Friday, February 8

"Maybe the bride-bed brings despair,
For each an imagined image brings
And finds a real image there;
Yet the world ends when these two things,
Though several, are a single light..."

The World
William Butler Yeats

In many communities, but in ours especially, there is a very real need for a couple to care for one spouse whose significant other is gone for an extended time. Unfortunately many of us, even those of us in the Church, do a very poor job of meeting this need. We feel uncomfortable as a man caring for the needs of another man's wife while he is gone. It seems to be difficult for us to go over to their homes and mow their yard, play catch with their sons, work on their cars. Perhaps we are afraid that a wild passion will overcome us and we will forsake our own wife. Perhaps we feel that by helping we are stepping on the toes of the husband who is gone. Perhaps we just feel uncomfortable with it because we are taught to forsake all others when we take our marriage vows.

I would like to suggest that forsaking all others is not exactly what we have made it out to be. You can demonstrate abiding love for your wife by respecting all women and caring for your friend's wife's needs with their children and household necessities when left behind by the deployed husband-father. And conversely, you can only really take care of the wife of another by having daily loved your own wife well.

Wendell Berry makes a great point in The Art Of The Commonplace. He remarks: "To forsake all others does not mean- because it cannot mean - to ignore or neglect all others, to hide or be hidden from all others, or to desire or love no others. To live in marriage is a responsible way to live in sexuality, as to live in a household is a responsible way to live in the world. One cannot enact or fulfill one's love for womankind or mankind, or even for all the women or men to whom one is attracted. If one is to have power and delight of one's sexuality, then the generality of instinct must be resolved in a responsible relationship to a particular person...No matter how much one may love the world as a whole, one can live fully in it only by living responsibly in some small part of it."

To "forsake all others" is to trap our love and the influence of grace upon the community behind a wall of partiality that is in the best sense fake and in the worst case ugly and demeaning. We have a responsibility then, not just to our own families, but also to those with whom we live, work, and worship.

Ash Wednesday

Yes, it's now Friday, but Ash Wednesday passed by us not unnoticed. We went to our first Ash Wed. service, full of repentant Psalms and readings from exhorting passages of Scripture and experienced the dust of ashes painted in a little cross on our foreheads. "From dust you came and to dust you will return." After more prayers, knees numbed and thighs aching from kneeling, we walked out from communion with clean hearts and hands challenged to serve 40 days and nights seeking God's face.

"Had you desired it, I would have offered sacrifice;
but you take no delight in burnt-offerings.

The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise."