I was reminded last week of some commitments I made last December to write about marriage more this year (after being fearful of writing about it in 2015). I'm glad to reflect and see that God released some of that fear in me. He grows us incrementally, doesn't He? Without us even noticing it or even feeling it. I feel less proficient at everything else in my life this December than I did last December, but one thing I know for sure: I did write more about my marriage, the struggles, the wins, the sadness, the loss, the glory, in 2016. I have always been grateful for the existence of Sayable, if for no other reason than it reminds me year after year after year: we are being transformed, being built together, being made into a dwelling place of the Holy Spirit, and the Spirit leaves nothing untouched.
This year, as I gathered our regular New Year Questions, as well as a list of ten questions for husbands to ask their wives and wives to ask their husbands, I recalled writing an article for Christianity Today a few years ago called, Dating by Q & A. The premise of the article is too often, in an attempt to not waste our time or heart's affection, we treat dating like a job interview, checking off boxes and deciding to move forward or stop, without ever really knowing the person at all. I tried to make the case that a good marriage is built on true friendship, and true friendship only comes through open-handed relationships—the sort where there are no expectations, just delight at finding so much in common.
I remembered my first few conversations with Nate: first, briefly in our church foyer, then more at his home while he and I washed dishes, next around another table with some of our closest friends, and then across from one another at our coffee shop, and then, finally, a four hour first date. All of these conversations flourished around a central theme: we asked questions, copious amounts of them. From the start, in the foyer, it was "How was your trip home to New York?" and "How was your trip with the guys to Colorado?" Then it moved on to conversations about specific work we were doing at our church, or upcoming trips. Soon it sparked a conversation about pacifism, which led to hearing his testimony, the heartbreak of his marriage and the ways the Lord redeemed and grew him, and then on and on until one day, we couldn't stop talking to one another. Soon engagement, and then our pre-marital counseling meetings (and the book we walked through) with our mentors and dearest friends at The Village. These all centered around questions we had to think and talk through.
It still takes me by surprise when after days and days of feeling bottled up, stuck, in a rut, fearful of the unknown, fearful of Nate's response to something or my unbridled emotions (both expressions of sin crouching at our door), the dam breaks with the simple act of asking a question.
"When would you like to talk about the article you sent me?"
"What was hard for you today?"
"What did you think about today?"
"When are we going to talk about this decision you made or thing you said?"
Being asked a question can feel violating, but only if we let it. I phrased it that way on purpose because as much as we like to believe we absolutely know the intention behind the question being asked, we cannot know for sure. We can only know what our response to it will be. So if we feel violated by the question, that is more on us than on the asker. This goes for small talk in a church foyer or a conversation between friends or acquaintances, and it also goes for conversations between spouses—where a simple question can release a dam of emotions.
I'm really grateful, at the close of 2016, for all the things I've learned this year and the ways in which our marriage has grown and been sanctified. And I'm also really struck by how little we ask questions of one another and how much conflict rose because of the lack. We talk as much as we have time, for sure, and time has not really been a given for us this year. I want to be a good question asker of my husband, at the very least as good as he is to me. I want to do that because it is an act of humility, an act of love, and a communicable characteristic of God.
Asking questions helps us to see a person as a person, a sinner, a human, and a friend, instead of just someone who can meet our needs or expectations.
Asking questions is an act of love, helping us to unmask sin, unearth regrets, and providing an opportunity to minister grace.
Asking questions provides an opportunity to ask for, give, or receive forgiveness.
Asking questions provides clarity to assumptions, unknowns, and areas of fear.
God, in 2017, in every area of our lives, make us good question askers and patient answerers.
If you're curious, here is the list of questions I ask myself every New Year's Day. And here is the list of questions I refer to above.