In May 1969, US Command ordered the frontal assault of a heavily fortified hill in Vietnam. They eventually took it, but at a heavy cost – 72 Americans died and 372 were wounded, all to take a hill of little or no strategic value. The fact that they purposely gave the hill up soon thereafter led to nothing short of a public relations disaster, and the beginning of the end of the Vietnam War. Choosing which “hills” are worth dying on isn’t just the realm of top military brass, it’s something we all deal with in every aspect of our lives, especially marriage.
In a slightly less life-threatening scenario, when Easter rolls around every year my wife wants, nay EXPECTS, me to wear a jacket and tie to church (case in point – our blog profile picture was taken a couple of Easters ago – one of the few times a year I wear a suit!). She’s a lady of class who, at times, can be frustrated by my lack thereof. If it were up to me I’d wear shorts, tennis shoes, and a polo shirt to church every day (a polo and not a t-shirt, you ask? Hey give me a little credit – I’m not completely devoid of class, at least on Sunday mornings!). And the ONLY time I’d wear a tie is to funerals – that’s it. The way I figure it, they put suits on the dead for a reason!
At any rate, early in our marriage this (my wardrobe) was a hill I was willing to storm at full gallop with guns blazing, ‘Charge of the Light Brigade’ style. In truth, I tried storming this hill, more than once, only to be repelled by OVERWHELMING force. I mean, Custer had more of a chance at Little Big Horn. After much pain and agony, I finally realized this hill wasn’t worth it. My wife, Kim, was already perched there, with strong, tenacious, dug-in defenses capable of repelling any invading army. Attacking that hill over and over, I might as well have been Don Quixote tilting at windmills. And so I long ago surrendered it to my loving wife, the wife who just wants me to look nice in public and not embarrass her or myself. (Although, I STILL think matching is sooo over-rated…)
Don’t think, however, that there aren’t hills that I’m totally, completely willing to defend. For example, for twelve Saturdays in the Fall, Kim knows exactly where I’ll be for about four hours, sitting on the couch (or a friend’s house, or somewhere else with a TV) watching the University of Tennessee Volunteers play football. Granted, they haven’t been playing a lot of *watchable* football lately (that’s about to change!), but I watch them all the same, have since I was a teenager. She’s tried to knock me off that hill before on occasion, to no avail. I’m like Leonidas at Thermopylae, fighting it out Spartan style. Ain’t no lady gonna win that, so don’t even try…
And so, back and forth, we claim our hills, duke it out on occasion, and eventually compromise with each other. It’s the essence of getting along with another person, day in and day out, warts and all. Being married isn’t just about being together all the time, looking into each other’s eyes in joyful contentment like Lady and the Tramp – it’s also about being an individual and accepting each other’s unique individuality. Sacrifice isn’t just about giving up some of our own hills – sometimes it’s about letting your spouse claim theirs.
We’ve learned to select our hills, our battles, carefully, sparingly, even lovingly. If I’m putting her first as I should be, loving her as God commands, the hills I would fight her for become less and less numerous, of less and less consequence. It’s not about me – it’s about her. And, for you ladies, vice versa (you thought I was going to leave you out didn’t you?)! I’ve missed games on occasion to take my sweetheart out for a nice date. Kim even lets me wear blue jeans to church sometimes on Sunday morning (so long as I don’t wear tennis shoes and my shirt is nice – hey, I’ll take what I can get!).
There are, of course, many far more consequential battles that occasionally must be fought and won by one or the other partner, such as helping to deal with an addiction, a destructive habit, or some other sin that’s not only getting in the way of our relationship with our spouse, but our walk with God as well. These will differ for each individual couple, but the principle of iron sharpening iron certainly comes into play. Ultimately, the most important hill we should BOTH be willing to die on is putting Christ first, in our lives and in our marriage. Christ first, and our spouse next. When we do this, when our priorities are in the right place, those inconsequential things don’t seem to matter as much.
Sometimes, in those moments of tension, Kim and I will joke with each other, “Is this a hill you’re willing to die on, Babe?” Often, when you get right down to it, it’s really not. It’s OK to have some hills you’re willing to die on, but isn’t marriage, ultimately, about LIVING?
(3RD PHOTO SOURCE: A WOUNDED LEONIDAS (GERARD BUTLER) ROARS HIS DEFIANCE AT THE PERSIAN INVADERS IN WARNER BROS. PICTURES, LEGENDARY PICTURES AND VIRTUAL STUDIOS ACTION DRAMA ”300,” DISTRIBUTED BY WARNER BROS. PICTURES.)