Volume 15, Issue 6: Husbandry
Romance and the Story
One of the great mistakes our culture has made in the matter of stories is we have assumed that detachment
from imitation is a duty. We think we are supposed to learn how to enjoy a story "for its own sake," and so we try
to suppress our natural inclination to copy what we see and read. Given how God made the world, such attempts are
not even remotely successful. But they are successful in giving people a distaste for imitating
nobility, followed by a false confidence that they are not being dragged down by the rest.
Scripture shows us in countless places that we learn by imitation. But we have come to assume that
we can rise above all that. People who injure themselves trying to imitate stunts they saw in some movie are assumed to be
morons, pure and simple, and although their wisdom is certainly lacking, our rude dismissal leaves out something
important. Their problem was not that they imitated what they saw, but rather that they saw the wrong thing. Those who seek
to maintain a disconnect between the stories they hear, read, and see and the stories they live are in a graver danger.
What does this have to do with husbands? The central command delivered to husbands (considered as such)
in the Scriptures is the command to imitate the ultimate story. Because we do not understand "story," we turn
the command to love our wives as Christ loved the Church into a statement that Jesus loved His bride "a lot" and
so should we. But this is not what it says. Husbands are told to love their wives as Christ loved the Church and
gave Himself up for her. How did He do that?
When Adam rejected the goodness of God in the garden, he did so because his wife had been deceived by a
lying worm. This worm, this serpent, was a fallen seraph, what we would call a dragon (Gen. 3:1; Num. 21:8-9;
Rom. 16:20; Rev. 12:9). But God promised that worm that the seed of the woman and the brood of vipers would be in
a constant state of war from that point on. He promised further that a great Prince would come from the seed of
the woman and finally and completely crush the head of the serpent. He would Himself be grievously wounded in
the conquest, but that conquest would nevertheless come to pass. Sound familiar? A bit fairy-talish? Husbands, love
your wives that way. A husband who is not imitating the Worm-killer is not really doing what he was told.
But modern husbands don't want to do this. It sounds like it has a large junior-high dorky quotient in it.
Husbands would rather love their wives "a lot"flowers on the anniversary, card on Mother's Day, nice birthday present,
come home every night, that sort of thing. It may be a little boring in a suburban kind of way, but hey. What this misses is
the scriptural command to live romantically with your wife.
But this is susceptible of misunderstanding. Biblically speaking, the romance of marriage has far more in
common with Beowulf and the Song of
Roland than it does with Love's Breathless
Passion at a grocery store near you. This is
because the former are part of a long story-telling tradition that goes back to the opening pages of Genesis. The latter
is pornography for the emotions.
Just as husbands are commanded to imitate the Savior, so they should also imitate saviors. These lesser
saviors must be understood scripturallymen who laid down or risked their lives in the way of Christ-like sacrifice. And
this means that husbands should learn from Tirian, King Lune, Aragorn, Beowulf, Robert E. Lee, Alfred the
Great, Samwise Gamgee, Roland, Antipas, Polycarp, Jim Eliot, Hugh Latimer, Sam Adams, Ransom, Bonhoffer,
We react against this in different ways and for different reasons. Some think that a long chain of names like that
is some sort of highbrow elitist roster of names, and that some ordinary joe shouldn't be required to take a
Master's Degree in history or literature in order to be able to love his wife. Right? Right, but this overlooks something. Over
the centuries, the people who have kept the names of such great men alive have been the common people, and not
academics with pinched faces. One of the great tragedies of our era is how folk history and literature have been overthrown
by the sitcom. My point was that husbands should imitate and learn from such stories, but this is not the same thing
as getting the form of the stories from Trained Professionals. It is better to learn about Robin Hood from the people
and not from the historians. There are far more valuable lessons there.
What should a husband imitate? The central thing to learn is what an immense array of sacrificial options
present themselves to a man who would love his wife in a fallen world, in a world where there are dragons and giants. He
can sacrifice his life. Or his wealth. Or his reputation. Or his family. Or his nation. This is because love takes
many different forms, according to the lines of the story. And since a man does not know beforehand how
his story will go, he should have some awareness of how nobility behaves according to the situation.
This is hard for us to grasp. We need the stories.