I have another blog written under the heading of “Why I am on sabbatical,” but am wanting to sit on it for a bit, so here is something less connected.
(I am actually unsure of what to do with this. I want these blogs to be dependable – that readers can come here knowing there will be something. I was thinking, Monday, Wednesday, Friday. I had the other one written Friday, but then felt I should think on it some more. So I apologize. Maybe the thing to do is post a note that says, “Sorry, nothing today.” I have become pretty sensitized to setting up false expectations. Anyways...)
The other day I had the privilege of leading my daughter and her fiance in a study of Genesis 3:16b, “Yet your desire will be for your husband, and He will rule over you.”
I don't want to do a full exposition of the text here, but need to give you enough to get where it took me, which is the point of this blog, and quite enjoyable.
Many people do not read this verse as part of the curse. Or more accurately they take 16a, “pain in childbirth,” as part of the curse, but don't stop and think that 16b must be also. This then leads to the conclusion that, “Your desire shall be for your husband,” is something about her having tender sexual or emotional desires for her husband, and “he ruling,” about him exercising appropriate authority over her.
Nothing could be further from the truth. The experience of this verse is the experience of the curse on marriage. The more it is true, the worse marriage is, and the more unlike what it was created to be.
A comparison of the language and grammar of Genesis 4:7, “It's desire is for you, but you must master it,” makes it fairly obvious that this verse speaks of the destruction of the once perfect harmony that Adam and Eve enjoyed. From now on they will fight. There will be a power struggle that Adam will win because he is bigger, but that Eve would win if she could and does win when she can.
My daughter was, I think, missing the context and not fully getting that “your desire shall be for your husband,” is a very bad thing. In that context I said something like, “This is what you will have to fight against, just like a farmer has to fight against weeds. And you will never overcome it.”
When I said, “You will never overcome it,” it felt too strong, but then a little light went on, dim at first, but growing brighter and brighter in the days since.
First of all, is that true? Will marriage always have conflict. Will women want to use marriage to serve themselves, and will men push and get their own way by virtue of the fact that they are bigger?
I got thinking about weeds.
Yes it is true. Farmers never overcome weeds. When you look out at a field that looks weed free from the road, it is not. A walk in the field at harvest time will reveal that at least a few weeds have persisted. Never do we arrive at a place where we can let down our guard because we have so well battled weeds that they are no longer a problem.
And so it will be for my daughter and her fiance. Never will they arrive at a place where they can let down their guard and coast because they have reached such a place of harmony that their selfish desire for power could not again raise its ugly head.
I know stuff about weeds, so I kept thinking about them. Some farmers battle weeds with so many chemicals that the microbiology of their soil dies, and they are left with a mostly sterile kind of hydroponic medium out of which their crops grow. These fields may look the cleanest and will likely even produce a big crop, but the soil is dead.
And so there are marriages where civility has replaced intimacy. While they look and are mostly free of tension, so they are also free of life.
In contrast, I don't use chemicals in my pastures, partly because they are multi-specied and what kills the weeds also kills some of my plants, but mostly because I am trying to encourage microbiology. I am all about being life-giving. Yet some of my fields look like dandelion fields, and other weeds do well too. (That just to say, I am not that good at this weed thing.)
In the few places where my pastures have come close to my dreams , it has been because the good plants have been so healthy and prolific that the weeds have been choked out – there just hasn't been room for them to thrive.
And so when we battle the curse of conflict in our marriages it will probably have more to do with creating beauty than with denying pain. If we make running from a fight the priority of our marriages, we will probably also be running from vibrance.
The reason I paused at my own words, “You will never overcome it,” was because it seemed too dark. Surely I, or someone better than I, could give them pointers, so that they could set themselves up for a marriage free of tension. Does the curse always apply.
Happy is the farmer who has no expectation that he will not need to stand against the weeds, because he who relaxes is overwhelmed.
And then there is the fact of proliferation. Often I have watched diligent farmers spray fields that looked to me to be almost perfectly weed free. “All that expense for those few weeds?” But then I have noticed that they don't usually need to deal with major infestations – the weeds never gain a foothold.
Better to rout out the little fights, than to wait for the little fights to become big fights.
The farmer who spends all of his time whining and complaining about weeds gives his weeds freedom to grow.
The parallels just go on and on.
All of that to say that I learned something about the darkness in marriage and in relationships in general. A realistic awareness that the curse persists, makes its presence less demoralizing and the stand against it more determined.
This reflection has enabled me to transfer what I know about weeds to my expectations for my church, my family, my marriage and myself. It is part of the answer to my demoralization.
When I have pastures full of weeds it bugs me. There is a sense in which I never come to peace with weeds, and they can even be discouraging. But they are not surprising, and seeing them there does not shut me down or make me want to quit. Seeing them makes me plan and execute an attack.
You could say that rule #1 for farmers is: “There will be weeds.”
Rule # 2 is: “Refer back to rule #1.”
Part of the reason for my demoralization is that I have not given appropriate weight to the persistence of the curse. I have had expectations that were too heavenly. I have not groaned enough with creation, or anticipated redemption enough as one who lives in a broken world. I have been blessed to see the good, but too naive to notice that under the lush green cover things were growing that could destroy.
So I guess, at the end, this post does fit in to, “Why I am on sabbatical.”