Holy matrimony.

It wasn’t until leaving the churches of christ and joining a presbyterian church that I heard my marriage referred to as holy.  It’s not that holiness hadn’t been attributed to me previously, but not in this new, more loving and dignifying manner.  Prior, it was my state of virginity specifically that I remember being identified as holy or not.  Holy matrimony was mentioned, but it was what I did with my body, how I presented it to others, how I shared it with others—that was the true focus.  Not only was this incredibly demeaning to me as an individual it was dangerous for us as husband and wife.  When most of the communication about marriage are reminders about what you’re supposed to be waiting for, specifically waiting to have sex until you’re married, there isn’t much room for the, in my opinion, far more valuable conversations about how to love someone.  Having sex with someone is not the same as loving them.  Teaching people to use their bodies to love their spouses is not a wholly terrible idea, but it can’t be the only idea.  Teaching people that love may be shown through sex is also not in itself ridiculous, because love can be shown this way.  It’s not the only way, nor should it be the only way.  Basically, when you spend all of your words telling people how important their purity is, you don’t spend time telling them how important their thoughts are, their goals, the dreams they have.  These thoughts, goals, and dreams are what could be incompatibilities later, after all that fun sex is out of the way and life starts to happen.  When purity holds greater weight in a church community than effective pre-marital counseling, it really isn’t surprising that holy isn’t a word I’d ever connected to my marriage.  When girls are groomed from a young age by being told they have to be pure for their future spouse, girls aren’t prepared to be women with coherent communication skills and strategies for compromise and team-building.  In other words, when you make marriage about sex, you’re not teaching people how to be supportive partners who work together in a shared space and adapt to different upbringings and social structures.  When relationship skills are not taught, we’re not helping young people grow up to understand what their wedding vows mean and how those vows look in actual daily application.  I think I’d be a far better wife if my body hadn’t been the focus of so many around me.  No one is at fault for my actions but me, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to express frustration that my church upbringing failed me.  Up until recently, I only saw how it had failed me by teaching me to believe that I was spiritually inferior to my male peers and that my worth was found through my role as wife and mother only.  Now, I see that it failed me further.  It didn’t even prepare me to do the roles it expected of me.  It prepared me to always be ready for sex and never get divorced, to have kids, and to pray.  Every single one of those is complicated.  Our bodies aren’t always ready for sex.  Divorce is sometimes necessary.  Not all couples want children and not all are able to have them.  Adoption is not as simple as people like to say it is.  Even when a couple wants children and has them, sometimes having those children causes unexpected, seemingly insurmountable troubles.  Prayer is sometimes something only men do in public, depending on the severity of gender divisions present in any given church of christ.  In these churches, girls often don’t have prayer modeled for them by women, making something we should all have access to feel like a key to God that only men have.  I know the people surrounding me in all the churches I attended were trying to love me and prepare me in the ways they thought best.  I don’t feel the same anger I once felt.  Instead, I feel a deeper sadness, a dark disappointment.  Maybe they didn’t fail me, because I’m able to see these truths now.  Maybe they instilled this desire for truth in me.  I suspect it’s a bit of success and failure, because humans are both light and dark.  I am who I am because of all of the influences around me, both positive and negative.  Yes, I was encouraged to love my husband, but I’m not sure I was taught what that really looks like.  I’m grieving the harm I’ve caused us both, trying to be something I was never taught to be.  I’m grieving the harm he has caused us both by believing that if we just continued to try to do the right things, we’d be ok on our own.  When a couple isn’t taught how to find out what those right things are for them, they will eventually hurt each other.  When a church teaches a couple to solve their problems with sex, that church will most definitely harm that couple.  We’re hurting right now, because of what the churches that raised us did and what we’ve consequently done to ourselves.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s