of the Gulf of St Lawrence I was taken aback by the ocean floor that was exposed by the low tide.
Those two rocks were now joined at their base by a flat, sandy smooth, debris-free floor. Without the swirling, roiling waters and white caps breaking all around the rocks, I was able to see that these otherwise solitary giants were profoundly and essentially connected at their root, standing united on the same, pristine ground.
Separate and distinct on the surface, yet fundamentally joined and united. Both — being separate AND being connected — are important, when it comes to healthy relationships, especially in marriage.
One thing that has connected you to one another is music. And so a music metaphor may prove useful to placing your marriage in a healthy context. For example, in my appreciation of music I enjoy listening to how dissonant sounds resolve into resonant sounds.
Dissonance happens — at least on the keyboard — when two notes directly beside each other are played at the same time; at first, it doesn’t sound right. The sound those two notes make when played together is not pleasing; it sounds ‘off’. And if a whole musical piece was played like that, I’m not sure I’d be satisfied at all.
Resonance, on the other hand, happens when there is at least a one-note space in between the two notes being played at the same time. Resonance is harmonic and therefore pleasing to the ear.
Two notes, when sounded at the same time, produce something that is greater than the sum of their separate parts. It is a beauty that is greater than us, individually.
If the musical piece, however, was only made up of resonant harmonies, the music would sound cheap, flaky, unreal and superficial. It’s always more pleasing to have those minor, dissonant chords eventually resolve, unfold and fall into the resonant harmonies.
But I can’t fully enjoy the resolutions unless there was the dissonance to begin with. You need both: The sounds that upset the equilibrium, even challenge the sweet desires of the ear, as well as those pleasant harmonies.
If the climax of a piece of music seeks resonance out of dissonance, for me, then, it is not so much who is playing the piece but how the music is played. This we can apply to relationships of love.
Recently a good friend of mine suggested that, in the end, is not so much who we love, but how we love that other person. Do we love the other with grace and forgiveness? Or, do we expect our partner to change, to be more like us, to reflect our opinions and orientations to life?
You see, when we have the courage to love without expectations of the other, when we love with the grace of God that is given to us all, we acknowledge the other as a distinct, separate being. Like those two rocks which on the surface stood apart from one another amidst the swirling waters of the ocean.
In this self-giving love, we allow the other person to be fully who they are. By acknowledging this separateness there will be experiences of dissonance, of conflict and competing desires, to be sure. This is normal, even healthy.
Famous poet, Kahlil Gibran, in his writings about marriage and love entitled, “The Prophet”, sounds this note over and over again — that in honouring our separateness and the ‘space in between us’, we discover what true love is all about.
How we love makes all the difference. Because you know, despite the differences that mark your unique individualities, what is underneath the surface. You know that both of you, though very different in your personalities, stand on a common ground. You are both linked by the ground upon which you stand.
I’ve already hinted at what connects you both — indeed, us all. This ground upon which you stand united is the very grace and love of God that created each of you in the first place. Despite those necessary differences, the other stands with you on the same side of the fence — a fence that doesn’t really exist. By appealing to the ground of your being, especially in times of dissonance, you will, by the grace of God, experience harmony, true joy and resonance.
And, in the end, perhaps give you the courage to seek even a deeper connection with the other, a path you may likely not have undertaken had you not recognized what keeps you united.
When the tide came in and the pounding surf splashed around those two rocks once again, my daughter and I playfully waded out to those rocks and created some precious memories of being together. I was able to relax and take a risk because I knew what was underneath the surface; I knew the ground upon which we stood.
May your marriage make good music! Including some dissonance, but finding those resonant harmonies as well.
I pray that, according to the riches of God’s glory, you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through the Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love — Ephesians 3:16-17