“For many, love is a two-sided coin.
It can strengthen or stifle, expand or enfeeble, perfect or pauperize …
Polish the coin and you will see only requited love.
— Colleen Houck
I don’t know if you know this about me, but my very first job at the age of sixteen was to dress up like a Southern belle for the premiere of the fancy new Mark Twain theatre in St. Louis for which the opening movie was Gone With the Wind. Yep, it’s true—God gave me the chance to live out my Scarlett dream, complete with hoop skirt, fancy dress and a curly updo. Admittedly, the dream fell a wee bit short with the skinny boys they hired to tear tickets and sweep the lobby who, regrettably, looked NOTHING like Rhett Butler!
I may well be the only person on the planet who dressed up both like a nun and a Southern belle to see GWTW, but it’s an achievement of which I am quite proud. Yes, I have been a GWTW freak since the age of twelve when I first read Margaret Mitchell’s masterpiece—a masterpiece that, as many of you already know, also inspired me to begin my debut novel, A Passion Most Pure at the same age.
Had I known when I talked my friends into borrowing novice outfits to crash a free showing of GWTW for the local clergy (back then, GWTW was only re-released every seven years), that I’d be watching it a second time months later in my very first job, well, this Southern belle may well have swooned with a case of the vapors.
Thus I embarked on one of the most exciting eras of my life—mixing and mingling with other teenagers, living out my dream of popcorn, soda and GWTW and yes, my very first boyfriend! Sigh. But I digress … something at which I am quite good, I’m discovering.
Anyway, one day when I was working behind the snackbar, wiping down the counter while I hummed my heart out, alternating between singing and humming the same few bars of a song over and over, one of the ticket takers waltzed up. Giving me a smirk, the little smart aleck promptly tossed a coin on the counter and said, “Play the flip side, will you, Julie? I’m getting tired of that tune.”
Mmmm … the flip side. For some reason that phrase stuck in my head, coming to mind years later while I was listening to Focus on the Family on the radio as a newlywed. Dr. James Dobson was talking to a caller who was complaining that although she had a pretty good marriage, her husband had this one quirk that drove her batty, almost to the point of rocking the marital boat. “Some nights when I come home late from work,” the woman said, “my husband will roll over in bed and say, ‘did you lock the door?’ ‘Yes, I locked the door,’ I tell him,” but it’s never good enough. She proceeded to explain to Dr. Dobson that her husband would then get up in a near stupor, stumble to every door in the house and jiggle the knobs before dropping back in bed comatose. “The man acts like I’m inept,” the woman complained, and I will never forget Dobson’s answer that went something like this:
“What does your husband do for a living?” he asked. “He’s a comptroller for a large corporation,” she replies. I could almost see the smile curving on Dr. Dobson’s face. “Ah, the flip side factor,” he says, explaining to this disgruntled caller and his entire radio audience a phenomenon that would be forever emblazoned in my brain. And that’s the principle that for every bad thing that gets on our nerves about our spouses or other people, there is a flip side—a mirror-opposite ‘good thing’ that we love and probably attracted us in the first place. A door-checker that gets on your nerves, yes, but also a spouse who is so keen and cautious and exacting that he’s risen to the highest financial position in a corporation, providing well for his wife and his children.
Let it be known that I am a crazy, jerky, lead-foot driver, so when I first married Keith, it would drive me up the wall to ride in the car with him because he was so relaxed and slow behind the wheel that I’d swear he was 90-year-old in a gorgeous man’s body. I’d sit there, hands clenched to the the seat with a tic in my eye and knot in my gut while he’d follow a car going 20 mph in a 45-mph lane rather than ease into the passing lane. Excuse me, but if it were me, that slow car would be belching my exhaust, but noooooooo … Keith is never in any hurry.
And sweet preservation of mind, am I doing backflips today!! When I am harried and crazy and ready to go tilt, that man is like a decompresser and a balm to my sorry soul. The “flip side” in a spouse that God not only knew I needed to buffer my CDQ personality, but used—ad nauseum—to teach me one of the hardest lessons I’ve ever learned: patience.
So, what made me think of the “flip side” today? Well, as many of you know, I just began writing my ninth novel, which will be book 2 in the “Hearts of San Francisco” series for Revell, working title Dare to Love. I have approximately 25 pages written so far, and talk about spontaneous combustion between two characters right off the bat! My spunky, hot-tempered Irish heroine goes head-to-head with my hard-as-nails Italian grouch of a hero in the first chapter—or maybe I should say the first round—and I have to admit, I’m having WAY too much fun at the expense of these two! I was going to post the first scene here in Journal Jots this morning, but obviously my talent for verbosity has gotten in the way, already making this one of the longest jots in history, so I will refrain. Instead, I will give you a fun sample next week that is the very beginning of a story where the “flip side” becomes all too apparent in a relationship that goes from fireworks to a flaming romance in the short lick of a fuse.
In the meantime, here’s to the proverbial “flip side” in each of us, hopefully helping us to squint past the fault/irritants in the people we love to see to the other side of the rainbow where God has given us a true pot of gold. And may each of us, through the refining grace of God, polish the coin of our own relationships until both sides gleam bright with His love.