November 24, 2008 · Updated 6:12 PM
Pastor Greg Asimakoupoulos
Ever since I started collecting baseball cards as a kid, I’ve been a saver. Stacks of journals and periodicals clutter my desk. In fact, every available flat surface in my home office holds some memorabilia: trophies, figurines, bookends. The walls are covered with photos, artwork and plaques. This museum of memories surrounds me with emotional warmth and security and fuels my creativity.
Wendy’s idea of a perfect home is one that is utilitarian, easily cleaned and tidy. I do appreciate her penchant for keeping order; our home is always company-ready. But we clash over the definition of “neat and tidy.” She grew up on the mission field, where her parents celebrated the twin virtues of simplicity and order. Because they didn’t have money for nonessentials (and little space for what they did need), they made the most out of very little room. What couldn’t fit on a bookshelf or in a cupboard was tossed out or given away.
When Wendy and I started to date in our late twenties, she was attracted to my creativity. She appreciated how I viewed people and things from a different perspective. But she didn’t realize that my penchant for turning life on its side meant there would be other things I wouldn’t store in their appropriate places. She hadn’t bargained on all the baggage you claim when you marry a creative soul.
In addition to not wanting “stuff” on every horizontal surface, Wendy has a real problem with second-hand items. And those who know me well know how much I love garage sailing and thrift store hopping. As a kid, Wendy had to dip into the missionary barrel for recycled clothes and toys more often than she’d like to recall. She detests recycled items.
After twenty-five years, we still don’t always see eye-to-eye on the appropriate use of domestic space or where we buy what fills that space. But since we are committed to submitting to each other in love, we have agreed to define “orderliness” more loosely.
Wendy gives me the freedom to arrange my home office the way I want. She recognizes that I need to be surrounded by symbols of my eclectic world. But she still shakes her head when she attempts to dust all my stuff. In turn, I refrain from cluttering up other rooms of the house. (Well, I’m trying.)
Another way we have minimized our conflict over clutter is by decorating for holidays. We put up decorations on Valentine’s Day, President’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, the Fourth of July, Columbus Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. We even use special events like birthdays, anniversaries, the Super Bowl and the World Series as occasions for creating a thematic display on the fireplace mantel. I am in heaven when I can invade Wendy’s spartan space with what she defines as “acceptable short-term clutter.”
Wendy and I are polar opposites when it comes to our personalities and our perspectives on many things. All the same, we are each other’s best friend. Marriage guru Chuck Snyder titled one of his books “Incompatibility; Grounds for a Great Marriage.” More than a clever title, it’s the truth. The 25 years Wendy and I have invested as wife and husband are tangible proof. Our diversity has given way to a healthy dependence on each other. We complement each other. Wendy and I are soulmates.
But I’d be the first to confess we are still fine-tuning our relationship and learning how to serve one another, give in and compromise. It’s a good thing marriage lasts till death do us part. We’ll need that long to get it right.
Speaking of soulmates, consider investing in a one-day marriage enrichment presentation on Saturday, Oct. 20 at Mercer Island Presbyterian Church. The six-hour seminar will be led by my good friends, Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott. It’s entitled “Becoming Soulmates.” The cost is only $35 per person (including materials, snacks and lunch). These bestselling authors and psychologists have tools you no doubt need.
For more information, contact our church office at 232-5595. Pastor Greg Asimakoupoulos is the head of the Mercer Island Covenant Church and a regular contributor to the Reporter.