It will come as a surprise to absolutely no one that it is difficult to live with another human being—even if you are deeply in love. Billions of dollars are spent on books and therapy, and millions of hours are spent complaining to any friend who will listen that living happily ever after only occurs in fairy tales. Now, add to that, living together twenty-four hours a day with neither one working and this headline from an English newspaper also comes as no surprise, “Millions of couples find it impossible to live with each other during retirement.” Add a third person to the mix, an elderly parent or a child who’s moved back in and you reach critical mass very quickly. Oh, add to that the fact that the three of you live in a foreign country with a different language and culture and no others from home live anywhere near, and you will find that the bar of peaceful coexistence is set almost astronomically high.
However, it is not only possible, it can be a real treat. Oh, it does take lots of work and lots of forgiveness, lots of adjustments, and a high degree of dedication to kindness, but the end result is well worth the effort. Karen, John, and I have been doing it for eleven years now and look forward to every day together. Yes, we each have to daily relax our immediate needs (or things that seem like immediate needs), but we have discovered how to love being together, talking together, eating together, and serving God in a distant land together. Maybe that last one adds the dimensional glue that makes it all work. What we do know is that we have learned to respect each other’s needs and to listen to what the other feels is important (this is critical). We all three get a bit involved with the projects and hobbies of the others. John loves to cook and Karen and I love to eat. John and I love to see how Karen lights up around the children and making them uniforms and teaching Montessori. Karen and I love to watch as John develops rural solar power and creates unique and interesting electronic robots, clocks, and whatever strikes his fancy. It helps that we all like several different kinds of television shows (love house remodeling shows) and certain kinds of movies (there are some that only appeal to one of us—so we don’t watch those together). We all three got excited about the upcoming release of Goodbye Christopher Robin as all three of us are big Winnie the Pooh fans. We have learned to compliment each other and to support and encourage each other. This is crucial to a happy life together, whoever or wherever you are. (Okay, it doesn’t work 100% of the time, but so close to it, that we don’t mind the occasional upsets.)
Recently, John and Karen both realized that I was getting depressed and correctly figured out that I was missing being a teacher. They both asked for and have now gotten two nights a week where I get to teach again. Tuesday nights are poetry and literature while Thursday nights are Bible studies. Yes, it is a class of just two students, but they are bright, energetic, and engaging in class. I’ve brightened up considerably as I’ve taught poetry by Maya Angelou and Langston Hughes recently, and we are slowly working through the Gospel of Mark (up to chapter three at the present). Together, John and Karen cared enough to accurately assess my needs and cared enough to address them. We have all benefitted. For those of you who are living with others on a twenty-four hour a day basis, the solution is not self-help books or sessions with Dr. Phil. The solution is to read the Sermon on the Mount and apply it to your daily life. You have to love, you have to care, you have to suppress your ego, you have to at least appear interested in things you don’t fully understand, you have to be flexible and willing to do things differently than you have done before, but you can do it. The end result is a wonderful place to be and worth whatever effort you put into it. If following Christ’s teachings can allow three people to live together every day and every night and still look forward to tomorrow’s dawn, then Christianity can truly change the world, if we will make some small changes in ourselves. This, my friends, is true.