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Otherness and Holiness

Gender difference is marriage; its essence is male and female together.

Without the tension of otherness, there is not wholeness, no dance between similarity and difference. The duality between male and female draws one out beyond the limits of ‘sameness’; out of our depth, we are drawn from self-centeredness into the possibility of genuine self-giving. In losing ourselves to love this other, we find a whole.

God created marriage as a metaphor: as we have seen, gender duality reveals Himself, His image on the earth.

Humanity as male and female also conveys a glimpse of God’s holiness. He employs marriage—the encounter between two distinct parts–as a metaphor for how He encounters us as ‘Other.’ God is holy, meaning He is ‘other’ than us. He created us in His image but He stands over and beyond us as the Creator of that image. In our human duality as male and female, we represent Him in part.

But He does not allow us to reduce Him to that earthly image. He is God—as transcendent and beyond comprehension as He has revealed Himself to us in Christ.

Gender duality is one way He has made Himself known to us. He teaches us of holiness through the glorious mystery of man for woman, woman for man.

Mike Mason writes: “Both marriage and faith in God deal in the most direct way imaginable with the phenomenon of otherness in our lives. Both God and spouse encounter us as one who is like us, resembling us in image, but not us.”

God the uncreated made us in His image, not the other way around. Perhaps that is why authentic faith is so costly. Mason continues: “…God is not an idol, a human invention, not an extension or projection of ourselves. True religion begins with a profound acquiescence to the truth: there is one God, and I am not He!”

Marriage is but a pale image of the awesome otherness between the Creator and the created. Marital partners are both created flawed beings. Nevertheless, their union is the image God has chosen to teach humanity about holiness in human relating.

As we uphold and honor the good of ‘the other’, we manifest a glimpse of the ‘Other.’ We grow in holiness through God’s command to treat this other as a gift distinct from ourselves, created only in His image, not one that always seems right to us.
Honor marriage for the good of all. Vote YES on Proposition 8.

“Father, forgive us for the way we have tried to conform You to the image that seems right to us. And forgive us for the way we have tried to conform the other gender to our own image of them. As You are holy, make us holy in faith and marriage.”

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Why Women Need Men

Femininity needs masculinity. Woman needs man. Her softness and depth not only invites intimacy; woman possesses a marvelous capacity to nurture relationship. Therein lies the paradox of woman—powerful in love yet equally powerful in her vulnerability to be wounded in those relationships.

Woman is a deep well. She needs man’s help to guard the waters, to keep them clear and free. And to help ensure that the gift of that water finds rich expression. Secure in the blessing of masculine love, she thrives like a ‘well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.’

A woman’s gift is herself. Unlike man, she finds meaning primarily in her relationships. The ‘earth-bound man’, raised from the dust, finds his match in the one taken from his side. Woman’s source is not inanimate; she is formed from a human, which establishes her as an essentially relational being.

Woman’s gift is in relationship. In whatever she aspires to do, her tasks and goals will have an implicitly relational dimension. Annette has noted that in spite of her many accomplishments, she instinctively defines herself relationally. She is not first a publisher/administrator/healer; she is Annette, daughter of Ruth and Harry, wife of Andy, mother of Greg, Nick, Kate, and Sam.

But that gift has a downside. Like the souring of man’s good earth and the strife that accompanied the work of his hands, woman can find her relational ‘sources’ cruel and embittering. And she not only the victim but the perpetrator as well!

Her curse involves relationships: the pain of bringing forth children, and a ‘desire’ for her husband that connotes a grasping, possessive grip. He will ‘rule over her’ outside the garden, an authority that strikes me as more ominous than protective. (Genesis 3: 16)

Woman is now set up for a grasping after relationship that invites pain and hurt—engendering a dark subjectivity in her depths. She needs the whole enough masculine to come alongside her, not to rule, but to call forth and guard the beauty of her exquisite and profound being.

When man rightly beholds her gift, and stands faithfully on her behalf, she thrives. Heaven is glimpsed on earth when a masculine image-bearer loves his feminine counterpart in a way that releases her to be grateful for the gift that she is.
Woman needs man. Honor marriage for the good of all. Vote YES on Proposition 8.

“O God, we honor Your design in creation, man for woman, woman for man. We do so humbly, full well knowing that our dignity together is matched by our capacity to bruise and break one another. In mercy, free us to honor Your design in creation by how we honor one another, man to woman, woman to man.”

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Why Man Needs Woman

Masculinity needs femininity; man needs woman. His angular focused essence requires the more diffused and rounded contours of woman. Most men long for that essence. All men need it.

The anatomical differences between the sexes are only the beginning. The probing, driven, and external nature of male sexuality is a window to his approach to life. And how submitting his life to the other is essential to his wholeness!

In Genesis 2:7, God creates man from the ground. Earth is the raw material from which he is formed. That foreshadows a theme that drives him—the natural inclination toward prevailing over and giving form to his world. (“The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” Gen. 2:15)

Man needs to discover purpose through the work of his hands. He tends to draw his significance from what he does. And to be respected for it. To a large degree, masculine honor hinges upon him exerting his power on the earth in a way that makes a difference. To prevail over the earth and to bear fruit seems to be built into the very essence of manhood.

In Genesis 3, man is cursed as a result of his sin. Things change—the good earth sours on him, and his labor now seems addictive and futile. “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life…By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust you will return.” (Gen. 3:17-19)

Man’s inclination toward prevailing remains, but now sweat and pain mark his livelihood. His pursuit of significance seems strained as well. Can the unforgiving earth yield enough reward for him? Perhaps not. Is it any wonder that he is vulnerable to strife and addictive attempts to cull meaning and worth?

Woman is different. She invites him into a different world, one that is perhaps gentler. He longs for that softness, the feminine gift for connectedness that eludes him in his world of striving and competition. Her many words help give voice to his few. He lets down; he breaths. Woman provides a home for man’s weary heart.

In spite of my same-sex attraction, I was and am very masculine in my focus and drive. What most drew me into relationship with Annette was her relational ease. She engendered a kind of peace in me that neither work nor same-sex unions could. Somehow, her response to my awkward advances empowered me further to avail my strength to her. I grew stronger in love, as did she.

Man needs woman. Honor marriage for the good of all. Vote YES on Proposition 8.
“In Your merciful design, O God, may weary men find rest in good women.”

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Otherness and Intimacy

To honor marriage is to honor the distinctions of male and female, and how the two combine to form a whole. The one discovers its need in relation to the other—‘I do not possess what the other offers’, and one’s unique gift—‘I possess something the other needs.’

Gender complementarity is crucial to a marriage being able to ease the aloneness of both parties. It is precisely the other’s difference that satisfies the ache of the solitary heart. The mystery of the other draws one out of familiarity and into another reality. Gender differences provoke exploration and yield the rich discovery that the other rounds one out. At physical and psychological levels, one finds grounding and a covering that composes a whole.

Karl Barth writes: “Were Eve only like him, his mirror image, a numerical multiplication, she would not confront him as another…as such, the aloneness of neither would be eased.”

Frustrating at times? Of course. In the face of the ‘foreigner’, we are tempted to judge the other as less than human, our own familiar ways of knowing and being as superior. But gratefully, God did not create the other in our image but in His own.

Mike Mason writes: “Marriage seems to specialize at times in radically deemphasizing the similarities between partners and wildly exaggerating the points of difference. But that is so that a couple may come to know one another at the deepest level—‘bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh.’

Becoming one flesh is a journey of discovery. We discover a beauty and wisdom and strength unknown to us; in that difference, the other has unique power to fortify and to console us. (S)he encounters us as the other, imparting to us what we may never have experienced but what we need.

Mason refers to marriage in a term used for the trinity—a hypostatic union, meaning that distinct properties (male and female) combine to form one new identity. He says: “Marriage is not about sameness but about oneness, which is less characterized by similarities than by difference…That oneness is not a skill to be mastered but a phenomenon to be marveled at with increasing humility and gratitude.”

To honor marriage, we must reclaim the inner meaning of God’s image: man for woman, woman for man. Together, the two create a whole that satisfies the aloneness of each. Honor marriage for the good of all. Vote YES on Proposition 8.

“Thank You God for Your design. You said that it was not good for man to be alone (Gen 2:18), and You made a way for the gap to be closed. Give us grace to behold and to honor the other’s difference. Ease our aloneness through him or her.”

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Complementarity and Gender Clarity

Wholeness in marriage requires two distinct parts, or complements. Maleness and femaleness define marriage; the two together create its essence.

That is more than a practical means to procreation. Before babies, the duality of male and female creates the basis for authentic awareness of who one is as ‘the other’.

Adam and Eve are alike in that both bear the Creator’s image. She was taken from his side and then returns to him, bearing her humanity in distinction from his own. Her very difference from him has power to mirror back who he is as male. In his reflection, she too becomes aware of her difference.

There can be no maleness without femaleness, and vice-versa. Gender would be stripped of its meaning without the reality of gender difference. We simply would have no awareness of our own essence as male or female without the dance of difference we experience in relation to the opposite gender.

That awareness operates on two levels. The first is realizing what we are not. Image-bearing is humbling. And it reveals a mystery: the elusive and yet profound aspects of the other that we cannot fully understand because we do not possess those aspects in full.

We can only marvel at the difference. And recognize our need for the other. His/her awesome and at times perplexing otherness draws us into wholeness.

Similarly, as we reflect upon the difference, we become aware of the unique and essential gift that our own gender difference imparts to the whole. The presence of the other helps us to know what this gift is. On emotional, spiritual and physical levels, we become aware of our own essence as male or female.

May we recognize its essence and its import to rounding out the whole of God’s image. With increasing clarity and confidence, may we realize the good gift of our own gender to the other. And continue before both God and our fellow humanity to humbly recognize our need for the opposite gender.

Vincent Van Gogh wrote to his brother Theo: “One learns so much from the constant comparing of the masculine figure from the feminine, which are always and in everything so totally different. It may be supremely difficult, but what would art and life be without them?”

Let us honor gender difference and the valuable role it plays in clarifying self-awareness and self-giving. Marriage requires gender difference. It is its very essence.
Honor marriage for the good of all. Vote YES on Proposition 8.

“God humble us and grant us confidence to be good gifts for the opposite gender.”

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