(an adapted excerpt from my book The Tea Shop)
I have noticed a lot of people say this about their spouse or significant other, “He / she is my best friend!” Personally, I have a hard time saying that, not because Laura is not an outstanding friend. She is a fantastic listener, a giving person, and someone that people seek out to spend time with. She is probably the par-excellence of what a friend is like, but I do not categorize her as my best friend for several reasons.
Marriage is different than a friendship—marriage is a lot deeper and carries much more responsibility than a friendship—it is just a different thing altogether. Saying she is my friend would put her in competition with my other friends. I do not want to do that because there is no need or value in that comparison. What she is should be different from friendship instead of subservient to it. And last, as good as she is at being a friend, she is much better at being a wife and partner to me. I do not want to give that up so that we can be buddies.
Maybe the more appropriate thing to articulate is who is she? She makes my life more interesting and fuller and exciting than it would be without her. My first trip to Taiwan was completely different than the second because she was with me. This second adventure was truly an adventure and Laura made the trip leading up to and including the Tea Shop more of something I will never forget.
One thing that is evident about Laura is her compassion. I saw it when I had my scooter accident. When I see someone hurting or if I saw them fly over the handlebars of a scooter, I would first think, “Man, that was pretty cool!” Then I would gather my thoughts and think, “Wait, I’m supposed to be compassionate, let me think of something compassionate to say.” Laura is different from that. When she saw me flying across greater Taiwan and skid across the pavement, she literally felt with me and automatically let out a gasp of compassion. When we watch football, she can cheer against the other team for only so long until her compassion builds up and she feels sorry for them. We cannot watch anything on tv where people get hurt because she seems to feel what they feel.
Laura does not settle for mediocre. What this means is that she does not allow herself to accept “this is as good as it’s ever going to get.” I credit much of our personal growth to her dissatisfaction with the status quo. This has always kept me striving to be better because she raises the bar when I am drifting toward mediocrity instead of striving for the better.
After being a pastor for 20 years, plus being alive for a half century, I have seen a lot of marriages. Some of them I saw just from the storefronts that they displayed to the public and others I have seen from the dirty, neglected storage rooms way deep on the inside. There are no golden, problem-free marriages. Marriages are messy, complicated, mysterious, and frustrating – but marriage is also beautiful. In thirty years, Laura and I have been through many highs and lows. We have grown and slid backward and recommitted and been frustrated. To call our marriage a rollercoaster would be to classify it tamely in some seasons. Here is what it boils down to for me: Laura is not my best friend and I do not want to even start all that “best” language as I mentioned earlier.
Laura is the person that sits across the table from me and considers the next step. The next step is often scary or uncertain or, sometimes, exciting! We both have doubts and sometimes we even doubt each other. Occasionally, we make “pro” and “con” lists and try to properly analyze things before we throw up our hands and say, “I don’t know.” After we have cried and laughed and prayed and got the best advice we possibly can, Laura looks deep into my eyes, and after the inevitable pause of consideration, she says, “Okay. Let’s do it.”
I do not know if either of us is the best at anything, but we have done a lot of stuff together and most of it turned out pretty good. It has been scary and messy and fun and exciting and chocked full of highs and lows but the thing that is best about it all is not how well it turned out. The thing that I love most about her is not that she always agrees with me or serves me or even makes me happy, because let’s face it; she occasionally makes me feel angry! What I love most about Laura is that after all the deliberation and consideration and even consternation, eventually we look into each other’s eyes and say, “Let’s do this!”
Be where you are, Be who you are, Be at peace,
Karl Forehand is a former pastor, podcaster, and award-winning author. His books include Apparent Faith: What Fatherhood Taught Me About the Father’s Heart and The Tea Shop. He is the creator of The Desert Sanctuary and Too Many Podcasters podcasts. He is married to his wife Laura of 32 years and has one dog named Winston. His three children are grown and are beginning to multiply!