“Speaking the truth in love, we will grow to BECOME in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.” Ephesians 4:15
“I like this Nutmeg Shell because it speaks to me of truth in love. said our son, Cole, at age 12. Granted, this conversation was happening because, at the time, we were engaged in a homeschool study of phenomenology – which is the practice and study of assigning words to wonders in creation. That was Cole’s response to the question, “Which of these seashells are you most drawn to, and how can its design inform your life?”
Trying to hide my delight that he had just unknowingly assigned to it the words from Ephesians 4:15, I nonchalantly inquired as to why it speaks of “truth in love” to him. He picked the shell up and pointed out the perfection in its graph-like etchings. He continued by saying, “Graph paper reminds me of math, and math is truth. Math isn’t subjective, it’s predictable and absolute. It’s packaging isn’t rigid though. It’s open, and gentle, and pretty; and this speaks to me about love.”
With the words “Truth in love” now assigned to this image, so many things in life suddenly made more sense. My marriage for one thing. My eyes began to open more widely to the way that order and whimsy can both be good, particularly when packaged together. And that what is concrete and sequential doesn’t have to be rigid when presented in an open, gentle, and beautiful way. I could see this truth in the seashell, and I began to increasingly find it in countless places in nature and in human relationships. I began to embrace a number of seemingly opposing forces as being far better when integrated together.
So why does this matter? It matters because according to Ephesians 4:15, “Speaking the truth in love,” is the key to how we “We will grow to BECOME in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.” This is the point of this life – to mature and grow up personally and in relationship, so that we will together BECOME one and represent the Lord better.
Scott and I often jest about our differences in parenting saying that I’m Truth and he’s Love, and that only together are we “Truth in love.” Conflicts have been known to arise in our home when he’s in Mr. Dance Party mode and I’m in Mrs. Get the Work Done mode. I also have a tendency to address wrongs and injustices quickly and to say what’s on my mind in order to “get to the heart of the matter.” Scott, in settings of conflict, usually leans towards covering over and waiting things out in hopes that they change on their own.
But quite honestly, we don’t always fall into these particular camps. The reverse can also be said of us. He often personifies the measured “math-like” kind of truth, and I the more welcoming and open role of “Love.” I suppose deep down we are both just seeking balance – in parenting, in marriage, in work, in external relationships, and particularly when in disagreements.
One of our most consistent conflicts in marriage has been around my desire to indiscriminately gather people – many and often; and to always want to experience more of life, spontaneously and on a grand scale. But Scott is naturally more introverted and intentional in relationships – going deeper with a few. He prefers consistency and pattern and is given more to preparation on the front end and processing on the back.
My own father is full of life and energy, my mother of order and gentleness. They make a beautiful couple and their ways made for a balanced home. But they have spent their life together learning to BECOME more integrated. Personality wise, I am more naturally like my father – an energetic gatherer of people. Growing up, the question was never, “Who should we invite?” Or, “How many people can we accommodate?” It was more like “Who wants to come along? The more the merrier.” Basically, if you’re a human, you belonged! Both mom and dad instilled a sense of the divine beauty written, by the hand of God, into the fabric of every human being, regardless of age, color, creed, status, talents, giftings, experiences, or personality. And out of the members of our family, I probably possess the strongest measure of this paternal “anointing” to ASSEMBLE.
My mom talks about how in my youth, she found me crying over the fact that “There are just too many people in the world, and I’ll never get to meet them all.” She knew she didn’t feel the same way about humanity, and pegged me early on as being wired differently. Mom was a teacher and a chaplain, and she felt it was important to teach me about the different personalities types before I headed off to college. She did this using both the enneagram and the Myers-Briggs systems. It was helpful. But it proved even more important in the working world and in marriage.
Fortunately, Scott came into our marriage with a similar understanding, having learned about the different personalities through the Socrates model of sanguine, melancholy, choleric, and phlegmatic. Having these understandings of human personalities and how we differ in life-motivation, conflict resolution, and in our general God-given wiring was indeed helpful. But knowing the differences wasn’t enough. It was the daily and sometimes painful practice of having to integrate these differing views and motivations in real life situations that proved the steeper hill to climb. And climbing this hill became increasingly important after the children came and integrating perspectives became an even more difficult endeavor. We each have our ways and truths; but it is in presenting our different “truths in love,” and in possessing enough humility to realize that no one has the whole truth, that we could resolve conflict and continue to build up our children in an environment of peace, joy, and purpose. Willing to hear a differing view is one thing, but actively seeking out the wisdom in the opposing view is the much harder and much higher thing.
My desire to gather people was indeed God-given. And although it came from a good place, God knew it needed much refining. My marriage has been that refiner’s fire. Being married nearly 19 years now to someone who is naturally more introverted and more intentional than me, I’ve come to see how “my way” is not necessarily the right way. I realize that my impetuous nature has, at times, overwhelmed others, threatened roles in established groups, and even hindered productivity in work and service. People create better when they know they are seen, heard, understood, valued and well-placed in a group setting based on their interests, gifts, and proven abilities. Scott often warns me when entering a new “gathering process” to be careful with my ways and, “Not to mix too much and too many too fast,” especially without planning head and taking time to listen.
Scott has always assured me that he loves my open and welcoming heart. He says it was one of the things that first drew him to me. And I love the order that he brings to my life, our home and to any group. He has great discernment in group dynamics. Truth needs love, and love needs truth. I have heard it said that, “Love without truth is a lie; and truth without love is a dictatorship.”
I worked for several years on Capitol Hill, and in that time, I experienced a whole lot of both. But rarely were they presented together as equally important. Usually when the heat is up in that place, it is easy to find the opposing sides justifying their positions based on only half of this “way of God.” It is somewhere in the integration of opposing thoughts, even and especially in a place like that, and a willingness to truly hear the other, seek the common ground, cross out our egos, and find compromise wherever possible that we will finally come to the holy place where love and truth meet together. This is the place where God dwells; because He is the essence of “Truth in Love!” If we truly want to know the heart of God, we must seek the measure of what we lack that is found in the wisdom of others. It is so often ego that keeps us from admitting there is truth or there is love in what the other person is saying. Or that something might be lacking in my opinion and presentation, at least in measure.
Make no mistake, gathering harmoniously for the purpose of work and service to find the common good is no easy task! Not on Capitol Hill, and not in marriage. But if we will try, blessings will follow; and we will grow up at last! My marriage is a constant reminder to me of the importance of assembling well. Marriage can be a wonderful practice for seeing how we truly are BECOMING mature. The harmony of our mini-assemblies, such as marriage, or with siblings, co-workers, parents, or children can be a very good indicator of how harmoniously we are truly able to integrate well into a larger assembly.
In recent times, when Scott is seeking to “simmer me down,” he will begin by speaking loving and affirming words before his course correcting truth is presented. Perhaps I should already know the positive things he thinks about me. But it seems that in a disagreement, we all too often forget the most important things, like our love and respect for one another. This is similar to how we forget God’s proven love for us when facing new trials. Speaking the loving thing first helps us to remember the good and to hear the rest of what is being said. Scott’s most recent course correction began with the words, “Kerry, I know you see everyone like a beautiful flower in God’s garden, and I know how you love people, but….” and then he continued about how to proceed wisely in gathering. And I was able to hear and receive his wise words. May the environment we foster be one of “speaking the truth in love” so that we can grow up into Christ, who is the head of the greatest assembly.