After reading this from Ephesians:
21Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. 22Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 23For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. 25Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26to make her holy, cleansing[b] her by the washing with water through the word, 27and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church— 30for we are members of his body. 31"For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh."[c] 32This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband
Answer these questions:
1. Why do you think this passage is such a incendiary one for women and men? In order for this exhortation to work, both parties have to dedicate their lives to this principle. If one of the two lessens his or her committment to it, the other one takes it in the gut. I think this is a prickly subject because everyone has seen cases where only one spouse lives by this principle, and gets sucker punched. Then they personalize it and say, " I will not allow that to happen to me. Just the word submit gets me in fight or flight mode."
1 1/2. Was it ever that way for you? If so, how was your heart changed?
It has definately been like this for me. I started out marriage with the whole hearted commitment to this principle. However, shortly into the marriage, my resolution was crushed by the heavy weight of disappointment. Dh was absolutley not living up to his end of the exhortation, and my spirit was so wounded. He wasn't doing anything evil, just putting himself first in most daily activities and decisions. I was being used, and it was hardening my heart. What made my heart change? I am still working on this. We are on 13 years, and much of the pain in the early days was never addressed. We just got busier, and more independent lives, and I got callused. We always pray for each other, and for a better marriage, and it seems to me our hearts are both changing. Whereas dh used to laugh when we would recount some of the stupidly selfish things we did as newlyweds, now he apologizes for them. My dh has told me he has held back in our marriage, afraid to "give himself up for her". This has caused a chain of events that has nearly unraveled our marriage entirely. The fact that he recognized this holding back, and is trying to do better is allowing me to respect my husband. I am not blaming the whold thing on him, though. I should not have callused up, or given up, but kept living up to my end. I wasn't strong enough to do so. This is what I am praying for, the ability to stay constant even through disappointment. With God, all things are possible, eh?
2. What is God trying to tell us through St. Paul in this scripture reading? Die to self, and you will live. It's that same old contradiction thing again, he who loses his life, saves it.
3. How does a misunderstanding or lack of understanding of God's plan for marriage revealed through this scripture damage marriages? When married people put their needs first in the marriage, it is damaged. When one spouse leads with selfishness, the other may follow. When one spouse is an emotional taker only, the other may become empty and bitter. God's plan is for us to die to self, and become one with our spouse. If selfishness gets in the way, it just can not happen.
4. How can men and women come to understand it better?
I wish I knew the answer to that. So far I rely on prayer, sacraments, and reading books and speaking with people I respect. That's all I've got. Always looking for help in that regard.
These are not as well thought out as I wanted. I am afraid it puts too much blame on my dh, and betrays my residual bitterness. Wanted to say more about who "has to go first" in the dying to self. How can the wife submit if there is nothing of substance to submit to? How can the man be the head if he has to wrestle the title away from a bitter, controlling wife? Who goes first?? Does this start during the courtship, engagment, or even as children, observing their parents? I want answers!!!