DO YOU SEE HER? | His Needs – Her Needs 6
Woman’s Most Natural Desire
Great fathers desire with all of their hearts to have great families, and great families usually come from great marriages. Marriage is the trailhead of the family. If we want to be great fathers it is imperative that we strive to become great husbands. One of the first lessons that a husband of greatness learns is that it is not about him. A real husband counts his wife as more important than himself (see Phil 2?). If we are to father in the image of God the Father it is imperative that we “husband” in the image of Christ. The needs of the Church, the Bride of Christ, are so important that Jesus literally gave His life and still gives her His body, in the Eucharist, as a sign that he desires not only that her needs are met, but for her life to be full. If we are to be husbands like Christ, it will be vital that we understand our wives’ needs. I believe that every woman has seven basic, general, fundamental needs, beginning with the most primary, physical, natural need, and progressing ultimately to the greatest spiritual need. I also believe that it is the husband’s mission, by the grace of God alone, to address and strive to fulfill these needs. Besides love, life, salvation, peace, and so on, what is woman’s primary, physical, most inherent natural need? There are two places we can find the answer: Sacred Scripture and the store. First, let’s examine Scripture, specifically the passage that Pope Saint John Paul II referred to as the mini summa of the faith—Ephesians 5:21-33. This passage contains an incredibly vast amount of insights, which cannot be adequately discussed during our time this morning. I would like to focus on a particular section of this text: “Husbands, ,love your wives, just as Christ also loved the Church, and delivered himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, cleansing her in the bath of water, by means of the word, in order that he might present to himself the Church in all her glory, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she might be holy and without blemish.” From this passage we can derive several insights: first, woman is an image of the Church, a holy bride. Second, she is called to be beautiful, glorious, without spot, wrinkle or blemish. Third, just as it is Christ’s mission to present His bride to the Father in this manner, so also, we, with Christ, are to do the same. If woman is a symbol of the Church, and the Church is to be beautiful, glorious, and without spot or wrinkle, then we can conclude that women are also to be beautiful, glorious, and without spot or blemish. Sacred Scripture, in an indirect manner, reveals that this is woman’s most natural longing and desire—to be beautiful.
Beauty in a Hostile World
Every woman desires to be known and cherished as beautiful, to be without blemishes, age spots, wrinkles, muffin tops and—as a female friend fondly refers to her cellulite—hail damage. Hence, the second place we can look for this truth—the stores. Commercial retail offers the nearly infinite development, marketing, sales, and distribution of cosmetic products, antiaging creams, Botox injections, hair coloring products, plastic surgery, nail polish, clothing, and jewelry. Though all these things are disordered attempts to enhance or “make” a woman beautiful, they all testify to a profound, innate truth: women desire to be beautiful and recognized as such. Professor S. says, “Woman’s beauty is an integrated beauty of both body and soul. It is not only on the outside, nor only on the inside, but is an integrated seamless beauty of body and soul. Every woman expresses in her being and body the transcendent beauty of God. Nature is not merely function but also beautiful, and in fact, in some cases primarily beautiful. Woman incarnates beauty and invites, allures and brings joy to man.”
These cosmetic approaches to obtain beauty direct us to a deeper truth: women’s beauty is deeper than the flesh and that which covers it; and it takes a true man to do what Christ did for His bride: to help his wife realize her timeless spirit, the God-given beauty of her soul. As Professor S. says, “Woman exists in a hostile culture; a world that has contempt for her—unless, of course she meets the unrealistic, nearly impossible standard of the one tenth of one percent of women in the world who are supermodels. Even images of these women are airbrushed, retouched, and manipulated to achieve a false perfection.” Due to the world’s hyper focus on the exterior body, and the false standard of beauty, many women are deeply wounded, insecure, and suffering from being critiqued, criticized, objectified, and used. As Professor S. says, “After giving birth to the third, fourth, or fifth child, they are convinced by the culture that they must imitate and replicate the impossible. The world sneers at the real beauty we have to offer as life bearers.” This is the universal feminine anguish, the fundamental disquiet that daily taunts and haunts a woman’s soul, robbing her of the freedom to reveal her true self. She is convinced that without makeup, mascara, a tummy tuck, and accentuating clothing, she is unattractive and undesirable. The world has contempt for the soul of woman, and reduces her body to a tool for sexual gratification. Oh, the wounds that we have inflicted upon our wives. We say things like, “Maybe you should exercise—I’m worried about your health.” She sees right through the smokescreen and believes, “He thinks I’m fat.” Years ago, I encountered a man who, throughout the many decades of his marriage, criticized and analyzed his wife’s body, driving her to watch her weight and remain thin. Due to excessive dieting she became riddled with health problems; meanwhile, her husband was a juicy, plump, rotund ninety pounds overweight. He would often express his disappointment and frustration that he and his wife did not frequently engage in intercourse. There is a direct correlation between healthy sexual intimacy in marriage and a wife who believes that her husband perceives her as beautiful. As Professor S. says, “She doesn’t want to be the most beautiful woman in the world—just the most beautiful woman in your world.”
The Golden Rule for Marriage
My wife recently shared with me a story. She was conversing with a married couple at the grocery store. As they were talking, a beautiful blond woman in her midtwenties, wearing a dress that looked like a nightgown, bent over to pick a product off the shelf. As she bent over, my wife’s friend’s husband, not only glanced at the woman, but evaluated her from top to bottom, looking back at her several times. My wife told me, “I feel so sorry for her—she has to know—this has to pain her.” So how do we cherish and uphold our wives’ beauty? Later, in the fifth chapter of Ephesians, St. Paul gives us the golden rule for marriage: “For no one ever hated his own flesh; on the contrary he nourishes and cherishes it, as Christ also does the Church.” In other words, we husbands are to cherish and uphold our wives’ dignity in the manner that we desire them to respect our masculinity. We are to love her body as we love our bodies. Do we want our wives comparing us to twenty-five-year-old male models? Do we desire our wives to be addicted to pornographic images of men and thinking of them when they are with us? Would we ever want her to compare us to the “perfect” husband next door? Do we want our wives to see only our bodies, or the man being expressed by the body?
Do You See Her?
Perhaps the reason our wives don’t believe they are beautiful is because we are not convinced of their real beauty. The first step to awakening our wives to their God-given beauty is to be convinced of it ourselves. What do I mean? Woman is like a garden. Man’s duty from the beginning of creation is to till and keep this garden, to cherish and protect her—even from ourselves—to ensure that she bears the fruit of confidence that she is an incredible manifestation of God’s transcendent beauty. The scriptures state that St. Joseph “refused to expose Mary to shame.” The Greek translation can be interpreted as meaning that Joseph refused to unveil Mary, that is, he refused to expose Mary to the shame of his potential to lust. He refused to reduce Mary to an object to be used for his self-gratification. Joseph peered through the flesh of Mary and was allowed to perceive the beauty of her person revealed in and through her body. Joseph perceived Mary’s inner beauty as life bearer, as an image of the Church, a living tabernacle of God, and therefore dedicated his life to being the guardian of her garden—a Custos, a protector of her dignity and beauty. Joseph protected Mary from himself. It is imperative that we husbands become like Joseph, and peer beyond the stretch marks, the cellulite, the wrinkles, age spots, and the c-section scars and see her real sacrificial beauty as life bearer—a living tabernacle of God’s presence. Actually, rather that looking beyond these attributes, we must peer into them, seeing in every wrinkle, scar, skin fold, and blemish a woman who has born in her body demands of giving life. The blemishes, scars, and age spots are actually her war wounds, her beauty marks that testify to the fact that she has endured the stress of loving her husband faithfully. We need to see more than her body, but actually see her.
As Jesus was dining at Simon the Pharisee’s house, a woman, a prostitute, burst into the setting, and throwing herself at Jesus’ feet, began to wash them with her tears and wipe the muddied dirt from those feet with her hair. Simon, appalled, said to himself, “This man, were he a prophet, would surely know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” Jesus ultimately questions Simon: “Do you see this woman?” Do you see her, Simon—the actual woman expressed in and through her body, or do you simply see an object to be used for man’s selfish gratification? Do we really see our wives? Can we perceive her beauty, her spirit, her glory being expressed through her tired body? Here is the test of a true man. Woman is a living symbol of the Church. Christ gave Himself up for His bride that she may be beautiful and without blemish. Yet our wives have blemishes, spots, and wrinkles, and unfortunately we are very quick to notice these things. Even more, their souls are wounded, scarred, and disfigured. Christ has given us husbands the duty to be transmitters of his Healing power to our wives. How? By seeing her real beauty expressed though her body.
Personally, my doubts, my desires, my foolhardy adventures, my risks, and, at times, heated and critical words, my insensitivity and inattention to my wife’s needs, have caused her serious stress; and such stress damages the human body. She, however, has worn these wounds heroically, bearing my stress as her own. Recently, my wife and I discovered some photos from our honeymoon. I was awed by her beauty. Meditating on how much we both had changed, I realized that I love her far more intensely than I did then. Though her body is not as glorious as it was twenty years ago, her tired and worn body expresses the glory of her soul, which far surpasses her flesh’s former radiance. Her body bears the beauty of sacrificial love, and I am called to recognize and awaken her to the reality of her true beauty. As Professor S. says, “the more he (the husband) helps her (the wife) know her own beauty, the more beautiful she will desire to be for him. When she feels that she is desired she will desire to make him happy.” Every woman desires to be beautiful, and it our job to convince her of her real beauty.
The Bond of Beauty
I am continually astounded and confounded by the “beautiful, handsome” movie-star couples who break up with or divorce one another. I think to myself, “What more could they want?” There lies the truth: they break up because they actually want more than surface beauty—they desire the real beauty of the inner person, but instead become bored by the surface beauty that lacks sacrificial love. I am also amazed at couples who are obviously aged, their attributes have sagged and inflated (much like a life preserver placed around a person’s waistline) and are definitely falling short of the world’s so-called standard of beauty—and yet they are still in love. My parent’s marriage is a wonderful example that attests to such love. My dad will often say in front of my aged, wrinkled, tired mother, “Isn’t she the prettiest thing?” To which I respond, “Dad, beauty is in the eye of the beer-holder.” Their affection for one another is real and is reminiscent of the love of Christ for His bride as expressed in Ephesians 5. My dad really sees in her wrinkles, her age spots, her tired, body, a beauty that speaks of the transcendent glory of the bride adorned for Christ—a sacrificial beauty that the world does not and cannot comprehend. Scientist have demonstrated that when a man has intercourse with a woman, his brain produces the chemicals prolactin and oxytocin, which create a physiological bond between the spouses. Sexual fidelity and renewal of the sacrament of marriage by means of frequent intercourse enables a man to see his wife’s true beauty and become further bonded to her as Christ is bonded to the Church. Notice that Christ bonds Himself to the Church, His Bride, by giving her His Body, and receiving this Body, she pledges her body and soul in return to Him. Our marriages are called to imitate this self-giving love. Because of my dad’s fidelity to mom, he doesn’t focus on her wrinkles, blemishes, or her weight, but rather perceives the beauty that emanates from her soul through her body. I think my mom believes that she is beautiful because of my dad. Our wives will believe themselves to be without spot or blemish because we are willing to see that in them.
Lord, That I May See!
It is my hope that today we will make a concentrated effort to “put on the mind of Christ” and comprehend the true sacrificial beauty of our wives’ souls expressed in and through their bodies. It is my desire that we come to understand that whatever blemishes, wrinkles, scars, or weight gain they might experience, is partly a result of their willingness to bear the stress of our burdens. It is my prayer that we will be like the blind man, who, while sitting on the side of the road, was asked by Jesus, “What do you want me to do for you?” To which he responded, “Lord, that I may see.” Yes, Lord, remove the blindness from us that sees only beauty that is skin deep, and allow us to see your beauty expressed in and through our wives’ beautiful and glorious bodies. “Blessed are the pure of heart for they shall see God.” Yes, Lord, make us pure, make us chaste—like St. Joseph—that we may truly see God’s beauty and glory in our wives.