Winning

Today I find myself thinking about the differences between boys and girls, men and women, husbands and wives.  This, as a way of understanding how men’s orientation toward the concept of marriage is shaped by genetics and socialization, and why this basic—ingrained?—orientation may need to evolve if the marriage is to be built on a solid foundation.

I heard a story on NPR recently that examined the differences in infant boys and infant girls.  In the experiment, a Plexiglas barrier was placed between the baby and its mother, so that the baby could see mom, but could not reach or touch her.  As expected, the girls, more mature at this age, figured out quickly that they were upset, and began to cry.  The boys, after a while, discovered they were frustrated, and began seeking ways around and over the barrier, becoming angry when they were unable to do so.

Backs up what I used to observe when our kids would encounter adversity on the sports field:  Girls get sad, boys get mad.  This is not me being a chauvinist; it’s an academic study that happens to support my own bias, and which I therefore endorse. Lorenzo winning

Here’s what boys are NOT taught by their peers growing up:

Colossians 3:12   12Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.

For most boys, our orientation toward the world typically becomes one of competition—for the parents’ attention versus siblings, in sports, in school, for the ability to impress the girls.  Not surprisingly, this, along with our genetic predisposition to action, causes many of us to approach the institution of marriage with the idea of winning.  Seeking out the ideal girl or woman, crushing the competition for her affections, convincing her of the indescribable joy in store for her as your mate for life, and getting interest-free financing on the ring.

Anyone see anything in here about kindness, humility, meekness or patience?

Once we’ve landed her, and have had a few years to get adjusted to the reality of living together, this male orientation easily produces a mindset in which the relationship is seen as a zero sum game wherein fun is set against responsibility.  And, typically, he sets about winning, having as much fun as he can get away with, and doing as little as possible to keep the family unit intact without incurring the absolute wrath of his spouse.  Winning.

His spouse, by the way, came up learning how to nurture and communicate with those around her, probably has a predisposition to understanding our natures, for better or worse, and generally is not surprised to get the short end of the transactional straw.  In Iris Krasnow’s book The Secret Lives of Wives, a number of wives share stories of how they found happiness with the smaller share.  I joke with Nancy about arm-wrestling her for the last piece of her peach pie.  For many couples, their marriage IS the pie.  They do “arm-wrestle.”  And the men “win.”

Matthew 20:26  It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant.

One of the lessons I’ve learned along the way of my own relatively short spiritual journey is that my language of love, acts of service, is in fact one of the behaviors Jesus insists we adopt as members of the Body of Christ and, on a smaller scale, as husbands.  (Talk about a lucky break.)  It took me years to appreciate this, during which I feel I slacked on Nancy, notably while our children were growing up. I was out of town too much of the time, trying to pack a week’s worth of living into a two day weekend.  I was very transactional.  I was trying to win.

In the early 2000’s, Nancy’s career path and mine crossed.  Hers was on the way up, after 13 years at home with the kids.  Mine was trending downward. Eventually, I adopted the attitude that I would focus on taking care of a few more tasks of running the house than before, which included grocery shopping and most of the cooking.  This was what I could contribute to the marriage while I was having career issues.  This was also about the time I began my conversion, after 50 years of having been intentionally un-churched, which may or may not be a coincidence.

Mark 10:43-45  43 Not so with you.  Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

The over-arching lesson of all of this for me:  if we as men adopt a posture of service to God, our spouses, and our children, early in our marriages, it will produce more aggregate happiness, and God will smile on us for having seen the wisdom of His Son’s many lessons, quoted here in Mark’s gospel.  In my case, the language of love was there, but I was unwilling of or unable to acknowledge the Holy Spirit, urging me to be a better husband.  I think it must be a rare marriage, indeed, in which the husband is committed as Jesus prescribed, and the wife (and relationship) is not happy, content, and aligned with the Word of God.  Gentlemen, it is so NOT about winning.

H

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Submission

Posted by Christine Burrows

happiness image #2 Christine

Let’s break it down. Sub= below. Mission = calling, duty. To put oneself below or under the calling or duty which one answers.

Huh? Not words or concepts that resonate in today’s culture. In fact, they seem rather contrary to the contemporary spirit of individualism, independence, and self-promotion. How do we begin to discuss submitting to God or our spouse, when the concept of submission isn’t one most of us often consider? I started with a surrender…

Several years ago, I read Surrendering to Motherhood:  Losing your Mind, Finding Your Soul, by Iris Krasnow.  Krasnow was a journalist with 4 boys under the age of 4 when Ethel Kennedy finally returned her call for an interview. She was hip deep in little boy issues, and simultaneously trying to focus on conducting the interview.  It was bad timing, to say the least. Finally, Ethel said, “You go do what’s important,” and hung up on her.  Iris was devastated, but went on to describe this incident as a catalyst for her surrendering to her calling as mother.

I understood her conundrum. I had 4 kids under 7 at the time, and was doing some balancing of my own – unwilling to surrender one vocation for another.  Krasnow’s story made me smile, and I wondered who would need to hang up on me to give me the push to prioritize my callings, and to do so without resentment.

My own surrender was just beginning.

Flash forward to my first exposure to Theology of the Body. I’m pretty sure I was pregnant with our third child when I first heard a woman give a talk at a retreat about Theology of the Body.  I definitely didn’t get it.  Even though I was a “practicing” Catholic, I had never heard anyone bring God into the marital embrace like this woman did. I thought I was doing well by being a faithful wife, and being willing to have more than 2 babies, albeit on our schedule.  While I may have been surrendering to my vocation of motherhood, I wasn’t all that keen on the idea of submission. I’d say at that point, I was a controlled submissive.  I controlled when and how I submitted to God’s will in our marriage.

Thank God for women like my sister who desired more knowledge and were bold enough to want to share what they learned.  These true evangelists are responsible for spreading the beautiful messages of Theology of the Body my way.  As I learned more, I became more inspired to share, and more submissive to God. It radically changed the way I viewed my husband, my vocation as a mother, our family, my call to evangelization, and my love for our faith.happiness image Christine

Through the grace of God and the courage of these evangelists, I slowly found peace in submitting to God’s plan for me and my marriage.  How many children we have, where we end up living, how much income we generate, how we manage challenges like illness and financial stress, etc. – all managed by peacefully surrendering to God and trusting in his divine providence.

This week I heard a news update about how fewer people are marrying. The analyst spoke about how fewer men want to marry, and perhaps that’s because women have become more aggressive (their words, not mine). Something in this story made me think about that reluctance to submissiveness that we as a culture have. Rather, we have a stronger drive for independence and self-determination. Yet, if we could pause to think about WHO we are submitting to, and from whom we are asserting our independence, this might change. If we openly submit to God, we would desire to enter into the most sacred union God has created for us – marriage.

Surrendering, submitting, and accepting God’s will.  It’s so incredibly humbling!  But in that humility, there is grace and joy.  I strongly encourage all of us to give it a try by taking baby steps in our marriages.  Seek a moment in prayer to ask God for His will in your relationship, and see where that selflessness takes you and your spouse.