The Olympics brought tennis to my mind for the first time since, oh, Wimbledon two weeks prior.
But, as the games progressed producing Serena Williams as the first person in history to win all four Grand Slam events and capture Olympic gold medals in singles and doubles tennis, it set me to thinking about mixed doubles tennis as a metaphor for marriage. I’m sure more examples could be drawn, but here are a few.
1. Each person must serve. In mixed doubles each player must rotate the opportunities to serve. If you are the man with the most dominant serve in the world, you are not allowed to be the only one to serve. In marriage each must serve. There is no place for slavery in marriage.
2. Each has the same objective. Both players should have only one goal: to win. If either player has self-promotion or reputation as a goal over winning, the team will not be able to perform to maximum capacity. Similarly, in marriage both husband and wife must be of one mind. For Christ followers the kingdom of God should be the priority, followed by their roles of ministry in it.
4. Each must be aware of the position of the other on the court. This is important in order to prevent “poaching.” Poaching is a term used in doubles referring to the front player returning a ball that could have been better hit by the back player. In marriage we should avoid “poaching,” or inserting ourselves into areas our spouse is better prepared to handle.
5. Each must take turns “guarding the net.” Doubles tends to be a faster game than singles as two of the players start each game close to the net. Shots can fire back and forth quicker and a wildly different angles than in the singles events. Players guarding the net have a chance for quick responses.
In marriage different events call for different responses. Sometimes these responses are at the point, so to speak, or at the net. Life can create rapidly changing, chaotic events requiring fast responses. In a successful marriage both husband and wife will take turns guarding the net. It may mean decisions about school, work, remodeling, illness or myriad other issues, but neither the husband nor the wife should be expected to guard the net at all times.
6. Each must encourage the other. If two players constantly griped and complained about the play of the other the team would not last long. Instead teammates must actively, pointedly and consistently encourage the other. Everyone plays better when then hear, “Good shot!” or “Great try!” rather than “What in the heck were you thinking?” or “Do I need to get my grandmother out here?”
When marriage devolves into constant bickering, fighting, sniping and complaining, any hope of real teamwork disintegrates with it. Life is difficult, temptations plentiful, and attacks of the evil one at are every turn. Encourage each other, and do it constantly.
7. Each must communicate with the other. Singles players are not allowed to communicate with their coaches during matches, quite unlike other sports where managers and coaches constantly bark out plays, instructions or encouragement. Doubles tennis, however, does allow for players to communicate. “I got it” goes a long way if you are guarding the net and cannot see your partner is lining up the shot.
Do I even need to say how crucial is communication in marriage? Clear speech and processing information is nearly a lost art for some couples. But, you will never win a gold medal without it.