Disclaimer. It appears Tuesdays are the days for ranting over here. Anyway, if you have a cup of tea and care to listen to some rants about marriage read away, I’ll understand if you want to go and skip in a field of daffodils instead… Still with me? Take a deep breath and here we go…
As someone who is new to this whole marriage business, and lets be frank about it, new to this whole having a relationship with someone of the opposite gender I’m noticing some interesting things about the way we are told we have to act towards each other as husband and wife. In my life I’ve hung around with lots of people who are convinced that there are specific roles for men and women in marriage and that the Bible is very clear on what those roles are. Listen to some of the advice from America (see previous Tuesday Rant) and you soon find yourself in very iffy cultural waters. Homemaking becomes the sole domain of women (because clearly men can’t be concerned about the home they live in), men are defined as solely leaders before everything else (because women can’t say lets do this now) and we are left in the muddy waters of wanting everything clearly packaged up as to what the husband does and what the wife does.
I’ve had the slightly naughty luxury of ignoring what men and women were supposed to be doing in marriage for a long time, I honestly thought it would never happen, I was just coming to terms with being comfortable in recognising that, yes, I am a woman when Husbandface came into my life. As someone equally uncomfortable with his supposed gender stereotype it’s been interesting starting to ponder what roles we’re now meant to be taking as we live and breathe together.
We generally hate the stereotypes that are paraded around, we don’t fit into them, he doesn’t like sports, I’m not shopping obsessed. We hate the generic men think this way, women think that way rubbish that gets thrown around all too easily in our world. We like to think we are different, although it’s easy to see that in some areas we fit the mould all too easily. It gets even more frustrating when we read about what some people think it means to be a Biblical man and woman. Such a minefield of emotions, cultural gender stereotypes plastered on bible verses and the search for, somewhere deep underneath it all, a small voice saying that the Bible talks about how we relate to each other in marriage in a wide encompassing way, rather than in 10 point lists for husbands and wives to check each other against. (I know that sentence was impossibly long, well done for getting this far)
It was with some relief that I discovered that some people can write about marriage without banging the gender drum all the time. I know there are different roles for men and women, I’ve read Ephesians 5 but I’m just not all that convinced it’s helpful to start with them when thinking about working on our marriage. It just leads me to look at husbandface and think why aren’t you like this perfect list you’re meant to be in the Bible. (answer: he’s a sinner just like me, and yes, that is my attitude problem). I know we can fall into the classic gender battle of the women taking control and the man hiding from responsibility but there are more things that go on in our character, makeup and personality to consider.
I think a better approach might be found in working on what we’re both called to in marriage, rather than firing the ‘men should act this way, women should act this way’ shots. Paul David Tripp, apart from having an excellently scary moustache, talks aboutthis in his book “What did you expect”. We haven’t read it yet, mainly because it hasn’t arrived from Amazon but also because it looks a little scary. It raises the standards for what marriage and love is all about- just look at this list.
The list is pretty much a practical extension of 1 Corinthians 13 (which yes we know wasn’t written to the specific context of marriage blah blah blah but it does happen to mention what love is which I think is a fairly fundamental part of being married.)
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
I want the universal get out clause of, I’ll do this when he does it, I’ll love like this when he loves like this, I’ll act this way towards my husband when he treats me like this as well. Love isn’t about that. Jesus wasn’t about that. Before we look to the roles we should be playing in marriage, before we beat up on our husband or wife or ourselves for not acting like a man or woman should act we need to look a bit deeper and ask how we should be loving our spouses, regardless of how they are loving us. (this also works for how we should act with all the people around us as well whether we are married or not) It’s terrifying and scary but that’s what true love really is.
It’s an impossible call without the power of Jesus and the knowledge that we are perfectly, wonderfully and steadfastly loved by the Maker of the world. Only that deep penetrating truth will give us the confidence to love without demanding the other person deserve it. That’s not a role restricted to my gender, that’s my basic calling as a child of God in this world.