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Monday, August 27, 2012

Revelations From Ephesians

Sunday we concluded a study on Ephesians in my Sunday School class (admittedly, I was only there for the last four chapters but that's a majority of it) and there were a few things I picked up from it, primarily from chapter five.

That chapter of Ephesians concerns itself towards the end with husbands and wives. We've all heard this next bit-it's been used to justify a number of things in the name of the Bible and God; it easily gets taken out of context.

"Wives, be subject to your husbands as , as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife , as Christ is the head of the church, He Himself being the savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be subject to their husbands in everything." Ephesians 5:22-24

Okay, let's go ahead and get rid of the idea that this is saying wives are to subject themselves to their husbands every whim. That's generally what this gets turned into, the age old argument that this verse is saying "wives should do everything their husbands tell them too, without question, without backtalk!"

This verse is not saying that. I never made it out that way to begin with but often, that's what people make this verse out to be. If one looks carefully, one sees that the wives are instructed to be subject to their husbands as to the Lord... this often gets overlooked or, as with this verse in general, gets misinterpreted. "Oh, so the husbands are like GOD in marriage! Always listen to God, always listen to the husbands, got it" is what some would like to interpret here.

That's kind of half-right. Wives should listen to their husbands... but the key to the phrase is how the husbands are compared to the Lord. If a husband asks the wife to do something inherently harmful or sinful "Here, take this gun, shoot my mother-in-law and claim you did in because God told you so!" than the wife has every right not to do it and should slap the husband upside the head (if not something more painful). Further, seeing as how our relationship with God is not a one way street (we have free will, we can choose to do what we wish) the relationship between a wife and a husband is also not a one way street. A marriage is a relationship and it takes two to make it work.

The next revelation came from a set of verses, 25-27, that tell the husband to sanctify the wife as Christ has sanctified the church. Basically, take care of the wife as Christ has taken care of the church: a pretty big commandment for the husbands and one which too many ignore/reject.

"Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, so that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless." Ephesians 5:25-27

Often, it seems to my eyes (all four of them), that the husbands ask the wives to do things to take care of the husbands but not the other way around. I tend to look at my father as the example here of what one should do (complete aside, Dads out there, strive to be good role models-it really does make a difference). My father was the youngest of three but didn't get the baby treatment; he was asked to do things just like everyone else in my grandmother's home and that included cooking.

My father loves to cook. Being half Japanese (making my grandmother full Japanese and myself a quarter Japanese), he learned how to do all kinds of cool cooking things in the kitchen from my grandmother. Being that he was also being raised in the Deep South (where fish fries are as common as tea time in England) he learned how to cook Southern style as well. The unique blend of skills this has brought to him has been one of the things I think-think mind you-that has kept my parents marriage working as well as it should.

My mom cooks too-also a Southerner (not Japanese though, lol), she knows how to make biscuits at the drop of a hat. The two of them split the cooking duties, basically 50-50, and my father really does his damage on the weekend. I cite this as an example of taking care of the wife; it's not as though my father is saying "You're a woman, you cook ALL THE TIMES" but he's helping my mom out by cooking about half the time, taking care of her in other words.

Of course, taking care of cooking is just a small aspect of the overall picture, but it's one that's much easier for me to relate to now; before, I never really had any appreciation for cooking. I figured if someone else was good at it, why bother learning? I would just mess it up anyway. But if the experiences over the last year has taught me anything it's that helping out where one can-whether that be the kitchen or anywhere else-is valuable. Further, cooking has expanded my appreciation of the people in my life who are good at it and who put up with my noob questions about it. (Another aside, apparently cooking for girls is a great way to impress them-this I've been told for many years but never really put any stock into until recently, when I've begun cooking for friends, some of them girls, and they've always come away with a smile. Even if the food wasn't great, the appreciation they showed was genuine).

So, we have two revelations so far: the first, the exact nature of the subjecting the wife should do to the husband and the second, the husband's HUGE responsibility to the wife (as found in verses 25-27). But my favorite bit comes next, verses 28-30.

"So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body." Ephesians 5:28-30

This set of verses came towards the end of the lesson. Up to this point, I'd agreed with everything the lesson had been saying... I of course added my own spin to things (as I am want to do) but still, the point remained that the lesson and I had agreed up to this point.

But this is where my mind wanted to launch into an attack on those verses. "He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh but nourishes and cherishes it..." I took serious issue with this verse in particular when I read it. Why?

Um... do you realize how many people hate their body? Speaking as someone who spent many years hating their body and most assuredly not nourishing or cherishing it (all that junk food... *shivers*), there was no way I could look at that verse without having an issue with it. I was getting ready to launch into a full on debate about it but the lesson was concluding... people had places to go and things to do. I let it slide.

But I had all day to think on it and, though still a bit perturbed by the verse, I get where it's coming from now. That's because I reflected on some very sage advice offered by a friend of mine months ago that, at the time, seemed to be a bit of a stretch. As everyone knows by this point, my weight loss journey has been the primary focus of my life over the last year.

In that journey, I discovered a lot of things but the meaning behind some of them still puzzles me. One of things that bugs me is how my body is not a machine... it responds differently, day to day, week to week, to what I eat and do. This has been a constant source of frustration for me... I like to predict outcomes, find patterns, and stick with what works. However, what works changes sometimes as far as my body is concerned.

Back in May, after many months of constant debate on this issue, my friend made the point that maybe the frustration I had with the semi-constant adjustments I made to my eating had a part in the grander scheme of things. Maybe all the work I had done up to that point were part of lessons that I needed to learn to help prepare me for other things in life like dating and marriage. Her words are as follows:
 "I would think about it in terms of lessons learned. The 113 pounds is a nice side effect of realizing you are in control of your own behavior, and that sacrifices pay off, and that sometimes progress is measured in fractions of a pound."

When she made this observation I half-heartedly agreed but didn't put too much stock in it.

As often I find in my conversations with her, what at the time seemed insignificant does in fact have meaning down the line. In this case... I think she's right. The bible verses prove it.

How? Follow me along this crazy trail. Maybe I've finally lost it.

The verse states that a man should love his wife as he loves his own body for no man has ever hated their body. They nourish and cherish it, so the verse says. Well, I certainly didn't nourish and cherish my body for the better part of 13 years... I had no concept of it and was very much against changing. Then I began my weight loss journey and began to achieve what I had once believed the impossible.

And now, with my eyes on the future and looking to get back into the dating game, this verse pops up. It took me a day to realize it, but the verse-and my friend-are both correct. The sacrifices I made to get to this point, the progress I made (some large, some small), the frustration I felt and overcame, the fact that I learned I was in control of myself and my body... all that is-I think-lessons there to teach me how to nourish and cherish my own body.

The connection I'm making here seems a bit farfetched, I grant you, but hear me out. In order for a husband to properly care for his wife, he must love his own body. Not to the point where it's to the exclusion of everything else but to the point where it shows he's taking care of it, where his choices show that he nourishes and cherishes that body.

If a man can do that with his own body than he can do that with his wife.

This is where I think the lesson my friend put into words applies. I want to be married... I want a wife, at least one kid (probably two-everyone should suffer enjoy a sibling) and, to be blunt, I don't see how to accomplish that task in the world today. It's intimidating and scary for me... socially awkward fat guy, now (supposedly) thin looks to find love; yeah, it sounds like a bad advert in the newspaper want ads, but it's the truth.

My friend's lesson ties in perfectly to the verse. I needed to learn to love my own body, to cherish and nourish it, to basically take care of it as it should be, in order to prepare myself for other events in life (love and marriage perhaps). The Lord gives us these bodies and tasks us with taking care of them, in my interpretation (and I assume other people's as well) of 1 Corinthians 6:19-20:

"Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body."

So, if your body is a temple and you are commanded to honor God with it and you are commanded to love your wife as you love your body-to cherish and nourish it just as Christ does the church-then in my understanding of all this I arrive at the following conclusion:

In order to be properly prepared for marriage a man must learn to take care of their own body through what he puts into it (nourishment) and how he treats it (cherishing). The need for men to do this is apparent in this day and age. Men, like the rest of America, are progressively getting in worse shape. Physically, their bodies are not being nourished properly or cherished. Furthermore, the men in this country (and worldwide) aren't impervious to the perceptions of them. I'm sure many aren't happy about their bodies and certainly don't love their bodies.

I was in the same boat a 13 months ago. I didn't nourish or cherish my body, I didn't love it, and I certainly wasn't honoring God with it. I was using it, abusing it, feeling miserable about it, and just wasn't in a good place.

The lessons I've learned over the last 13 months have been brought into focus today thanks to Ephesians and my friend's wise words from May. I've learned to nourish my body in the last 13 months... I'm thinner now than ever, I'm in better shape (and getting a little better every day) now than ever. Cherishing my body... still a work a progress. It's not easy some days to like my body when it doesn't cooperate with me, but most days we get along all right. Loving my body is still very much a work in progress; there are parts of it that I detest (namely, the sagging skin on my midsection) that I wish were gone for good but I'm learning (slowly) to accept myself.

It's still a work in progress in a lot of ways but the end game is now clearer. These things I'm doing, these lessons I'm learning and taking to heart, they have a payoff in the future when I find my wife (at this point I want to go ahead and offer future apologies to said future wife for this past post... even if I find the possibility that she'll ever read this small).

If men take the time to treat their bodies with love and care, to learn how to properly nourish themselves, then I think the state of marriage would be much improved. Personal dissatisfaction with one's self has a way of becoming toxic and leaking out onto those closest to us (in the case of marriage, the wife) and that causes damage, if not serious problems.

And now, two hours later at 6AM in the morning, I'm done. Maybe this made sense. Maybe it didn't.

But these are my revelations from Ephesians. Thanks for reading folks.

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