Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Australia Seeks to Breed Test-Tube Sharks

Hahaha. Sorry guys, I just really like that news line. It has no intended connection with today's entry. Today I should like to type an entire devotional thought for you yet again. This time it's on one of my favorite topics: Men's relationship to women. I recently came upon a publication by Lumen Catechetical Consultants, Inc. called "Life After Sunday". This particular issue is all about topics regarding unity. The included article by John M. Capobianco entitled "Union with Women" follows:

"Most men recognize that women are pretty darn mysterious creatures. And the funny thing is that the closer you get to a woman, the more you try to enter in to a fitting, satisfying union with her, the more mysterious she becomes. This is true whether the woman in question is a spouse, daughter, mother, sister or friend. It doesn't matter. Just when you think you have figured out exactly how you can satisfy her desires and make her happy, something new arises that makes you realize--wow--she's just different! And that's a good healthy thing for men to learn. She is a pure gift from above and that's what makes her so mysterious."

"I have come to believe that the key to enjoying the quest of this mysterious and often illusive union with women is to trust what many today consider a rather unlikely source. Jesus of Nazareth is the key for men to fulfill their own desire to please and join in real heart to heart union with the women in their lives. He is the one who wants to share with us the kind of divine union that he experiences with his Father. He is the one who saves us and those we love from being crushed by the real disconnects and sorrows that separate our hearts. He is the one who makes it possible--when we honestly join our lives in union with him--for us to unite, for us to truly love beyond ourelsves, the women he places in our lives."

For many men, however, this may seem like a lot of uncomfortable, stupid 'Jesus' talk. This is especially true for many men and even boys who dismiss much of what Christ and his Church offers about human relationships. Perhaps--like many in modern culture--Christ's celibate love is so off-putting that they can't take him very seriously when it comes to putting their best moves on their women. Perhaps many fear deep down that the Jesus offered to us by the Catholic Church is not really much of an appealing ladies' man. Perhaps they believe what he really offers leads to reduced relationships with everyone and ultimately leads to a depressing life.

"The reality is that Jesus Christ presented in the Gospels, constantly present to us in Sacramental life, protected for us by the Magisterium of the Church, is much more passionate--not just toward women--but for all human relationships, than anyone or anything the culture comes close to proposing to us."

"Can you imagine if Madison Avenue turned its sexualized production talents towards the real body and soul-shaking response of the women in Christ's life and proposed it to our young men today? They could start with an image of a woman slipping into a crowded room and pouring oil (of all things) on Christ's feet in front of a house full of guests (cf. Luke 7:38). Or they could show the face of a woman who cares so much for the body of her brother that she looks Christ right in the eye and challenges him to bring it back to life, right here, right now (cf. John 11:41). Or they could show the eyes of a woman whose heart and soul is penetrated forever in the simple act of being asked for a drink of water at a well (cf. John 4:6). For men united in intimacy with Christ today, approaching the mind, heart and body of a woman with his love hardly makes one half-a-man. In fact, just the opposite is true. Union with Christ makes a complete and mature man, passionate in his love for all women. In Christ, a man can crack the mystery and join in union with women in such a way that he embodies for each one the gift of self in love."

"I have tried to impress upon my sons the importance of this union with Christ and how he makes it possible for us to love beyond ourselves. Their desire to be authentic men, their desire to learn how to really love women, begins now in our home in their adolescent years. It begins with how they take care of their mother, how they appreciate their grandmothers, and how they respect their sister. Remember, I tell them, Christ knew how to love and take care of his mother. He took care of her while he was nailed to the cross (cf. John 19:25). Now that is love. That is how you care for a woman to the end. That is the power of a man united to a woman undeterred by the challenge of suffering and death. This kind of union takes lots of grace and practice. . . and it begins right now in the home."

Hats off to John Capobianco!!!

One of my favorite chapters from Wild At Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man’s Soul by John Eldredge (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2001.) is Chapter 10, "A Beauty To Rescue" (p.179-196). Here is all but the entire chapter for your consumption!

"Once upon a time (as the story goes) there was a beautiful maiden, an absolute enchantress. She might be the daughter of a king or a common servant girl, but we know she is a princess at heart. She is young with a youth that seems eternal. Her flowing hair, her deep eyes, her luscious lips, her sculpted figure—she makes the rose blush for shame; the sun is pale compared to her light. Her heart is golden, her love as true as an arrow. But this lovely maiden is unattainable, the prisoner of an evil power who holds her captive in a dark tower. Only a champion may win her; only the most valiant, daring, and brave warrior has a chance of setting her free. Against all hope he comes; with cunning and raw courage he lays siege to the tower and the sinister one who holds her. Much blood is shed on both sides; three times the knight is thrown back, but three times he rises again. Eventually the sorcerer is defeated; the dragon falls, the giant is slain. The maiden is his; through his valor he has won her heart. On horseback they ride off to his cottage by a stream in the woods for a rendezvous that gives passion and romance a new meaning.

"Why is this story so deep in our psyche? Every little girl knows the fable without ever being told. She dreams one day her prince will come. Little boys rehearse their part with wooden swords and cardboard shields. And one day the boy, now a young man, realizes that he wants to be the one to win the beauty. Fairy tales, literature, music, and movies all borrow from this mythic theme. Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Helen of Troy, Romeo and Juliet, Anthony and Cleopatra, Arthur and Guinevere, Tristan and Isolde. From ancient fables to the latest blockbuster, the theme of a strong man coming to rescue a beautiful woman is universal to human nature. It is written in our hearts, one of the core desires of every man and every woman.

". . . Our culture has grown cynical about the fable. Don Henley says, ‘We’ve been poisoned by these fairy tales.’ There are dozens of books out to refute the myth, books like Beyond Cinderella and The Death of Cinderella.

"No, we have not been poisoned by fairy tales and they are not merely ‘myths.’ Far from it. The truth is, we have not taken them seriously enough. As Roland Hein says, ‘Myths are stories which confront us with something transcendent and eternal.’ In the case of our fair maiden, we have overlooked two very crucial aspects to that myth. On the one hand, none of us ever really believed the sorcerer was real. We thought we could have the maiden without a fight. Honestly, most of us guys thought our biggest battle was asking her out. And second, we have not understood the tower and its relation to her wound; the damsel is in distress. If masculinity has come under assault, femininity has been brutalized. Eve is the crown of creation, remember? She embodies the exquisite beauty and the exotic mystery of God in a way that nothing else in all creation even comes close to. And so she is the special target of the Evil One; he turns his most vicious malice against her. If he can destroy her or keep her captive, he can ruin the story."

Eve’s Wound
"Every woman can tell you about her wound; some came with violence, others came with neglect. Just as every little boy is asking one question, every little girl is, as well. But her question isn’t so much about her strength. No, the deep cry of a little girls’ heart is am I lovely? Every woman needs to know that she is exquisite and exotic and chosen. This is core to her identity, the way she bears the image of God. Will you pursue me? Do you delight in me? Will you fight for me? And like every little boy, she has taken a wound as well. The wound strikes right at the core of her heart of beauty and leaves a devastating message with it: No. You’re not beautiful and no one will really fight for you. Like your wound, hers almost always comes at the hand of her father.

"A little girl looks to her father to know if she is lovely. The power he has to cripple or to bless is just as significant to her as it is to his son. If he’s a violent man he may defile her verbally or sexually. The stories I’ve heard from women who have been abused would tear your heart out. Janet was molested by her father when she was three; around the age of seven he showed her brothers how to do it. The assault continued until she moved away to college. What is a violated woman to think about her beauty? Am I lovely? The message is, No . . . you are dirty. Anything attractive about you is dark and evil. The assault continues as she grows up, through violent men and passive men. She may be stalked; she may be ignored. Either way, her heart is violated and the message is driven farther in: you are not desired, you will not be protected; no one will fight for you. The tower is built brick by brick, and when she’s a grown woman it can be a fortress.

". . . But when a woman never hears she’s worth fighting for, she comes to believe that’s the sort of treatment she deserves. It’s a form of attention, in a twisted way; maybe it’s better than nothing. Then we fell in love [Eldredge and his wife, that is] on that magical summer night. But Stasi married a frightened, driven man who had an affair with his work because he wouldn’t risk engaging a woman he sensed he wasn’t enough for. I wasn’t mean; I wasn’t evil. I was nice. And let me tell you, a hesitant man is the last thing in the world a woman needs. She needs a lover and a warrior, not a Really Nice Guy. Her worst fear was realized—I will never really be loved, never really be fought for. And so she hid some more.

"Years into our marriage I found myself blindsided by it all. Where is the beauty I once saw? What happened to the woman I fell in love with? I didn’t really expect an answer to my question; it was more a cry of rage than a desperate plea. But Jesus answered me anyway. She’s still in there; but she’s captive. Are you willing to go in after her? I realized that I had—like so many men—married for safety. I married a woman I thought would never challenge me as a man. Stasi adored me; what more did I need to do? I wanted to look like the knight, but I didn’t want to bleed like one. I was deeply mistaken about the whole arrangement. I didn’t know about the tower, or the dragon, or what my strength was for. The number one problem between men and their women is that we men, when asked to truly fight for her . . . hesitate. We are still seeking to save ourselves; we have forgotten the deep pleasure of spilling our life for another."

Offering Our Strength
". . . And that is how life is created. The beauty of a woman arouses a man to play the man; the strength of a man, offered tenderly to his woman, allows her to be beautiful; it brings life to her and to many. This is far, far more than sex . . . . It is a reality that extends to every aspect of our lives. When a man withholds himself from his woman, he leaves her without the life only he can bring. This is never more true than how a man offers—or does not offer-his words. Life and death are in the power of the tongue says the Proverbs (18:21). She is made for and craves words from him. . . .

"If the man refuses to offer himself, then his wife will remain empty and barren. A violent man destroys with his words, a silent man starves his wife. ‘She’s wilting,’ a friend confessed to me about his new bride. ‘If she’s wilting then you’re withholding something,’ I said. Actually, it was several things—his words, his touch, but mostly his delight. There are so many other ways this plays out in life. A man who leaves his wife with the children and the bills to go and find another, easier life has denied them his strength. He has sacrificed them when he should have sacrificed his strength for them. What makes Maximus or William Wallace so heroic is simply: They are willing to die to set others free.

"This sort of heroism is what we see in the life of Joseph, the husband of Mary and the stepfather to Jesus Christ. I don’t think we’ve fully appreciated what he did for them. Mary, an engaged young woman, almost a girl, turns up pregnant with at pretty wild story: ‘I’m carrying God’s child.’ The situation is scandalous. What is Joseph to think; what is he to feel? Hurt, confused, betrayed no doubt. But he’s a good man; he will not have her stoned, he will simply ‘divorce her quietly’ (Matt. 1:19).

"An angel comes to him in a dream (which shows you what it sometimes takes to get a good man to do the right thing) to convince him that Mary is telling the truth and he is to follow through with the marriage. Its going to cost him. Do you know what he’s going to endure if he marries a woman the whole community thinks is an adulteress? He will be shunned by his business associates and most of his clients; he will certainly lose his standing in society and perhaps even his place in the synagogue. To see the pain he’s in for, notice the insult that crowds will later use against Jesus. ‘Isn’t’ this Joseph and Mary’s son?’ they say with a sneer and nudge and a wink. In other words, we know who you are—the bastard child of that slut and her foolish carpenter. Joseph will pay big-time for this move. Does he withhold? No, he offers Mary his strength; he steps right between her and all of that mess and takes it on the chin. He spends himself for her.
". . . There, under the shadow of a man’s strength, a woman finds rest. The masculine journey takes a man away from the woman so that he might return to her. He goes to find his strength; he returns to offer it. He tears down the walls of the tower that has held her with his words and with his actions. He speaks to her heart’s deepest question in a thousand ways. Yes, you are lovely. Yes, there is one who will fight for you. But because most men have not yet fought the battle, most women are still in the tower."

Using Her
"Most men want the maiden without any sort of cost to themselves. They want all the joys of the beauty without any of the woes of the battle. This is the sinister nature of pornography—enjoying the woman at her expense. Pornography is what happens when a man insists on being energized by a woman; he uses her to get a feeling that he is a man. It is a false strength, as I’ve said, because it depends on an outside source rather than emanating from deep within his center. And it is the paragon of selfishness. He offers nothing and takes everything. . . .
". . . Pretty women endure this abuse all the time. They are pursued, but not really; they are wanted, but only superficially. They learn to offer their bodies but never, ever their souls. Most men, you see, marry for safety; they choose a woman who will make them feel like a man but never really challenge them to be one. . . . In a brilliant twist of plot, God turns our scheme for safety on us, requiring us to play the man. . . ."

It Is A Battle
"Will you fight for her? That’s the question Jesus asked me many years ago, right before our tenth anniversary, right at that time I was wondering what had happened to the woman I married. You’re on the fence, John, he said. Get in or get out. I knew what he was saying—stop being a nice guy and act like a warrior. Play the man. I bought flowers, took her to dinner, and began to move back toward her in my heart. But I knew there was more. That night, before we went to bed, I prayed for Stasi in a way I’d never prayed for her before. Out loud, before all the heavenly hosts, I stepped between her and the forces of darkness that had been coming against her. Honestly, I didn’t really know what I was doing, only that I needed to take on the dragon. All hell broke loose. Everything we’ve learned about spiritual warfare began that night. And you know what happened? Stasi got free; the tower of her depression gave way as I began to truly fight for her.

"And it’s not just once, but again and again over time. That’s where the myth really stumps us. Some men are willing to go in once, twice, even three times. But a warrior is in this for good. . . . Daniel is in the midst of a very hard, very unpromising battle for his wife. It’s been years now without much progress and without much hope. Siting in a restaurant the other night, tears in his eyes, this is what he said to me: ‘I’m not going anywhere. This is my place in the battle. This is the hill that I will die on.’ He has reached a point that we all must come to, sooner or later, when it’s no longer about winning or losing. His wife may respond and she may not. That’s really no longer the issue. The question is simply this: What kind of man do you want to be? Maximus? Wallace? Or Judah [Genesis 38]? A young pilot in the RAF wrote just before he went down in 1940, ‘The universe is so vast and so ageless that the life of one man can only be justified by the measure of his sacrifice.’ . . ."

Okay guys, I can't resist. Just one more brief portion from Eldredge's Wild At Heart:

". . . Adam bears the likeness of God in his fierce, wild, and passionate heart. And yet, there is one more finishing touch. There is Eve. Creation comes to its high point, its climax with her. She is God's finishing touch. And all Adam can say is, 'Wow.' Eve embodies the beauty and the mystery and the tender vulnerability of God. As the poiet William Blake said, 'The naked woman's body is a portion of eternity too great for the eye of man.

"The reason a woman wants a beauty to unveil, the reason she asks, Do you delight in me? is simply that God does as well. God is captivating beauty. As David prays, 'One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may . . . gaze upon the beauty of the LORD' (Ps. 27:4). Can there be any doubt that God wants to be worshiped? That he wants to be seen, and for us to be captivated by what we see? As C. S. Lewis wrote, 'The beauty of the female is the root of joy to the female as well as to the male . . . to desire the enjoying of her own beauty is the obedience of Eve, and to both it is in the lover that the beloved tastes of her own delightfulness" (37).

*Sorry, I don't know what work that C. S. Lewis quote is from, and Eldredge does not attribute it to any specific writing.



Antioco Dascalon said...

The quote is from Lewis's That Hideous Strength, p. 62-63.

Natalie said...

Since I don't own a copy, I can't look it up for myself at the moment, but I must say That Hideous Strength is one of my favorite books. And I'm not a big fiction reader.

Antioco Dascalon said...

I love that book. I hope that if the Narnia movies take off, they will turn those into movies. There is so much rich theology in them that they would probably do a hash of it.

Eric Kingsepp said...

Wow. Thanks for this post, N. It took me a while, but I'm glad you put it up. Very important for people to think about.

Natalie said...

Haha. Thanks for reading.