We are born into a culture of practices and expectations. A fact that as a young child and teenager had never entered my mind. And then I married a southerner.
At nineteen, I married that southerner, an older man of twenty-three! I was excited, yet anxious, as we traveled to Mississippi for our first family holiday as a married couple. The setting was my husband’s grandmother’s very small farmhouse in rural, very rural, Mississippi.
Wanting to show my willingness to be a helper, I wisely watched to see what my role would be. Immediately the men took their seats at the large circular table in the kitchen. There was chatter by the men about hunting, planting, and the weather. There were bowls, pots, and pans all around the kitchen. There was not a shred of counter left uncovered – they even had homemade yeast rolls on top of the refrigerator.
As I waited, I observed the women fixing plates. I found this odd since the men had sat prior to preparing their plates. It quickly became apparent the women were fixing plates for their husbands! This had never been part of my cultural experience, but I followed their lead. The smells were so enticing and I was starving, so when the men were served, I assumed we would fix our plates.
Wrong! I was a newlywed without children, but I watched, and followed suit, as the women prepared plates and drinks and carried them to the children. I managed to do all this with a smile while my stomach was growling – loudly! The children were fed and now I knew I would be sampling some of Grandma Winnie’s delicious smelling ‘vittles’.
Wrong!! We returned to the men, some of whom were waiting on seconds, some ready for dessert. In my home we all sat down together, we fixed our own plates, we got our own seconds and dessert. At this point, I was wondering what alternate world I had married into! I slapped some seconds on my husband’s plate, tossed him a piece of pie and was determined I was fixing my own plate.
Wrong!!! The women were now washing dishes! And what was even odder, everyone seemed pleasant. The men were still discussing hunting and the weather, the women were chatting about their quilting projects and gardening and the children were giggling in the bedroom.
How were these women, now my in-laws, not starving?! And then I realized, they had been nibbling out of the pots and bowls the entire time. They weren’t starving because they had probably consumed a full plate during the past hour. Eating out of the pot or bowl was not an acceptable practice in my northern cultural world.
I began to wonder what I had gotten myself into. Was this to be protocol in my home? Was I supposed to feed my husband first? I thought this was a terrible idea and told my husband when we got home that if he thought I was going to fix his plate and eat out of the pots like a dog, he needed to find another wife!
Well, he did not look for another wife. We have been married 45 years, but this was the first of many cultural differences we have discovered over the years. I had to acknowledge that my husband and I came into this marriage with unique cultural experiences. I knew we needed to learn how to blend these differences, but how did we “become one flesh” and build our home. Proverbs 14:1 says, “The wise woman builds her house”. I wanted to aspire to that wise woman. Proverbs 12:4 says, “A wife of noble character is her husband’s crown”. I truly wanted to become my husband’s crown.
I spent time in prayer, sought the advice of older Godly women, and had sincere conversations with my husband about our cultural differences. I needed to know his expectations of me. Those talks revealed that we were both willing to sacrifice some of our own cultural traditions for the happiness of the other. Submitting to my husband was not going to make me less of a woman, but rather a stronger, more loving woman.
I can’t say it was always a smooth road, as I tended to be headstrong and over-reactive at times. But once I would settle down, I saw with clear vision that due to the depth of our love for one another and our desire to please our Lord, we could be subjective to one another and love unconditionally, as well as blend and embrace those strong northern and southern expectations. My moments with my Lord taught me He truly cared about my marriage, and he would help us succeed.
So, if you find yourself in cultural warfare or confusion, if you are struggling with differences in your relationships, if you have set your feet in cement and are stuck, I can truly offer the above jewels to show you the Light. So if you married a Southerner or a Northerner or just the guy next door, go to prayer and the Word, have the conversations, and be sure your relationship includes lots and lots of laughter!