Over at the Hall of the Black Dragon, Greg Dragon posted an article about a new study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology showing that a wife’s attractiveness is a major part of what makes a husband happy in a marriage. Dragon says: “It leads me to think of a scenario where a man is having a hard time connecting with his beautiful wife but every time he wakes up and sees her flawless face he just resets his temperament and keeps playing it forward.” This sounds very much like something The Social Pathologist wrote about the effect that beauty has on men:
I don’t think women really appreciate the effect of beauty on a man. It really does cast a spell over a man. When in love, a man can literally [see] no fault in his beloved. Women in their prime years are simply amazing. I imagine that it’s why artists are painting young naked women all the time. They are simply incredible. And it’s not just in their sexual allure. It’s in the little things. The way they move, their smell, the feel of their skin, the way the hair falls around their shoulders and so on. It consumes a man while at the same time overwhelmingly sabotaging a man’s critical faculties. The beautiful woman becomes the good woman. It is said that a woman with many faults will be forgiven if she is beautiful, it’s not that she is forgiven, it’s just that beauty blots out the faults. A man’s brain simply stops working.
But can it really be that simple? Beautiful women get dumped and played all the time. Even so, I think that a lot of men get burned by women and have their hearts crushed because they chased after women purely on the basis of their attraction to her without regard to whether she actually has the character to be a good wife. In that same post, the Social Pathologist talks about the revelation he had when he stopped chasing women purely on the basis of sexual attraction–he saw much more quickly and clearly their true character. He writes:
“…the further back I pushed the beauty and sexual allure, the more pronounced her other features became. What I found was a revelation. Stripped of their sexual allure, many women had nothing else to offer. Women whom I hung around with because of a potential sexual interest, suddenly became uninteresting; no actually repulsive. Not just that, many were down right mean, manipulative and self absorbed, some desperate social climbers, some obvious gold diggers, others seriously psychologically disturbed, and far too many coarse and undignified. Indeed, it came slowly as a revelation, that stripped of their sex appeal, a huge proportion of women(not all) were unattractive as human beings. Had my male friends possessed the moral characteristics of some of these women, they would not have been my friends.”
So, going back to the study, presumably, the women had to have more than just physical beauty for those marriages not to fall apart. Or, they hadn’t been married long enough for the veneer of romantic love to fade. Guy at What Women Never Hear likens a wife’s physical beauty to hanging a great piece of art in the living room, saying that at first it makes a great impression, but after a while, it’s just another part of the house. But, you know, people are willing to pay great sums of money for artwork they deem beautiful; and they hang it because they want to admire it regularly and believe it adds value to their lives. Guy’s wisdom points us to the fact that physical beauty alone is not enough. But I’d add that people (read: men) sure will do a lot to have beauty in their lives.
Like the Social Pathologist said, I don’t think women do understand the power of beauty, the power of their beauty. Some do, of course, and play that to their advantage; but I think one of the ills of feminism coupled with an overly casual culture is that it creates greater “beauty inequality” amongst women than would otherwise be there. There have always been ultra beautiful women, average, and such. But when women are encouraged to flaunt their bodies while at the same time told that caring about your appearance is vain, the result is that only the most naturally gorgeous are seen as beautiful. Think about it–if the new “style” is to reveal legs, midriff, cleavage, then there’s not much room for women with less than perfect bodies to look attractive in those styles.
If you think about, say 60s-era style ala Mad Men, you see that all women, regardless of their facial features, at least look nice. Obviously it’s a TV show that casts for a certain level of attractiveness. But it’s true in real life anyway. When women wear well made and well fitting clothes, do their hair, and put on a little makeup, their best features shine. As Helena Rubenstein said: ”There are no ugly women, just lazy ones.”
Sunshine Mary has started a new series about learning the art of domesticity for the contemporary woman. I say “for the contemporary woman” because, as she points out, many women today did not grow up seeing a model of domestic life. “Domestic life” is more than just having a house and a place to eat, sleep and store your possessions. Domestic life is about building a *home*, a place of harmonious relationships, peace, and nurture.
Two points in her post stood out to me: 1) The argument that women *like* housework in a way that men generally don’t, and 2) That even if men can do housework just as well as women, and women work outside of the home just as well as men, that neither would be as content as they would be if they switched roles. I think both points are golden, and both likely to draw the ire of many a woman who loves her job and hates household chores. As a woman who both enjoys her job quite a lot and also hates chores, I am nevertheless 100% in agreement with Sunshine Mary on these two points. Here’s why:
1) The significance of housework for men and women is not about the specific tasks themselves. Think about men being handy or taking care of the yardwork. My father, for instance, has spent years gradually improving his house. He takes great pains to ensure that everything is in proper working order and continually thinks of ways that it can be improved to be more functional. The house really has gotten better and better over the years. Even though the amount of attention he gives to the house might suggest to some that he likes handyman tasks, I’d argue that it’s not about the tasks themselves—it’s really about the pride that he takes in having a well-maintained, well-functioning house, which he views as a refleciton of himself. Many of us have probably had that one neighbor who is meticulous about his lawn—the seeding, fertilizing, weeding, edging, the landscaping. He seems to always be mowing the grass, planting a shrub, or building a retaining wall. Does this indicate that these men have an abiding love of horticulture? Perhaps they do, but likely they do not. Rather, they care for their lawns in such a way because they know that their houses are a reflection on them, and the outside of the house is the first thing people will see. They want it to look as good as possible and to make a positive impression. I wonder if it’s fair to say that a man who does not take pride in his house is not particularly invested in it (I would love comments about that).
Now, when it comes to women and other tasks such as laundry, cooking and cleaning, I would argue a similar point: It’s not necessarily that women like folding clothes or vacuuming carpets, and maybe not even cooking (though many find that enjoyable in itself). Rather, tackling those tasks with energy is a means to a deeper sense of satisfaction—the satisfaction that comes from having a warm, comfortable home where people feel cared for. No one feels comfortable and cared for when there’s nothing to eat in the kitchen, there’s hair in the bathtub, and they’ve run out of clean underwear. And notice that a warm and comfortable home is not necessarily a spotless home. Some people are so particular about things being just so that they actually make the living space uncomfortable for others. Such traits are about control, not caring. Homemaking is really about focusing on the things that meet the needs of household members.
2) I mentioned that I hated household chores and like my job. So how could I agree that even if men and women switched traditional roles successfully, that neither would be as content? When I say that I dislike chores, I mean that oftentimes, I resent the time it takes to tend to such things that are really so basic when I could be spending time on professional development, writing, reading, singing, at the gym, with friends, etc. I think that many women rationalize the same way. But regardless of how much I wish I could just snap my fingers and everything fall magically into place, I know it won’t; and I also know that if it’s left undone, I will never have peace of mind. I could be accomplishing great things for my employer, traveling to interesting places, and having a great time socializing. But more than anything else, the state of my home, the warmth, comfort, and beauty I’m able to find there has more of an impact on my sense of security and contentment in life than any of those other things. This is not about saying that either women like being at home or they like working outside the home; but rather it’s about order of importance. Home is first is a woman’s heart.
Moreover, studies show that even when men and women have embraced feminist ideas of sameness (under the guise of equality)—most notably when the wife works and the husband stays home with the children—it often adds stress that cannot simply be explained away by societal expectations. Just like I shared above, even when the women have careers, supportive husbands, and know that their children are being taken care of by a caring parent, they remain preoccupied with Home. Men who work and have stay at home wives don’t come home and continue to worry about whether things have been done right while they were gone; but women do. And not only do they remain preoccupied with how things are going at home while they’re away, they also secretly (or not so secretly) tend to see their husbands as less deserving of their respect since they are the breadwinners. But guess what? Men with stay at home wives don’t lose respect for them because of that fact, if they ever deeply respected them at all. If a woman has been fortunate enough and had the good sense to marry a man that is a provider, he will have greater respect for her dedication to their home. Many women who have chosen to stay at home have remarked how much less stressful home life is; but when the men stay at home—even willingly—stress increases. This article from the New York Magazine paints a pretty clear picture: http://nymag.com/nymetro/news/features/n_9495/
There will always be people who read perspectives like Sunshine Mary’s and begin to point out all the exceptions and special situations that they know of, complete with detailed anecdotes. But I would simply point out a helpful maxim—the exception proves the rule.
I totally failed. What began as a good intention never materialized. I never continued writing the “Keeping the Commandments of Christ” series. Will I do so in the future? Perhaps. But I know better than to promise it. I probably will be devoting more attention to responding to articles and blogposts. There are some sociocultural rumblings going on and people may be ready for a change.
“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” -Matthew 5:12
Here, the Lord presents us with a dual picture of the life of his disciples, specifically when they suffer hardship on account of following Him. The temporal experience of the Christian will include reviling and persecution, while at the same time great rewards are being stored up for that person in heaven. In order to rejoice, the disciple’s mindset must be heavenly-oriented–as Paul says, “Set your mind on things above, not things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.” Colossians 3:2-4 ESV
Believing that our lives are hidden with Christ in God is the key not only to rejoicing in persecutions, but to being faithful enough to Christ to be persecuted in the first place. Abiding in the life of God, we must see the world through His eyes. Persecution needn’t be political or large-scale; Jesus also counted people disparaging the character of His disciples because of their obedience to Him. Jesus said that the world hated Him because He testified of it that its deeds were evil. (John 7:7) As the servant is not greater than the master, bitter reviling and slander will often come against Christians due to their testimony against the sin of the world as well.
The Christian’s rejoicing in persecutions arises out of an understanding of being in fellowship with Christ, with His sufferings. To suffer with Him, for Him, is to be invited more deeply into His life.
“While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.’” Matthew 4:19, ESV
Andrew initially encountered Jesus by following John the Baptist and went to tell his brother Simon that they had found the Messiah. When Jesus met Simon, He told him that he would be called Cephas (Peter). Later, Jesus approached both while going about their daily work and told them that He intended to change their lives. He laid out His simple vision straightaway: they were going to turn from catching fish to catching people (for God). He also told them just how it was going to happen–it would happen by following Him. They became Jesus’ disciples and were transformed from fishermen into apostles of the Kingdom of God, preaching, performing miracles, and guiding God’s people. After Jesus’ resurrection and the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost, the religious leaders marveled at the changed men before them, as Luke records “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.” Acts 4:13
They took note of the fact that they had been with Jesus. Walking with Christ was the means of their change. The transformation came through discipleship. When Jesus originally approached them, He did not say, “Be inspired by Me” or “Think well of Me,” or even, “Make Me a part of your life.” Rather He said “Follow Me.” In responding to His call, Andrew and Peter walked where He walked, slept where He slept and came to do the works that He did. They listened to and learned from Him.
We are to do the same–follow Him in spirit even if not physically. Recently a fellowship group I’m a part of had a dedicated time of prophecy and encouragement. We were to speak words over one another as the Spirit led. When it was my turn to receive a word, one young woman said that I tend to pay attention to words and take time to think about exactly the right one to use. She then said that I should take Christ’s words and allow those words to continue to lead and guide me. To some, that could sound vague, but it didn’t strike me as such at the time. It was a call to renewed focus on meditating on the word of God. I’m not surprised, then, that I later felt led to start this yearlong reflection on the commands of Christ. I believe that such meditation is an answer to the same call Andrew and Peter answered; by hearing His word and learning to think as He thinks, we will be transformed.
We might have many goals in life, but it bears repeating that the leaders took note that Andrew and Peter had been with Jesus. Whatever we become in this life, people should be able to recognize that we have been with Christ. The apostles had the bearing, the speech, and the works of men who had followed Christ and were recognizable as such. Their transformation was astonishing, as it did not come through schooling (as the leaders noted) or any other training aside from walking with Christ. Education serves a useful purpose as a tool, but we can only be made Christlike in holiness and power by truly becoming His followers..
There’s a paradox in God’s grace–it is free, but never cheap. It is widely available to all, without any restrictions on who may receive it. But having received it, it demands of us our very lives. God’s grace does not come cheaply to us due to the fact that while He freely pours out His grace for our aid, we must continue to sacrifice everything and give all of ourselves to Him for that grace to be fruitful in our lives.
Some doubt the possibility that the Lord could keep forgiving sins–70 x 7 times, as it were. Some say that if God were to just say, “Okay! You said sorry, so everything’s good now,” that people could just keep sinning and saying sorry, never really changing and leaving the sin behind. But as the Apostle Paul said, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” Romans 6:2-3
Christ made God’s grace available to us with His sacrifice of complete and perfect obedience, the pouring out of Himself unto death. Entering into the life of Christ through faith, we do the same. To repent is to take up a cross and continue to carry it unto our death. If we choose to sin, we put the cross down and seek after our own will and pleasure. But should the Spirit of God convict us and we yield to Him once more, we pick the Cross up again. There is no repentance without taking up His Cross and dying to self. For that reason, no truly repentant sinner simply skips away from God with a pardon.
Even the woman caught in adultery, after Jesus stopped her accusers, was told to go and sin no more. (John 8:11) Christ’s pardon was the opportunity to repent and follow God. She received God’s grace, which is available to us all for one purpose–to know Him and to love Him. There is a Eucharistic prayer in the Book of Common Prayer, from the Anglican liturgy that says “Deliver us from the presumption of coming to this Table for solace only, and not for strength; for pardon only, and not for renewal.” Seeking pardon without seeking renewal of life is to seek cheap grace, which is not what the Lord offers.
Sometimes Christians find themselves confessing the same sins again and again. When people are confessing sin and choosing to sin over and over again in the same cycle (while these cycles do happen, they most certainly do not have to) a possible cause is that one hasn’t yet reached the level of genuine repentance. Discussed in the initial post, repentance is essentially a bowing of the knee to Christ. It is an assent to God’s way of thinking about things and the recognition that one has followed one’s own will above God’s and then relinquishing one’s own will in submission to God.
And so, there are many things that one can experience emotionally and psychologically that make for less-than-authentic repentance. One might be very grieved over the consequences of one’s actions. One might be disappointed in one’s failure to meet God’s expectations, or acknowledge that one has hurt others or failed to meet their expectations. One might cry and recognize what a terrible thing one has done, perhaps feeling very sorrowful. But not even sorrow for sins committed suffices for true repentance. We ought to have contrite hearts regarding our sin. But beyond having an emotional response to the reality of one’s sin, one must lay down one’s will and submit it to God, choosing to obey Him rather than oneself and doing that which one failed to do before. Sorrow for sin that results in renewed obedience is the godly sorrow the Apostle Paul speaks about, saying “I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief…For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.” 2 Corinthians 7:9-10 Think of this–Judas Iscariot recognized the evil he had done in betraying Jesus and took his life rather than submitting himself to God. He felt bad, but it didn’t result in repentance.
I should note that while making restitution where necessary should follow repentance and certainly amendment of life should follow as well, our will is to be directed toward God rather than simply trying to fix and change whatever is bad. The difference between the two inclinations can be subtle. Speaking of Judas Iscariot again, before his suicide, he took the silver he received for betraying Christ and attempted to give it back to the religious leaders. They wouldn’t accept it from him and he left it in the temple. What Judas had done was done and there was no way to go back from his betrayal of Christ aside from casting himself at His feet and doing what he would not do before–submit to Him.
Choosing to sin is, in essence, a denial of God’s right to be Lord of our lives. It takes us out of our proper relation to him. The same night that Judas betrayed Jesus, Peter denied knowing him at all. Peter, who, when Jesus asked “Who do you say that I am?” was the first to proclaim Jesus’ identity as the Christ. (Matthew 16:16) But when confronted with the possibility of suffering in order to be faithful to Him, Peter gave in to his own desire to avoid pain.
When we choose sin, we may not think of it as denying Christ, but that is what it is at its core–a denial of His identity and right to our obedience. Both Judas and Peter sinned, but Peter ultimately repented and was restored by Jesus after His resurrection. In restoring him, Jesus asked Peter three times, “Do you love Me?” In His preaching, Jesus defined loving Him as obeying Him (John 14:21). So where Peter had denied Jesus’ Lordship, Jesus had Peter confess it. And having done so, Peter went forth to build the Kingdom of God.
And so, it’s less important to introspect on just how bad we are than it is to make sure that whatever sin has been identified, our response is the denial of self where self was indulged before and the laying down of one’s own will in exchange for the taking up of God’s. Repentance comes not simply in recognizing that we’ve done wrong, but in answering “Yes!” to the question–”Despite what you want, think, feel, or what anyone else does or says, will you obey God above all else, thinking as He thinks and doing as He wills?“ A heart with such a posture has reached the point of repentance, which is what enables Christ to enter in and transform our hearts.
Matthew 4:13-17 -
13 And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14 so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:
15 “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,
the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—
16 the people dwelling in darkness
have seen a great light,
and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death,
on them a light has dawned.”
17 From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
While Jesus’ turning of the water into wine at Cana was His first miraculous sign (John 4:11), the ushering in of his public ministry can be said to have really begun with the preaching of repentance. John the Baptist, the one sent to “prepare the way of the Lord,” preached a Gospel of repentance, saying “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand…Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” (Matt. 3:2;10) When Jesus began preaching, He proclaimed the same message.
Repentance prepares the way for the Lord into our hearts. He seeks to be Lord–ruler–but we have set up fiefdoms here and there, strongholds where His will in our lives does not prevail. Christ is glad to conquer our heart, but we must let Him in, and we do so by repenting of that which we know is against Him. But what does it mean to repent? On it’s most basic level, repentance means to turn away from something, to change one’s mind. It is not wavering, but involves intent. In preparation for Jesus’ ministry, the Father sent John the Baptist to exhort people to turn away from their sins and to think differently about their actions.
To repent does not mean to perfect oneself. It means to change the state of one’s heart from one of rebellion against the ways of God to one of obedience. Even if we think we’re pretty decent, even if we believe that certain things are okay, the question is whether we are willing to change our minds and follow God’s commands rather than our own desires and will. Such a change is the essence of repentance, which leads to conversion of heart.
People who are “converts” to something have adopted a new way of life, a new way of being. God desires all who serve Him to have converted hearts. Speaking of repentance and conversion together, the Catechism states that “Interior repentance is a radical reorientation of our whole life, a return, a conversion to God with all our heart, an end of sin, a turning away from evil, with repugnance toward the evil actions we have committed. (1431) Repentance refers to our thinking about something; what we once looked upon as good, right, OK, acceptable, etc., we reject as unacceptable, wrong, bad, etc. Or perhaps even things we looked down upon–for some, maybe faith itself–we now hold in esteem. St. Augustine puts it wonderfully:
“Whoever confesses his sins…is already working with God. God indicts your sins; if you also indict them, you are joined with God. man and sinner are, so to speak, two realities: when you hear ‘man’ – this is what God has made; when you hear ‘sinner’ – this is what man himself has made. Destroy what you have made, so that God may save what he has made…When you begin to abhor what you have made, it is then that your good works are beginning, since you are accusing yourself of your evil works. The beginning of good works is the confession of evil works. You do the truth and come to the light.” (Augustine, Tractates on John, In Jo. ev. 12, 13) (1458)
Even if we accept God’s definition of right and wrong, the sins we commit originate in our hearts, and to change our heart is up to God. For “The human heart is heavy and hardened. God must give man a new heart. Conversion is first of all a work of the grace of God who makes our hearts return to him: ‘Restore us to thyself, O Lord, that we may be restored!’” (1432) While many have a profound conversion experience at a point in their life–I did–this call to repentance and conversion of heart is continuous. As we grow in our understanding of God and of the nature of sin within us, we continue to turn away from that which is sinful and toward the Lord, ever relying up on His grace to experience change from the heart.
I often find different themes running throughout my spiritual life, sometimes through a word or phrase, recurring dreams or conversations with other believers. In the latter part of 2012, I found myself often thinking, “You either know God or you don’t”–not to anyone else, but to myself. I either know God or I don’t. So much energy can be expended reading, reflecting, talking, serving and doing any number of things centered on one’s faith. But at the end of the day, the proof is in the pudding–You either know God or you don’t. You either hear His voice or you don’t. He either claims you as His own or He doesn’t. And as Jesus warned us, there will be many who will point to all the spiritual things they had done to prove that they knew Him, and He will deny ever having known them at all. (Matt. 7:22-23) A troubling thought. The Lord is a living Person, more real than anything we can physically see or touch–for it is only in Him that we and all that is around us exists. (Acts 17:28) In all our religious doings, if we do not manage to connect to this Person in an active and dynamic way, we’re going to miss the point. When I speak of connecting with Him, I’m not necessarily speaking of spiritual or mystical experiences; those are special favors granted by the Lord and are more like icing on the cake rather than the cake itself. Rather, I’m speaking of knowing Him and being in fellowship with Him, of loving Him with heart, mind, soul and strength.
Christ provided a perfect example of what it looks like to love God and thus to remain in fellowship with Him. It was through His perfect obedience unto death that He remained in unity with the Father. Never boasting of Himself or of His power, one thing He did say of Himself is that “He who sent Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him.” John 8:29 ESV The Father remained with Jesus and Jesus remained in the Father through submission to the Father’s will. This is how we grow in God, how we come to know Him in truth–through obeying His word. As Christ also said, “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” John 14:21 What an amazing promise and invitation!
So, with my spirit having pondered what it truly means to know God in 2012, and desirous to enter more deeply into the life of God, I thought it fitting to focus on the commands of Christ in 2013. There are hundreds of commands throughout the New Testament, but one ministry takes all of Jesus’ teaching in the Gospels and identifies 50 commands of Christ. A reflection on one of those commands every week will lead right up to 2014. And I am confident that the Lord will be faithful and good this year to produce good fruit from those reflections and make good on His promise, drawing near to those who draw near to Him.
Let us draw near to Him–check back on Sundays for a reflection on His commands. Blessings!
I asked God to take away my pride, and God said no. He said it was not for him to take away, but for me to give up.
I asked God to make my handicapped child whole, and God said, “No, her spirit is already whole. Her body is only temporary.”
I asked God to grant me patience, and God said no. He said that patience is the byproduct of tribulation. It isn’t granted; it’s earned.
I asked God to give me happiness; God said no. He said he gives blessings; happiness is up to me.
I asked God to spare me pain, and God said no. He said I must grow on my own, but he will prune me in order to make me fruitful.
I asked God if he loved me, and God said yes. He gave me his only Son who died for me, and I will be in heaven some day because I believe.
I asked God to help me love others as much as he loves me, and God said, “Ahhh, finally! Now you have the idea.”