Beware the Marriage Trade

Today is a big day at the Kelley house. Today is the day when Mommy comes home.

Jana has been visiting friends and family in Texas for the last 4 days and, granted, that’s not a really long time, except by Dad standards. I want to clarify this, too – I haven’t been going at things alone; my parents were gracious enough to come for the weekend and stay with our kids while I went to the office. But yesterday the kids started to his a little bit of an emotional point, one that trips to McDonald’s and extra cartoons couldn’t really pacify. They knew their mom was gone.

I did too. When mom is gone, there’s only one person to get up in the middle of the night when a kid is crying. There’s only one person to fix the meals (or drive to the restaurant, if we’re being totally honest). Only one to read the books, one to color, and one to set up the army men.

So needles to say, we are glad to have her home. But in truth, one of the reasons I’m glad she’s home is also a danger that must be guarded against. I’m talking about…

The Marriage Trade.

Here’s how it works. I think to myself, I sure am glad my wife is back. Come to think of it, I’ve kind of been pulling double duty for the last several days. Now it’s her turn. I’m going to cash in some of the good will I’ve earned. After all, I told her to go out of the goodness of my heart, so now I deserve a day off. She can wash the dishes tonight. She can do bedtime by herself. She owes me.

It sounds particularly biting when you say it like that, doesn’t it?

She owes me.

But often in marriage, this is how we function. She owes me a trip to the movies because I stayed with the kids while she went to coffee. He owes me a dinner with my friends because he was gone on a business trip. Goods and services, cash and carry. And in the end, we cease to be one flesh and start to be little more than consumers.

Beware, I say to myself today. Beware the marriage trade. I must say it to myself again and again lest I unwittingly set up a relational environment based on equity as if you are service providers for one another. And yet the temptation is so very strong.

Thank God grace doesn’t work like this. Thank God Jesus doesn’t take a consumeristic approach to His brothers and sisters. Thank God I don’t have to pay back the cross. Is it any wonder, when Paul exhorted the married Ephesians, that he held up Jesus’ treatment of the church as an example? Jesus, who gives freely and sacrificially? Jesus, whose grace is true grace, not some kind of bartered favor?

So welcome home, Jana. Just so you know, I’m going to try really hard to do bedtime for the kids by myself tonight. But probably you’ll end up helping me anyway.

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