I hate going to the movies, as a general rule. In my mind, there are precious few qualities that redeem an outing to the cinema. You have to wear pants, drive somewhere to be on time to a place where you will be lazy for about 2 and half hours (and I have SO much to do at home); it is more often than not very cold; you have to sit in a room with way too many other people that are chewing; people climb over you because they cannot hold their bladders (get a grip, people…why drink your tub of soda if you know you have to pee in 3 minutes???); it is too expensive; the chairs are never just right; the floor is sticky and dang it if someone doesn’t sit right in front of you and take your footrest and also block your view with their giant head. The crowning insult is in about 2 months the movie will be on Netflix or Amazon, and I could have watched it in my jammies on my couch with a remote control pause button and a bowl of popcorn that cost me 37 cents. Like I said, precious few redeeming qualities.
However, for some inexplicable reason, my husband LOVES going to the movies. We are pretty spendthrift, so we don’t often go, but we do occasionally splurge and I am dragged bodily into my equivalent of the Pit of Hell. I have tried reasoning with him and when that fails, I have been known to gripe and cry and throw toddler-like tantrums , to no avail. To the movies we will go.
Something happened last time we went that struck me to my core and made me realize what a mean, selfish little jerk I can be. All the while I am seething that I am being forced into an over-crowded refrigerator, my husband is attending to me. He never stops thinking of me. And then I feel worse. He cuddles me because I am cold. He sits me in the little sections that are on the side that are only 4 seats wide, so no one will sit next to us and he positions it so no one is in front of us. He holds my hand and kisses my cheek. I realize that he is sharing something he loves with me and he loves just being with me, even when I am grouchy. Yes, he wants to watch the Avengers or The Hobbit or whatever and doesn’t want to wait for it to come out on DVD or online, and he is willing to poke a bear with sticks to get it out of its den to go with him, but he also wants my attention.
It has dawned on me more and more lately that marriage isn’t really “give and take”, but “give and give”. My husband teaches me this every day in little ways. Not that he doesn’t have his faults—he has a hot-blooded Latino temper, he chews ice cream and pudding and just about everything else that doesn’t require teeth and can send me over the edge with his slurping of cereal, he requires quite a bit of motivation to get him going sometimes (lucky for him, he married a Martha), and he is not always exactly Prince Charming, but he is in love with me AND loves me. He has the feeling and the action of love, and it never wanes, despite my prickliness.
I haven’t been married very long, about three years, but I have had plenty of practice relationships that taught me all the things that are wrong and pointed me to things that are right. I also have the benefit of very loving and in love parents that have been married for 33 years and have tons of wisdom to bestow. My parents will administer sage advice when the situation calls for it, but I don’t run to them with my problems. I have learned by watching. I have watched them during their every day interaction: how they look at each other and speak with only eyes, how they smooth things over, how they do little gestures that the other would appreciate, little sacrifices. One would think by watching them that they have mastered the Art of Compromise, but they haven’t. They have mastered the Art of Giving.
Compromise indicates that both parties are giving UP something and neither one is truly happy—and that does NOT sound like a happy marriage. Giving and taking insinuates that at one point one person is just taking and not giving…but for marriage to work, both must be giving something. Not giving in or giving up in the spirit of compromise, but rather giving out of selflessness and love. They sound very similar, but they are not the same. It comes down to perception, which is the key to wash away the negativity associated with “giving up” or “giving in”. You do not “take” a gift, you “receive” it. When both are giving, each is also receiving…but neither is snatching or stealing something that doesn’t belong to them or feeling entitled as if owed the gift.
By going to the movies, I am not acquiescing to my husband’s wishes. I am not “giving up” my free time. I am simply giving him time. Because I love him. Because he needs it—because we both do. In turn, he is also giving me time and shows his appreciation with his sweet gestures. Both are giving and both receiving, and nobody is taking anything.
I work in a big regional office of a large corporation. Every once in a while, The Company feels that they must motivate us with speakers to light a fire under our tails, so that we quit dreading work. I admit, their propaganda usually works on me. I love to listen to motivational speakers. They truly appeal to the Martha in me. Just as Jesus had to gently chide Martha to remind her of her priorities, these motivational speakers usually help fan my flames and renew my zeal. A few months ago, we had this really awesome lady named Pepper come talk to us. I couldn’t have chosen a more perfect name for her, seriously. She was feisty and sassy. She quoted someone, I don’t remember who, saying “Your attitude can change your destiny”. She went on to say the things that most motivational speakers say about how you approach things changes your actions and reactions and therefore the outcomes to situations; she then had us fill in a different word for the word “destiny” to show how your attitude really changes everything. When she came around to me, my word was “perception”. While it is cliché, it is so true that by having a bad attitude, you will have a negative perception and outlook at almost everything.
I went to the movies with a grumpy attitude. I was trying to restrain it for Elmer’s sake, but I was pretty irritated thinking about all the things I disliked about going to the movies. He refused to be put off by my bad attitude and instead approached the situation with his characteristic wide smile and affectionate ways. He changed MY perception with his good attitude and by his giving, which then turned the whole evening around to a pleasant time. More than that, he showed me, and I continue to learn, that by approaching our relationship with a positive, giving frame of mind, we can squash negativity and bad habits. If I instead approach a situation with a loving, giving attitude, I actually receive blessings, but I never expect to receive blessings or let that be my motivation to give. I give to my husband because I love him and want him to be happy. I give to my husband because I want US to be happy. I give to my husband because I made a vow WITH him and with God on our wedding day. Finally, I give to him because Jesus bids me do so because how I treat him (or any of my fellow humans) is how I treat Jesus (Matthew 25:40).
How many more blessings would we receive if we just applied this to all of our relationships, but especially our relationship with God? Jesus warned us from the get-go that following him would be hard and we would meet opposition and danger, but by continuing to love and give, we receive His blessing and an assurance of Heaven.
Of course, mastering the Art of Giving does not mean becoming a doormat or putting up with abuse or toxicity from other people, but it does mean praying for them in spite of their meanness and it also means not letting their animosity squelch your giving spirit towards others in general.
Too often people set the expectation of reciprocity in a relationship. We expect others to give to us because we gave to them. Jesus does not call us to behave in this manner. He does not tell us “do unto others when they have done the same or better unto you” or “do unto others when they deserve it”. He simply tells us to “do unto others as you would have done unto you” and “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 7:12, 22:37, John 13:34-35), thus we are called to give regardless of what we receive.
I still am not fond of the act of “going to the movies”, but I AM quite fond of my husband, and his happiness is dear to my heart, so I constantly pray that Jesus softens my heart to change my perception of how I am actually spending my time and give my love to my husband. The floor is still sticky and people WILL chew loudly, but my heart is focused on his warm hand in mine.