The past 24 hours have seen major developments in a couple of the major themes of my blog. But I’ll have to catch you up a bit.
A while back, I was grousing quite a lot about Arwyn’s unilateral decision to go to a new church. She has continued to go and take the boys with her. Her involvement has deepened and increased and now she goes maybe 3 times a week plus once or twice on Sundays. She is scheduled to get baptized this Sunday.
It has been painful for me to contemplate and make my choice. I have enjoyed my time and involvement in the Methodist church. I’ve enjoyed teaching and have enjoyed the people I was with. I was able to feel included in their community. However, Arwyn did not feel included and was spiritually withering on the vine. She hasn’t had the more orthodox, fundamental experiences that I have had. Her thinking is not quit in the frame as mine, which is grow where you’re planted. But that isn’t to say I’ve retained my own spiritual vigor over time.
In the grand scheme of things, this church experience is the sort that I’d have hoped for her years ago. I thought at the time a more Biblical orthodox experience would benefit her. In the meantime, even as her level of discontent with the Methodist church increased, I adjusted and got more comfortable with it. So when she was finally ready to make a move, I absolutely was not ready. And I became less ready the more she pushed.
However, I began to come to terms with my choices and where we were headed and where I wanted to be headed. It was obvious she wasn’t changing her mind and the more I thought about it, the more it made more sense for me to switch. So I decided to make the move. This last Sunday, I taught my last class at the Methodist church. Those that were there were sorry to see me go, but understood why I was doing it.
I also went to the membership class in the afternoon for the new church. The pastor is a bit of an ex-hippie and his background told why this church is so big on a contemporary music format. I listened to him explain where he came from and why he thought another church was needed amongst the 8 other churches within a 4 mile radius. Much of what is happening here is based on Rick Warren’s model of a Purpose Driven Church. The model used at this church is grounded exclusively in the Bible, rather than history or tradition or dogma.
Generally I could get on board with this outfit without reservation outside of the fact that I’ll have to start out at the bottom. When it comes to using spiritual gifts, they want everyone to move through the entry-level services. Usher, greeter, parking lot attendant…those kinds of things. I’ve tried the greeter bit and it isn’t my thing. I can do it and whatever else without much complaint but its not necessarily using my gifts. I believe every Christian is called upon to pray, evangelize, teach, show mercy, minister and have a basic set of skills but we each have one or two of these in abundance. Teaching is obviously where I feel God’s pleasure the most, but few churches will allow someone to just walk in and do that.
Anyway, after this class, Arwyn was keen to talk. And we did for a few hours. I basically went after her and challenged her, “Are you sure you want to join this church? You know they are going to expect a higher level of commitment and a higher standard of behavior.”
She said she understood, but I don’t think she was quite getting my point. So I just drove it home.
“These folks will expect you to adhere to a Biblical standard which includes submitting to your husband. And by going off on your own apart from me, you’ve violated the belief system you’ve just joined!”
I know I’ll catch some flack for the above statement. I’m all about the other side; my responsibility of making sure she feels loved. But I really felt the need to drive home that particular point because it has been a point of contention between us. She has been in a state of rebellion for a long time and it has caused serious problems for us. Not because I’m being a tyrant, but because she repeatedly comes out from what is supposed to be a protective place to do her own thing and disaster visits us all, most notably in the area of finances.
I don’t expect non evangelicals to get this idea of men submitting to God while women submit to their husbands. But it should be fairly easy to understand that you don’t join a church or other group with the intention of going against that group’s norms. Would you join a group devoted to cats and bring your dog? Would you bring a grill and some steaks to a PETA picnic? Do you regularly go to the local Macintosh User’s Group and go on about how great Windows XP is? It’s up to each person to know about their particular group before joining. The problem with Methodists is that they no longer adhere to any standard.
This took Arwyn by surprise a bit and she had to think about this for awhile. We got the kids in bed and asleep and she wanted to talk more. She apologized for going outside of my input and pushing for this new church. I told her that God was able to use anything, and this might just be the best thing for us, no matter how it came about. She assured me that this is what she wanted. She wanted to lived more consistently within the Bible’s teachings.
And then something happened that has not happened in a very long time. Something that had not happened in over 440 days, in fact.
We were laying in the dark on the bed and there was a long period of silence. Then I turned towards her and we just hugged for awhile. Then Arwyn said, “You wanna get naked?” I was stunned. “Before I change my mind.” she added. I decided to ignore that last bit as she was truly making an effort and that’s really all I wanted. And, after all, it had been almost a year and a half.
What followed was a fairly drawn-out and somewhat unexpectedly relaxed love making session. I was just thoroughly enjoying the sensations of two naked bodies next to each other and then becoming one. I could have went for a second round, but did not. There was plenty of after-play cuddling and kissing throughout. Arwyn said she wanted this to be a new start for us. She also said she wanted to know my heart and felt like I was always distancing myself from her. I said I felt the same way.
In many ways, Arwyn and I are a lot alike in temperament. Anger and resentment can linger for long periods of time and we both have issues with forgiveness. The avoider mentality is a natural function of us both being somewhat introverted. We both tend to live mostly within our own heads. But with her deciding that she really wants to submit puts the weight of the relationship more squarely on me. I can’t just let things slide off the deep end as when she refused to listen to what I was telling her. She could still rebel and I could still screw up. But the fact is, we have both decided to shift over to this new page and a different sort of relationship.
I’ve experimented with trying on a more submissive role, and this just isn’t for Arwyn (me being submissive). And my last little experiment sort of illustrated why it’s not exactly fitting me properly, either. The difference in the Christian paradigm is that while a wife is called to submit to her husband, the husband is not called to dominate. I just thought I’d clarify for those thinking this might turn into me totally flipping the script.
So for the first time in my recent memory, Arwyn has stated a more emphatic desire to see our marriage work. She’s trying to set things straight and wants to start out new.
I do want to thank those of you who have been with me throughout the entire 442 day sexual drought and those who came in the middle of it. It made the journey slightly less lonely. I’m sincerely hoping that none of us have to suffer through anymore of these.