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Time Warped

Laurene's Side:

Why Can't I Take My Time?

Ever since I was little, my concept of time has gotten me into trouble. I could spend hours trying on shoes, looking for just the right pair with the right feel that coordinated with my clothes. I could see my parent's growing frustration and hear their exasperation; I simply needed more time to make the choice. Since Mom and Dad were Mr. and Mrs. Punctuality, every family outing found me throwing on clothes as they dragged me out of my room to the car.

When I married Steve, I couldn't ever please him in this area either. He'd ruin a pleasant day of shopping by trying to "help" me. To him successful shopping was measured by spending the shortest time in the store. Although we'd begin with the intention of purchasing pants, inevitably I'd see other items we needed. Why come back another day when I could get all I needed this trip? I needed more time!

Steve served on a church staff making a typical youth pastor's salary. I'd often comparison shop, to receive the best value for our money. Finding the best product at the best price takes time, often requiring me to check several stores before making the final decision. Steve never seemed to appreciate this effort, only thinking of "time wasted," and it was a source of frustration for me.

Steve's Side:

Why Can't She Be on Time?

I was known as "The Phantom" in college because of my ability to get more accomplished than seemed humanly possible. I was always double-tasking—-reviewing Greek vocabulary as I walked to class or praying as I exercised. Life is short. I wanted to redeem each moment for God.

I was attracted to Laurene because of her people focus and spontaneity. But all deadlines were set aside for the priority of her friends on the phone. She was consistently twenty minutes late for our dates. This seemed like a small thing when we were dating and intensely in love.

After the wedding, our different approaches to time challenged our relationship. I'd accomplish a lot at work, pick up the sitter, and be home by 6:00 P.M. for dinner and a movie. When I arrived, I'd find Laurene on the phone or working on a project and she still needed to shower and dress. I'd have to change reservations or find a different movie. To me this was a message that the time with me wasn't important.

I tried to honor her, yet found myself being sharp and unhappy with her on more and more occasions. I felt conscious of hurting others by making them wait and was always asking people to forgive us for our tardiness. I was ticked at my wife. Yet, no matter how much I talked to her about the problem, nothing seemed to change.

What Steve and Laurene Did:

As much as they both tried, Laurene never became Mrs. Punctuality and she couldn't transform Steve into Mr. Laid-back. Instead, they worked around their differences in practical ways. To arrive at church on time, Laurene learned to lay out and iron church clothes on Saturday night, allowing herself plenty of time to make decisions and prepare. Because of Steve's need to be at church on time, they took separate cars to church events. Laurene was willing to do the final preparation of the children by herself. By avoiding that stress, they still liked each other when they worshipped God together.

"I learned to trust God rather than simmer about being late," said Steve. "God wasn't pulling out his hair over Laurene's lateness and he managed to advance his kingdom very well despite our tardiness."

Laurene communicated to Steve how his "help" while shopping frustrated her. Instead of coming along and helping with decisions, Steve learned to keep a book, pen, and notepad in the car, so that whenever Laurene needed to stop at the store, he could sit in the corner to catch up on his ministry reading. If the kids were along, he could spend some quality time with them so that time wasn't wasted. Laurene had time to shop and Steve redeemed the time. Shopping became a win-win situation for everyone.

Steve had to deal with his pride. In his mind, it made them look bad when they were late. "That's a part of what made lateness so irritating. I finally discovered that it really wasn't necessary to be on time or early for every family or church function. In God's economy, perhaps the humility gained by late arrivals was of more value than keeping my 'Phantom' image."

Steve learned not to take her lateness personally. On date nights, she longed for the time with him away from the kids. But the deadline still eluded her. In Laurene's mind, an important occasion required even more preparation.

Steve planned "buffers" before important deadlines. By planning to eat at 6:00 prior to the movie at 7:00, they could still make the movie even if they were an hour late leaving. They could eat a snack on the way to the movie and eat supper afterward.

Though it wasn't always easy, Steve and Laurene learned to care for each others' perspective on time, and worked out a system that worked for both of their personalities and preferences. In the end, they realized that time wasn't as important as understanding and loving each other as best as they could.

Although Laurene died of cancer in 1999, Steve felt that she would want people to know about their relationship and how God helped them to create a godly marriage and family, despite their differences. Her challenge to you would be to work out your differences with your spouse today. Life is short and you never know if today may be your last day together.

If you know a couple with a creative solution to a common marriage problem, let us know. We'll pay $50 for each story that is featured in this column. Send the couple's name, phone number, and a short description of their problem and solution to:

Marriage Partnership
465 Gundersen Drive
Carol Stream, Illinois 60188

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

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