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Truer Test of Love

When it comes to decorating our house, my husband and I have a rule: The one who cares more about the decision gets to choose.

I made up that rule, and for more than 30 years it's worked for me—especially since my husband, Barry, never cared one way or another. However, now that Barry's retired and at home more, he suddenly cares deeply and passionately about things that never interested him before.

I'm not sure I like this new side of Barry!

I started noticing it after our youngest daughter had moved out, and we'd turned her room into an office. I'd replaced the single bed with a daybed, found a drop-leaf table and painted it shiny black, bought a rustic desk with a hutch top, and hung a Lowell Herrero print on the wall. To my mind, this spare room is to be a showcase for my decorating taste—and oh, by the way, also an office.

Barry has completely different ideas about the spare room. To him, it's an office first. Therefore the paper shredder, just because it's an eyesore, shouldn't be relegated to the closet or garage. And the drop-leaf table is the perfect place for his monstrous calendar, piles of receipts, and boxes of paperclips and rubber bands. After all, he says, it's an office.

He also can't understand my choice of warm colors and lots of black. Barry prefers gray everything. Period. (I tell him gray is fine if you're a sweatshirt.) So he growls at my carefully arranged vignettes of black-and-white photos and etched glass vases and vintage books—all a mixture of texture and color on top of the desk hutch. To him, it's unnecessary clutter.

He doesn't think the daybed needs a dozen throw pillows. And although he does like the Lowell Herrero print, he'd like to hang the photo of his old softball team next to it, an idea that makes me shudder.

Then, the other day, Barry asked me to move a metal sculpture of a tree off the table in the entryway. That tree is one of my favorite things in the house—and one of Barry's least favorites. He'd kept catching his T-shirt sleeves on its branches, and he was afraid if he knocked it over, I'd blame him for breaking it on purpose.

But I decided to stand my ground. After all, the tree was a gift from a friend, and everyone (except Barry) loved it exactly where I'd put it. I tried moving it to the top of the bookcase in the living room and then to another table, but the tree looked good only on that half-circle table in the entryway—so I put the sculpture back.

I felt convicted, however, when we looked at paint for the bathroom earlier today. As I gathered samples of willow herb green and chickadee yellow, Barry went for the antique-and off-whites. He believes that if God had intended walls to be willow herb or chickadee, he wouldn't have created antique-white paint. Barry's adamancy about that, too, makes me crazy.

But according to my rule, the one for whom the decision means the most gets to choose. So far it's always been me, but apparently things are changing. Lately that person's been Barry; and, in the grand scheme, what does it matter?

Besides, love doesn't seek its own way, as the apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13:5. Love doesn't demand or whine or make life generally unpleasant. Love doesn't belittle or make fun of another person's tastes, even if they're different. Yet I'm ashamed to admit I've been guilty of all those unlovely characteristics more times than I can count.

It's easy to show grand gestures of love. To say the words, write the poems, stand with another in the storm. But the little things—the petty irritants and odd quirks that get under the skin and fester—are often a truer test of love.

So this afternoon, I put my tree sculpture on the bookcase and took down some of the stuff collecting dust on the desk hutch.

And it felt good—surprisingly, even better than getting my own way.

How have you found joy in putting another's desires above your own?

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

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