It’s a polite warning for rail travelers to mind your footing as you step onto or off the train, taking notice of the distance between the arriving train car and the platform. You see the sign and the notices everywhere. And the automated public address system reminds you day and night of the same, all with proper British civility.
Your safety depends on minding the gap. Keeping aright amidst ongoing change demands deliberate attention and action.
Lately, in my own little corner of New England, I’ve been finding all sorts of new applications for the phrase mind the gap.
Creative financing with my checkbook… mind the gap.
Flossing my teeth at night… mind the gap(s).
Missing my out-of-state sisters – I must give a call… mind the gap.
My teenaged driver is learning how to parallel park, not to mention pulling my car into the garage: mind the gap, (or its second cousin, with the prefix, please God!)
And now this one: allow me suggest that mind the gap can be a fruitful caution for married and engaged couples.
If your marriage is like mine – it often resembles a fast-moving train through life – its course passing through many stations in life. Each station brings platforms of varying height. Failing to mind the gap may be perilous.
A marriage must constantly adjust to new terrain and circumstances.
Recently, I expressed to my husband that I was feeling a gap between us. He knew what I meant. He was feeling it too. We had failed to mind the gap.
We had been separated by necessity (business travel is a common occurrence in our home), and we had peaceful homecomings, but other pressures were mounting. Stressors in our family life and routines were pushing us away from one another.
Weeks of not minding the gap allowed it to grow and take its toll on us.
By mentioning it aloud, in a gentle way, I was taking the first deliberate step toward proper footing.
The next step was a date night of sorts: we knew we needed to unload some frustrations about the state of our relationship, and we needed to get out of the house to do it. Coffee and sharing a piece of pie at a local diner would suffice.
The good thing about talking about one’s problems in a public setting is that it allows proper civility to reign. Courtesy toward one another and others is demanded, even when you have a difficult topic to broach. (Bear in mind, I do believe in privacy for spouses. Often discreet time alone is needed to address delicate concerns out of the earshot of others. This was not one of those times. We needed time away from the stressors at home.)
Thankfully, the providence of God knew just what we needed too: our restaurant hostess guided us to a private corner booth.
We placed our order, smiled cordially, and chitchatted about the kids and some routine household matters.
When the pie came, it was the moment of truth.
What of the gap? What was happening to us lately? How did we let this stress consume us for so long?
We took turns, respectfully, unloading our burdens. There were many good reasons for the gap that has swallowed us. Life is just hard sometimes, and for the last few months, it has just been getting harder.
The humble pie consumed, the waitress refilled our coffees.
What was needed was the work of apologies and forgiveness. We had hurt each other, no doubt. In not minding the gap, the shifting circumstances of our life tripped us up.
Very simply, we were not being MINDFUL of one another.
We had taken each other for granted. It was a painful misstep. Sometimes when you’ve been pulling into the same station for years, you forget to actually enjoy the local scenery and observe your surroundings.
Mindfulness is taking a deliberate, attentive step onto something solid. It is taking notice of situations and positioning oneself to take the next logical step.
Mindfulness is more than just knowing the other’s preferences… it is actually taking that knowledge and acting on it, deliberately. It is placing another’s needs and desires ahead of our own.
Mindfulness is doing the good thing, the right thing, yes, even the holy thing, on purpose.
Mindfulness in Christian marriage means we are always seeking to be ONE, instead of two.
When we are mindful of one another in our daily lives, we dwell in security and peace and protection. When we fail to be mindful, we trip and fall.
Jesus stood in the gap for us between heaven and hell, between real life and something less, a counterfeit. He came because the Father was ever mindful of the gap.
God saw that the disturbing distance between his people and himself needed deliberate attention. And not just temporary stopgap, but a permanent bridge that brought full restoration and communion between both sides.
And so he sent Jesus. And thanks to Jesus, we have the way, the truth and the life – the permanent fix for gap-minding and gap-mending in our own lives.
So, hubby and I renewed our love for one another, after confessing our shortcomings. We talked about how certain choices and responses to circumstances crowded "us" out. There was more, but you get the point.
To quote my husband, it was like we were in a rat race and the rats were winning. We needed to recalibrate, redirect, and recharge our unified effort in fighting off the proverbial rats in our midst.
After all, rats are those creepy gap-dwelling critters found under railway tracks and platforms.
Oh yeah, that’s another good reason to mind the gap.
©2009 Patricia W. Gohn
About the Author
Pat Gohn is a married empty-nester with three adult children and four grandchildren. An author, catechist, speaker, and host of the Among Women podcast since 2009, her books include the award-winning Blessed, Beautiful, and Bodacious: Celebrating the Gift of Catholic Womanhood, and All In: Why Belonging to the Catholic Church Matters. She works in Catholic publishing as an editor. Visit PatGohn.net