Yesterday a friend’s Facebook status shared that another friend’s husband had died suddenly, leaving her with 2 young children, widowed at 35. Sobering. “You don’t know what it’s got till it’s gone” (Joni Mitchell, Big Yellow Taxi). Comments under my friend’s status reflected on the need to appreciate what is and not take anything for granted.
How many times have I wondered, What I was thinking in getting married? There were struggles in singleness, but marriage has often blindsided me with weakeness. My single self certainly had plenty of insecurities, but marriage has abounded with days of feeling consciously incompetent! Well, Luther has been reading my mail. Marriage is not the easiest path. Ah, but it is a God-ordained path, which makes it a good path and the one I travel right now.
Luther: The Estate of Marriage (1522) LW 45: 38-40
“The world says of marriage, "Brief is the joy, lasting the bitterness." Let them say what they please; what God wills and creates is bound to be a laughingstock to them. . . .
Now the ones who recognize the estate of marriage are those who firmly believe that God himself instituted it, brought husband and wife together, and ordained that they should beget children and care for them. For this they have God's word, Genesis 1[:28], and they can be certain that God does not lie. They can therefore also be certain that the estate of marriage and everything that goes with it in the way of conduct, works, and suffering is pleasing to God. Now tell me, how can the heart have greater good, joy, and delight than in God, when one is certain that his estate, conduct, and work is pleasing to God? . . .
Now observe that when that clever harlot, our natural reason . . . takes a look at married life, she turns up her nose and say, "Alas, must I rock the baby, wash its diapers, make its bed, smell its stench, stay up nights with it, take care of it when it cries, heal its rashes and sores, and on top of that care for my wife, provide for her, labor at my trade, take care of this and take care of that, do this and do that, endure this and endure that, and whatever else of bitterness and drudgery married life involves? What, should I make such a prisoner of myself? O you poor wretched fellow, have you taken a wife? Fie, fie upon such wretchedness and bitterness! It is better to remain free and lead a peaceful, carefree life; I will become a priest or a nun and compel my children to do likewise."
What then does Christian faith say to this? It opens its eyes, looks upon all these insignificant, distasteful, and despised duties in the Spirit, and is aware that they are all adorned with divine approval as with the costliest gold and jewels. It says, "God, because I am certain that thou hast created me as a man and hast from my body begotten this child, I also know for a certainty that it meets with thy perfect pleasure. I confess to thee that I am not worthy rock the little babe or wash its diapers, or to be entrusted with the care of the child and its mother. How is it that I, without any merit, have come to this distinction of being certain that I am serving thy creature and thy most precious will? O how gladly wd I do so, . . . for I am certain that it is thus pleasing in thy sight."
A wife too should regard her duties in the same light, as she suckles the child, rocks and bathes it, and cares for it in other ways; . . . These are truly golden and noble works.”
Isn’t it interesting that Luther refers to “our natural reason” as “that clever harlot” and continues to write in apparently feminine terms, then it becomes clear that the following two paragraphs that he is addressing the husband? Fascinating that Luther should portray the man as complaining about stereotypically wifely duties.
Whether husband or wife attending to such concerns, the burdens are the same, the complaints are the same – and the dignity is the same: “adorned with of divine approval as with the costliest gold and jewels.”
Gold in my kitchen? Oh yes.
Jewels in my laundry? Indeed.
All photos (except me & a friend’s baby in our rocking chair) are under attribution copyright from flickr’s creative commons.