A Pinch of Salt

I am told that there is a common expression in the Middle-East: “there is salt between us.” It has to do with lasting loyalty in a relationship. It’s a saying that probably derives from the idea that salt has been shared at meals in which negotiations have been held and settlements reached. The symbolism of salt, and its use in establishing permanent ties is a very old idea, dating back at least as far as the covenants of faithfulness established between God and the Israelites at the time of the Exodus. Numbers 18:19 describes a “covenant of salt” which assigns certain benefits to Aaron and his descendants in perpetuity. Moreover, the throne of Israel was promised to David and his descendants on into eternity by a “covenant of salt” (2 Chronicles 13:5). Perhaps you have even heard of wedding covenant ceremonies where the bride and groom exchange pinches of salt and mix them, symbolising the irreversible nature of the promises they are making – their lives are to be as mingled and inseparable as the grains of salt they share.

Sometimes salt can take us by surprise, however. I don’t know if you have ever had the opportunity to visit the Dead Sea. One thing you will notice if you do get the chance is that as soon as you wade in, every cut and scratch on your body cries out for attention. If your sandals have chaffed – you know all about it. If you grazed a knee on the rocks – look out! Paper cuts, blisters, pimples: every insignificant break in the skin shouts at a hundred decibels.

If you’ll allow me to make a diagonal connection here, I think the “salt” of the marriage covenant can do the same thing if we’re not careful. Every minor imperfection can, if we allow it, be amplified to the level of a shout. Little idiosyncrasies – things that we would let pass without comment in a casual friend – become the focus of intense annoyance in our spouses. And annoyance usually invites his chums disappointment and resentment to the party.

How can we guard against letting the little stuff spoil the flavour of a relationship? Well, a sense of humour is vital. We should learn to take ourselves with a pinch of salt. And that will help us to quickly shrug off what stings, but is essentially trivial. The American poet Ogden Nash was famous for his whimsical rhymes. In this particular verse, hiding just beneath the joke, he found a recipe for success:

To keep your marriage brimming
With love in the loving cup
Whenever you’re wrong, admit it
Whenever you’re right, shut up!

Another helpful idea is to really spend time at table together. The mad panic of everyday life can really disrupt our sense of togetherness; sometimes we’re more like passing acquaintances than husband and wife. Make a date and set some time aside for a good conversation over a meal – share a little salt together. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but use the time to speak encouragingly and positively into each other’s lives. As Paul would say it: Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person (Colossians 4:6).

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Dr Terry Boyle serves as Pastor for Insight for Living UK. His ministry involves teaching a weekend radio programme, hosting the weekday Insight for Living broadcast, helping with issues that come in from listeners, and providing a personal and local approach to Chuck Swindoll’s ministry.

Terry was born in Windsor, England. He moved to the United States in 1981. Although he began his professional life as a biochemist, Terry holds a Th.M. in Pastoral Ministry and a Ph.D. in Biblical Studies from Dallas Theological Seminary in Dallas, Texas.

Terry served as senior pastor of Skillman Bible Church in Dallas until he and his family moved back to the UK in 2007, to take on the role of pastor for Insight for Living United Kingdom.

Terry and his wife Rose Ann have been married for twenty seven years, and they have three grown children: Hannah, Emily, and Terence.