Looking Out for One Another – beyond manliness and femininity

The Bible says to love each other, comfort each other, lift each other up. It does not say that these are specifically masculine endeavors, even when the two people involved are a man and a woman.

Agatha Christie captured this dynamic perfectly in The Secret Adversary where her two heroes, Tuppence Cowley and Tommy Beresford, meet with the spy master known as Mr. Carter.

Mr. Carter paused. “Well, there it is, you see what you are pitting yourself against? Possibly the finest criminal brain of the age. I don’t quite like it, you know. You’re such young things, both of you. I shouldn’t like anything to happen to you.”

“It won’t,” Tuppence assured him positively.

“I’ll look after her, sir,” said Tommy.

“And I’ll look after you,” retorted Tuppence, resenting the manly assertion.

Tuppence set the record straight for the adventure that followed, just as she had in the earlier conversation leading to their joint venture: an equal partnership or no partnership, and Tommy could take it or leave it.

The relationship of take-it-or-leave-it

This is how relationships between women and men are supposed to work, whether in friendship or romance, just as they do between men and men or women and women. This is how all relationships are designed by God.

Love one another:

And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. (1 John 3:23.)

Comfort each other:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4.)

Lift each other up:

Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10.)

Nowhere do these passages support the notion that men have a special responsibility to care for women that women do not share toward men. Sex and gender are irrelevant to the responsibility people have to one another in the context of those passages. Take it or leave it.

Resenting manly assertions

I join Tuppence in resenting manly assertions of protectiveness. I resent that people would assert there is some exclusively manly responsibility that would mean women cannot come alongside men to lift them up.

Particularly, I resent what this would mean for my marriage.

There are times when I’ve been on the ground and needed someone to come alongside to lift me back up. This love and comfort can take a variety of forms but each of them take strength. My wife is strong, and has carried out her God-given responsibility to be strong in my life more times than I could count. And, rest assured, there are times when I needed to count on God working through her to be strong when I was at my weakest.

Crises that threatened my family and that threatened my career have both hit me in later years. She has shored me up when I was falling over, and lifted me to my feet when I fell anyway. And in those times when I remained down, crushed under the burden, she got down beside me to hold me until I could start to rise again.

This isn’t merely metaphorical either. Her physical strength has taken charge when I’ve been physically weak, battling pneumonia that had me bedridden for days and off work for weeks. She steps up and gets the work done when I’ve been unable to lift a finger to help.

How physically fit is she? This fit:

She’s ahead of me because she’s better at this than me. (Post: My Wife and I Trained to Play Dirty)

Some who insist on gender/sex roles among God’s people would not like what they see in my marriage. We don’t fit the prescribed roles. What we do have, though, is a marriage of over 30 years with a grown son and daughter who are doing fine.

In each year of marriage we’ve had the opportunity to love, comfort and lift up each other, and our children have learned how this works in a godly marriage. If we’d stayed within the gender restrictions some people teach, we’d never have been able to do the things God called us to do for one another. We are not restricted in what we can do for God and the people he’s put in our lives, women and men both.

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:36.)

Friendships, marriages, joint ventures – all are designed for much more for the women and men of God than can be realized if people are bound by gender roles God never put on them. You are free to be strong for each other and to rely on the strength of one another, regardless of who is the man and who is the woman.

Take it or leave it? I’ll take it.

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12 Responses to Looking Out for One Another – beyond manliness and femininity

  1. Anu Riley says:

    Thank you for sharing such precious and personal stories about your life and marriage. It is never easy to describe (and relive) the low times, the weaknesses and times that were beyond difficult. It’s always wonderful to look back and see the Lord’s intervention through it all.

    I have had to be physically and emotionally strong for my family. Both of my “boys” have had surgeries, injuries, work issues, home issues, family issues and personal issues.

    Both of them have tested my limits, and my patience. Asking God for patience and long suffering (note: ASK God for these things. They DO NOT come naturally). Feeling very lonely and burdened, because I had no idea these challenges were going to be thrown my way, with such intensity.

    There is no shame on leaning on the long and strong arms of the Father, when there is no one around you to hold you up, because those that around you are depending on you to hold THEM up!

    I’m not a movie person anymore, but I learned a lot from watching the movie version of “The Pelican Brief.” I hadn’t read the book, but was told that the male and female characters in the book had gotten physical—whereas in the movie version—it was platonic, professional but powerful. They grew to truly care for each other (even though she started out as being a source for a big news story for him). And how willing they both were to protect each other from all the dangers they encountered.

    It wasn’t a power struggle with them, or a competition. They simply leaned on each other.

    Marriage is now being seen as or described as a power struggle when seen through the lens of patriarchy. Who has the power, who has the upper hand, and who is in control. Which is becoming more and more sickening to me.

    I have no interest in “winning” in my marriage, or coming out ahead. What kind of joy is there in that?? My spouse is not someone to conquer so that I can claim well-fought dominance over him.

    I remember God calling to me “set an example” for those around me, including my family. It wasn’t about trying to be “better” than those around me. It was about pointing them to Christ. So that they would be led to pursue Him and find out what He is truly capable of in their own lives.

    Jesus said something like this, after He washed their feet: I did this so that you would do likewise. Wash each other’s feet.

    That has become a “lost art:” being and becoming foot washer’s like He is. It gets pushed into the background and easily forgotten, especially when it comes to marriage and relationships in general.

    Instead of serving others freely and graciously, it is about who “deserves” to be served and who is “appointed” to servitude.

  2. Scott Stewart says:

    Thank you very much, Tim; glad and proud to know you via FB. 🙂

  3. Jeannie Prinsen says:

    I love your post, Tim. Caring for others is a human thing to do, not a male thing or female thing.

  4. helen says:

    Friendship inside of marriage. You are blessed!

  5. NJ says:

    You two look like you’re having so much fun.

    Complementarianism has a problem to the extent it treats women like children instead of adults.

  6. Angie says:

    “Friendships, marriages, joint ventures – all are designed for much more for the women and men of God than can be realized if people are bound by gender roles God never put on them. You are free to be strong for each other and to rely on the strength of one another, regardless of who is the man and who is the woman.”

    Yes. A thousand times, yes.

  7. I find it so interesting when talking with complementarians that they believe that someone simply MUST be in charge, or else marriage won’t work.

    The best argument against that is always using your own marriage. They really can’t argue that. “Ah, but what do you do when you disagree? Who makes the decision then?!?” they say, assuming that they have stumped me.

    And I just reply, “We pray about it, until we both feel the same way. If it’s a really big thing, we seek out other counsel. And in 26 years of marriage, it just hasn’t happened.”

    Then they don’t know what to say.

    But it makes me wonder: what must it be like to live in a relationship where someone actually DOES have to make the final decision? Wouldn’t that be kind of miserable? And maybe if your assumption is that someone actually will have to make the final decision, then you don’t really do the work of conflict resolution and prayer. Every time you disagree, you assume you’ll be at an impasse forever so he decides. That must be truly miserable. Do they even understand what it is to pray together and be in the Spirit together?

    • Tim says:

      You’ve described the way my marriage works too, Sheila. (I wrote a whole post on it in Marriage Is Not A Democracy.)

      For those who say that disagreements are ended when the husband makes the decision, I want to ask why they are not willing to put in the work required to come to a decision the same way other adults do – keep working at it until there’s a mutually agreed decision.

  8. I can’t relate to this. Husbands are called to love their wives like Christ loved the church. Wives do not receive the same call in the Bible. That’s because husbands are supposed to be leaders. I submit to my husband. I obey him. He makes our financial, social, lifestyle, religious, and other decisions. My husband leads and protects me. I support him and do whatever is required for his military career, personal goals, and continuing education. I always try to build him up, encourage, and honor him.

    We are very happy this way. When I first married my husband I did not submit and thought I should have equal authority. It wasn’t working that well. Then I was convicted by the voice of the Holy Spirit to headcover and submit. My marriage has been wonderful since then, and I definitely think I am a better wife. We believe it is the way the Bible teaches (wives are told to submit, not husbands). And It really works for us. My husband leads and I follow. It brings me peace and security, and has brought me closer to God.

    Just another perspective. Not saying we don’t discuss things, but my husband has the final say 🙂

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