Tag Archives: Gender difference

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

The Difference of Marriage

The two women looked and dressed alike: pleasant, middle-aged, graying hair cut simply, for the sake of ease. I discovered that they had just ‘married’ in Iowa. My first thought: how hard is it ‘to marry’ someone who mirrors yourself—the needs, hurts, and fears of your own gender and life experience? Not very: in order to be authentic, intimacy requires ‘otherness.’ The gift of one cannot be a whole gift to another if the receiver already possesses the offering.

Maybe that explains the frustration I ultimately felt in trying to make a guy a whole sexual partner. I tried. Admittedly, high-octane sensuality was compelling but at the end of the day, we were still looking at the horizon from the same masculine lens. He was a good friend. But we lied to ourselves in pretending that we had become ‘one.’

You could say our fusion was forced. To be sure, sharing the same wounds was helpful but ultimately boring. We could not conceive new life! That requires becoming one-flesh. And one-flesh requires the awesome and awful challenge of someone who shares my humanity but not my gender.

I say awesome because our bodies are designed for this other, even if our heterosexual desires are frustrated or exaggerated. What’s awful is that our grid has been so skewed by a host of injustices, many of which morph into expressions of false justice (‘marriage equality,’ anyone?) that we can no longer imagine that we were all made to long for this ‘other.’ Even many who love Jesus are convinced that their same-gender attractions are chronic, defining, and preclude the possibility for being reconciled to the sexual gift (s)he is to the opposite gender.

We oppose our own becoming. In the words of St. Catherine of Siena, Jesus creates us without our help but He can only save us with our help.

Jesus helps me become the man I am through my amazing wife. I saw this clearly and felt it deeply last month. Annette and I spent August together apart from ministry and other people. Except for the orbiting of our four adult children (who all live gratefully within ‘landing’ range) we did life together, unobstructed. At first this was hard for me. After an exhilarating year of ministry, I struggled to let down and enter into the quiet and deep place of hearing her, knowing her again, not in the everyday demands but in her hurts, fears, dreams, and observations that require attentiveness in order to become gifts. I sought awkwardly at first to grant her that space. Then it came gracefully, eagerly. No-one welcomes me like she does. And no-one provokes me more. We are one only because she is wholly other than me.

God has built into marriage the challenge of gender difference for the sake of teaching us the art of self-giving. Let’s be clear: friendship is friendship, one-flesh is one flesh. ‘Otherness’ is the goal of sexual self-giving, and only one expression of that ‘otherness’–the lifetime commitment between a man and woman—deserves to be called marriage.

Download PDF

Fourth of 7 Prayers for Marriage: The Gift of Gender Difference

Gender DifferenceProperly defined, marriage hinges upon gender difference. A wedding counts only when the angular awkward guy in the tux kisses the woman in white, a vision of curves and hidden complexity. Once the two have crossed the threshold, there is no turning back. They are united irrevocably in the mystery of two becoming one.

Gender difference is at the center of such wholeness. Becoming a whole sexual gift to another depends on that difference. Theologian John Mark Miravelli says it best: a gift ceases to be a whole gift if in fact I already possess what the other is offering me. In other words, a same gender friend can only mirror back to me what I already have; (s)he offers me  only a variation of what I possess. However blessed, same-gender gifts cannot approximate the offering of gender complements.

There may be good reasons why one attempts such unity with the same gender. Perhaps experiences with the opposite gender were unsatisfying, even abusive; it could be that a particular friendship generated heat and feelings of falling in love. None of that changes the truth: two of the same cannot a whole make. That is evident in the inability to reproduce life.

It is also evident in the failure of same-gender friends to balance each other out. Two grooms doom a ‘marriage’ from the start. The attempt at ‘normal’ is undermined by the absence of woman’s civilizing instinct. She insists that sex answer to relationship, not just new sensual thrills. Dan Savage, gay ‘married’ and sex columnist, makes my point precisely. He wants us to follow his example of an ‘open marriage’ where we spice things up with fresh partners. Fallen guy stuff squared, without the feminine antidote.

Two brides can readily devolve into bridezillas. I read with sorrow the emerging legal battles between now hostile ‘mama-bears’ fighting over the cubs they adopted in more peaceful times. Simply put, one woman’s attachment need is too great for another woman to bear. Like loose wires lashing out, these needs and longings require the grounding of a masculine complement. That is evident in all of life, whether two brides in battle or dueling mother/daughters without Dad. We need man and we need woman.

Marriage requires male and female. The design of our bodies and our souls directs us to the other. It can be an arduous journey for some. My own suggests that. It took a river of grace and no small effort for me to emerge out of same-gender infatuation and into my own intact masculinity. Reconciled to the truth of my design, I began to offer my own angular, awkward self to its lovely complement. Now I am free to offer another what she does not possess. And I can welcome what I actually need and desire from her.

‘Father, we thank you for how you designed marriage. It is self-evident. Forgive us for losing the truth that marital intimacy requires ‘otherness’; free us to become the gifts we are, and to behold the gifts we need in this other. We pray for the Supreme Court to uphold CA’s right to define marriage as intrinsically male/female; may our victory with Prop. 8 prevail for the good of all. We pray also for lead attorney Chuck Cooper as he prepares to make this case for marriage on March 26th. Bless him, his family, and his service on behalf of the just and worthy cause of protecting marriage.’

 

 

 

 

Download PDF
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers: