They say familiarity breeds contempt, and when it comes to family dynamics, especially with the added pressure of Great Lent, all too often more arguments take place at home than any other place. It isn’t that we don’t love our family, or that we love them less than the strangers we meet on the street. It is just that we tend to let our guard down with our family, and too often are not “on our best behavior” leaving our families a place of stress rather than comfort.
This week’s theme of taking up our cross is a perfect solution to family stress, and it begins with marriage. During the wedding service we hear the advice of Saint Paul, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord…..Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the Church and gave Himself for her.” (Ephesians 5.22-25) When both husbands and wives choose to take up their cross, THEN Saint Paul’s advice makes sense, but for a purpose.
The crowns of martyrdom worn during the Orthodox Christian wedding represent each spouse’s willingness to die to the will of the other 100% in order to be saved. Wives can rest comfortably submitting to a husband who loves them as Christ, because that husband will never objectify or otherwise treat her with less dignity as his own flesh. Husbands can rest assured that in dying for their wives to be saved is not about shopping sprees or gourmet kitchens (yes this is stereotype), but about heaven.
The ONLY way husbands and wives can live in this mutual martyrdom is when they each take up their cross for each other. When spouses find themselves at odds with the desires of the other, a simple reminder of the cross can regain important trust and love. Marriage (and the raising of children) is never an easy task, requiring constant vigilance against the fallen world and temptation. It is when we are willing take up our cross at home, that we realize that following Christ into heaven is worth more than building estates and summer cottages.
Try something simple this week to take up your cross at home. When a disagreement presents itself, CHOOSE the cross and allow your spouse to be victorious. As long as you are both considering your desire to follow Christ into heaven, you’ll ultimately win against the fallen world. It may be a difficult choice, but the cross is not easy…but it is for your salvation.