So I'm asking my readers (all 5 of you) to read the poem "I Think You Want a Wife" and let me know what you think.
I am not ashamed to say that I do not worship my husband. He would be appalled if I did. He is godly enough not to want to be married to an idolater, even if he would be elevated to idol status.
I did not climb into a casket when I married. I die to Christ, imperfectly, but I do not die to mere mortals. Marriage, despite what the most extreme radical feminists (and Mr. Bayly's daughter-in-law) say, did not rob me of dignity. It did not make me disappear. Marriage has, by the grace of God, made me stronger, not weaker.
It is this bleak picture of marriage that makes some young women afraid to marry. Who wants to be forced to worship someone? Who wants to disappear, to be robbed of dignity, to purposefully weaken oneself, to cease to have any sort of ambition --- and then, in this helpless, hopeless state, to try to undergo the demanding task of raising children to the glory of God?
When I was warned, by a few radical feminists, but even more so by women in the church, that marriage would rob me of my person-hood, I was understandably a bit alarmed. My parents only laughed. "Does your mother seem to have lost her identity?" my father chuckled.
My parents, you see, are truly godly people who love Jesus with a great passion and who immerse themselves in the Word of God...and who live it out, humbly and without fanfare. My father loves my mother far too much to rob her of anything, especially her identity in Christ. He loves Jesus too much to want marriage to be anything less than what God intends it to be. Of course, my parents are human. They fall short. They sin. They would be the first to admit it. But rob each other of worth and dignity? Demand worship? Never.
I discovered that, in my mother's case and in my case, because we married men who attempt to love us in a way that will hopefully reflect Christ's love for the church, we lost nothing upon marriage. Oh, sure, for the last 24 years, I've hardly had what I used to consider a decent night's sleep. I've set aside what used to be my ambitions and dreams. I've done things I never wanted to do. My life has been turned topsy-turvy. But...oh, what I've gained. I've really lost nothing.
It's similar to coming to Christ. New converts are sometimes overwhelmed at what they are asked to "give up". Their focus is all on their dying and renouncing and sacrificing and losing. We are so eager to cram our idea of "take up your cross daily" down their throats that we forget to tell them the whole glorious truth.
We really don't give up anything. Not anything worthwhile anyway. Sure, a lot of garbage and rubbish gets thrown away. Some of it, in our foolishness, we are rather attached to. But, oh what we gain. We go from death to life. We get Jesus.
And sometimes a good marriage is a tiny, imperfect and smudged picture of that. We don't die. We aren't robbed of our dignity. We aren't forced to become idol-worshipers. Life does not become an endless drudgery of standing by someone's side,
"affirming, affirming, affirming, affirming, affirming, affirming
affirming, affirming, adoring, affirming, affirming, affirming"
No, if we marry well, we get a wonderful husband, a lifelong friend and companion, a father to our children, a protector and provider --- and we get a relationship that is full and intimate and life-giving, a relationship that is our haven in the storm. In that marriage, we discover a dignity and identity and purpose and strength that we never thought possible.
We become, with Christ at the center of our marriage, that three-strand cord that is not easily broken. Oh, what we gain.
If only all Christian marriage were like that. If only women would cease to make idols of their husbands. If only women were more willing to die to Christ and be made alive in Him, rather than feeling they had to die --- and stay dead --- on the altar of marriage. If only men were more willing to be humble servants of Christ, rather than usurping His role of prophet, priest, and king. If only men were less selfish, less willing to say, "When I look at my wife, I see myself". If only men would learn to better love their wives with the sacrificial love of Christ.
Then we would, as a Church, be telling the truth of the gospel in our marriages...marriages that would be joyous and long-lasting.
And the poems we would write! Joyous, triumphant, thankful, God-glorifying poems!
Updated to add:
Back when I got married (24 years ago this Sunday) it seems that most people were, in general, less negative about marriage than they are now. But I do recall that, although men in our church pretended that it was only with great reluctance that they married and though they made many jokes about the "ball and chain", it was pretty much understood that men tended to get the better deal in marriage. So there was a lot of "grin and bear it", "marriage isn't about you", "you need to be the grown-up" sort of advice given to young brides-to-be.
But what everyone definitely agreed upon is how awful it was to have children. Maybe "awful" is too strong a word, but everyone outside of our extended family had only negative things to say. The general consensus from non-relatives was that we should postpone the misery for as long as possible. Children were a detriment to marriage. I would lose all my freedom. My body would be destroyed and my husband would find it icky to get romantic with "someone's mother". Babies would scream constantly. It was all negative and bleak.
Of course, since I was significantly older than my younger brother, I remembered his early years vividly. No one's life was ruined. In fact, we were all tremendously enriched and agreed that he was pretty much the best thing that ever happened to our family. (When he got older, we older siblings felt a need to pretend otherwise at times...)
Life with a baby was wonderful! My parents actually believed that children were a gift from God --- a delightful, wonderful, joyous gift. So having my baby brother seemed like having Christmas all year round!
As soon as my husband and I became parents (days before our first anniversary) we discovered the closely guarded secret that few people want non-parents to know: babies are incredible. We couldn't get enough of our little guy. In the evenings, we were tempted to fight over who would get to hold him. "Who would have thought holding a baby would feel so good?" my husband would repeat with amazement.
Having a baby was just way too much fun, we decided. If people had any idea, they would all marry at 18 and have babies right away.
Oh, sure, I was incredibly sleep-deprived the first three months. I sometimes felt as if my life revolved around, as I called it, "input and output". (I tried to convince my husband that he should take over the output duties, but he refused.) There were many days of feeling overwhelmed, especially as we had more children. We were not footloose and fancy-free, able to flit about doing frivolous things at a moment's notice. Life was never the same again.
It was much better.
Because, you see, we had children! We didn't lose anything. We gained! In fact, we often felt as if we made out like bandits. All the horrible, dire predictions of misery and doom? Nope.
Some people, especially women, seem afraid of joy. As my father jokes, they aren't happy unless they are miserable. They believe in embracing a life of martyrdom, and letting others know how difficult life is.
Marriage must be a path of death and sorrow and despair and loss, or how can it be godly? (These women usually will not marry well, but will prefer someone who will not disabuse them of the notion that marriage, for wives, is mostly a trial requiring great loss and sacrifice.)
Motherhood must be drudgery and meaninglessness and endless suffering and even more loss, or how can it be godly?
I'll admit that I sometimes have felt that life is unfair. I haven't suffered enough. I haven't been miserable enough. All the horrible things that people predicted when we were newlyweds have not come to pass. Sure, the years haven't been completely painless. I could tell labor and birth horror stories, for example. We've experienced loss and tragedy and disappointment and anguish. Many tears have been shed.
But all in all...have we lost anything? Have we given up anything of meaning? Have we been robbed of anything? No. We have gained. We have been blessed beyond comprehension, behind my wildest dreams.
God has been so good.
And that poem? I don't believe it. Oh, I'm almost sure that the woman who wrote it meant every word. But I don't believe that this is what God intended for marriage. I've tasted a tiny bit of what He intends. And it's beautiful and joyous and life-giving and...and...if people had any idea how wonderful marriage can be, everyone would be marrying at 18. Every man would want a wife and every woman would want a husband. And people would look on the writers of such poems with tearful pity...if only she had married well...if only she knew...
Edited slightly for clarity.
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