“Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is head of his wife just as Christ is head of the church, he himself the savior of the body. As the church is subordinate to Christ, so wives should be subordinate to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church” Ephesians 5:21-25
Do those first four words make you cringe?
We may want to stop reading after the first sentence, but it is crucial to understand verses such as this in the context of Scripture. So often this particular verse is misunderstood. In reality, Christ is inviting us into the Heavenly Father’s beautiful design for man and woman – that their union would mirror the love between Christ and His Church. Marriage is a beautiful masterpiece, in which love is a dance – a dance that reveals the amazing love of Christ to the world.
Stay with me as I try to explain this analogy of marriage as a dance. I’m not shy about hitting the dance floor with my wife, but I confess that I truly know nothing about dancing. My wife is the dancer – she is well-trained and continues to choreograph, so she makes us look good! My expertise on the subject comes from her, or from listening to the critiques of reality TV judges. We worked on this article together, with myself taking the lead and her making it beautiful – just like when we dance!
Dance is a beautiful thing. Picture it: a man with arms extended, firm yet gentle, with the softer, smaller hands of a woman in his, circling her slowly and gracefully around the dance floor. The man is leading, and the woman follows his lead. His role is to show off the woman as she then shows off the dance. Think about it – when you watch a couple dance, who do your eyes focus on? The man guides the woman around the floor and all the focus is on her. He is aware of every movement, taking care not to step on her toes, and looking out for her as she glides backwards and twirls about. It is favorable, of course, when the pair are skilled in their technique. However, it is passion, vulnerability, and soul that make the dance come alive! Passion and practice in their skills together make the picture complete.
The man is called to lead much like a conductor leads a symphony. He gives all of his focus to her, entirely wrapped up in her beauty, guiding her cautiously yet without fear. Man has been given strength not to dominate, but to protect, to provide, and to initiate the adventure! He should give himself in totality, allowing the beauty of the drama and mystery to unfold – two become one. He devotes everything to her – he has mastered his skill so that she can receive his gifts, talents, and work. When she, in her femininity, receives his gift, she can give the dance life!
The woman has a very important role – she is the heart of the dance. While wrapped in his arms, his loving guidance allows her steps to float across the floor. Her audience is captivated by her beauty as she entrusts herself in this partnership with the man. She desires that others not focus solely on her, but on the beauty of the dance itself. The movement of man and woman together to the rhythm of the music leads hearts and minds to a deeper appreciation to the beauty of art – the art of two becoming one in the dance.
The woman is not then some rag doll, tossed here and there, requiring no skill or coordination. Quite the opposite! As the saying goes: “Ginger Rogers did everything that Fred Astaire, did but backwards and in high heels!” This begs the question whose role is more difficult! Yet, the point is not to show who has it harder. Both man and woman face different challenges in their roles, and both are crucial to the dance. The beauty of this art form is not in the individual skill of the two dancers, but rather how they come together, giving and receiving, leading and being led, loving and being loved.
We marry not to become caught up in ourselves, but to give ourselves over to another with the desire to love them in total selflessness. As we give of ourselves, we entrust our spouse with the gift of self without holding back, no matter their response.In marriage, two people become one! One in mind, one in heart, one in love, and one in affection. Christ raised marriage to be a sign here on earth, proclaiming to the world the love that Christ has for us! This union of two people is the greatest picture of the union of Christ to his people. We are brought back into communion with the Father through our incorporation into his body, the Church, the body of Christ. We are His and He is ours, a union that cannot be separated.
Just as in the dance, husband and wife are called to be one and live as one, reflecting the union of the Church and Our Father. As Christ spoke those words about submission and loving as Christ loves the church, He was describing a beautiful dance that He choreographed for us. We were being invited to take part in a divine masterpiece. More elegant than the waltz and more joyful than the jitterbug, we’ve been invited to take part in the divine dance of life and love! That is something to be thankful for.