The message at my church was so amazing this Sunday. We talked about the book of James, and counting on God’s promises. Our pastor talked about counting not just “the blessings, but the battles that didn’t break you”. Having seen as much as I already have in this life, that line was seriously empowering. What if God makes us suffer because he knows that the battles wont destroy us, and that he means to teach us something important there? What an honor.
I want to admit something that I pondered back and forth from school today, walking. I was thinking about some criticism I read online regarding theories of mutual submission that enable women to also lead at times, and for spouses to mutually submit to one another. Haunted by the way this theory seemed to be presented, I spent some time thinking about what it means within a relationship to value your wife. This is what I have considered.
First, the marriage commitment is just one of several option. Individuals should be healthy enough so that marriages would be enhanced by both genders, and honestly, some of that means being pretty happy alone first. Singleness is not the enemy of marriage; laziness is. If you are working hard while you are single to cultivate a better life for yourself and the people you are around, that can easily provide you some of the skills sets you are going to need for marriage.
I don’t think it’s a bad thing to take your time coming to commitment. Marriage hasn’t always been a covenant of freedom for women. It has so often been used as a place where women have to care for their spouses and their children in an effort to shoulder much of two people’s responsibility, and have the part that is defined as “female” be given less and less worth. Historically, you’ve got a lot of marriage’s that become a trap for women after their husbands stop really trying, and sometimes go and chase other women. Instead of continuing to invest in their marriages, some guys use marriage as a place to take a load off and take it easy, lured in by biblical understandings of sex but not understanding the full weight of that institution. If you don’t realize that your wife is valuable on her own, and that her gifts are for the benefit of you as well as of herself, then you probably aren’t mature enough to treasure a wife as Christ sacrificed for the church. Men’s and women’s gifts are meant to glorify one another in a partnership, not assert dominance that ultimately wounds and takes away. Sometimes men’s quest for biblical masculinity has actually produced some pretty vile results in how they treat their wives, out of a sense of entitlement that is not biblical, and is not submitted to Christ. Arrogance is only attractive to insecurity, and your problems will multiply if you’re getting married solely for yourself.
For a time at least, there should be the threat that one partner or another could potentially leave. A wife who perceives the work of her hands is valuable like in Proverbs 31 seems to have enough recognition as being a good worker and a good example that at least at one point, she had options. If your wife had options, and she still chose you, that should be a blessing to you. While two people haven’t been committed to one another by marriage, there is still the possibility that you both wont end up together, and honestly, an attitude that exists only to fulfill oneself is a one-way ticket to divorce. You don’t bully someone into excepting your way of reality and not expect some fall out, whether that bullying be done to a man, woman, child, or other relation. If you don’t understand that your wife is a separate person, a valuable person, and that if you hurt her and belittle her, she might leave, then you may not even see divorce coming. I don’t personally believe in divorce, but I have seen it too many times in the lives of my family and my loved ones not to know it is a modern day reality when two people make choices to grow apart for a long time. There is no sense of gratitude that holds you together. No love like the love of Jesus that makes it still worth fighting for. Selfishness is the quickest way to kill a good thing. This is not the way.
If two people are abiding in a sense of biblical love and caring for one another actively, then that marriage becomes less about man/woman concepts of hierarchy and more about the life and person of Jesus Christ. You can have male and female differences between submission and leadership, and those concepts can mean different things based on your gender, but pretending that a man’s image is greater than a woman’s image of God is unfair and unholy. As human beings, we all share the image of God. If marriage is meant to be a fair portrayal of who God is to the best of two people’s abilities, maybe that is what it should be about. Can we leave it at that? At the end of the day, all we can do as people is to individually serve God to the best we can, and trust Christ to provide whatever else God requires. Marriage is not ultimately about trivial issues of “male vs. female”, but about a depiction of who God is.