Welcome to the Fourth Sunday of Lent. Week-by-week and day-by-day, we are inching towards the glorious morning of Easter. As we make our way through the wilderness, may we always focus on the light and triumph of the Passion of Our Lord. Today, I am happy to share another guest post from fellow Southerner and writer, J.D. Bentley. You can find more of J.D.’s writings at the link below. I pray that you, especially my male readers, will find the wisdom in today’s post applicable to your relationships.
The Captain and the Cross
Marriage has taught me not to care about my marriage. From the masculine perspective, caring about the marriage itself is a self-obsession that obscures the absence of substance. If I care about the marriage itself, it means I haven’t directed us towards any mission. I haven’t laid out a vision and pursued it with brute force. Which means I haven’t inspired my wife or myself to see anything beyond ourselves, anything to which we aspire.
What marriage has taught me to care about is the Cross—both Christ’s and my own–and the adventure. My wife and I are companions in a shipwreck, as Tolkien so eloquently wrote, and Paul lays it out even further:
“Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.” (EPH 5:22-23, RSVCE)
“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her…” (EPH 5:25, RSVCE)
Pairing these verses with Tolkien’s description of a shipwreck better illuminates our roles in marriage. I am the Captain of a shattered vessel and she is my First Mate. This means, for all things, the responsibility supremely falls on me, and that is the most important lesson for a man to learn in marriage.
Growing up as a boy at the time I did indoctrinated me (and many of us) with the feminine imperative. It seeks to be inclusive and free of conflict and it does so by encouraging fairness and equality. The feminine imperative is valuable and has its place, but not among men. But this feminine imperative is so engrained in men that it is ruining marriages.
It’s a mindset of “I fixed the sink, why didn’t she clean up the kitchen?” It seeks to assign jobs—equally—and divide responsibilities—equally. Ironically, seeking harmony in such a way sows the seeds of disharmony. This isn’t the kind of thing men were made for and it’s not the kind of thing women want.
They want the Captain. The Captain sets the course, he provides the vision and steers the ship. More importantly, if anything goes wrong he’s the one who answers for it. If the ship is being thrown about in turbulent waters, he’s not thinking about what he can do to make his First Mate more comfortable and more happy. He’s thinking about the boat, the mission, the present situation and how to overcome it.
Which, of course, is what ultimately makes the First Mate more comfortable and more happy.
If the Captain sees something crucially wrong, he fixes it. He doesn’t whine and complain that the First Mate should have done it or was supposed to do it or agreed to do it. After all, it’s not the First Mate’s ship, it’s his.
In the running of the house as with the running of a ship, the husband should seek to put order to everything, to tame the chaos, to make it run efficiently. Dishes in the sink, wash them. Trash needs taken out, take it. Faucet is leaking, fix it. Sink is backed up, go outside and dig up the drain pipe.
The Captain doesn’t wait for anyone to do what they should, he cares only for his mission and overcoming whatever gets in the way of it. That is why his First Mate, his wife, is called to submit to him. Sub and mit. “Mit” from the Latin mittere, which means sending out, which refers to the mission. “Sub” meaning under. The wife is under the mission of her husband.
That means he better have a damn good mission. Submitting to anything is a voluntary act. It doesn’t mean you’re coerced into it, it means you’re sold on it.
Husbands are called to love their wives as Christ loved the church. You remember Christ, suffocating on wooden beams, mocked and maimed, bloody and bruised, impaled with a spear. That’s our calling.
Did Jesus create a covert contract with us to divide up the work of salvation so we could all “do our fair share” in the crucifixion? Was He thinking, “Oh, wow. I did all those miracles and they still wouldn’t get up on this Cross? Do I have to do everything around here?”
Of course not. Jesus knew his mission. And he showed us his mission. And through his definitive sacrifice we believed and we followed and we submitted to His mission. We took his mission on for ourselves, not because we were coerced into doing so but because it was the least we could do for the God who loved us.
And that’s the work of a husband, the Captain.
J.D. Bentley writes at Blood & Bourbon on the study and practice of masculine tradition.