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Scratching the Surface of "Mawage and Twu Wuv" Part II

And wuv, twu wuv, will fowow you foweva... So tweasure your wuv. 
You would think that I would post more often since the semester ended. I honestly thought that I would. However, it appears as though I've been slacking off. Well, perhaps not slacking off completely...I have been in the lab pretty much every day since the semester ended....typing and analyzing data. Before I start making up excuses to cover up the Facebook habit I'm trying to give up, let's take a step back from patience and get back to the bra-burning bonfire-inciting passage that tends to make feminists cringe....
 Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord.  For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. As the church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands.  Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.  Even so husbands should love their wives as their own bodies.  He who loves his wife loves himself.  For no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.  ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’  This is a great mystery, and I mean in reference to Christ and the church; however, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.” (Eph. 5:21-33)
In Mawage and Twu Wuv Part I, I explained that in a marriage, men as well as women should love one another in a manner that is unselfish and complete. So now, I am going to mix things up a bit, go a little out of order, and hopefully tie everything together at the end.


When you love someone, truly love them, there is nothing that you won't do for that person. You will go beyond your own needs and your own wants in order to do the best that you can for this other person. Forget about all the crap you see on television or in Cosmopolitan magazines, true love and happy marriages aren't all about taking care of your own needs. It isn't about avoiding loneliness. It isn't about being able to afford renting a better apartment. Even so, I get the impression that there are far too many voices out there convincing women (and even men) that egocentric happiness is the make it or break it of today's marriages. A failed marriage is never your fault if you wake up one day unsatisfied with your life. It's your spouse's fault. If your husband doesn't meet your every demand, divorce him. If your sex life has fizzled out, divorce him. If another guy catches your eye, don't sacrifice future happiness by sticking around with your husband. Leave him while you got your youth and good looks. If he can't afford to give you the lifestyle you want, divorce him and find a man who can give you a closet full of Manolo's. If you are dissatisfied with life, it's never your fault. It's always the other person's fault. We are fed these garbage ideas every time we watch something like "Desperate Housewives" or open up some chick-lit book. 


Yet, selfishness should never be the center of any healthy marriage or even a life for that matter. You see, marriage is not supposed to be easy. Disney Princess movies never really go beyond the wedding day, into the struggles of everyday life. We see Cinderella kissing Prince Charming on the day of their wedding and that's it. We assume they live happily ever after because they had the fairytale princess wedding (complete with puffy dress and carriage). However, we don't get to find out what happens when his faithful subjects revolt and depose Prince Charming in favor of a democracy. We don't see what happens when he is forced settle for smaller quarters and when he is forced to farm his own land for once. We don't see how this newlywed couple actually copes with issues such as job loss, cancer, bankruptcy, jealousy, and a number of other issues. Yet, these issues are very real and very common. On top of this, these issues and a couple's ability to deal with these issues determines the health and even survival of a marriage. Statistics will tell you that financial instability is a recipe for domestic violence and divorces  these days. 


Selfishness is one of the key reasons why so many people take issue with the aforementioned passage. Imagine how easy it would be for a woman to be taken advantage of by a man if she had to be subject to him? Imagine all the power this man would hold over his wife...especially if he wasn't such a nice guy. It doesn't sound very fair, does it? Well, it shouldn't sound fair because it isn't. Fortunately, however, there is a lot more to this passage and a lot more to what God expects from the husband as well as the wife.  
"Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish."
One of the things that pops out to me in this passage is that men are called upon to love their wives as Christ loved the church. The passage doesn't mean "I love my church" as in "I enjoy sitting through an hour of mass every Sunday morning." This part refers to something much greater than this. It refers to Christ's love for all of us because WE ARE THE CHURCH. That's right....the church is not just a cathedral, an altar, and a tabernacle. The church is also collection of people, comprised of every saint and sinner that has ever followed or will follow Christ. We are a church full of geniuses as well as fools. We have people like Mother Teresa as well as those whose faith is hanging on by the thinnest thread. We have daily communicants as well as the "hatch, match, and dispatch" folk. We are a beautiful. colorful, and ever growing collection of the greatest and lowliest people you will ever meet. We represent every bit of the good, bad, and ugly that the entire world population has to offer. As diverse as we are, however, we all come together at some point to celebrate our love for the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  


Christ's love for the Church is a selfless love. He built his church millennia ago and has been a constant presence ever since. On top of this, he gave us the Eucharist...a gift that has sustained us for two thousand years....a gift that was given freely and with complete love.  Pause and really meditate on this...Christ gave us his body and blood. He sacrificed himself for our sake out of his own free will and out of his love for us. Even the love of the best eligible bachelor out there today cannot compare to this selfless love.  The point I am trying to make here is that, in loving the church, Christ loves, TRULY LOVES, the best and worst of the church. Christ did not die on a cross for a select few (my apologies to any Jehovah's Witnesses out there). He died for ALL of us and calls each and every one of us to greater things...regardless of our flaws or triumphs. Can you imagine how great his love for the church must be if he willingly died on a cross to save even the most crummy members of humanity?


However, Christ didn't just die for his Church. He did so much more. He walked with us, spoke with us, taught us, and even schooled us when we needed it. In a sense, Christ was sent here to improve us, to make us worthy of eternal paradise...and that's exactly what he did and continues to do. His words and lessons helped shape the modern world, helped convert sinners, and continue to have a profound effect on people from all walks of life. Here's the kicker...he did it all out of love. He loved us so much that he sought to bring out the best in us...whether or not we knew what was good for us. 


One way to understand this is by using an example from my life. I have been a nail biter for my entire life and it is a nervous habit that tends to get a little out of control come finals or huge presentations. I have a long history of people who have attempted to get me to stop. My parents and sisters have tried. Teachers tried when I was a kid, professors tried when I was in college, you name it. My thesis adviser even tried to get me to kick the habit by getting me to start using nail polish (which has led to a drawer full of some rather nice colors...that I barely use these days). However, the trophy goes to my boyfriend when it comes to most attempts at trying to get Barbara to stop biting her nails. He doesn't use force. He doesn't do anything to hurt my feelings or demean me in some way. He has my best interests in mind the whole time and uses encouragement. He's had limited success (exams usually make me cave), but he's never given up. I think it is kind of pesky at times, but I know that he does it out of love for me and that he does it because he has my best interests in mind (nothing worse than biting your nails when you're working in a lab and taking the subway every day...ew). In a similar fashion, Christ always has our best interests in mind...even when we don't want to listen to him. Fortunately, he is extremely persistent when it comes our improvement and our salvation. As annoying as it may be to listen to him and give up a particular vice, it is important to remember that Christ  wants us to turn from sin because he loves us and wants the best for us...not because he wants to punish us (regardless of what some confused souls may try to tell you).


So the big lesson here is marry someone that will help you reach heavenLadies, I now ask you...does your significant other love you as Christ loves his church? As Christ loves you? Does he want the best for you? Does he at least strive to love you as Christ loves his church? If he does, then he is worth your time and love because he is loving you as he is called to love you...as all husbands are called to love their wives. Now that we understand how men are called to love their wives, we can finally tackle "Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord."


I suppose it would only be fair if I talk a little bit more about my own relationship at this point. My boyfriend is not perfect...as evidenced by his suggestion one time that we go out and watch the latest Star Trek movie. I knew the movie wasn't my type of movie from the start. However, I went to see it with him. I didn't do it because he forced me....I did it because I loved him and wanted to spend time with him...and because I knew that it would make him happy. I suppose you can say, in this case, that I was subject to him. Did I blindly follow him? Did I listen to his suggestion because I am a mindless female who cannot think for herself? Did I do it because he has the upper hand in the relationship? No, no, and no. I'm a pretty stubborn woman (runs in the family) and well aware that, as a human being with free will, I cannot be forced to do anything. However, when it comes to those I love, I will do things for them. I may not cook for myself if I come back from work after a long day...but I will cook if my sister is hungry. About 5 years ago I attended a fancy scholarship dinner with my family because my dad wanted the whole family to go. Both my sisters had gotten that particular scholarship. I never got it and was still sore about it. Therefore, you can say that I had no desire to go whatsoever.  I just wanted to get out of there and spent the whole night holding back tears. My dad did not force me to go, but I loved him. My love for him prevented me from disappointing him...even though it led to several hours of agony on my end. I guess you can say that I was subject to him in this case...out of love.

When I was a child, I did not understand why my mom always put her husband and her children before herself. The media told me that my mother was the product of a long-forgotten "Leave it to Beaver" generation that turned women into subservient drones. The media almost convinced me that women like my mom were an anomaly that should be corrected. Perhaps she was an anomaly because none of my friends had moms like mine...but there was nothing wrong with her very powerful role as a perfect, hardworking "Leave it to Beaver" housewife. I mean, while kids came into the cafeteria with "Lunchables," I would bring home-made meals that would make Gordon Ramsay salivate. My mom used to launder and iron our clothes (she even used to pleat my jeans!), cook, clean, sew, and even crochet....on top of a full time job. My mom was a powerhouse when it came to taking care of her family. As I grew older, I began to realize that she did all of this out of love. There was nothing wrong with how my mom put the needs of her family above her own. She didn't have to do it...she wanted to do it. She was compelled by love to do all of this for her family...and I think her investment paid off. 


The big lesson here is that if you find someone who truly loves you in the way that Christs calls us to love one another...you will find yourself subjecting yourself to this other person out of love. You will want to do things for this person. You will want to put this other person first. The tricky part, of course, is finding someone who is worth all of your love, dedication, commitment, patience, time, etc. 


When you marry someone, you become part of a sacred union before the eyes of God. Your decisions no longer affect just you, but your partner (and sometimes children) as well. The consequences of your actions are now twofold (or more). Therefore, before you even think about getting married...make sure you know what to expect from yourself as well as your potential spouse.  When you love as Christ loves, you must do everything in your power to ensure that your significant other reaches heaven. You become somewhat responsible for your partner's spiritual needs. Taking care of someone else's spiritual needs is tough. As flawed human beings, we have a hard enough time getting ourselves to heaven. It's hard to improve ourselves, let alone other people. Yet, that is exactly what husbands and wives are called to do.
"Even so husbands should love their wives as their own bodies.  He who loves his wife loves himself.  For no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.  ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’  This is a great mystery, and I mean in reference to Christ and the church; however, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.”
I must admit here that I am not too learned in the lore of all that is good and manly. I can only write as a female because I am a female and can only think as a female. I am sure there is a lot here that I may not explain as fully or as well as I would like. However, one thing I can explain is that there is more to a marriage than those initial pangs that we call love. I highly recommend the "Four Loves" by C. S. Lewis if you want to better understand what I am about to explain... The love you need for a successful marriage is not the love you see in Disney movies. The Disney love is that great, violent, whirlwind emotion that sweeps you off your feet and makes you do stupid things like scale balconies or fight dragons for a single kiss. This violent, initial love tends to fizzle out. If this is the only love your marriage is based upon, prepare for things to turn sour. Some things are inevitable. You will find out that this other person has flaws. You will discover that it is very hard to help this person take care of their problems. You may one day find yourself trapped in a cycle of "what ifs?" One of you may get into some accident, get cancer, or undergo some form of very difficult health issue that puts a mental, emotional, and financial strain on your marriage. The initial, whirlwind love that is so celebrated by Disney movies cannot sustain a marriage when things go wrong. Scaling balconies and fighting dragons may impress a lady you are trying to woo, but it will not relieve the everyday stresses associated with everyday life. Tempers will rise, things will go wrong, jobs will be lost, etc. regardless of how many dragons you slay.

Fortunately, however, there is a love that endures. This love is quieter and calmer. This love (agape, as C.S.Lewis calls it) is true, lasting, and unconditional. I'm talking about the love that Christ has for us...the same love that He wants us to have for one another before we even consider marriage. This love is the selfless, sacrificial, and constant love I have been trying to explain. This love endures the worst of times just as easily as it thrives in the best of times. If you and your significant other share this form of love, life can throw anything at you two...and you will always bounce back together. If you and your significant other share this form of love, you will find yourselves subjected to one another..before you even realize it. You will find yourself compelled to do things for this other individual because you value their happiness and well-being so much. You will find yourselves constantly doing everything in your power for each other. You do not do this because you feel as if you must or because you are forced. You do it because you want to do it....you are compelled to it by love. This is what this passage is all about. It's not about enslaving women to their husbands (so please, extinguish the bra-burning bonfires now).

Look at relationship between Christ and his Church! When I look at this relationship I see selfless love, not selfish slavery! Love is very powerful. It can damage in the wrong hands...but it has the ability to inspire so many wonderful and beautiful things. This love will push you to be better for the sake of your significant other. It will push you to do all in your power to care for your significant other and help them attain heaven. This love will compel you to do things for your significant other even when you're too lazy or uninspired to do them for yourself. This love is an imitation of the love that God has for us and it is the greatest love that has ever existed.
The End....for now.

3 comments:

  1. Your posts on marriage have been beautiful and thought-provoking! I'm going to share on FB and hope that the engaged couples I know check this out!

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  2. A) You're hilarious. B) I loved this post!! I love that I read it and said, "Wow, yes, he does." And, "Yes, that's how I want to serve, out of love." I think I'll keep my boyfriend around ;)

    Feminists have it wrong anyway. They're anti-feminists and they don't even know it.

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  3. Inspiring and Thought provoking. I enjoyed this post so much. Thank youm for sharing that.

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