The Gift of Self

Posted on October 22, 2012 by


Drifting about in the words of this modern world, in this modern internet, you hit endlessly upon the meme that if you and your spouse don’t make each other deliriously happy in each moment of the day, you can be turned in for a newer model.  I suppose that’s true, but I don’t think of myself as competing for my husband’s affections with a pretty young thing.   I do think about making him as happy as he can be.   When I self-examine (and I do it too often) I wonder, “How can I make myself better”.   If I read … well, if I read most articles on how to improve myself … all I get out of it is how to improve my outsides.    I *know* how to improve my outsides, however difficult a task that might be.   I can get on with that… and I do get on with that. … but there is only so far it can take me.

I will be 40 in a few months.  My SMV is not going to go up more than a notch or two, no matter how much my waistline shrinks.   I am already an excellent cook and keep the house adequately clean.  How can I possibly compete with a younger and more beautiful woman?  Character.  Grace.  Kindness.  Giving myself to my husband with a sweet smile and an open heart.   Caring for him, giving him a soft place to land in a hard world.

That, in fact, is the short version of what he says he finds most attractive about me.

I can improve my character with every day of my life.  With every challenge that I face, I can choose to obey God and let Him mold me.  I can choose to submit to the action of the Holy Spirit in my life.  Doing so… could it possibly make me less lovable?

Eventually time will take its due.  Every year in twilight, a couple leans more heavily upon one another.  The tasks at the end are no more pleasant than those at the beginning of life.  The need for grace – on both sides – far greater.   What I put into my marriage now is what I will reap from my marriage 20 and 30 years from now.

The modern way of thinking about marriage and love is ridiculously two-dimensional.  Are you being fulfilled in this moment in time?  If you even think so far outside of the moment as to consider the welfare of your children, you’re exceptional.    Thinking about how to do good for your partner – not just how to please them in this moment – is unheard of.  Thinking about how to change yourself, to make yourself a better person in fifty years?  What kind of crazy is *that*?

This two-dimensional view of love and marriage leads to a two-dimensional view of ourselves.  We lose entirely much of the real reason for marriage.   The last words of advice I gave my best friend on her wedding day were, “You realize that when you walk down that aisle, the person making the decisions about what were to happen to your comatose body in the event of a stray meteor is your father – and when you walk back, it’ll be your husband?”  She was shocked.

We have lost the idea that when we get married, our spouse becomes our closest family member.  We have lost the idea that family is forever.

And in losing forever, we’ve lost the idea that we might have more to offer each other than our looks and our money.   Character matters.

There is a deep character trait that most women share.  Ian Ironwood calls it caritas*.  I’ll not take the risk of offending my Catholic brethren by using that word (although Protestants don’t use it), instead I’ll call the concept “gift of self”.    Many women have learned to contain their need to give themselves away.    That’s a terrible thing.  Yes, certainly it’s safer – but when has love been safe? **  The proper modern woman never gives her whole self away, because how then can she pursue self-determination?

A Christian woman, who is commanded to love her neighbor, who is commanded to love her husband, who is put in the safety of his care, who is under obligation to live as much as possible like her Master, who gave Himself for all mankind… giving of herself is – or should be – a part of her character.  Character, in turn, is something that can be improved with every year of one’s life, in every circumstance.

There is no reason that a wife should *not* give every ounce of herself to her husband.   All my best for him, all myself for him.  Does that mean that I should not care for myself?  No, quite the opposite.  But it means that I accept my role as a conduit, as a support, as a permanent part of *him*.  Did you think that the Biblical statement, “two become one” was only a metaphor?

I’ve long thought that at our best, women’s role is to be a joy-bearer.  I know that men’s lives are hard – my husband’s life is hard.  I can’t really do anything about his work life, except listen.  What I can do is give him myself, and make the gift of myself a gift worth enjoying, a gift to be savored, a good gift.

My husband says that it pleases him to see me work on my hobbies and be enthused in my passions, because of what it brings to me.  It is only right that I then take that happy joy and give it to him.

How?  How is a long journey… I hope to write a tiny bit about it in the future, and only wish I had better words to offer up what is in my heart.

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*Hat tip to Ian Ironwood over at The Red Pill Room for making me think about this – even if I disagree with almost everything he said about theology.  And Now, A Brief Public Service Announcement from Olympus.

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**Men have their own version of gift of self.  I know it, I experience it and enjoy it – but it’s not the same thing, and I’m not a man – so I am not going to write about it.  Writing about this is difficult enough!