The Second Curse

Posted on July 8, 2012. Filed under: Culture | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

The Sopranos title screen.

The Sopranos title screen. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My husband and I have been catching up on some American pop culture by watching “The Sopranos” over the past few months. I’m pretty sure we’re the last people to see the show, but in case I’m wrong, it follows the life of Tony Soprano as he attempts to balance his personal life with running the New Jersey mafia. We’ve reached the point where his marriage is falling apart after years of lies, betrayals and abundant pastel furniture have finally taken their toll. Though they are married, Tony and his wife know very little about each other.

While I don’t think that too many people are sleeping around with one-legged Russians without their spouse knowing, it is common today for people to keep things from their spouse. For some it might be thousands of dollars on a credit card, for others it might just be holding back what you really want to say. For Carmella, Tony’s wife, it’s the latter. Like many women, she focuses on her role as the dutiful wife and hides from her fears. Fear of what would happen to her marriage, her children, her friends and her future if she took a stand against her husband.

I confess, I’ve wrongly judged people like this. I pride myself on having a completely open relationship with my husband (we aren’t swingers, we just communicate frequently). I struggle to relate with people who feel they can’t or shouldn’t tell their spouse something, because I believe God calls a married couple to become one in other ways than purely sexual. But the word of God is alive, powerful, and will show me how my ego is bigger than any greasy Jersey hair-do (Hebrews 4:12).

It’s clear to me that husbands and wives are indeed called to be one, but I wonder if some of us (myself included) take this concept too far (Genesis 2:22-25). In a post-women’s lib movement, American culture says that men and women are equal and if we’re being completely honest, we’ve beat down the roll of the dominate masculine man and replaced it with a more passive, dare I say effeminate, male.

While marriage is a partnership with each spouse playing an equally important role, women are called to submit their husbands because they are the leaders of the family (Ephesians 5:22-24). Some women are uncomfortable with the idea of submission because they associate it with a dog submitting to his master. But the comparison in Ephesians is that between Christ and the Church. I don’t think any Christian really thinks the Church is somehow degraded because it must submit to Christ. The Church has a very legitimate role to fulfill, but it must do so while being subservient to it’s leader.

Others of us (this is where I come in) agree with submission in theory, but execute it poorly. At its core, when women are called to submit, we are being called to respect our husbands and the awesome responsibility God has given them. We’re called to be their helpers in fulfilling their roles as leaders (Genesis 2:18-20). But let’s face it, we think they could do a better job and have little problem telling them so. It’s always going to be that way. Seriously, it’s Biblical. When we think of God punishing Eve after the Fall, we typically think of childbirth, i.e. rearing children. But there was a second curse: “And you will desire to control your husband, but he will rule over you” (Genesis 3:16). Women will always seek for men to make them happy, and they will never fulfill them completely (that’s reserved for someone else). My husband is a strong, loving, supportive, Godly man, yet I somehow always manage to find something I wish was done ‘better.’ Sadly, an epidural won’t take this curse away; I’ve just got to learn to love God by showing respect to my husband. How’s that done? By holding the tongue:

“It’s better to live alone in the corner of an attic than with a quarrelsome wife in a lovely home” (Proverbs 21:9).

“A quarrelsome wife is as annoying as constant dripping on a rainy day” (Proverbs 27:15).

Solomon has a lot to say about the nagging wife (and he should since he had hundreds of them), but none of it is good. When women share all their feelings or express their desires, even under the auspices of ‘being one’, it can often come across as just complaining and disrespectful. Though the people who hide their true feelings out of fear or apathy are also sinning, those of us who tell our spouses everything could probably learn something from couples who have mastered the art of discretion.

Ladies, we’ll always find something that we’d like done differently (a wadded up towel on the dish rack, dirty socks right next to the hamper), but pointing out all these ‘suggestions’ isn’t being a good helper or a respectful wife. I know I for one need to work on having more discretion and encouragement.  But the good news is that a woman who is a virtuous wife to her husband isn’t just some rug a husband walks all over. In fact, she gives her husband’s life meaning and is worth more to him than fine rubies, which are certainly more valuable than all the gaudy gold jewelry along the Jersey shore (Proverbs 31:1-12).

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Marriage Expectations

Posted on September 10, 2011. Filed under: Culture, Relationships | Tags: , , , , , , , |

Jane Austen

Image via Wikipedia

A reader recently recommended a topic for me to address: what to expect in marriage. Entire blogs and books are dedicated to this topic, but those usually unnecessarily beat up on men. I’ll try to make this one different.

Marriage in one verse: It is good for a man not to marry ( 1 Cor 7:1). There – done. I write that in jest but in all seriousness, I believe Paul wrote that because marriage is hard, but especially so if you are a Christian.

Why do people get married? Because we fall in love? Because we find someone we just cannot live without? Someone who makes our heart skip a beat and looks really good in a dress. I’m pretty sure one of the reasons my husband married me was so he would never have to unload the dishwasher. But as much as he loves this perk, we know that as Christians (and Jews) we are called to marry to become holy. It is an institution that God, not a priest, a judge, or Jane Austen created in which man and wife become one in spirit and in body (Mat 19:4-6).

And here lies the problem. From the onset, we are reminded that contrary to everything our culture tells us about marriage, it is not about us – it’s about Him. While men and women look for any reason under the sun to break this bond from ‘falling out of love’ to ‘I deserve better,’ the only reason Christ defines as acceptable for divorce is adultery (Mat 19:9).  After hearing this, the disciples conclude that it’s better for people not to marry all together (Mat 19:10), which may be where Paul was coming from too.

Humans, but especially Americans, are into themselves. It’s all about me. Sometimes that works well for us. It created a society focused on individual rights, the freest nation in the history of the world. It created a market place full of products to meet even the most obscure individual desires – the shake weight, really? But in a marriage, this attitude is destructive. We’ve all heard the statistics that about half of marriages end in divorce, even among Christians. But of those that don’t end in divorce, how many marriages would you actually call ‘happy,’ even less ‘holy’?

In Malachi, God reminds us that we are all tempted to break faith with our spouse, even while we are still married (Mal 2:14-16).  Break faith – what does that mean? Maybe ‘forgetting’ list of things she wants you to do around the house. Perhaps convincing yourself that you ‘deserve’ a husband who will ‘want’ to (insert chore/task here).

Breaking the faith, I believe, means feeding that self-centered desire we have to get our way and make ourselves happy. Keeping faith with ourselves rather than our spouse. Forgetting, or worse ignoring, the fact that God has united us with one individual to make us happy, holy, and whole.

So, what to expect in marriage? Expect to learn what real love is, to be awed, and gain insight into our Lord. But expect to find challenges, especially when your expectations are focused on yourself. Jane Austen may have written some ‘lovely’ books about the perfect love, but she had no idea what she was talking about. After all, she was never married.

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