Friday, May 6, 2011

Proportional Equality

I'm sitting on a post or two but, I haven't had a spare moment to fully formulate them in my mind. So today I bring you some Elisabeth Elliot until I can wrap my arms fully around what I'm trying to get onto "paper".

Until then, Happy Friday. It's definitely a happy Friday for me!! Steve takes his final for Texas A & M this weekend so he'll be MIA. But even though the weekend will be busy, I'm so glad he's almost done and that we'll be getting a bit of a respite. I'm looking forward to actually having a weekend with him around. Sounds like a little slice of heaven to me.

I hope this tidbit from Let Me Be a Woman, one of my favorite books of all time, and a book I've quoted from before, will encourage you. Whenever I pick this book up, it quickens me to the core. It is so solid, so insightful and so wise. And who doesn't need a swift kick in the pants regarding love and marriage from time to time? I don't know a single person, especially myself included, who doesn't. This chapter is just so rich, I have to include it in its entirety. Enjoy!

Proportional Equality- Elisabeth Elliot

Marriage is not a fifty-fifty proposition. As soon as it is thought of as such it becomes a power struggle, with picayune score keeping to make sure one doesn't outdo the other. "If I do this, then you have to do that." I have read of marriage contracts in which every household chore was actually designated to one or the other--the wife, for example, makes breakfast, sees that the children are dressed, fed and given books, lunch money, bus passes, gym clothes and son on, on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The husband does all this on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. The wife cooks dinner on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, the husband on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Weekends are worked out according to how much outside work there is to be done, who has done the most "extras" during the week, and so forth. Can you imagine sitting down on Saturdays to add up the score? Can you imagine calling such an arrangement a marriage? Could it be anything but a business partnership? But some call it freedom or maturity.

What then is the percentage supposed to be? Wrong question. If you were heirs together of a great-aunt's estate you might ask it, but it is grace we are talking about, the grace of life. Your equalities have been delineated: equally sinners, equally responsible, equally in need of grace, and equally the objects of that grace. That's where the fifty-fifty matter ends. You take up life as husband and wife and you start laying down your lives--not as martyrs, not as doormats or ascetics making a special bid for sainthood, but as two lovers who have needed and received grace, and who know very well that they are going to keep on needing and receiving it every day that they live together.

There is great relief in not having to be equal. Home is a place where we ought to be allowed to be unequal, where everyone knows everyone else's inequalities and knows, furthermore, that it is the inequalities that make the home work.

But inequality is really the wrong word. Perhaps Aristotle's idea of justice explains what I mean. He called justice "proportional equality." That is, just is "the art of allotting carefully graded shares of honor, power, liberty, and the like to various ranks of a fixed social hierarchy, and when justice succeeds, she produces a harmony of differences."

I won't argue the political validity of Aristotle's definition. It must have worked in his time and other times since then, but that is another world, a world which Christians have to live with and participate in but which is not necessarily run on Christian lines. A Christian home, however, is a world in itself, a microcosm, representing--as the church also represents--the hierarchy of the cosmos itself. It can be run on Christian lines.

That phrase "carefully graded shares" is enough to raise hackles. Who is to grade and allot those shares? Clearly somebody has to. There must be authority to do this.

There were six of us children in the home where I grew up, covering an age span of sixteen years. The best bedroom, which was the only one that had a bathroom attached, belonged to my step-grandmother, who lived with us for eight years. When she died, that bedroom became my parents'. The best chair in the living room, the one with lamp and footstool, was my father's. He sat a one end of the diningroom table, Mother sat at the other. Four year olds had work to do just as twenty year olds, had, but it was "carefully graded." Small ones did the wastebaskets, big ones the cooking, lawn mowing, ironing, house painting. Girls knew which of that list were their tasks, boys knew theirs. Girls did most of the dish washing, but the four boys took turns at drying and putting away. My mother cooked enormous quantities of good, plain food. Usually there were seconds for those who wanted seconds, but my mother somehow never "cared for any." There were occasional complaints of injustice of the "How come he doesn't have to? " variety. My sister's idea of justice, if there was one cookie left on the plate, was "Does anybody want this worse than I do?"

If there was what my father called a "squabble" among the children, they were summoned separately to testify. The minute a plaintiff began with "Well he..." he was stopped. "What did you do?" was the question: "I only want to hear what you did." Sometimes this reslted in the testimony's petering out altogether and charges being dropped.

This household justice was based on household authority. In marriage, if two mature people love each other, this whole matter of authority is almost entirely a tacit understanding. I could probably count on one hand, maybe one finger, the times in my own marriages [she was widowed more than once] when it became a conscious issue. When it did, of course, I had to remember that lines had been drawn--not by my husband but by God. I was the one originally created to be a help, not an antagonist.

No comments:

Post a Comment