Monday, July 19, 2010
This past weekend Dani and I went to a wedding. It's always a good reminder for those of us married to hear others taking those vows, making that promise. To love: to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part. I think it helps us to refocus on the part we play in making things work. It reminds us of the difficult commitment we have made, but that indeed we did commit. It reminds us of the joy and expectancy and hope of that day, a hope that still exists in us all as we continue to grow in that love or at least striving for that beautiful perfect love that we know exists.
Sometimes in that pursuit however, we get lost. We get things backwards and messed up. I was reflecting on my vows. The Old English vows written by Thomas Cranmer. It's usually presented like this, "with all that I am and all that I have, I honor you." but the original reads this, "With my body I thee worship and with all my worldly goods I thee endow. Pretty big difference, right? I mean you can see the heart of the original in the revision. It's a lot more palatable to modern sensibilities, but it loses the power of the original and the thrust of what marriage really is. Marriage is a complete commitment to the other person for their good. Usually we get married because we love who we are when we are with that person. They make us happier, or smarter, or safer, or braver, or whatever, but all too often we love ourselves when we are with them. Marriage and life together helps us to learn what it is to love someone.
We see this progression in Song of Solomon. in 2:16 it says this
My lover is mine and I am his.
In 6:3 the order changes
I am my lover's and my lover is mine;
In 7:10 we see a further evolution
10 I belong to my lover,
and his desire is for me.
Notice how in the first verse (pre-wedding) the beloved is focused on possessing her spouse. He is mine. First and foremost this is about what he can do for me. This is essential and a normal part of our growing into love. The same thing happens in our relationship with Jesus. We want what he can do for us. So we accept the proposal.
However, that's not the aim. That's not what we hope for and ultimately, a possessive me focused relationship is unsatisfying. In Chapter 6 we still see possession, we still see ownership, but we see the order changed. There is a recognition of belonging to the other person, we begin to give up our rights to ourself. We begin to understand love as a place to give, but our sense of self and rights and desires are not eradicated.
In chapter 7, we see the difference. A complete abandonment of self interest of possessing and owning the other. We are now free to give ourselves completely to our spouse. Here is the beautiful thing though. She knows she is loved. She knows her husbands heart is committed to her and without that love we don't get to this point. There can be relationships where someone gives up their rights to themselves, and it's a messed up out of whack relationship that does not honor God. There can be relationships where men demand women serve them and give themselves up for them, abusive, oppressive relationships. There can be relationships where women control their husbands, manipulating, nagging and operating in a way to suck all the joy out of the relationship in order to get what they want. There are a lot of ways to mess up a relationship, for sure. But there is only one way to get it right, and that is for both spouses to see that every aspect of marriage is about caring for the other. Giving all that you have and all that you are to each other. That means mentally and emotionally, that means spiritually and physically and that means financially and sexually. This is where we pick up these vows that Dani and I said 8 years ago.
These are areas of conflict for a lot of couples, but these need to be areas that we both see as essential to the health of our relationships. We need to seek to serve and care for and love each other through these areas. I'm going to deal with how to do that in later posts since this is already a monster as it is. Here is a good article in the meantime.