Yesterday, on the holiday famed for love and chocolate and mushy stuff, George did the sweetest thing he could have done for his stubborn, spoiled wife. He forced me into a car and took me to one of my least favorite places in the world….the VA hospital. I had surgery on February 7th to remove my cancer-ridden uterus and yesterday I was running a fever and feeling like poop. I ended up getting poked and prodded and sent home with antibiotics for an infection, so I guess I forgive him. He also gave me diamond earrings when we got home from the hospital, which didn’t hurt anything…….
Many people have asked me how George and I are still so in love. After almost ten years, he still has the ability to give me butterflies and we exchange hugs and kisses and slow dance in our kitchen often enough to make our children gag on occasion.Those closest to George and I know that we have also had moments where one of us has deeply hurt the other, but we always reach out to find each other and work through it. That is the gift of marriage that God gave us. The bible says that a man should love his wife as Christ love the church, and a woman should follow and submit to her husband as the church submits to Christ. I felt the feminist hairs on my arms prick up as I typed that. I have a few, and perhaps you do, too. So, let me reassure you that I am not talking about male domination and have never been a fan of the idea that women should be seen and not heard or that a man is the boss and a wife is his servant.
While it is easy to get that idea when words like follow and submit are used, you must think of the comparison and context in which God intended those words to be read. We are not talking about your average Joe Shmo on an ego trip, reveling in the fact that his wife must submit to his every whim. First, may I say that Jesus had a feminist streak himself. Don’t believe me? In a time, and culture, when women were always regarded as lower class citizens and expected to wait on the men in their lives, Jesus spent a day talking and laughing and teaching some of his closest friends and disciples. Among this crowd were two sisters, in whose home this gathering was taking place. One of the sisters was running around like that beheaded fowl so many of us women have the habit of embodying while she tried to make sure everyone was fed and taken care of, while the other spent time with Jesus and the other men, learning and talking. The busy, overwhelmed sister was starting to feel pretty resentful towards her sister and she interrupted the visiting and teaching to ask Jesus to tell her sister to help her. Do you remember Jesus’ response? “Martha, Martha (the headless chicken), you are worried and troubled about many things. But, one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42). Another time when a woman had been caught in the act of cheating on her husband, she was dragged outside of the city by the religious leaders that (I assume) her husband had turned her over to. Jesus was there where they planned on stoning this woman and when asked if he agreed with the law and thought the woman should be stoned, Jesus casually responded that whichever man in the crowd had never sinned should throw the first stone. Starting with the oldest man who had been ready to kill this woman for her betrayal to a fellow man, the men in the crowd set down their stones and walked away. Jesus didn’t judge her either, but sent her on her way (John 8:1-11). So, firstly, Christ doesn’t view women as lower class citizens. Secondly, I consider myself one of the luckiest women on earth to have a husband who tries to love me as much as Christ loves the church. Christ loves his church so much that even before the inhabitants of his church chose to be his people, he took their every mistake they had ever or would ever commit and took their place in God’s eyes. He who really was without sin, allowed himself to be lifted on the cross and killed in the place of his church.
I would like to take this moment to throw out the disclaimer that I am not under any insane impression that George is perfect. I live with the man, remember?? What he does very well though is love me unconditionally and offer forgiveness and grace when I mess up. I will be the first person to admit that I have messed up quite a few times in the past ten years. Two of the infractions I have been guilty of against my husband took me longer to forgive myself than it took George to wrap me in his arms and tell me he still loved me. That is how he tries to love me like Christ loves His church. When he looks at me, he sees me. Not an accumulation of my right and wrong choices, not a comparison of what I have given him versus what he has given me. Just me. The beautiful, talented, silly, incredibly frustrating, sexy, funny, infuriating being that he chose to spend his life with. Having never met anyone else in my life who has loved me with that type of undying, unrelenting, unselfish love before George, I still question the reality of it and have even tested the strength and boundaries of this love on a couple occasions. There is a country song that says no one will love you as much as I do except your mama and Jesus. I never felt that kind of love from either of my parental units (but that is another blog post altogether), or in my first marriage (obviously). I had a loose perception of what Jesus’ sacrifice and God’s love for me was like, but I did not fully grasp the complexity and the depth of it until George loved me.
Now, submitting to someone who at times seems to love you more than you love yourself doesn’t sound too bad, right? Am I a perfect wife? Not even close. But, I do respect the hell out of my husband. The times I have hurt and disappointed him have broken my heart more than the times that he has hurt or disappointed me. I look to him for advice and respect his opinions because he has shown me time and again that he has my best interest at heart. A big difference between being Christ’s church and being a wife is that Christ will never mess up, disappoint or hurt you. He will also never need your grace or forgiveness or your compassion. But, it feels so good to be able to give back as a wife. When my George came back from Afghanistan, almost all of the wives belonging to the men in his unit cut their losses and called it quits. Living with a combat veteran is no picnic, let me tell you. But, part of being “under” my husband in our family means providing the support and care he needs that men are so often too stubborn or proud to admit they need. In the kind of marriage God intended to be a gift to us, my position “beneath” George makes me the only person in the world who sees the soft underbelly his tough exterior hides from the world. It puts me in the unique position of power in his life. I know his most vulnerable places, and as such I have the ability to take him down faster and harder than anyone in a position “above” him in this life. I also love him enough that he can trust me with that knowledge.
Too many times in a marriage the positions that God intended to provide the most satisfying and deepest love and trust in life are instead used as weapons against our other half. In light of the holiday that came and went yesterday, I just wanted to share that I never knew love the way God intended it to be until I met my George. As we go through this crazy life together, I realize more and more what a gift we have been given in marriage. In the ability to know EVERYTHING about someone and still love them. The joyous knowledge that someone knows the very worst thing about you, and even if some of your worst choices have been some of their most heart-wrenching moments, or vice versa, somehow, through the hurt and the anger and the brokenness, you realize the only thing that can heal you is to rebuild it with the very person who caused it. That ability to reach out and find each other in the darkest moments and make the decision to fix it together, that is the kind of love that deserves to be celebrated on Valentine’s Day, and at every other opportunity.