I would like to thank my wife for talking me back from the edge every week in our Sunday School class on marriage. I’m getting better. This week I calmed myself down about halfway after my initial fuming. The tone of the lessons seems to address newly-Christian or young couples who are experiencing their first disillusionment, or some reminder of this on a second or third disappointment. We’ve been married almost forty years, and have a few hundred disillusionments each, so bright clichés aren’t all the helpful. Y’hear? These are also much the same clichés we encountered in the 1970’s, with heavy emphasis on Adam and Eve, and the differing (but equally important! Did we mention they were equally important?!) roles for husbands and wives. One homework assignment was to discuss what our expectations of marriage had been. I dunno. I’ve forgotten. I’m sure it was important at the time.
To give credit where credit is due: it has a particularly good description of servant, sacrificial leadership that is not merely superficial enjoinders to lead family devotions and being a good example. I was able to appreciate that when A) I had calmed down and B) my wife pointed it out. This is why I’m staying with the class, because even a flawed tool can be useful. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out… Matthew 12:20, from Isaiah 42:3. (See, I can still do this evangelical stuff just fine.) Cliches have their value – that’s how they got to be clichés – and it’s good to be reminded that marriage is about God, not about us.
We didn’t know much about marriage when we first learned these things, so creating some structure, some cuphooks on which to hang the cups is likely one of the best things a teacher can do. It probably contributed more to our understanding and adapting to differences than we give it credit for. I say that resignedly, with bad grace. Because now we do know something about marriage – we have friends and coworkers whose marriages have failed while others endured even through hardship; we now understand our parents better, we have other couples who we have discussed marriage with, and have seen another generation grow up and start families. I can now say with some confidence that what keeps marriages together and takes them apart is ultimately not whether they got Ephesians 5 right but whether they got the equal-opportunity Ten Commandments right. At best, putting so much energy into the roles of husbands and wives is majoring in minors. At worst, it is an excuse for bullying men or dependent women to engage in bad behavior; or a purely cultural attempt to refight the battle between the Pretend 1950’s and Pretend 1960’s yet again, misunderstanding both.
Related, tangential. A lot of politics seems to be rooted in How Women Should Act, with many different points of view trying to capture territory of whose women are smarter, stronger, more realistic, engaged in more valuable activity. And the women seem to be doing most of that arguing, with men trying to pick up cues and say the things that the women from their group approve of. Thought: men who do that well are loved by one of the few main sides and hated by at least one of the other sides; men who do that poorly are disliked by all sides. End tangent.
So now we have Date Night, one of those patent medicines that is good for both epilepsy and apoplexy. We have had fun, so I am grousing to no purpose. Perhaps I am just reacting badly to Date Night Suggestions, which seem to fall below even the level of those board games that are designed to be helpful rather than entertaining.