Untie Him and Let Him Go - Part III
On the relationship between husbands and wives the apostles teach:
Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord (Eph 5:22).
As the church is subordinate to Christ, so wives should be subordinate to their husbands in everything (Eph 5:24).
A woman must receive instruction silently and under complete control (1 Tim 12).
I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man. She must be quiet.
For Adam was formed first, then Eve (1 Tim 2:13).
Further, Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and transgressed (1 Tim 2:14).
… and a husband the head of his wife… (1 Cor 11:3)
Wives, be subordinate to your husbands, as is proper in the Lord (Col 3:18).
Likewise, you wives should be subordinate to your husbands… (1 Peter 3:1).
The above biblical texts pose a real challenge to an understanding of relationships between men and women, especially in the current socio-psychological-cultural contexts. According to Scripture scholars, the intention of Peter and Paul was not to present women in disparaging or derogatory terms or to consider them inferior to men. Their sole concern seems to be to highlight the responsibilities and roles of husbands and wives. The wife being subordinate to her husband is not out of blind obedience to authority but rather to the ‘good’ that the husband, as the head, has for the family. Both of them work together to realize the common goal. As the head, he is to lead his family by example to the point that he is prepared to sacrifice his life for his wife, just as Christ sacrificed his life for his bride; the Church.
If we accept the Biblical truth that men and women are created in the image and likeness of God, then there is no superiority of one gender over the other. Both are equal. If God is ‘whole’ then being in the image and likeness of God warrants that both need each other to be whole. One, without the other, is only half the image and likeness of God. The play of Shiva and Shakti, the dynamics of Yin and Yan, the anima and the animus of the Jungian School of Psychology are attempts at integration of the opposites to experience wholeness. The deep desire for experience of wholeness is what brings men and women to a life of intimacy with each other. Love between a man and a woman is not only Platonic, Eros, Philia, and Agape but also love seeking a completion/wholeness. Being in love is a celebration of one’s uniqueness in the togetherness with the other. Khalil Gibran has beautifully captured this delicate balance between dependence and independence.
Let there be spaces in your togetherness, And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.
Love one another but make not a bond of love: Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls. Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup. Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf. Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone.
Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.
Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping. For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts. And stand together, yet not too near together: For the pillars of the temple stand apart, And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.
Being in love is an experience of healthy balance between dependence and independence, being near and not too near, being with and without. We love because “we become what we love and yet remain ourselves (Martin Heidegger).” Relationships pave the way to a healthy need for the other to complete one’s longing for the fullness. Love enables us to perceive the same reality from the other person’s perspective, and it is indeed an enriching experience to be with and learn from his/her take on the same reality. To be in love is to let the other challenge us to grow to be ourselves. Being a soul mate is not about mutual agreements on every socio-politico-cultural-religious issues but letting the other to journey with me to look deep into my own soul. Barack Obama shares what his mother had taught him about love: “to break across our solitude, and then, if we’re lucky, be finally transformed into something firmer.” Experience of unconditional love makes us stronger, compassionate, and non-judgmental and brings about an inside-out transformation for good. In this sense, the relationship is a positive enabler for the other. Relationships, as Jiddu Krishnamurthi points out, are like mirrors that not only reflect the good in us but even our false self. We are forced to confront ourselves in relationships, become aware of the skeletons in our closets, and bring them out to be destroyed. In love, there are no blame games or guilt trips but only a journey into self-discovery.
A relationship is not a game we play to mold the other to be a mirror of ourselves. The person you are in love with is not an object or property to be used and discarded, but a person with his/her own unique individuality who seeks wholeness with you just as you seek wholeness with him/her. It is not about trying to please the other but courage to acknowledge that the other is different from me and comes with his/her unique individuality. Love should be vast enough to include all the unique characteristics that the other comes with. It is an acceptance and celebration of differences in the very togetherness. The metaphor used by Ram Dass illustrates the need to accept and celebrate the differences that the other is and brings to a relationship: “What I see other people as I see them as trees in the forest. You go to the woods and you see gnarled trees and live oaks and pines and hemlocks and elms and things like that. And you are not inclined to say, “I don’t like you because you are a pine and not an elm.” You appreciate trees the way they are. But the minute you get near humans, you notice how quickly it changes. It’s a way in which you don’t allow humans to just manifest the way they are. You take it personally. You keep taking other people personally.” True indeed!
A fulfilling relationship cannot be based on a list of needs and wants and then trying to find the perfect candidate to fulfill those needs and wants. On the contrary, a relationship blossoms as a result of a response to that inner energy/spirit/life that seeks its completion with and in the other. An intimate relationship is not about manipulating the other to dance to our tune and expecting them to become the person we want them to be, think our thoughts and act our ways. Love is not a puppet game. We become upset and angry when our expectations are not fulfilled and then we start looking for a new partner, and the cycle goes on. Love is not a desire to change the other. True love is without attachment, pressure, and conditions. When I say, “I love you as you are” ‘as you are’ connotes being with the other person with all their bags and idiosyncrasies and giving them space and creating the ambience to drop the unwanted bags. Being in love is not a business investment hoping for dividends but a joyful sharing of life where there is trust, honest and open communication, non-judgmental listening, and enabling the other to experience wholeness and self-integration.
The balance between dependence and independence in a relationship is what is known as the hedgehog’s dilemma: “The hedgehog's dilemma, or sometimes the porcupine dilemma, is a metaphor about the challenges of human intimacy. It describes a situation in which a group of hedgehogs seeks to move close to one another to share heat during cold weather. They must remain apart, however, as they cannot avoid hurting one another with their sharp spines (Wikipedia).” This is the healthy paradox in relationships: one is incomplete without the other and at the same time knows when to step back. “Let there be space in your togetherness” - a space where the other exists in his/her unique individuality. The Book of Ecclesiastes states: “… a time to embrace, and a time to be far from embraces … a time to be silent, and a time to speak.... a time to love, and a time to hate; (3:5,7,8).” There is a time for dependence and also a time for independence. Relationships would be so beautiful and enriching if only we can live this delicate balance between desiring togetherness and celebrating respecting the individuality of the other.
“That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body (Gen 2:24).” The beauty of a human relationship is that they become one but this oneness is possible only when they retain and celebrate their separateness and uniqueness. It is worth taking the risk to love; true and genuine love will lead you to experience wholeness, integration, and will enable you to perceive reality from the other person’s perspective as well.