There is an interesting little phrase/acronym floating around out there in recent years, and it’s been claimed by a very specific community which at best operates on the fringes of what some might consider polite society.
I have a dear Christian friend who I credit with leading me to Christ. She has a wonderful and loving way about her, and she is utterly filled with the Holy Spirit. She authentically loves people, and wants to love them to salvation. In recent years she’s taken up the age-old skills of wild foraging, medicinal plants and foods, and essential oils, becoming a guru of sorts. I described her to someone recently and they remarked, “she sounds like a hippy.” I had to laugh a little, because in a sense she does cut that image. Her simple mountain existence, drying herbs, walls of jars and bottles, long natural hair, boots, basket, and foraging gear certainly paint the picture of an aging hippy. When with her, it is evident she gets “high” on nature and God’s creation. And, she definitely has lots of contact with the area hippies, with whom she connects and disciples via her natural ways and teaching. Her credo is that she wants to “take back” the healthy ways espoused by the hippy culture for the glory of God.
I feel the same about “This Thing We Do” or TTWD. I want to take it back into “respectable/radical” Christian marriages. Its association with “kinky” and domestic discipline has pushed it into a realm of weird and inappropriate and perhaps “dark” by many standards. If you chance to Google the term, you’ll see why.
What do I want TTWD to mean?
As described in painstaking detail through my blog, I started out in our marriage as a “modern woman” who believed in total marriage equality. Strike that: I believed that I should have my own way and that I should NEVER submit to a man. Submission was weak, a thing of the past, and from what I witnessed growing up, abusive. However there was no question that a dominant man was attractive to me. To whit, I had dated a long stream of “dominant men” in my 20s who had turned out to be quite thrilling in their dominant style, but in the end turned out abusive (emotionally for the most part) and most ungentlemanly and without integrity. The trick was, finding the combination of gentleman, God-fearing Christian, and dominant man, a creature I feared was extinct. “Dominant male” seemed to have been drilled out of men for the past several decades, and what we now had was a group of males perfectly capable of gentlemanly dominance and leadership, scared witless about acting the way they were wired with a modern female who’d likely cry “chauvinist!” (if not “rape!”)
And, how are we wired? I believe we are all wired differently, in large part shaped by our experiences. If we witnessed loving, caring, fair but firm leadership in a Dad, then we are likely to find that acceptable and attractive. If we witnessed abusive authoritarianism and bullying behaviors in Dads (or even Moms), then we most likely determined NEVER to be near any male who hinted at this type of behavior. Add in the messages of Women’s Lib, NOW, and “gender equality” we grew up with, most women came away hearing loud and clear: “I am woman, hear me roar.” “Don’t tread on me.” In the workplace, I think changes were needed for pay/benefit equity. It’s how it bled out into personal relationships that made things confusing, and started to rock the foundations of many marriages.
BUT, I also believe as male and female, we are “wired” from our biology and the beginning of creation to fit together in a synergistic whole called marriage, where there is equality along with dominance and submission. A natural “order;” the rib taken from Adam, the first created by God (God’s creation is exquisitely organized and ordered). There are few organizations, clubs, businesses, groups, even coops, which can function in a healthy manner without some sort of leadership or headship. When any team operates together, success usually is achieved through acknowledging leadership, as well as complimentary skills and talents. Without God as my authority, I am nothing, my husband is nothing. But we can accomplish all things through Christ. And once we pledged our troth, I pledged fidelity to one who was also pledged to a covenant with God.
One analogy is of sailing a boat– with both husband’s and wife’s hands on the tiller, a couple can often agree on a course to steer. However there inevitably comes a time when there is disagreement to go left or right, as the rocks appear straight ahead (or the proverbial apple). If both struggle to pull the tiller in opposite directions, they’ll crash into the rocks. One has to be willing to let the other steer, to trust the other to take over and lead. Captain-First Mate is another apt analogy. The Captain completely relies on his First Mate, but the First Mate may not need to weigh in on every decision, trusting that the Captain has everyone’s best interest in mind, and yes, even will put others before himself, ensure safety and well-being of those in his trust, to the point of “going down with the ship.” Or, snatching that apple of temptation from her hands because he knows better. Or, making the ultimate sacrifice, not unlike Christ (Now, can I sail a boat? Quite well actually. And if my captain asks me to, I’ll do it well).
I am sure that there are marriages in which the woman leads, operates as the Captain, makes the major decisions, and this works fine for everyone. However as a Christian woman who has read the Bible and experienced first hand the failure of trying to take the lead in her marriage, I have learned the beautiful Fruit of the Spirit from learning to submit to his God-ordained leadership. I am happy to finally acknowledge, with a great sigh of relief, that I am wired to submit to a leader-husband.
And then there’s this, which I’ve quoted before: “women respond sexually to dominant men and they can become quite aggressive towards men [who]… do not evoke feelings of submission in them. The Body Agenda literally thinks ‘if he can’t handle me, he can’t actually protect me from anything.'” (Athol Kay). This is especially true for me, and where I often went amok in the past. I could easily spin out of control when I felt that no one could handle a given situation, me included. Once I trusted that SJ could “handle me” (and he trusted that his wife wasn’t going to cry “foul”), and that he was accepting the responsibilities of leadership, I felt much calmer and more at peace in general. Through lots of discussion of our desires to rework our marriage into traditional roles of husband leadership and wife submission, we learned what worked for us.
This Thing WE Do, which perhaps looks like a marriage of traditional, Biblical values, is also quite unique. My Captain has set a course for our life together which is intelligent, prudent, and wise. We have learned ways to deal with conflict that work better than our previous ways (yes, there still are moments of conflict, times I disagree, perhaps mutiny. “Submission” is not my middle name, I am headstrong. My tongue and my sarcasm need to constantly be taken into hand and disciplined. My Captain has learned ways in which to deal with these conflicts that speak to me, to use a firm hand to quell an uprising that threatens to steer us into the rocks, or even to take us unnecessarily off course). First and foremost, I fully consented to this dynamic, nearly begged for it. Secondly I had to prove it through my actions. And I couldn’t be more grateful for the feelings of submission his apt leadership evokes in me, the calming, peaceful sense of protection from a man who would lay down his life for me. I am glad to be led, and even corrected (perhaps not in the moment, but later–“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it”). And the end result? Intense respect, desire, and love for him; and a happy marriage. I feel protected, and I feel honored by a man who appreciates me and loves me.
So, This Thing WE Do? It’s ours. We’re taking it back. It’s not subject to a pat definition one can find on Google. At it’s core it’s Biblical Dominance and submission; recognition of husband as Head of Household; a beautiful partnership of husband and wife operating with God’s ordained order; of trust and working together for the good of the whole. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
And it isn’t achieved by seeking one’s own way, dishonoring, pride, or anger.