David and I have been part of a home group at our church since last Fall. This term we’re studying the Book of Ruth. The choice of scripture has felt apropos for us as we inch closer and closer to our wedding day. We’ve felt the bond of kinship between us being slowly woven over the months of betrothal, and we now feel confident echoing Ruth’s promise to Naomi: “Where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God, and your snacks my snacks.”
Wait. Did I get that right? That last part is in the original Hebrew, right? If not, it should be. As anyone who’s ever been part of a small group knows, snacks are important. Very important. We come together week after week out of love for God, community, and handheld food items. Being the snacks person for the week is a big deal! It means you get a special mention in the pre-meeting email. I was late one week when I was on snacks duty, and it was awful. My friends extended lots of grace, of course, because they’re godly people, but I couldn’t let myself off the hook so easily. Oh, the shame I felt.
So it was with some relief that I heard a friend in our group tell us we should take advantage of one of the great perks of marriage: Bringing snacks together. Since we’re a couple, she said, we got to share snack duty and effectively halve our commitment! I was beginning to smile and nod when David shot her (and my smile) down. “No way!” he said. “We won’t be one of those couples. That always seemed so unfair to me when I was single.” Another friend then agreed, lamenting that as a single woman she already feels cheated on her taxes; she wasn’t about to let us get off easy with snacks, too.
So David’s snacks shan’t be my snacks. And of course, he’s right. They shouldn’t be. What he didn’t mention is that, knowing us, joint duty would really only mean he’s in charge of snacks all the time, and I’d never be forced to shop or prepare them myself. It would be an unfair scenario not only for the singles in our small group, but also for him. I’m pleased with this arrangement that asserts our individual responsibilities as bearers of the chips, providers of the hummus.
It’s interesting, this business of being a unit composed of two distinct and equal members. It takes some getting used to, and we’re still figuring out when we’re “we” and when we’re each an “I.” We started writing thank-you cards this week, and the first one David wrote was composed entirely in first-person singular, with a cursory ampersand scribbled after his name and a cramped space for me to sign. I had to carve a little box out of the corner of the card to write my own brief “I” sentiment. We agreed to both write the remaining cards in first-person plural.
What we’re learning is, sometimes we’re “I,” and sometimes we’re “we.” For snacks we’re “I,” but for thank-you cards we’re “we.” We'll never be a perfect alloy, but rather two elements acting in synergy. We’ll be two “I”s, working as a “we.”
Ruth and Naomi offer one of the best examples of this in the Bible. A young Moabite and an old Judean became close when Ruth married Naomi’s son. His death released them from any obligation to each other, but the two women chose to become kin, promising to protect and care for one another. They survived by working as a unit despite a system that had stacked the cards against them. Naomi brought knowledge of the law and customs, Ruth a strong work ethic and a willingness to take chances.
I don’t expect the distinction between the “I”s and the “we” to always be clear. I’m sure sometimes it will cause tension. But we have a lifetime to figure it all out, and I am confident that we’ll make it work.
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Original photo by Sarah Kaiser/WFIU, used through Flickr Creative Commons.