By Elaine Pratt
Jenga offers insight into the construction of a marriage, either robust or floundering.
Indeed, if marital health could be gauged via viewing its Jenga block status, a strong union would have most blocks firmly holding up a solid tower. A struggling marriage would show a meager number of blocks teetering on collapse. Sadly, marriages do topple. And the wreckage can be like that of a strewn-across-the-table set of Jenga blocks whose loud crash leaves lives and families shattered.
No couple on their wedding day imagines this ending, of course. How can we be vigilant, then, in making sure our marriage is solidly constructed, so that it flourishes?
One marital block, when removed, is noteworthy, as it serves as a kind of caution and warning beacon very early in the game. This block alone (when removed) is never the sole cause of a marriage’s topple. But no broken marriage still has this block intact.
Said another way: Though the removal of this vital aspect will never cause immediate doom, its absence weakens a marriage, causing stress which makes it vulnerable. It’s dismissal should raise concern.
What is this? It’s simple but significant: kindness.
To switch analogies, kindness is the lubricant that allows all the gears of a marriage to keep working together. Though it may seem like a small thing, the absence of kindness can clog the daily grind. Normal differences, disagreements, and even conflict, sans kindness, can gum the relationship up, causing communication, patience, selflessness all to be more difficult. Emotional distance is easier to accept as normal, and as we lean away from the other we can grow accustomed to independence instead of interdependence.
Kindness shines the light on and sprays the WD-40 into this situation. It makes the heavy-lifting in marriage (like offenses, hot emotions, hurt, and trials) easier. It joins husband and wife, beckoning them to lean in to the other.
How does this marital kindness look?
Listening is kindness’ currency
Patience is kindness’ attitude
Not raising my voice is kindness’ rule
Seeking-to-understand is kindness’ motive
Asking about (and being interested in the answer) how another’s day went is kindness’ habit
Putting myself in the other’s shoes is kindness’ strategy
Not using sarcasm is kindness’ humility
Extending mercy instead of criticism is kindness’ discipline
“The Little things” is kindness’ secret weapon.
Civility is kindness’ counterfeit (don’t settle for it)
Kindness is not a social convention put on for those outside my home; it is the communication to my spouse that he/she is my priority and worthy of this most basic of care.
At a theological level, kindness affirms the image of God in the other which is due respect and honor.
At a relational level, kindness raises interaction from the transactional to the personal, from merely conveying information to conveying humanity.
At a sanctification level, it obeys God’s command that says “Be kind one to another…(Eph 4:32)” and lives out God’s definition of love: it is kind (I Cor 13:4).
How is the kindness in your marriage?
Why not get out your game of Jenga and talk about it together as you play?
(*Remember to be kind if you lose, and even kinder if you win.)