Saturday, June 9, 2007

Obedience, a Sermon I'd Rather Forget

About a year ago I was at Mass and there was a visiting priest I was unfamiliar with. He related a story and I am not sure what he was trying to tell us by it. He stated that he knew of a couple who had been married a long time and the wife wanted to learn to drive so she could get her license. The husband had said no. She asked this priest what to do and he told her if she wanted to drive she ought to regardless of what her husband said.

I have many issues with that because if she had been expressly told not to get her license by her husband, why would a priest tell her to go ahead and do it against his wishes? There were no particulars to his story, there was no information about why the husband said no. Perhaps the husband had a valid reason to deny his wife her wish? But, even if he was being mean spirited, his decision, on the basis of the Sacrament of Marriage should be final. If a husband does not treat his wife with kindness or respect, he will have to answer to God for his behavior. In order for his wife to not have the same problem standing in front of God, she needs to respect his wishes, no matter how unreasonable they seem. Unless he is being abusive.

That is not to say that a wife cannot present her point of view, perhaps even argue, but there comes a point where there must be a final word. A woman could consult her priest, books, etc, but in the end there needs to be a final decision. Humility and marriage vows would require the wife to bend her will. A truly loving husband looks both to what his wife wants and what is best for the marriage and what is best for her in making a decision. Even if he is lacking in some way, if he expressly forbids his wife to do something (even as mundane as getting a license) why would a priest stand in front of the congregation and tell us all that if your husband is lacking in judgment to go ahead ignore him? Why would he encourage discord in the home and tell her to do what she wants?

In order for a man and a woman to live in harmony, in wedded bliss, someone must be the head of the household, and that person needs to have the final word or nothing will be accomplished. To have a loving marriage, husband and wife both deserve love, admiration and respect. When you give you receive. If a wife is attentive to all the needs of her husband, he will be attentive to her. If a wife gives her husband the gift of obedience, he will give her wishes the respect and due reflection that she desires. But, as with anything in life, we are not always happy. There are times in life when the husband may say no and the wife may think he is being unreasonable. And, maybe he is. But maybe he isn't.

I have discussed this sermon with people in the past. One argument I've heard from women is that it is abusive for a man to prevent his wife's obtaining a license. I say, not necessarily. What if his concern is a medical one? What if he has some 'sense' of apprehension that he cannot ignore? What if his concern is a financial one? He cannot afford to provide her with a car and gas, he cannot afford to put her on his insurance, or some other financial concern. What if his concern is a selfish one? Maybe she has for many years been his joy, he always knows where she is because he drives her where she needs to go? She's always liked it, he's always been glad to be her chauffeur. She's always been able to get where she needed and wanted. We cannot say for sure. Counseling a woman to disobey her husband, sending her home to do battle is ill advised in most circumstances. That priest may have been a better counselor and friend to help her figure out how to rationally explain her side of the story to her husband, and send her home with instructions to obey his decision in the end.

There is also a phenomenon exhibited in husbands when it comes to reasonable requests. Even if they initially must deny the request, if it is reasonable, within their means and power to grant it at a future date, they will. Often, when it is 'their idea' it becomes a gift to lavish. But if you nag him to death to change his mind it becomes a thorn in the paw of the kingly lion. That same husband, may at some future date say to his wife, "I thought it would be fun to have a driving lesson today, what do you think? Would you still like to learn?" Then he can have the vast pleasure of giving her what she wanted all along.

It is not easy in the glory days of feminism to be a woman. We grow up trying to prove something to the world. That we are as good as, if not better than men. This is the root of discord and disunity in many lives. If we can get past this burning passion to prove ourselves as men, and accept the roles as God designed, then we can expect that our husbands will consult us in their decisions, consider carefully the requests that we make, and make a just and final determination.

With priests standing in front of a packed church and extolling the virtues of disobedience and dishonor, actually counseling the women present to stand strong against their husbands, is it any wonder that the Catholic rate of divorce is nearly as high as the general population?

1 comment:

Katherine T. Lauer said...

I love these two lines: "Often, when it is 'their idea' it becomes a gift to lavish. But if you nag him to death to change his mind it becomes a thorn in the paw of the kingly lion." As a newlywed, I am already learning this to be true!