A while ago, when my two praying “girlfriends” visited, we went out to lunch at a local eatery. Because the weather was spectacular, we ate outdoors and enjoyed happy conversation that didn’t leave one moment of dead air. But ten days later, I’m still thinking about a disturbing scene near our table that day.
In my line of vision at the next table, just behind my friend, sat a well-dressed married couple. Each time I looked at my friend, I could see this couple and began noticing what a good time they were not having. Once their orders were given, not another word passed between them. They sat in silence waiting for their food and looked at other people coming and going but never at each other. It was so troubling I mentioned it to my friends. This couple looked miserable.
I’m sure these two middle-aged people had a long history together and had made many memories over the years. Surely they hadn’t always acted so cold toward each other. Yet there they sat, unable (or unwilling) to say one word. I wanted to walk over and say, “I’m a new widow. I’d give anything to sit with my husband at a table on this patio just one more time. Please do something to shake up your relationship before it’s too late!”
What if someone told this husband and wife that the next week one of them would die. There’s no question they’d have been in deep, meaningful conversation at that table rather than suffering in stony silence. It struck me as such a waste.
Neither seemed to be angry with the other, just neutral. When their lunches arrived, they ate in complete quietness, not even making an effort to ask if the other’s tasted good.
I felt a deep sadness for this couple and still do. Of course I had no idea what might have been weighing them down. Maybe each was lost in thought about serious matters too painful to discuss. Maybe pressure was mounting in a certain life category. Maybe their marriage had just become boring and stale. Whatever it was, if the situation didn’t change, they were headed no place good.
I think of the biblical standard for marriage. Mom summed it up well with one of her favorite quotes: “Marriage doubles your joy and cuts your sorrow in half.” Of course every marriage falls short of that now and then. As a matter of fact, to make any marriage good, both partners must deliberately give in to the other. That frigid lunch table could have warmed up a great deal with a simple, “Penny for your thoughts?” asked by either one.
Even though this couple had arrived well after we did, they ate quickly and left ahead of us. The husband helped his wife pull out her chair, but she never looked at him or said thank you. He opened the door for her as they turned to walk through the restaurant and out, but neither said a word. They must have planned ahead of time to eat out that day, and they chose a very nice restaurant. But had their lunch event met their expectations? Had it been worth it? Or had it been damaging?
“Each one of you must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” (Ephesians 5:33)