Many years ago I read the famous novel by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, titled, Love in the Time of Cholera. In the course of the story, two of the characters had been married for fifty years. They have an argument about whether there is soap in the bathroom. The wife was responsible for keeping the soap in its place. One morning her husband points out that for some days there has been no soap in the shower. The wife knew her responsibility, but quickly snapped back, I use the bathroom everyday, and there has always been soap! The argument almost destroys their relationship. The husband begins sleeping on the sofa, the wife in the bedroom, and a bar of soap is about to cause the end of their marriage. Of course the problem was not soap, but that they both insisted that they were right. It is often the small things that can break us. It’s the little differences that can divide us. And we are not speaking only of marriage. Things as small as a bar of soap can tear apart marriages, friendships, relationships, even entire communities. Imagine that!
Fortunately, we are offered a way to live in harmony: “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please the other for his good.”(Rom. 15) Father Sophrony speaks of “spiritual obedience as being necessary in daily life.” He describes “spiritual obedience” as “preferring the will of another to your own.” “In this way,” he says, “little by little an atmosphere will be created within you, and around you, in which your heart will become very gentle and very sensitive.” “Without this,” he says, “there will be a state of war.” He goes on to say, “obedience begins by what are apparently the most insignificant details of everyday life.”
Here we are back at the bar of soap. It is not that we must mindlessly conform to another’s whim, but we can give up our ‘right to be right.’ We are not speaking about compromising principles, important beliefs, or contributing to injustice or lies, its just another bar of soap. What really happened with the soap, or whatever the issue may be, can seem very important. But is it? In Marquez’s story, the husband relinquished an obvious rightness for the sake of harmony and peace. One night, sleepy and forgetful he climbs into bed with his wife. ‘What are you doing here?’ she asks. ‘Let me stay’, he answers, ‘there was soap.’ Yet it is often the case that we seem unable to set ourselves aside in the heat of the moment. Whether with friend or co-worker, wife or husband, we fail to follow the Gospel way of peace. Holiness does not come easily. It requires a struggle. When you fall, get up. Don’t try to rely only on your own strength. Turn to our Lord Jesus Christ for help even if you have to start over a hundred times a day, “Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any one has a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you.”(Col. 3.13) This does not refer to being spineless or indecisive, but to freedom. To cutoff one’s own will in daily life, to be ready to renounce one’s own take on things. is to be liberated from a miserable battle. When we let go of our own willfulness, we enter into “the atmosphere of God”, Whose power is not domination but love and life.