Listen to your hearts. YOUR hearts. Don’t make the puzzle any harder to put together than it has to be.
My dating life was more than adequately representative of a fallen word. I didn’t have a clue, nor the money to buy one. I didn’t know what was appealing or unappealing about me, and my attempts to sweeten the deal worked about as well as a centrally planned economy. And so the train wrecks continued to pile up, some in slower motion than others.
Even when I came to the Lord, the lie of my capacity to be a husband was buried under several others and well entangled with them. I morbidly joked that I would remain single into my late thirties, since –- according to the old favorite praise song –- He is jealous for me.
I’d actually like to skip to a specific part of the sob story, though. 2009. Sitting on a couch with my purported blonde lawyer with big ta-ta’s (please, pardon my coarse language; I was a sinful man), wondering if the truth was anywhere near my boasts as we discuss The Future. How I held up as a goal the ability to tell my beloved, “You don’t have to work.” How I neglected to mention, or at least explained poorly, the provenance of this ambition in my disgust at watching my father fester in his resentment that my mother supported us, without doing anything about it. And how, predictably enough, this proposition didn’t work for her. She had cases to try and justice to serve.
I hope she is doing that.
Mind, this is absolutely not an indictment of a woman’s right or decision to work outside the home, or to pursue any profession for which she can qualify under conventional and just means. To speak against those ideas would be to ignore history, ancient and recent alike. Not only have women contributed to art, science, faith, and governance on the grandest stages, but even in the most humble circumstances countless women have stood athwart the economic needs of their families with both determination and pride –- and for that they have the gratitude of their children, and all of us.
Both of those narratives give a fine reason to use the word decision instead of choice. It isn’t as simple as a mere desire when children, or calling, is involved. Oh, it seems fun. I care about a cause. It seems easier. Do the work you love and love the work you do. We’ve heard these popular sentiments before, but they distort what’s really at work when we take the paths of our lives.
Unfortunately, the factors that belong in these decisions–self, God, and family (parents or spouse & children)–have been increasingly distorted by a secular world that turns freedom from its proper love extended to any decision into its “modern” availability of as many choices as possible. The problem with the modern version is that as the catalog of choices expands, the likelihood of gaining complete information on them retracts to impossibility.
Granted, as the rationalists will immediately contend, that marginal relationship is not a reason to roll back the new paradigm. But I can tell you a flaw that should give pause to everyone: in the absence of complete information for decision makers, distortion and misinformation –- or worse, apathy –- carry the day. (Or haven’t you been to the supermarket lately?)
This is where it gets awkward. Who is the modern purveyor of “truth” that is allowed to distort freedom from discernment to mere choice? Three guesses, and the first two don’t count. It rhymes with “date” (but don’t marry, apparently).
The answer is State. As in Government, or University for that matter; most seem to be closely aligned these days. We live in an age where the State, having opened so many “possibilities” for our lives–at the behest of small minorities with unclear intentions–as to make discernment prohibitively difficult for those not previously convicted in their faith (or values, if you prefer), is thrust into the role of recommending possibilities for citizens. Where freedom has been allowed to be co-opted and radicalized into a casus belli for the blunt instrument of government, government must then fight to discern for us (a job that was once proudly the citizen’s) which of the possibilities is more “free”.
I don’t need to tell you how those particular government proceedings went off the rails over the course of history–it’s all over the news. The base now awakens (I hope) in the throes of a brutal hangover, and the technocrats and sophists who thought they were furthering “freedom, equality, and progress” are stunned to discover all their metrics of unfairness –- low educational achievement, un(der)employment, poverty, teen pregnancy, violent crime, domestic and child/elder abuse –- moving in the wrong direction. Why? We of the “archaic and regressive” persuasion have an answer.
Our society agreed with a lie. We believed, because we wanted to enjoy choice without risk, that our freedom to discern, and the families on which we depended for generations to teach us discernment, could be replaced by the ivory-tower remonstrations of the State, which we would trust –- no matter how cold, heavy-handed, or unnatural–to guide us to the right choices. Where the State could not lead, its intellectual designees would step in, and where our choices evinced an imperfect understanding of the new freedom (for that is what adverse outcomes must be–they can never be conceded as structural flaws), the State and its benefactors’ vaunted safety net would help us to recover.
It sounds far more sinister when we look at it that way, doesn’t it? But honestly, only in recent times has the idea that a concerted, intentional march of deviance is a fair or plausible explanation of Government’s actions towards society. Before, perhaps, 1980, this was mere emergence. Even those attempting to serve good can be led astray. Wavering in faith is what allows it. One official, one choice, can sunder our institutions’ futures –- how can anyone trust the entire Leviathan to direct their choices? That disconnect has cost our nation immeasurably. Where family and community were once revered for their social, spiritual, and indeed, economic contributions, it was somehow concluded that those institutions did not provide adequately for all their constituents; then the government substitute, once introduced, grew out of control into its present, strangling encroachment on our families and communities.
What does this have to do with my story? I see it this way: I didn’t know why I wanted what I wanted, and so I could not share it, much less find the woman with whom to share it. When I allowed God’s grace to work in my life, the clarity I gained led me to a strong and beautiful woman who -– despite the exhortations and even insults of those who found her convictions to be “demeaning” -– felt her calling was to work in the home.
And they lived happily ever after? God willing. But we will not allow you, the reader, or anyone else to believe that our decision –- our discernment around this issue –- in any way released us from responsibility, just because it happens to be one in favor of tradition. Our hearts are for God and each other; we understand grace, but nonetheless feel duty towards each other and our children. And who else? For us, God and family will trump the ideological politicized version of “freedom” every time. What is it all for, anyway? Exactly. If anything, our social responsibility –- yours, too -– is simply to help people to know the difference.
The simple fact is, in a traditional family, husband and wife each share a burden and a labor of responsibilities (and faith) that, properly executed, does more for themselves and their children than the governments of our wildest dreams. Their responsibilities, however divided — and their engagement or avoidance of familial and Godly responsibility begins even before they meet — are heavy enough without the preoccupations of making concessions to cultural or political acceptability.
To whom are your responsibilities?