This one time my Paul said, “I hate when people pick on you. It makes me want to punch them in the face.” This was, of course, an expression, and if you tell me you’ve never heard it–or even used it–before, without actually intending to punch anybody in the face, it will make me want to punch you in the face.
Just kidding. But see? I say it, too. I am happy to report, however, that even though this expression has passed both our lips at least once, I have never known either my husband or me to punch anybody in the face. However, I would be lying if I said I weren’t also happy that he has this sort of sentiment. I guess I’m not enough of a feminist to mind when husbands stand up for their wives. I guess I might as well go all out and admit that sometimes I think I can get a little crazy, and other women can also get a little crazy. I think men have their own version of crazy, but right now I’m talking about woman-crazy, and please. Let’s not pretend both of these things don’t exist.
What I want to say about woman-crazy is … actually not about woman-crazy. What I want to say is that I really appreciate it when the husbands of women who might be acting a little crazy at some point, stand up for them anyway. I mean, I appreciate it when Paul demonstrates that he is devoted to me even if I am acting irrational. I also mean that even if I am in a scenario where I am on the wrong end of some other woman’s crazy, when that woman’s husband stands up for her, I have a ton of respect–for him, and almost, by association, for her. I may still secretly never want to interact with that woman again, but I literally rejoice inside when I see her husband standing up for her. This is because he’s her husband, and frankly, that’s his job.
There’s this verse in the Bible that says, “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her” (Ephesians 5.25). I have constructed something of a theology of marriage around the idea that marriage is meant to be a human mirror of the relationship of Jesus to His Bride, the Church, but right now I just want to talk about Jesus and His Bride, the Church. I guess the verse doesn’t say, “as Christ loved the church and punched her detractors in the face,” but I still think the concepts are related. There’s a little bit of self-sacrifice that must have to go on every time I act ridiculous and Paul stands up for me anyway. And so I have to think there’s a little bit of anger and personal affront that Jesus must feel when people pick on His Bride.
“One of our greatest allies at present is the Church itself. Do not misunderstand me. I do not mean the Church as we see her spread out through all time and space and rooted in eternity, terrible as an army with banners. That, I confess, is a spectacle which makes our boldest tempers uneasy. But fortunately it is quite invisible to these humans.” (Screwtape)
― C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters
Over a month ago, I wrote a blogpost about people who still hold to their tenets of faith but are Done with church. I indicated that I fit the average demographic for that group, and that I even understand where they are coming from. Because I did this (and because I originally said, “I’m not planning to leave the traditional church (yet)”–which I thought made obvious that I don’t plan to leave the actual CHURCH because I specified traditional, until it occurred to me that there could be all kinds of interpretations of traditional) there were some people who got a little nervous, supposing that I was obliquely saying I was planning to become a “Done,” too. Well, it turns out that if I hope to become a fully certified hospital chaplain at some point, I have to be an active and endorsed member of a church, but even if that weren’t the case, I wasn’t saying I was planning on becoming a Done. I’m not planning on becoming a Done. I’m interested in the dynamics of change the Church Universal is in right now, and I have opinions about it, and I’m even presumptuous enough to wish to have a say in some restructuring, I guess, but I still am committed to the concept of Church, and to the process of belonging to a local iteration of Church, and the reason–I mean The Reason–is that I believe that even though human beings in general, and maybe American culture in particular–have skewed what the Church was meant to be and what it currently is, the Church is still Jesus Christ’s Bride. And I, whether I like it or not, am still a part of her.
I love Jesus. His Bride is probably the craziest woman I’ve ever met and sometimes I have trouble loving her for His sake. But His sake is why I love her. He loved her enough, not to punch her detractors in the face, but to give Himself up for her–I meandie for her. My individualistic American Christianity says Jesus Christ died for me, and I guess I think that’s true, but I don’t think it’s true exclusive of the fact that He died for Her. I think that, though it is Jesus’ sacrifice and love that saves me apart from anything I can do myself, all the same, my belonging to and participation in His Bride is my contribution to that salvation process. I couldn’t belong to the Church if Jesus hadn’t saved me from myself, but I am not sure to what extent I can be sure I’ve been saved from myself if I’m not willing to be part of the Church, no matter how psychotic she may sometimes be.
So I guess that’s why, even though my Paul and I are currently searching for a church home for the first time in a long time, I’m committed to the process, and also interested in working with people who think they are Done with the Church. Because I think she’s important. And sometimes I imagine that Jesus, who I guess is still waiting for His Bride to be readied for their wedding, thinks, or even says to her, “I hate it when people pick on you. Sometimes it makes me want to punch them in the face.”
It’s an expression.
Gallarus Oratory, Dingle, Ireland