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Tortoise and Hare

Was I too fast or was he too slow?

During our engagement, I remember gushing to an older married couple that ours would be an idyllic marriage because, "Jeremy and I are so similar!"

They smiled at each other, and the husband said, "You have plenty of time to discover your differences."

At the time, I wondered where those distinctions might lurk. In a preference for 1 percent milk, perhaps, or an expensive commitment to recycled paper towels? Surely any inconsistencies in habit or taste would be smoothed over by our harmonious personalities and identical perspective on life.

Now, after two years of marriage, we've caught on to the fact that our most challenging difference is rooted in the rhythms of our lives: I sprint, while Jeremy saunters.

If I'd been awake to these things, I would have noticed the sharp contrast between my husband's stride and mine long before our engagement. For one thing, it took Jeremy three years of friendship to decide he wanted to date me, whereas I was convinced after a few months that we'd be married.

After marriage, our tempos showed up in the kitchen. Jeremy can't stand to watch my blitzkrieg approach to cuisine, which involves using every dish in the house and usually results in food that's still hard, raw, or frozen in the middle. For my part, I've not learned to hold my tongue when I see Jeremy methodically washing and putting away each kitchen tool while his meal simmers into mushy oblivion.

I tend to make decisions in a heartbeat, speak before I think, and multi-task with the best of them, while Jeremy thinks (and thinks, and thinks!) before deciding anything, speaks with care, and spends hours just being with people, no "to-do" list in sight.

While these distinctions were imperceptible to us as lovestruck spouses-to-be, they'd blistered into major frustrations by our first anniversary. To celebrate that anniversary, we spent 10 days hiking the 96-mile Wonderland Trail around Mt. Rainier. Day two of our trip brought 7.4 miles of irritation. It began when I complained about Jeremy's laborious obsession with cleansing each speck of dirt from our tent before repacking it.

"This tent has to be clean before we repack it!" Jeremy said. "Can't you see that doing things carefully is better than going too fast and messing up? It's not just a 'different way of doing things'—it makes life go the way it's supposed to!"

"I think it's better to move quickly so you can actually get something done," I retorted.

For miles, we attempted to convince each other that our individual pace was the most sensible. Our conversation was significant not just because it was an argument, but because it was so value-laden. Neither of us wanted to admit that the other person's style might be okay, no matter how different from our own. It's not surprising the day's discussion ended at an impasse: we both knew the other person wasn't going to change, but we couldn't help wishing they would.

By the end of the trip, however, after Jeremy had slowly guided us across a rushing river where the bridge had been knocked out, and after I had reacted quickly enough to snap a photo of a bear as it lumbered through the woods, we began to see the value of being different. As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 12:4, "There are different kinds of gifts." And marriage is like that 10-day hike: over time, both of us use each aspect of our divinely-crafted personalities for the good of the team.

This year, our anniversary "trip" is a more permanent one: we're moving from Seattle to Princeton, New Jersey. In making the decision to go to graduate school, Jeremy slowly and carefully put in the consideration such a move deserves. And Jeremy knows my quick, task-oriented nature will be an asset as we get our things packed into boxes and onto the moving van. Together, we form a partnership that's stronger because of our differences. And that's just the way God intended marriage to be.

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

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