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In Praise of Men.


Ellen Myers

There can be no doubt in the mind of the careful reader of the Bible that man precedes wman in creation and is the head of mankind. From the beginning the woman is second, and the man's 'help meet for him' in a personal closeness superseding his relationship with his parents. Jesus Christ confirms this in no uncertain terms (Matthew 19:4-6). Man's rule over woman was decreed by God after the Fall (Genesis 3:16). The Apostle Paul merely repeats this God-given order, in particular in the following passage from his letter to Timothy: 'Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.' (1 Timothy 2:11-14) A parallel exhortation is found in 1 Peter 3:1-6. St. Paul reiterates Genesis 3:16 in Ephesians 5:22-23: 'Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.'

But the task of the husband/man transcends the task of the wife/woman. St. Paul continues: 'Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it ... that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself ... For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.' (Ephesians 5:25, 27b, 28, 31)

My fellow women, let us be grateful that we have been commanded to do the lesser thing, submission, while our men are ordered to love us 'as Christ loved the church.' What a high and holy calling is theirs! Only by great grace can they live out this Christlikeness. For they must contend not only against their own sinfulness, but also ours. We can be (and to be honest, we often are) unlovable 'in our own right.' Yet precisely then Christlike love for us is demanded by God of our husbands, and in general of men for us women. We are compared with -- nay, by analogy with the relationship between Christ and the church, we are -- our men's bodies. Think of the times when our own bodies do not submit to our own will, as in sickness or physical disability or clumsiness. We do not suppose our bodies deliberately rebel. Even so at least let us not deliberately rebel against our men, whether by word, or by deeds done or left undone in that bitterest and most treacherous form of disobedience and lovelessness, inward withdrawal from fellowship.

I see much of today's 'women's liberation movement' as a backlash against men who fell horribly and inexcusably short of their God-ordained task. They either bullied their wives, or else, Milquetoast-like, submitted to them. They were unfaithful to their God-given task by cleaving to mistresses, their jobs, their careers, or someone or something besides their wives. They are reaping what they sowed in their present 'identity crisis.' Looking at marriage and their wives as mere conveniences, they are themselves rejected as inconvenient. This is not the whole story behind 'women's lib,' but it is a part of it which must not be glossed over.

However, there are men who are men indeed in their Christlike love for us women, Moreover, I believe that we women should look for, cherish, nourish and praise such Christlikeness in any man we meet, even though there may be very little of it. This is our task as 'helpers meet for' our men. It is our good will, the indispensable foundation of all human relationships, in action. And it is amazing how much our good will increases and blesses us and those around us the more we show it. Eventually the entire relationship is transformed into mutual giving of love and joy, which is God's will for us from the beginning, and for eternity.

How, then is a man Christlike in his love for a woman? It has been my great joy, by God's grace, to be placed as daughter, wife, and friend by the side of men out of whose hearts and lives Christ shone and blessed, or shines and blesses. These men are in my heart and mind as I write what follows; I describe not fiction but lived reality.

First, dear ones, you are reliable. Like our God Himself, you are there as promised and when needed. Like Christ Himself, you 'love your own to the end' (John 13:1) undaunted by facial wrinkles, greying hair and other deteriorations of our outward appearance. You love us, the real inner us with rocklike devotion and loyalty. Your love for us is part of your own self, unchangeable as your own real self is unchangeable in its Christlikeness. Of course, therefore, you never cease loving us. Because your love is in and of Christ, it is utterly and eternally sure and certain.

Second, you are patient and tender with us. In the Apostle Peter's words, you 'give honor unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life.' (1 Peter 3:7) You bear with our talkativeness, our impatience to remedy immediately and drastically what seems amiss to us (rightly or wrongly), our periodic irritability, our womanly gift of seeing people, events and circumstances deeply personally and hence with deep personal involvement and 'side-taking.' You accept in calm patience and deep compassion the weaknesses of our womanly strengths, and the strengths of our womanly weaknesses. You stand fast as towers of silent strength when we rage and weep. Your calmness is never indifference and never coldness. It is touched with our griefs. Like our God Himself, 'in all our afflictions you are afflicted' and 'the angel' -- the spirit messenger, the knowledge communicated without and above the senses, 'of your presence' gives us safety (Isaiah 63:9). Unlike God Himself, you may not be able to 'do anything' in a concrete way to relieve our troubles. But we know you are with us in patience and tenderness right when we ourselves are most impatient and most inclined to 'avenge ourselves.'

Third, you prepare the ground and make room for us to grow. Dear ones, how much I love and praise you for this. I see you here as Adam, supporting and honoring and showing the way of personal fulfillment to Eve when he called her Eve 'because she was the mother of all living' (Genesis 3:20). The very name Eve means 'living' (Chavah). Even so Christ the Second Adam 'loved the church, and gave himself for it, that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish' (Ephesians 5:25-27). You men who are men indeed in Christlikeness love us, are patient and tender with us, and give yourselves for us for our perfection to your perfect joy. You do not hinder our growth in any talent given us by our Creator and yours, but rather foster it and take joy in it. Our unfolding as our Father's daughters neither amuses you nor threatens your ow inner joy, peace and utter security as our Father's sons. Yet you also provide so to speak the frame for our growth because you are not deceived by our false aspirations. Adam gave in to his wife although he 'was not deceived.' (1 Timothy 2:14) But you, the more Christlike you are, the less will you be swayed by our Eve-like temptation to be as gods in our own right and to stand by our own knowledge and achievements rather than by Christ's humility in obedient faith. Especially is this true when we women falsely allow our career, study or avocation to take precedence over our primary duties as wives and mothers.

This leads to the next vital manly virtue, providence. You provide for us as for your own bodies. It is our womanly strength to be predominantly present-oriented. It is your manly strength to be more future-oriented. You 'see the end from the beginning.' Moreover, you are concerned with secret, hidden, unsuspected, neglected or deliberately overlooked flaws in all that touches you, especially in your relationship with us women whom you love. You will not let sleeping dogs lie. You cannot bear any-cover-up of what you see as dividing you from the one you love. Here is a fundamental difference between the man who like Adam gives up his manhood, and the Christlike man who does not: Adam, though 'not deceived,' followed his wife into sin/disobedience to God/death; but Christ ransomed us by never once giving in to sin, though 'tempted in all points as we are.'

A great teacher of Christlike men (and women) of our generation, C. S. Lewis, in what I, like he himself, believe to be his best work, Perelandra, has told us of this in the words of the Adam of the imagined new world Perelandra, tempted like our own Adam yet victorious in Christ as our own Adam rejected to be:

This, dear ones, is the hardest part of your love in Christ for us women and our children. Our mother Eve's sin was the less, she being deceived; hence her and our penance, subjection to you, also is the less. Our father Adam's sin was the more, he not being deceived, but deliberately choosing our mother over our Father in Heaven and Creator-Lord. Hence his and your penance, resisting not only deception but also fellowship with deception and the beloved caught up in deception, is the greater. We all must obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29). But yours is the more crucial and agonizing obedience because we, your loved ones over whom God has made you head and responsible, also are at stake. How much I love and praise you who bear this headship well, standing up if you must even against us whom you love. How we women in whose hearts Christ lives need to submit ourselves to Christ in you all the more when Christ in you rebukes and resists that which in us is not conformed to Him. I praise and thank God for you, my good father, my good husband, my good friend, especially and foremost for standing fast in Him where I would have gone astray and led you astray with me. And most of all you are to be praised when you tell us the truth in love and humility, not 'lording it over us' but gently and patiently, exercising your headship on earth in His grace and not as though you naturally deserved it (for you do not).

Closely linked to your virtue of Christlike providence is your being the initiator or pace-setter and goal-director for those you love. As the church must depend upon Christ for guidance in all things, so must we depend upon you. You must decide for yourself and your dependents (and to be dependent upon you Christlike men is a great blessing and joy) where and how we all shall live, work, attend school, go to church, go for entertainment and recreation, spend our retirement, and so on. There are times when you wish to lead us in a new path or to new goals, and we hesitate, or sharply disagree. You dear ones whom I love have generally stood fast when such discrepancies arose. However, you have never stood in my way or the way of your children when what I or they desired to do or to leave undone did not conflict with God's law.

The words you said to me which gave me the most joy, dear father, dear husband and dear friend, were almost identical, and expressed the same thought: that you could REST in me. I do not think a greater testimony to a man's and woman's mutual relationship (father-daughter, husband-wife, brother-sister or friend-friend) is possible here on earth, or even in eternity. 'Rest' -- God's own rest, hallowed by Sabbath and Sunday -- His and our own rest from work, from our own works, from the painful awareness of work left unfinished, threatened, or destroyed -- rest to enjoy the good fruits of perfect labor -- rest in perfect love with the beloved created for this rest -- that is the goal. 'For the LORD hath chosen Zion; he hath desired it for his habitation. This is my rest for ever: here will I dwell; for I have desired it.' (Psalm 132:13-14) Even so you Christlike men, as Christ Himself to the church, are rest for us, and each one of you can say to his beloved among us women: 'Come unto me...and I will give you rest.' (Matthew 11:28) His Holy Spirit, the Comforter, makes us one in this rest with each other and Christ Himself, a foretaste of our eternal rest.

This leads me to the Christlike virtue undergirding all else: Christ's own humility, exercised in long-suffering fortitude to please the Father. You in Christ are not one of the self-willed high and mighty concerned with your own prestige, status, or coveting worldly applause. Your manhood is not an ego-trip but received as God's design and calling for you from before the foundation of the world. You are 'contented with mean (lowly) things.' (Romans 12:16) Your pleasures are simple and childlike, void of ostentation and usually attainable at small expense (but you are never miserly). You do not despise anyone doing manual labor low on the world's status scale, nor would you hesitate to do it yourself if needed to support your loved ones though you might be highly trained professionals with degrees from renowned universities. Though head of the home, or just because you are the head of your home, you will change soiled diapers or stained linens on occasion, even as Christ Himself washed soiled feet the eve of Gethsemane.

See how this basic virtue is precisely the one aimed at by the tempter in Eden. He baited his death trap by appeal to PRIDE, suggesting that man the creature should be equal to his creator not by obedient, humble conformity to the Creator and SO in His likeness -- but rather by usurping lordship by making his own rules, and by determining for himself what is good and evil. Christ on the contrary bears the 'easy yoke' of obedient meekness and lowliness of heart (Matthew 11:29). Even so you who are men indeed know that all God's gifts to you, dominion over all the earth, headship and your very manhood, are never 'to be grasped at.' (Philippians 2:6) They are rather to be handled in awe, care, and to our Father's glory in righteous and merciful love possible only by Christ in you.

May God Who created us in His own image, male and female, and gave His own Son for fallen man's redemption, resurrection and sanctification, bless you, and us women under your authority and so your helpers, till in the New Heaven and Earth He reveals the intended glory of your manhood and our womanhood perfected in Him forever.

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