Besides the obvious reasons why a man and a woman need each other to bring forth life, he and she together help the lives that they create become creative.
That takes effort: surmounting the fear that her difference from me is precisely what I most need to thrive. And trusting God that my gendered gift supplies something essential to her. We must foster that reliance upon each other so that otherness breeds more appreciation than annoyance. Or intimidation. Or judgment. I love Bonhoeffer words: ‘God created this person in His image, not mine.’ When I am tempted to forego her vantage point for mine, I recall those words and realize that I am setting myself over the Creator by denying the gift of her difference. Disagree with each other? Of course. Deny her gift? Perilous!
Lent helps here. One discipline we undertake together in this season is daily prayer and reflection on a devotional guide. I never cease to be amazed at her take on the material. It is a window to her soul that I can only discover if I look. And listen. Her splendid difference from me is precisely what engages and challenges and summons my best. She knows that her voice matters. That frees her to respect mine with the editing rights that her conscience demands. I return the favor.
At times such engaging reveals my worst. Before her I face what I do not want to express. In tough areas that I would rather leap over than submit, I must give an answer. And there I discover an ally. In the searchlight of the one I love most, I expose my own demons so that love can have its deepest way in me. My dark silence casts the longest shadow on her. So too does the light shine most brightly when we confess our faults in order to heal each other (James 5:16).
We gathered for a family birthday for Annette last week. My gratitude lies in how our kids look out for each other. I see this as a gift of how Annette has looked out for their best interests. Each of them said just that, in the particular ways she has served them. She gives generously, a mother par excellence. Might her security in the love we share stoke her freedom to offer herself?
Maybe. If so, then I consider my love for her—freely given, with all the fullness I can muster—the best offering of my life.
Properly 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.’