Day 5: Complementarity

40day-yellowBegin with the Prayer of Abandonment.

Today’s theme is complementarity.

“Opposites attract. If you had the same gifts and strengths, one of you would be superfluous.”

I watched this lived out in my parents’ marriage: Dad is a thoughtful introvert; my mother the whirlwind organizer (including their 50th anniversary celebration, pictured below, taken just a month before mom became sick). They depended on each other, truly needed each other, all their lives. These past few years, this complementarity has taken on a prickly form, as my father went from being the one being cared for, to the one needing to do the caring. My mother’s mental illness does not make this easy for him. And yet I see great beauty there, even as they suffer, each in their own way. John and Sandy=201250

The theme of love and suffering is one that frequently surfaces in the life and writings of Saint Teresa of Calcutta. In today’s reflection, I recount the story of her biographer, Malcolm Muggeridge, whose documentary Something Beautiful for God made Mother Teresa a household name. He remembers seeing an injured man taken to a hospital in Calcutta for treatment, and being unable to stomach the sight of the unmitigated suffering he (Muggeridge) saw there. “It was too much; I made off, back to my comfortable flat and a stiff whisky and soda…. I ran away and stayed away; Mother Teresa moved in and stayed. That was the different.” (p.18-19).

One was weak where the other was strong. This is the very picture of complementarity, to which John Paul II often referred in his “Theology of the Body.” It creates a oneness, a unity, that is expressed in many areas of marriage: God matches up penny-pinchers and generous souls; organizers and disorganized; accountants and poets. Together, we blend and wear on each other, helping each other grow in love and holiness.

How do you see this complementarity worked out in your marriage? Tell your spouse one way that the two of you are complementary to one another.



Are you enjoying this Lenten series? Please support the effort if possible by picking up a copy of Lent with Saint Teresa of Calcutta. If you would like an autographed copy, send me a check for $15 and I’ll send one to you. My address: 10350 Royal Oak Ct., Osceola IN 46561. Thank you!


2 thoughts on “Day 5: Complementarity

  1. I also saw this with my parents. My Mom had done almost everything for my Dad and then he stepped up to the plate when Mom had her strokes and couldn’t do anything. After she died he’s had to learn how to take better care of himself because he had not been focusing on himself. Now he needs to learn to balance the care of himself and caring about those around him.


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