The Forgotten Verse

Are traditional roles less valued these days? Some would say yes, but I would say the answer depends on with whom we surround ourselves. I am thankful for friends who have very different lives and beliefs than mine. They help me to understand others better, as I realize I can still be egocentric or ethnocentric. My thirst for knowledge includes wanting to understand others more fully.

Humans tend toward confirmation bias. It makes sense in that our brains work to organize information into understandable sets and subsets. When we surround ourselves with primarily like-minded folk we become complacent in the thought that most people must think like we do. I see this in my politically divided friends as well as my religiously divided friends. To be aware of this tendency perhaps can fuel us on toward seeking more information and understanding.

I have seen a distaste for traditional marriage services when the bride is asked if she will “obey” or “be subject to” her husband. “Wait a minute–hold on right there! That is antiquated and dominating and…” a host of balking descriptors follow.

We are a more civilized and advanced society, and even if we have light-years to go in eradicating racism and prejudice of every sort, we can agree that the imposition of one’s will with the intent to intimidate, dominate or enslave another is morally wrong. So why would anyone in this day and age agree to “obey” a spouse?

The answer lies in the context of the liturgical reference. The pledge is taken from the book of Ephesians in the Bible. The fifth chapter is all about Christlike love. What is that? Well, most agree that Jesus did live. It is who he was and who he claimed to be on which people differ–but that does not matter in what I am reasoning here. Whomever he was, he died in a sacrificial way for his followers and beliefs. Selflessness was “the way.” The ultimate sacrifice of his life to save his friends was a culmination of this way of life, of turning the other cheek, of giving, and of putting the needs of another first.

Ephesians chapter five is about living in love and about the giving of oneself to others and to God. Wives are asked to be subject to their husbands–yet here’s the catch, the forgotten part– and the husband is exhorted to treat “his wife as Christ is the head of the church, its Savior.” There is more about how the husbands are to behave, to “love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her that he might sanctify her…husbands should love their wives as their own bodies…” In its whole it is about introducing total (self-donative) love into marriage. For the unmarried or those in other relationships, the call is no less; it is to “love your neighbor as yourself.”

Taken out of context, the phrasing hints at domination. Taken in context, it alludes to self-sacrificial love, of wanting the best for the other. Sure, humans throughout the ages have messed it up and misapplied the words in dreadful ways. But it is neither the words nor the truths intended that are messed up, it is the people who chose to ignorantly use them. Such a love should should flow both ways, though at times one must decide whether or not to continue to give when the other in the relationship is habitually not doing so. If someone in a relationship is being taken advantage of or is abused, that person should seek help and counsel. Abuse is not love.

My husband and I are “subject to each other” in our shared lives. We make mistakes, we go to each other for advice, we critique each other–in love. Perhaps you have heard the saying “Iron sharpens iron, and so a friend counsels a friend.” That comes from another verse in Proverbs, and it applies here. Sharpening hurts even when done in love, but done so in love makes us grow and stretch and become better persons. We can choose not to help our friend for whatever reason, but in the end would that be loving?

All is hinged in this traditional pledge, and perhaps in life itself, on a forgotten verse that comes from a dynamic chapter describing and exhorting us to love each other the best way possible: selflessly not selfishly.

…Over Fear

So much of social media is upsetting these days due to unprecedented events, diverse views and political divisiveness. Many decide to take breaks from it, or choose more private options with close friends and loved ones. For some, diverse views are intriguing; I fall into that category to a certain extent. When there is time, I will watch videos and read news articles with different views from mine.

An anthropology course in college led to a switch in majors to Nursing. My nursing theoretical framework or philosophy is one that is inclusive of cultural sensitivity. In order for best-care and outcomes, the patient must be the center of the health care team, their lives and desires informing the decision-making process and treatment. We need to know our patients as best we can, to know what their background is, what informs their worldview. Obviously, there is less time to do this in emergent and urgent care situations. Interest in the person as an individual, a family member, a member of the cultural or societal groups to which they belong, fuels my desire to understand and care.

Recently, a few friends sent me current event videos that were upsetting to them. I watched them. I could see how they could be unsettling and cross-researched them. One friend may have made inference to end-times narratives. A neighbor walking past the house yesterday, called out in a greeting to me that things will never be the same.

The world seems so fearful, yet has the world ever remained “the same?”

As a young person I read The Hiding Place, The Diary of Anne Frank, To Kill A Mockingbird, and the story of Job in the Bible. I distinctly remember feeling so lucky that humanity was past all that, and certainly I would never suffer such events. Later I read Roots, ‘Tis, The Color of Water, and Left to Tell. As a military wife I met the foreign officers from other countries including Iraq in the early 2000s. People had stories so profound and current, how could they not shape one’s worldview, one’s opinion of humanity? The truth is that there have been tragedies, calamities, wars, and holocausts throughout history to the present. I was lucky to be shielded–for a time. I suppose some are for their entire lives but that is really not the norm.

Today we see and hear so much, so fast. Another post may be on the detrimental effects of social media toward our youth, but this will wrap up with words of hope.

Humanity has survived. For every Hitler there is a Mother Teresa. Humanity has goodness at its core. Though the human condition includes selfishness, fear, desperation, and the devastatingly evil acts that can come from them, most of us want what is healthy and good for ourselves and others.

Try to understand why someone has a different viewpoint from your own, or just be okay that they do. In disagreements disentangle the knots of difference to the place of agreement.

In regard to end times, I learned when my young husband who was in the middle of doing what was so very good for the world died suddenly, that each of us is in our own end time. None of us knows when this day will be our last. Do what is right today, even if it seems inconsequential.These things will look different for each of us. Not all are called to writing senators or participating in marches, but if that is your strength, then do it. For others, small acts like gently brushing your daughter’s hair, speaking kindly to a co-worker, smiling on the phone with an irritated customer can be just as world-changing.

George Elliott concluded her novel Middlemarch in regard to humble heroine Dorothea:

“Her full nature, like that river of which Cyrus broke the strength, spent itself in channels which had no great name on the earth. But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.”

Mother Teresa said it so well, to do “small things with great love.” Each of us has gifts that the world needs in tiny unseen ways as well as grand. Treat others as you would have them treat you. Strive to choose love and hope over fear.