This week, I’m joining up with Rachel Held Evans for a synchroblog on “Submit to One Another: Christ and the Household Codes.” If you aren’t familiar with RHE, she writes often about egalitarian marriages where the spouses are equal, as opposed to complementarian marriages where the wife complements the husband’s leadership (traditionally understood as Biblical). You can follow the discussion on her blog, or on Twitter with #onetoanother.
At first, I was just going to post two pictures about what date night looks like at the Prymus house. These activities took place simultaneously this past Saturday night, a night reserved for just the two of us after three days apart. Granted, mowing the lawn is a funny way to start date night… but the pictures definitely describe the division of labor at the Prymus house: it’s pretty equal and nontraditional.
Just before this week started, however, my friend Q loaned me two books that I didn’t think had anything to do with one another: The Solace of Leaving Early by Haven Kimmel and Getting Naked Later: A Guide for the Fully Clothed by Kate Hurley. One is a novel about rural Indiana and Alfred North Whitehead; the other is a nonfiction book by a woman in her 30s about being a Christian single in the church today.
So on Sunday, I read. I have to say that our Sundays usually look pretty date-like too: on Sundays, Kylie and I only do restful activities–like reading or playing board games together at home, at a coffee shop, or the park. This past Sunday, the activity was reading on the couch, and I was about halfway through The Solace of Leaving Early when I looked over at Kylie and said, “I am so so so thankful for you, our relationship, and our marriage.”
The middle of the novel describes the breakdown of a marriage. From the perspective of the pastor who counseled the couple, the story is told as he is retracing his steps, wondering if the marriage failed because of something he did. (And the marriage failed royally–but I won’t spoil the book for you.) Essentially, the marriage failed because the husband loved his family too much–so much that he stifled his wife, even locking her inside the house so that she couldn’t attend an art gallery opening of her own work.
Here’s a conversation between Jack (the husband) and Amos (the pastor) after the wife left:
“–Amos, I–listen. I read the Bible every night. I’ve heard it all my life, and I’ve been in a Bible study group with Faith in Families for months now. I don’t know much about the Old Testament, but I know enough. Look up the word ‘marriage’ or ‘wife’ or ‘woman.’ It all says the same thing. A woman is to be subservient to her husband. The man is the high priest of the home. The two shall be as one. If a woman divorces her husband and marries again, she’s an adulterer. Women aren’t even supposed to speak. It couldn’t be more clear. Are you going to argue? Do you even have grounds to disagree?”
“As a matter of fact–“
“There are laws, Amos. There are natural laws and man-made laws and marriage laws, and you know them as well as I do.”
“You’ve made a terrible error, Jack, please listen to me–“
“Do you deny the Christian law, Amos? Just say so–“
“Jack, slow down–if you want to talk about the Scriptures, we can–look at Luke 10:25, it’s perfectly clear: love is the final requirement of the law. Love is the fulfillment of the law. There’s nothing beyond that.”
“Yes, and I love Alice and I love my children, and we are meant to be together on earth as well as in heaven, and I believe God will answer my prayer and put an end to all this.” Jack stood and offered Amos his hand. “I’ve got to be going. I believe you did the best you could.” (141)
That’s where I stopped and thanked my husband for our marriage. As much as I want to believe that Kimmel’s portrayal of this relationship is hyperbole, I know it’s not. And I definitely know it’s not a situation in which I would thrive.
I’m thriving now because my husband cooks yummy, nutritious food to take care of me and our growing baby. I’m thriving now because he encourages me to go, leave the house and research yoga–even if it means disappearing for a week at a time on an airplane. I’m thriving now because he encourages me to speak. And he’s thriving now because I clean his laundry and speak truth into his life when he’s had a bad day–even if, to some, it might look like I’m taking on the “high priest role” in the relationship. We both don it. We both listen. We both “submit.” And we both thrive.
So then. On to the second book–the one about singleness.
I’ve been following Kate Hurley’s blog “The Sexy Celibate” for over a year now, and I was excited to read her book. I’m not single, but I did get married at the age of 29–after never dating. Thoroughly entrenched in the culture of I Kissed Dating Goodbye, at the age of 26, I’d never been kissed, never been asked to prom, to a dance, to a date, or to a function of any sort. I felt it was worse than being single–I’d never even been chosen to spend an evening with someone. Based on a few conversations God and I had when I was young, I figured I might be an Undeclared Nun. If I had been brave enough to write about it, that’s what my blog would have been called.
I don’t know why God chose to give me Kylie. I know it was a great grace, great gift, and great love of God to do it. God didn’t have to do it. God could have chosen another way for me. God does choose other ways and paths for the lives of some of my friends–some of my incredibly beautiful, sexy friends who love God with all their hearts and are over 30 and single and wondering if they’ll ever find a partner.
That’s what they’re looking for: a partner. My girl friends are independent, strong, flirty, and incredibly intimidating because they’re smart. These women are also filled with the Holy Spirit and love God with all their hearts. They’re also not settling for a mundane relationship with someone on eHarmony who tries to pick them up with a picture of his beer belly. They’re looking for someone to stand beside them, walk with them, and partner with them. And you know what? They’re not going to settle for anything less than a spouse who loves them like Jesus loves them.
Getting Naked Later is Kate Hurley’s really honest look at what it’s like to be single in a world where the cure for loneliness is romance. She talks about how the church can be more welcoming to singles instead of marginalizing them or trivializing their positions. She also talks about how singles don’t have to use “single” as their primary label. It’s a pretty frank book to both sides of the marital fence.
But here’s the part of her book that made me stop and again look at the man sitting on the couch with me. Kate quotes Henri Nouwen about marriage. It’s one of the most beautiful descriptions I’ve ever read:
“Marriage is not a lifelong attraction of two individuals to each other, but a call for two people to witness together to God’s love. The basis of marriage is not mutual affection, or feelings, or emotions and passions that we associate with love, but a vocation, a being elected to build together a house for God in this world, to be like the two cherubs whose outstretched wings sheltered the Ark of the Covenant and created a space where Yahweh could be present” (sic, 89).
I love this image of building a house together–a refuge, a safe place for people to come away from the world and be loved. A place, too, to nudge people to become more of whom God created them to be–including each other, our future children, and the friends and strangers who walk through our door.