We are nearing the end of this chapter, and yet I still have no idea how a man is supposed to sanctify his wife. Sure, by "washing of the word", but Michael has yet to really explain what that means. He's thrown around words like "support" and "encourage", but he doesn't explain WHAT those mean, what they look like in practice, or how to use them to improve a marriage. I just don't understand how he can spend 20+ pages talking what a man is supposed to do, and why, but not how. Ugh.
Text is in purple
A garment that was made with imperfections is blemished as is one that has suffered fundamental structural degradation.
25-Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;
26-That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,
27-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.
The good thing about the end of the chapter is that these verses won't be repeated again. Hopefully.
A wife that is blemished has a fault that may be constitutional in nature or so ingrained in her soul or body as to be inseparable from her person. A blemish is not the result of sin. There is no blame in it. In many cases there is no cure for it. The cure is in learning to live with it, or even developing it as an asset.
I'm kind of getting the feeling that it is up to the husband to decide what's a blemish. Which is kind of scary. Because it seems that a man who reads this book will start to go searching for his wife's blemishes! She snores too loud? Blemish! Her second toe is longer than the first? Major blemish! Though Michael says there's no blame in blemishes, I am wondering why a husband would need to sanctify his wife of them. Does that make sense? If there's no blame and often no cure, why not call it what it is-a trait or tic?
And no mention of the husband's blemishes. But none of us are surprised by now.
My wife came to me with one blemish. She is deaf in one ear-apparently from birth. She developed it into an asset by learning to sleep with her good ear down when the house was too noisy.
I...uh...okay? Is he saying she only had one blemish, and that was being half deaf? And while sleeping through noise (don't they train children against that??) would be convenient, I don't know if I'd consider it an asset. An asset would be having learned how to lip read or something.
I though her extreme hick accent was a blemish until the day I heard a very cool guy say he thought it was delightfully cute and charming. I have watched her charm a shop owner into selling to her at half price. She can entertain a crowd all day long with her colloquialisms and manner. It took Loretta Lynn to the top of the charts. I have heard that some of the country singers try to mimic the accent. So there you are. I married a famous country singer that can't sing and was not yet famous. But she is cute. And country gals do it better.
Wow. So Michael learned to like Debi's accent because another guy thought it was cute. Is that the moral of this story? Jealousy=love? Because it still sounds to me like he thinks his wife has a hick accent. Sure, it's useful, but at the end of the day, she's still talking like a hick.
Ugh. Even in a paragraph that isn't exactly complimenting Debi, he has to tear her down. So she can't sing. Who cares? But at least she puts out. Or at least, I'm guessing that's what he means in that last line there. Because it's been a few chapters since Michael has mentioned sex, or made an innuendo. Come to think of it, how would he know country gals do it better?
I know another fellow who married a talented woman, but she had some obvious blemishes. He was ashamed of her in public. If there were 100 people in a public place you could hear her laughing above everything. She sounded like a hen that just laid a double-yolked egg. He was a quiet man with a lot of dignity, but she seemed to take no notice of the social tone around her, being totally unaware of her intrusive laughter. And she laughed at inappropriate moments. There were other uncouth mannerisms that caused him to be ashamed to take her into public.
Call me crazy, but wouldn't this have been something the man should have noticed before they got married? Even if they had been courting with parental supervision or something, surely she laughed at least once. Surely he saw her interact with the public before he proposed. There is only one situation I can think of where the man would have been oblivious to this "blemish" before getting married, and that's an arranged marriage where they both showed up on the wedding day and met. That is literally the only thing I can think of.
The worst thing about it was that she felt his rejection. He didn't tell her what bothered him; he just showed exasperation and displeasure at her presence. She grew angry and belligerent, further acting in embarrassing ways.
Wow. This is worse than I thought! Instead of taking his wife aside and saying "When you do XYZ you draw uncomplimentary attention to yourself and it embarrasses me a bit.", he just gets mad at her and doesn't say a word. And she clearly doesn't feel comfortable asking why he's mad. What a great system.
This went on for years, and there was talk of divorce. She even left him for awhile. But slowly my friend came to treasure his wife for other virtues he saw in her and expressed gratitude and admiration for her motherhood and her cooking and housekeeping skills.
It sounds like to me that he missed his maid, cook, and nursemaid. Kind of "Oh, holy cow. She WAS useful, even though she annoyed the living daylights out of me. Guess I best play nice so I get my hot meals back." Or am I being too cynical?
She began to relax in public and didn't have a need to be in the center of everything. She stopped laughing like a babbling chimpanzee and gained some grace and dignity. As he responded, she responded and a cycle was set in motion as they both matured.
How many snarky ways can Michael say this lady had annoying mannerisms? Wow.
I'm glad things seemed to have a happy ending, but simply talking about things early in the marriage would have saved this couple a ton of trouble. Instead of advocating communication, Michael seems to think the real solution is basically "appreciate what she does for you". Which is nice, don't get me wrong. But it just seems...I don't know...hollow.
The last I saw of them, she was still a little gawky, but nothing like before, and he is more accepting of her lack of social skills. He has worked the blemishes out of her, and their marriage improves with age.
I thought blemishes weren't blameworthy or often fixable. Yet this man literally blamed his wife and made her miserable to the point of leaving. I don't see how him accepting her lack of social graces (teach her if it upsets you that much!) is "working the blemishes out of her". It sounds like he just sucked up what annoyed him because she kept his house clean.
Oh, here's another example. Hopefully he clears things up.
The Girl No One Ever Noticed
About ten years ago, a carload of young people just passing through stopped by for a visit. There was one girl that sat in the middle, slumped down on the couch with her long, naturally blond hair covering her face. I noticed her for her inconspicuousness. She seemed broken, self-diminishing. When they all stood up to leave, I saw that she was well over six feet tall, but she stooped and slumped as if to make herself shorter. Her thin body looked like a pretzel standing there in the background. I never could see her face, for she kept it turned away and shut down like a blank computer screen. You seldom see people that blemished. In her mid-twenties, she was the girl no one ever noticed.
That poor girl. I'm sure when she hit her growth spurt, and surpassed all the other girls in height, she got made fun of. Perhaps her parents made comments, too. Twisting oneself to the point of being a pretzel, and hiding one's face isn't a blemish. It almost smacks of emotional/verbal abuse. It's been my experience that people feel ashamed of how they look because of how others react to them. But, of course, Michael doesn't even touch on that.
About two years later an acquaintance stopped by with his new bride. She stood beside him like an oversize shadow, seeming fearful and apprehensive. He bragged on her and complemented himself for obtaining such a treasure.
Wow. I have no idea what to say here. I'm glad he's happy with her. Is complementing oneself on their choice of spouse a common thing? I can't ever remember my husband saying "Daaang, I have good taste!" (Though he clearly does.) It must have been scary for that poor girl. I remember when my husband and I first started dating. I couldn't imagine why he would say I was beautiful, and that he wanted to be with me. I was confused for a good long time, and I was scared that he was using me. So I totally get how this girl felt.
After several years of marriage, I saw them again. This time she was standing up straight like she was proud of her height. She laughingly calls her husband "Little Man". He looks up at her with delight and they now have several handsome kids. They exercise together. She filled out in all the right places and her face looks at you with interest. She is no longer a shadow and is actually quite attractive, something no one else could see until her husband loved her as she was and took her with her wrinkles and blemishes. She has grown under his sanctifying grace. And she has helped temper some of his rough edges. He still needs some work, though.
It's interesting that apparently the woman's only value is her appearance. Never are her skills, ideas, thoughts, hopes or dreams mentioned. Just how she looks and that she had kids. I'm actually reminded of the Mormon movie "Johnny Lingo". It's amusing to watch, if only for the phrase "Mahana you ugly!" Here. I'll post it. If you have 20 minutes, watch. (It's not overtly Mormon, in case you were worried about that.)
I don't really know the nature of her blemishes, but I am sure they go back a long way. I do know she was not molested. She was virtuous in every way and highly moral, but something in her soul was blemished. Her husband/savior has redeemed a life that was sinking into the recesses. She now blooms and would catch the eye of any man. That's God's work done God's way, and it never lacks God's supply.
How does he know so much about her? He saw her in passing years and years ago. He never really saw her face. Then someone he kind of knows shows up with a tall bride. Years later, after her "Saviour" (no God complexes in PearlWorld) rescues her from her crippling self-doubt, she's a catch. Because God only cares about women's appearances. In fact, his work is actually to beautify these wives so the husbands can pat themselves on the back.
I don't mean to sound rude, but that is precisely the vibe I've gotten from the last few sections. Has anyone else noticed this?
God receives all of us just as we are with our blemishes, gawkiness, and clumsiness, whether we are too tall, too short, too dumb, slow-witted, one-eared, paralyzed, deaf, blind, or poor. He fills up his house with just such, and reminds us that "not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence. (1 Cor 1:26-29). Can we love any less or demand any more? Are we better than God? If he is willing to receive all and then dedicate his life to sanctifying us, who are we to expect a heavenly marriage without engaging in a patient sanctifying process?
Yes, God thinks you're weak and worthless. But hey, he can use that for his purpose!
And to answer Michael's questions. Yes, you love less and demand more. You demand perfection. Why else would you feel the need to sanctify your wife or mold her into what you want? Perhaps you don't see yourself as better than God, but you do seem to view him on equal footing. If God is willing to accept the poor, ugly, and stupid; and love them and give them purpose "just as they are", then why in tarnation is this whole book about men changing their wives???
Ugh. This is the end of the chapter. And I'm left with more questions about sanctification. Though not too many, as the idea make me unhappy. I have enough self-worth that I do not need anyone (husband or not) telling me how they think I need to change. If that is what a heavenly marriage is, I would rather do without.
(It's ironic that Michael's idea of marital heaven is how I view hell.)