Last night my wife was setting the table for dinner. She had been home while I was with The Boyz at my eldest’s football practice, and as happens on fall evenings we were preparing for a late supper. While The Boyz were showering, I was doing some work. My work area is our dining room table unless the weather is nice outside, so at that point my computer was at my usual place at the head of the table.
I always move the computer when the workday is over – sometimes moving it back after dinner if the work is unfinished – but this time I was doing backups for the entire computer to an external hard drive and, since it is nearly half a terabyte of information and a clean backup…well, as the computer said, “About 1 day remaining.” So I told my wife that I was going to leave the computer on the table as I did not want any catastrophic results from accidentally unplugging the external drive while moving the computer. She agreed, and went about prepping the table.
As you can see from the picture, we have a large table. And this is without the leaves in. With the leaves in it is about nine feet long and four feet wide. So with the computer on it as it is in the picture – still doing the backup! – there are about five feet of table space, maybe a little more. There are five of us in the family, which allowed for four seats on the sides and one at the end, where Mama usually sits. By default, this would become the head of our table with the computer on the other end.
While I was wrapping up Mama said to me, “Where do you want to sit?” Now, knowing my wife, this is a very important question. First, she is not telling me where to sit. Second, she is not choosing where to sit herself before she knows where I will be sitting and, third, she is giving me the right and honor of choosing where to sit.
Is this a big deal for you? It should be.
There are two Biblical teachings that come to mind here, the irst from Jesus in Luke, Chapter 14:
8 “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not recline at table in the place of honor. A more distinguished guest than you may have been invited by him,
9 and the host who invited both of you may approach you and say, ‘Give your place to this man,’ and then you would proceed with embarrassment to take the lowest place.
10 Rather, when you are invited, go and take the lowest place so that when the host comes to you he may say, ‘My friend, move up to a higher position.’ Then you will enjoy the esteem of your companions at the table.
11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Now this does not exactly apply to the situation last night, but my wife, Mama, lives the scriptures so perfectly that it does apply. She, as I, recognize that Jesus is invited to our table always and constantly. We have what we call a “Jesus Plate” that we have had since our first meal together as Husband and Wife. This plate has been set, fully dressed with linens and silverware and plate, at an empty seat at our dining room table. It represents our willingness and ability and our preparedness to accept Jesus if He knocks on the door at mealtime, or anytime. And more than a few times we’ve had someone over who was unexpected for dinner – including the once or twice it was a complete stranger. And there has always been enough, and always will be.
Mama knows the exalted guest is Jesus, in whatever form He attends, whether it is with us gathered in his name or the visage of a stranger unexpected. So when Mama asked me where I wanted to sit, she knew the seat of honor had moved because of the situation and, though the Jesus Plate was placed next to the computer and was still on the table, that left the head of the table in question. There was only one end of the table available for a seat and plate, and that was Mama’s usual place, which is across from where I sit.
Mama did not presume to take her regular seat, specifically because it was no longer her regular seat. It was my choice to make – do I say I will sit at the side, or take the seat of honor?
I received the seat of honor from the hostess, she having removed herself from that seat.
I said, “I better sit at the end, as that is customary for the leader of the household to sit at the ehad of the table, and The Boyz would be confused it I did not.” Of course she agreed, and, with Jesus having moved to a less honored seat, she sat next to me on the first seat on the side. And dinner went forward, with no confusion on the part of The Boyz as to why Daddy was sitting in the wrong seat – because he wasn’t.
Before we sat down to dinner I hugged my wife and said, “Thank you for being my submissive wife.” She chuckled a bit and graciously said, “You’re welcome.”
And that’s the second verse I am reminded of, this time from St. Paul in his letter to the Ephesians, Chapter 5:
22 Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord.
23 For the husband is head of his wife just as Christ is head of the church, he himself the savior of the body.
24 As the church is subordinate to Christ, so wives should be subordinate to their husbands in everything.
25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her
Each time my wife subordinates herself to me, she is doing so to The Lord – not me in His place, but He in me, because she knows I love her as Christ loves the Church. And Mama says it’s really easy to be submissive – give up the head of the table, for instance – when she knows I am willing to give up my life for her.
In this example, it is something that tends to come naturally to Beth and me, primarily because we have practiced it for so long now. But for the first few years, we literally had to practice it, even when we did not feel like it. That’s the nature of Holy Matrimony – Marriage – you do it, even when you don’t feel like doing it because it is a natural order of Love to give without expecting in return but it is very rare for that to happen when the luster and honeymoon period of a Marriage has disappeared.
Happiness is not the goal of our Marriage – it is the result of our Marriage. Happiness in the result of my willingness to die for Beth – in all of the Matrimonial Sacrifices – and happiness is the result of her confidence in being submissive to the Husband who will do that for her.
As strong and strong-willed as my wife is, to the point where she could survive without me, Mama knows that life is not about surviving. It’s about thriving, and loving someone so much that they come first.
Marriage is not rocket science. But it is hard work – the most rewarding work you will ever do.
Symbols like our ten second conversation (yep – that’s all it was that led to this entire article) about where I wanted to sit are those ever-so-brief glimpses of a Marriage that works that God gives us, sort of like him giving us a knowing nod before we get distracted by something else – like a horde of hungry boys coming into the dining room for dinner and what turned out to be an invigorating conversation on the ravages of socialism.