Marriage and Roles

 

When I played football, I wanted to be a running back. I wanted to be the bull that charges over and through opposition, pitting my strength against theirs.

Instead, the coach assigned me to tight end. My role was the less glorious — but no less important — job of blocking. At least in hindsight, I trust that the coach’s choice for me was the right one. But the dream of playing running back stayed with me.

By making me tight end, the coach did not imply that I would make a poor runningback. Nor did the decision imply that the chosen runningback would be excellent in that position. Rather, the coach believed that, together in discipline but separate in focus, my teammates and I would cooperate best in those roles.

How perfect, by comparison, are the roles we are assigned by the divine Creator of all persons and of all roles. How excellent is the chess game of the Lord who sees beyond time and beyond measure.

The One who designed the human body — an endlessly wondrous and perplexing cooperation of billions of living cells, distinct from each other in form and function, sometimes cooperating even without contact (like a lung and a fingernail) — He designed a mystical body of human society in which each member contributes to a whole beyond our complete comprehension.

Woe to the football team if every player tries to act as quarterback. Woe to the body if every part tries to act as head.

In his letter to the Ephesians, St Paul describes the Christian structure of marriage. What does it mean to “be subordinate to one another” if one is the head of the household? It means each part is a power and a grace that is perfected in service to the other.

Have you ever been so tired that your mind struggles to focus, your passions wane, and you struggle to care about anything at all? The mind is not greater than the body. The heart or hand is not greater than the brain. It is only together in health and unified action that the whole glorifies the members.

Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her

Here, St Paul refers to Christ’s Passion (from a Latin word meaning to suffer or to endure) and Crucifixion. Jesus washed the feet of His disciples, in imitation of a slave washing the feet of one’s master. The Lord of all Creation, our heavenly King, humbled Himself even to likeness of a slave.

That is the true calling of any king, any president, coach, manager, or husband. He governs in humble service. He governs not to make the other members small but to make them great; to raise them up.

to sanctify her, cleansing her by the bath of water with the word,

that he might present to himself the church in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

So husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.

The husband governs the wife because she is his ultimate treasure, his favorite part of himself. He dares to trust that, by God’s grace and guidance, she may flourish in freedom with whatever assistance he can provide.

The wife as well has reason and talents. She informs and corrects her husband. She empowers and refines his ways. She is the peaceful and pure water that refreshes his soul. Her talents are not lesser but for a different role.

Sure, but why him? Why does the husband get to lead?

I never asked my coach why I wasn’t the running back, but I could have. You can ask God why He made things so. He listens and responds, though not always when or how we prefer.

Our team didn’t always win. The quarterback and the running back made mistakes; perhaps even embarrassed us on occasion. Maybe sometimes I could have done better, had I played their roles. But what good is a coach if the players won’t heed him?

What good is faith in our Creator and loving Lord if we won’t trust that He has chosen rightly?

The members don’t need to understand the whole body. They just need to trust and love one another, so that together all may flourish. Roles in justice and goodness are ultimately not about power. They are about growth and fruition.

Published in Religion & Philosophy
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  1. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Wow. Between you and @grannydude, the hits just keep on coming!

    • #1
  2. Boney Cole Member
    Boney Cole
    @BoneyCole

    This was the Mass reading today for Catholics.  

    • #2
  3. Quietpi Member
    Quietpi
    @Quietpi

    Pretty amazing.  It was also the Epistle reading today in our Lutheran church.

    • #3
  4. Manny Member
    Manny
    @Manny

    Aaron Miller: She informs and corrects her husband.

    Boy I wish my wife wouldn’t correct me so much.  ;)

    Well done Aaron.  You ought to go into homiletics.  

    • #4
  5. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Quietpi (View Comment):

    Pretty amazing. It was also the Epistle reading today in our Lutheran church.

    I don’t know the specifics, but I’m pretty sure it’s not a chance coincidence. There have been efforts by some of the liturgical churches to coordinate their scripture reading cycles.

    • #5
  6. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Aaron Miller: Why does the husband get to lead?

    Because his wife lets him.

    No, really . . .

    • #6
  7. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    Stad (View Comment):

    Aaron Miller: Why does the husband get to lead?

    Because his wife lets him.

    No, really . . .

    Plus three daughters. I expect that’s a short leash. 

    As with company management, being the manager doesn’t mean only you can make decisions or that the manager doesn’t regularly seek guidance from other workers. Rather, it means “The buck stops here” and discussions that don’t end in agreement instead end in trust.  It’s about responsibilities, not capabilities. 

    • #7
  8. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    Monsignor Charles Pope: 

    http://blog.adw.org/2021/08/two-hard-sayings-in-one-day-a-homily-for-the-21st-sunday-of-the-year-2/

    [….] 

    Consider a classroom teacher. She has authority; she must, so that she can unify and keep order. However, she has that authority in order to serve the children, not to berate them and revel in her power over them. The same is true for a police officer, who has authority not for his own sake but for ours, so that he can protect us and preserve order. 

    [….] 

    The teaching is found in several places in the New Testament: Ephesians 5:22ff (today’s text); Col 3:18; Titus 2:5; and 1 Peter 3:1. In all these texts, the wording is quite similar: wives are to be submissive to, that is under the authority of, their husbands. In each case, however, the teaching is balanced by an exhortation that the husband is to love and be considerate of his wife. 

    [….]

    • #8
  9. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):

    Stad (View Comment):

    Aaron Miller: Why does the husband get to lead?

    Because his wife lets him.

    No, really . . .

    Plus three daughters. I expect that’s a short leash.

    As with company management, being the manager doesn’t mean only you can make decisions or that the manager doesn’t regularly seek guidance from other workers. Rather, it means “The buck stops here” and discussions that don’t end in agreement instead end in trust. It’s about responsibilities, not capabilities.

    I’ve always said even if the man is the head of the family, the wife is the heart and the backbone . . .

    • #9
  10. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    Stad (View Comment):
    I’ve always said even if the man is the head of the family, the wife is the heart and the backbone . . .

    That’s not exactly how I would describe that occasional jolt to your tailbone. 

    • #10
  11. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):

    Stad (View Comment):
    I’ve always said even if the man is the head of the family, the wife is the heart and the backbone . . .

    That’s not exactly how I would describe that occasional jolt to your tailbone.

    Or jawbone . . .

    • #11