Friday, February 28, 2014

CTNAHM-Washing of the Word Part 3 (Is She Serving You With Joy or A Sense of Duty?)

p 154-156

I realised something just now. I skipped 2 pages of my review last post. The last couple paragraphs of that post actually take place after today's section. Apologies. Hopefully this post will get everything sorted out.
Text is in purple

Cleanse Your Wife
These three verses are the most important in the entire Bible regarding marriage. I will print them again and again. You should have them memorized by the time you finish this book.
EPHESIANS 5:25-27
25-Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;
26-That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,
27-That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.
   Just FYI-he's not kidding about printing these verses over and over again.
A husband's ministry on this earth is parallel to Christ's ministry. As Christ came to love an imperfect bride and receive her while still in sin, so a husband receives and imperfect bride. As Christ gave himself for the church, a husband is to sacrificially give himself for his wife. As Christ is the head of the church with the responsibility of loving, sanctifying, and cleansing her, likewise the husband is the head of the wife with a lifelong ministry of sanctifying and cleansing her.  
   Interesting tidbit. There is a chapter and a half devoted to "sanctifying and cleansing" the wife, but barely any coverage at all about how a man is to sacrificially give himself for his wife. In fact, for all of the ink devoted to sanctifying the wife, there is precious little about the man's role-except to be the head of the wife!
   How easy it must be to be a man in PearlWorld! Oh sure, you're imperfect. But it's not like you SHOULD change, it's not like you have to accommodate anyone else. You are the head of the household, and as so, it is your DUTY to change you wife and children to fit your needs! This type of teaching is almost guaranteed to turn men into tyrants-after all, who has the authority to tell them "no"?
This is God's great plan, conceived in eternity past, the means by which he brings us into conformity to his heart. It is heaven's clinic, the place where two sinners join hands and hearts as they become "heirs together in the grace of life".
   I've asked this before, but if BOTH parties in the marriage are sinners, how does it figure that only one part of them needs sanctification-and the other can give it? It's like the blind leading the blind, isn't it? Because what Michael seems to be saying is that sanctification and cleansing of the wife really means "molding" her to fit the needs of the man. The dictionary defines sanctification as "to purify or free from sin". But isn't one of the hallmarks of Christianity that no matter how much people try, they will still sin-still never be perfect? And how is it that an imperfect man can make his wife perfect? It would be like a person who struggles in basic math trying to teach their child Calculus. Yet Michael seems to assure his readers that not only can Calculus be learned, but that it is the only skill they will ever need.
   I'm not a marriage expert, but I'm fairly certain a union needs more than just one person doing all the changing.
Marriage is a high calling, an opportunity to discover the power and wisdom to grow beyond self-interest as we learn to live for another. It is the place where we can daily forsake all and make ourselves small on behalf of one whom God loves.
   How are men supposed to grow beyond self-interest, when this book is literally all about changing EVERYONE except the man. Oh, Michael says things like "Keep XYZ in mind." But he rarely outright says to change-in fact, he insists that his types are unchangeable and unmovable. I would really like to read more about how men are supposed to make themselves small on behalf of God, when this book (and culture) tells men at every turn that, in their house/family they ARE GOD and should be treated as such.
I say it again: in marriage the total is greater than the sum of its parts. When two become one, they are much more together than they would ever be apart.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
9-Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour
10-For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.
11-Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone?
12-And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
   It's true that in a healthy relationship, the pair is more together than they are separately. When a couple is allowed the freedom to develop their own talents, dreams, desires, and goals, the couple is enriched. But insisting that half the couple's purpose is to support the other half isn't making the total greater. It's creating an unbalanced equation that isn't healthy for either one.
   Verse 10 talks about lifting up the one who falls. That's a nice thought, but in this culture, it's hard to know when the woman falls, because she's been cultured to smile no matter what. I've seen this countless times growing up Mormon. No matter what's going on at home, when asked, the wife politely smiles and says everything is fine. I have known women that were being physically and verbally abused, or stressed to the point of mental collapse, or overwhelmed and unappreciated-none of them felt they could "fall" and be helped up by their husband. There's a reason that Utah (Mormon central) is the #1 state for anti-depressant use. (I'm sure, if mental health medication was acceptable in QF circles, those areas would be pretty high, too).
   What I'm trying to say is, in a culture that encourages "grinning and bearing it" for women and "supporting and uplifting" for men, there will never be an equal yoke.
Marriage properly ordered is the quickest path to obtaining wisdom, grace, mercy, patience, faith, compassion, and humility-especially humility. If it were not for the constant presence of that other human being in our life we could live in a delusion. In our solitude we could call a half measure a whole, we could believe that mediocrity is perfection, that lack of conflict is peace, that distant sympathy is compassion, that sharing with a friend is transparency, and that liberal giving is sacrifice.
   Call me crazy, but doesn't this paragraph read like the Command Man manifesto? And what is with calling one's wife "that other human being"? That sounds like when a parent says "No, you can't play with that neighbour boy. He burnt down the orphanage!" Also, I don't know about your marriage, but I wasn't handed faith, mercy, grace, wisdom, and patience with my marriage license. Truthfully, I think marriage has made those more complicated, because now I am accountable to someone else.
We could live our entire life alone and be convinced that we are mature and emotionally balanced. the closeness of marriage creates a friction that either builds a fire that destroys everything or rounds off the edges and sharpens our spirits. God made marriage not only for the joy it brings but for its ability to expose our weaknesses and remind us of our fallibility. In marriage, we go deeper, climb higher, reach further, and develop beyond the perceived limits of our humanity. It is heaven's incubator where we hatch into eternity. "Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the LORD. (Proverbs 18:22)"
   There is no guarantee that marriage will cause someone to become mature and emotionally balanced. Certainly not if the power dynamic is severely in favour of one party! And again, I am reminded how odd it is that a culture that celebrates marriage consistently makes it seem like a drudgery!
   I am irritated by the passive language of the Proverbs verse. FINDETH a wife? Like she's a bargain at Walmart, with no input of her own. Just pick one out and take 'er home. (Batteries, assembly, and training not included). But I guess that's a hallmark of this culture.
I could ask, "What is your marriage doing for you?" But the more pertinent question is, "What is your marriage doing for your wife?" Is she being perfected or rejected? Is she climbing or declining? Loving or loathing? Does she serve you with joy or a sense of duty? does she know she is your treasure or does she feel used and abused? Your job as her husband is to cleanse her, not to offend her with words of criticism.
   What is the difference between perfected and rejected? If a man is trying to cleanse his wife with his words, (and I'm assuming that Michael counsels suggesting change as "cleansing"), how can she tell the difference between that and criticism? And is there really a difference in this instance? Because the husband is trying to change the wife into what he wants-seemingly regardless of her strengths or needs.
   And once again, I ask, how is a man supposed to decide if his wife is declining or climbing when she isn't allowed to show anything other than a grateful smile? Is he supposed to ask her? Because I can't see that ending with an honest answer. "Honey, am I treating you well? Are you happy being my wife?" What possible answer can a woman in this environment give except "Yes, you're wonderful"? The awful thing is if she answers with anything other than gratitude, the husband will see it as a sign that he needs to purify her even more!
   Oh, and I like how Michael asks how she serves you-either happily or dutifully. Because, mister, you're going to be served either way. It just depends if your missus lovingly places your plate in front of you at dinner or throws it down and gets sauce on your shirt (which she'll have to wash).
   If following the advice of Michael is how one treasures their wife, it's no wonder that wives become bitter. Constantly being encouraged to change, be happy, be grateful, be pregnant, be teaching, be godly...the list goes on and on. I remember before I left Mormonism, I was overwhelmed. There was so much stuff we were "supposed" to do. Read scriptures, pray, go to the temple, pay tithing, do family history, serve in our callings, go to all the meetings, go to conferences, visit others, etc.  It was a thousand "good" things to do, but all I ever felt was run-down and inadequate. And that's exactly what cultures like this end up with. Tired women who keep smiling and doing what they "should", because nobody even notices they are suffering.

   Now we get to the part I typed last time. So no commentary, just Michael's words of wisdom. Enjoy!
If you fail to perfect your wife, you not only fail her, you fail God, you fail the entire human process. You fail the kingdom of God. Since God chose marriage to illustrate his ministry to the church, to fail in marriage is to defame the ministry of Christ. To fail to sanctify your wife is an opportunity lost for eternity.
STOP! Don't commit depressicide. God has a solution, and I am going to tell you what it is.

I don't think I could define "scare tactics" any better than this paragraph. So on this happy note, I will end. I hope you all are ready for the big reveal: God's solution to sanctifying your wife! I know I'm excited.

2 comments:

  1. The problem is that most responsible theologians see two big differences in this passage that Michael fails to acknowledge. One--the analogy about Christ and the Church is meant to teach us about Christ and the Church, not so much about marriage. Two--these instructions upend the Roman household codes which saw wives more or less as being property.

    The whole "marriage makes you a better person" thing really bothers me. The implication, that many evangelicals and fundamentalists readily conclude and teach, is that those who are unmarried are not worthy, not complete Christians and incapable of being mature adults. That is incredibly insulting and also not theologically sound at all. I also think it contributes to difficulties in marriage. If you approach marriage as a project for self-improvement (or worse yet, improvement for your spouse), you are not likely to have true emotional intimacy--how can you be honest about yourself and your shortcomings and doubts with someone whose real goal is to fix you? And you are also not likely to be real companions. Your spouse should not be your therapist, life coach or parent. --amielou31

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    1. I think they key word is "responsible" theologian. After all, Michael's studied the Bible for what-60 years? I guess Biblical history isn't as important as what Michael thinks God really wants.
      As to your second point, I agree and disagree. I know I'm a better person since marrying my husband than I was before him. He's in the process of smoothing out my rough edges (and there were lots). But I completely agree how single people are seen as not good enough in church.
      That's a great last point, too. I feel like we should turn that into a wall hanging and send it to the Pearls!

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