Management Strategy Nine: Burning Ships

The preceding eight strategies ( in the management of the idolatry of beauty), are even more of an issue when you have a marriage partner. Loyalty to him or her now means demonstrating a loyalty and honour not just in the letter of the law, but in the spirit of the way you relate to other potential competitors. Jealousy can be hard to deal with—and quite a learning curve—but (if it is healthy jealousy), it will bring the blessings of honesty and another point of view into your marriage. There will be conversations with your partner about dozens of awkward moments: from the way you talk, the clothes you wear and your body language, to things like your hobbies, unexplained absences, and Facebook.

You might even make it easier for them by asking what it’s been like for them being married to you, or asking them to tell you if they feel at all uncomfortable about any relating habits you have with the opposite sex. It will feel like a part of you is dying—and so it should—because a whole new thing is coming about from a seed that was planted when you married.

A tree is growing and it’s demanding space and nutrition, light and warmth, and air because it’s making a home in which children can live and grow and where friends and family can be loved and served and blessed beyond all imagination. You will have never experienced (first-hand), anything like what the great Paraclete (the Holy Spirit) will bring when he is allowed—by the one-ness of your marriage—to open the way for the great love of the Father and the Son to flow like a river through your living room and out onto the street. But some of your friends will resist this, some will take offence, and some will need to walk away.

GK Chesterton has this to say, ‘The revolt against vows has been carried in our day even to the extent of a revolt against the typical vow of marriage. It is most amusing to listen to the opponents of marriage on this subject. They appear to imagine that the ideal of constancy was a yoke mysteriously imposed on mankind by the devil, instead of being, as it is, a yoke consistently imposed by all lovers on themselves. They have invented a phrase, a phrase that is a black and white contradiction in two words — ‘free-love’ — as if a lover ever had been, or ever could be, free. It is the nature of love to bind itself, and the institution of marriage merely paid the average man the compliment of taking him at his word. Modern sages offer to the lover, with an ill-favoured grin, the largest liberties and the fullest irresponsibility; but they do not respect him as the old Church respected him; they do not write his oath upon the heavens, as the record of his highest moment. They give him every liberty except the liberty to sell his liberty, which is the only one that he wants.

It is exactly this backdoor, this sense of having a retreat behind us, that is, to our minds, the sterilising spirit in modern pleasure. Everywhere there is the persistent and insane attempt to obtain pleasure without paying for it. Thus, in politics the modern Jingoes practically say, ‘Let us have the pleasure of conquerors without the pains of soldiers: let us sit on sofas and be a hardy race.’ Thus, in religion and morals, the decadent mystics say: ‘Let us have the fragrance of sacred purity without the sorrows of self-restraint; let us sing hymns alternately to the Virgin and Priapus.’ Thus in love the free-lovers say: ‘Let us have the splendour of offering ourselves without the peril of committing ourselves; let us see whether one cannot commit suicide an unlimited number of times.’

Emphatically it will not work. There are thrilling moments, doubtless, for the spectator, the amateur, and the aesthete; but there is one thrill that is known only to the soldier who fights for his own flag, to the aesthetic who starves himself for his own illumination, to the lover who makes finally his own choice. And it is this transfiguring self-discipline that makes the vow a truly sane thing. It must have satisfied even the giant hunger of the soul of a lover or a poet to know that in consequence of some one instant of decision that strange chain would hang for centuries in the Alps among the silences of stars and snows. All around us is the city of small sins, abounding in back-ways and retreats, but surely, sooner or later, the towering flame will rise from the harbour announcing that the reign of the cowards is over and a man is burning his ships.’18

With all that in mind it’s also helpful to consider a sobering reminder from CS Lewis. In this passage he addresses one side of the sacrifice involved (from the point of view of a husband), but it could equally be applied to a wife. ‘This headship, then, is most fully embodied not in the husband we should all wish to be but in him whose marriage is most like a crucifixion; whose wife receives most and gives least, is most unworthy of him, is—in her own mere nature—least loveable. For the Church has not beauty but what the Bride-groom gives her; he does not find, but makes her, lovely. The chrism of this terrible coronation is to be seen not in the joys of any man’s marriage but in its sorrows, in the sickness and sufferings of a good wife or the faults of a bad one, in his unwearying (never paraded) care or his inexhaustible forgiveness: forgiveness, not acquiescence. As Christ sees in the flawed, proud, fanatical or lukewarm Church on earth that Bride who will one day be without spot or wrinkle, and labours to produce the latter, so the husband whose headship is Christ-like (and he is allowed no other sort) never despairs.’19

18 Chesterton GK. A Defence of Rash Vows http://www.chesterton.org/discover-chesterton/selected-works/the- essayist/a-defence-of-rash-vows/

19 Lewis CS. The Four Loves http://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/14816053-the-four-loves

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