the g-string

In the late summer of 2012, a few months before Ryan left for a tour in Afghanistan, he bought a guitar. He’d had some musical experience growing up. He took piano for a few years and knew some basic reading of music, but for the most part, I can say that he has taught himself to play the guitar.

I distinctly remember all of the hours he spent listening to YouTube videos, practicing chords and getting his fingers and hands broken in to the positions and fingering of playing guitar. We had more than a few jokes about the man’s voice online that kept telling Ryan to put his fingers on his G-string. Yes. We are thirteen.

Ryan put in hours and hours of time practicing. He learned some basic songs and played them over and over. He began to print off chords for more difficult songs as he mastered the basics. Also, if I never hear Wildwood Flower again it will be too soon. In his spare time after work, in the evenings and on weekends, Ryan would pick up his guitar and strum to his heart’s content. By the time he deployed, Ryan had acquired the skills to be competent enough to play in his own chapel services at Camp Nathan Smith.

By the time he returned back home in the early fall of 2013, he had grown even more proficient. Playing his guitar proved to be one of the activities that helped to pass the lonely hours of deployment. The first morning Ryan woke up back in our house, he picked up his guitar to showcase some of his new repertoire. Johnny Cash, Dwight Yoakam, old hymns, and classic rock all filled the house.

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For the past few months, Ryan has been not just playing guitar in our chapel service, he has been LEADING WORSHIP. No one is more blown away by this than me. After all, didn’t he just get a guitar a few years ago? Don’t worship leaders have lifetimes of experience and expertise? How did we (Ryan) get here?

*****

This isn’t really a story about G-strings or guitars per se. This is a tale of marriage as it’s told through the lens of process and progress. It’s a brief history of how two people can both be driven to learn new things and how each of them can take a completely different approach and still find success.

When we know our God-given gifts and callings, it’s much easier to operate in them fruitfully. What I have noticed in the context of marriage is that too often I want Ryan to think and operate like I do. Subconsciously, I think he expects the same from me. His gifts and strengths are far different from mine and vice versa.

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Marriage isn’t about addressing life the exact same way; it’s about being in tune (see what I did there?) with what works for each of you. It’s about honoring the passages and pathways of the individual as a means of arriving to a similar target. Different roads; same destination. Different objectives; same purpose.

*****

I over-utilize calendars, lists, chalkboards, paper, planners.

Ryan uses the steel trap he calls his mind.

I make a plan for everything, insist on having a back up plan. Need to know every detail and possible outcome.

Ryan goes with the flow, allows things to happen as they will.

I tend to think things over, imagine all possible scenarios. Worry about what-ifs.

Ryan thinks things over. Realizes what is and isn’t within his control. Says it is what it is.

I put rules and regulations on myself. I am regimented and inflexible.

Ryan has gentle, guiding boundaries. He is focused and fluid. 

I talk about every single emotion and feeling that I am feeling related to everything.

Ryan processes mentally and internally. He rarely needs to #talkitout

I give myself deadlines and often set up unreasonable expectations for everything.

Ryan works for progress. Doesn’t give up and has sensible assumptions.

*****

Are you noticing a pattern here?

The truth of the matter is whether it’s learning the guitar, writing, parenting, planning a vacation or tackling our next PCS move, Ryan and I approach everything differently. Just because our approach varies, or we utilize different strengths does NOT mean that we don’t want the same things or have the same intentions or mission. Neither of us has this figured out. Neither of us has the corner the “right” way of doing things.

I all-too-easily forget that Ryan and I are on the same team.

We are both first-born, natural leaders; both driven-achievers. We are both always right. Want to be in the driver’s seat. Both chiefs. Both know-it-all. You can see how this might present a problem, of course. I forget that we share the same dreams, beliefs, hopes and end-game. I forget because we each approach life so very differently.

I have loved witnessing Ryan successfully learn to play an instrument by leveraging his gifts and strengths and using them to approach the guitar. He found success by staying the course. He found a favorable outcome with practice, determination and daily courage to pick the strings, strum the chords and make the music.

Marriage isn’t about being addressing life the exact same way; it’s about being in tune with what works for each of you. It’s about honoring the passages and pathways of the individual as a means of arriving to a similar target. Different roads; same destination. Different objectives; same purpose.

Successful marriage is a lot like learning to play an instrument. Making our marriage work requires the same amount of practice, determination and courage. After all, team work makes the dream work! I pray that we would both recognize God’s truth.

“And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” {Ecclesiastes 4:12}

Having our marriage grounded in Christ means that instead of two cords or strands, we have a third (God) which makes us stronger together and makes us more unbreakable.

*****

“What greater thing is there for two human souls
than to feel that they are joined together to strengthen each other
in all labour, to minister to each other in all sorrow,
to share with each other in all gladness,
to be one with each other in the silent unspoken memories?”

{George Eliot, “To Be One With Each Other”}

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