February 24, 2014

You Had Me at Jell-O

Gary Thomas — 
photo: stevendepolo, Creative Commons

photo: stevendepolo, Creative Commons

(This post is a book excerpt written by my friends, Paul and Virginia Friesen, who wrote The Marriage App)

It was John and Wendy’s favorite vacation spot during their 38-year marriage: twice each year they would fly to Hawaii and rent a cottage or stay in a timeshare, sometimes alone, but often with their family. The islands held many memories for them of a life well-spent, a close family, and a sweet marriage. But after a 17-year battle with cancer, John lost his earthly struggle and entered his heavenly rest. Wendy had asked us to accompany her on her first return visit to Hawaii after John’s death. We were having lunch out on the balcony overlooking the Pacific when Wendy started to cry. Assuming she was recalling some special time on the island with John, we gently asked her, “What is it, Wendy?” She blurted out, “I wish I’d made him more Jell-O!”

Wendy then told us, through laughter and tears, that John loved Jell-O. From the earliest days of their marriage, John always was asking her to make him Jell-O. She didn’t like Jell-O herself and declined to make it most of the time, claiming it was all empty calories, nothing but sugar and colored dyes. But now, looking back, she mused, “Why didn’t I just give him Jell-O?” As we continued to talk, she said, “The real reason was not all the nutritional stuff, but just that I plain didn’t want to make him Jell-O. I didn’t like it. But what a simple thing for me to do to bring him a little extra joy for the day. I wish I had made him more Jell-O.”

Fortunately, in John and Wendy’s case, there were not a lot of other “Jell-O” areas.

Unfortunately, for many couples, the accumulation of “Jell-O” moments—not caring about our spouse’s needs and desires—culminates in individuals not feeling cared for and loved. In too many cases those marriages end in divorce, or continue in a silent state of contempt and miss out on the joy of intimacy in marriage.

Why do we long for an intimate relationship with our spouse but find it so difficult to experience? Why do we find it so easy to focus on our own desires and preferences over the desires and preferences of our spouse? Why did God make us so different from each other, with difference preferences and desires, if He wanted us to get along? Why didn’t He make it easier to love my spouse? Why do so many married couples find it difficult to find true contentment and joy?

Though these questions often plague each of us, it is my deep conviction that we truly are designed to be at our best when we put our spouse’s needs above our own.

The irony is that when we do, we actually find the intimacy we have been longing for.

Just as Wendy wished she’d made John more Jell-O, at some point in life, each of us will look back and reflect on our marriage and what could have made it more what we desired and what God designed it to be.

When you look back, what do you think you will say? Perhaps: “I wish I’d gone shopping more with her.” Or, “I wish I’d not been so tight with my money,” or “I wish I’d sat with him in the hot tub more.” . . . Why wait? Why not go shopping with her now? Why not splurge on that vacation together? Why not hop in the hot tub now and reap the benefits of loving each other more fully today?

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4 responses to You Had Me at Jell-O

  1. Where can I buy The Marriage App?

  2. YES………I agree whole heartily with the “regret” portion. I so much wanted to share myself with my spouse but was unable to due to my sin. Now I have nothing but “REGRET” as we were divorced in Dec 2012. This whole passed year was filled with nothing but regret. I know that I “should have” done a lot of thing. I’m standing with my God for restoration of this marriage and I will not have so many regrets when it is restored. I will apply all that I have been shown to keep this marriage safe from attack by Satan.