Monsignor Charles Pope over at the Archdiocese of Washington DC had an interesting article the other day on Marriage.
His third component in his article was this:
Marriage makes two people one. The trouble comes in determining which one. – One of the biggest problems today in marriage is power struggle. In our modern age we have rejected the biblical teaching of headship in marriage. God establishes a husband in authority in the home. Every organism and organization requires headship. A creature with two heads is a freak. A creature with no head is dead. Having rejected the necessity of headship and the biblical teaching assigning that to the husband (eg Eph 5:19 ff) the result is power struggle between the spouses. Now a husband’s authority is not a worldly, autocratic authority but a Christian, servant based authority (Cf Mark 10:41-45). I have written more on this matter here: An Unpopular Teaching on Marriage. It does not follow that the husband always “gets his way.” Rather, if he is smart, he listens carefully to his wife and her wisdom. Practically speaking women have great authority in the home and its daily running and a smart husband will not seek to micromanage and usurp his wife’s role and her practical authority there and with the children. But in the end, two have to become one. Oneness requires headship, common faith, shared fear of the Lord, and a heartfelt appreciation for the gifts of each.If you want some interesting reading, go to the comments that follow from this posting. But, for me this is a very practical teaching that has taken me most of my 60 years on the planet to understand (if only a teeny weeny bit).
I was fortunate to be raised in a good Catholic home, with a mother and father who loved me. That said, we had our own versions of dysfunction, and for me as a child of the marriage, my own version of turning what I thought I saw into a life long delusion.
My father flew Spitfire warplanes in WWII, as a member of the Royal Canadian Air Force Red Indian Squadron, No. 421. He and my mother were an item in Timmins in northern Ontario, where he had been working, and remained so when he left Timmins to study Business Administration at the University of Western Ontario, here in London Ontario. He decided that he wanted to do his part for the war effort to prevent Fascism from reaching our shores, and so he joined up one day in May of 1941. Between the time of his basic and flight officer training, my mother, who was still in Timmins, made it very clear to him that she did not want him to be worried while overseas about her waiting for him to return, and so they were married prior to his departure.
When my father returned from the war, his health started to deteriorate, and within a few years, he was seriously crippled by arthritis, an autoimmune disease we all know about, but which can be brought on by stress. I guess getting shot at by German Luftwaffe fighter pilots could be a tad stressful.
So, as a child, what I saw or didn't see was a father who was often not at home, but was in hospital, and I saw a strong woman who was large and in charge. As a young child, we do not have the advantage of perspective, and so I missed the effort Mom was putting in to keep the family together, while seriously worried for my father. I also did not realise at the time how much she deferred to my father out of respect for him as her husband. Further, I did not really see how much my father adored my mother, and lived his life, in faith, for her and our family.
Combine that with the advent of feminism, when women apparently needed men like fish need bicycles, or so said Gloria Steinem, and I entered my 20's somewhat emasculated, along with many of my peers. I married the large and in charge view of my mother not once, but twice. Go figure that one. There are a number of things I have done twice wrong in my life, just to be sure that I understood the pattern before moving on.
It is a not very bright person, who repeats the same errors again (and again if unconvinced) expecting to reap different rewards.
There is not a scintilla of a possibility of a hope that I was the head of the household I was involved in in my first two marriages.
But,10 years ago, I was married for the final time, really truth be told, for the first time, but that is a spiritual statement, and is contrary to the physical evidence I presented above.
My Dear Wife is a very kind, Catholic Christian woman of deep faith, the kind that helped her to overcome serious challenges in her childhood, and in her family dynamic. Our marriage started out like my two previous ones, where I was looking for someone to handle the tough sledding, so I could be a nice guy, and skate through life. Well, MDW is not that kind of woman, and we had conflict up the whazoo for several years. She was not satisfied to just slog through it with me, and she enlisted the help of her best friend, Jesus. Jesus allowed me to be hit in the back of the head by a Ford Aerostar van 6 1/2 years ago, and I have been unable to return to work since. She, herself, simultaneously was struck with two autoimmune diseases that have disabled her seriously.
Watching her get through her days in her faith, loving me, provided a backdrop for me to step up my own game, and to become the man that God wanted me to be, and one she could be proud to have as her husband,was the major impetus for allowing God to guide me on a stronger path as a man.
Along the way, I picked up on something that I did not notice early on, and that was that she expected ME to be the head of the household. This is not to be confused with lording anything over her. That is not going to happen. This is a case of two equal partners, where she wants me to have the last word on certain things, to provide the leadership that she can rely on, and the strength of character that empowers our marriage, and provides her with comfort and shelter.
A major example from yesterday brought perspective to the whole thing for me. About a year ago, we got rid of our second car, and have survived for the past year with one. However, My Dear Wife engages in quilting with two guilds and other classes and events, and is also the only active member of her family in the care of her aging mother who lives 25 miles down the road from us. We agreed that we were in need of another vehicle, and then she stepped back, inviting me to take the lead in the search. I looked at many available options for a used car, eBay, local dealers etc. Then one day, we took a new Honda Accord out for a test drive. Interestingly, MDW did not want to drive this car, but was satisfied to go for the ride. A new Honda would be about $32,000 out the door, and that stopped me in my tracks, not because we could not afford to do it, but mainly because I was uncertain whether that was a good way to use some of our money.
Finally, yesterday, we went to see the dealer up the road where we had purchased our previous Honda, and were offered a better deal to buy there once again. We went away and talked about it, and the sly one told me that she was okay with buying this car, but wanted me to make the final decision. That left me in a quandary. We told the dealer we would get back to them this morning, and went home.
Last night I prayed specifically about this new car option, and prayed further with one of my prayer partners this morning. I was finally at peace with US spending this amount of money for a new car, and came home and told MDW what I believed was the right decision for us to make. She concurred and I set the wheels in motion to complete the transaction.
My Dear Wife trusts that I will not make hasty decisions, though I used to. She trusts that I will put it to prayer, and she will join me as required. She trusts that my primary concern in this matter is her safety, her health, our finances, and our well being as a couple, and above that that we will honour God to the best of our abilities.
The Kingdom is a reflection of the King. In our little kingdom, the queen is the power behind the throne, and I am devoted to the queen. My Dear Wife never shrinks from sharing her thoughts and opinions on any decisions that presents itself to us. She is free to make decisions on her own about many things, as am I. But, we do not make any decisions without mutual consultation, and consultation from above.
Biblical headship has been a hard thing for me to get my head around, largely because I have been lazy, and afraid of the responsibility. It has taken the love and trust of a very good woman to bring me around to accepting my responsibilities as a husband.