Invite Chivalry into Your Marriage
- 2009 20 Jan
Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things. ~ Philippians 4:8 NIV
Love breeds chivalry, and accepts nothing less. When we wait on the Lord, allowing Him to have control of our relationship lives, He leads us to His best for us. That is where chivalry lives. ~ David W. Dickey, network administrator
"SOME SAY THE age of chivalry is past, that the spirit of romance is dead. The age of chivalry is never past, so long as there is a wrong left unredressed on earth," wrote British Anglican clergyman and writer Charles Kingsley. Perhaps then, it is time to right one wrong left unredressed. Forget the we’re-technologically-superior-more-intelligent-andmore-independent self-talk we’ve been feeding ourselves for years. Being technologically superior to the generations before us doesn’t erase our yearning for the mystery and magic of an old-fashioned love affair, does it?
Think about it: Hollywood certainly understands the feminine heart! They capitalize on the very notion that women will always be drawn to the "stuff" that fairy tales are made of. The idea that a man would proclaim his love for us, or wrestle to the finish to defend our honor, answers the age-old question inscribed on most every woman’s heart: Am I lovely enough to be protected, defended, and cherished by a man of honor—the man of my dreams?
Warriors in Training
It was a glorious Friday afternoon in the fall of 1974, and my sophomore year of college. Working our way down the hall from philosophy class, we had just wrapped up a weeklong discussion of the current culture’s values and customs. The class consisted of a colorful cast of characters. With the feminist movement in full swing, some of the young women were incensed that we were still considered the weaker gender. Using vivid descriptions, they expressed that anger. It was my first exposure to male bashing.
Undaunted, the professor asked the guys if they thought, given the strength of the women’s movement, chivalry was still alive. Did the guys ever come to life! Never before had they been as vocal or participatory. Even the ballplayers who typically did more sleeping than speaking in class, found their voices that day.
The consensus? The guys were mystified by girls’ misinterpretation of their well-intended acts of kindness. What was once called consideration was now called chauvinistic. Society, it seemed, was trying to persuade us that fathers and grandfathers completely missed the mark when they instilled in their sons and grandsons the ideal of treating a lady like a lady, with gentility and respect.
"Make up your minds, girls! What do ya’ll want from us?" Paul, the captain of the baseball team vented—his Hollywood good looks highlighted by his deep Southern drawl. His band of brothers on the team echoed his frustration and uncertainty. And, with the ideology of chivalry left largely unsolved, class was dismissed.
Spilling into the corridor after class, continuing the conversation, a group of us soon reached the first of several double doors. Leslie and I paused while Paul held the door for us to pass through.
Take some time together with your husband and discuss your ideas of chivalry. Sometimes our ideas and expectations are different than spouse’s—thus disappointment sets in. Discuss where your ideas of chivalry originated and on what they are based.
With the overstated, fun-loving sense of style he was known for, Paul held the door with his right our hand, and, tucking his left arm in at the waist, bowed, and said, "After you, ladies!"
Born out of our discussion, Leslie screamed at Paul, "Do you think I’m not capable of opening the door myself? Call it what you want, but I call it sexist! I do not need your help!" she ranted. Not surprisingly, Leslie’s outburst drew an instant crowd. Stripped of his dignity, Paul responded in the only way possible to save face amongst his peers. Thirty years later, his response holds as much impact for me today as it did then. In the best false bravado a nineteen-year-old guy could gather, Paul replied, "Which is exactly why I am holding it open for Judy. She," he overexaggerated, "is a lady!"
Without a doubt, it was Paul’s chivalry, rather than my social graces, that elevated him past the point of retaliation. In fact, it provided him with the poise to protect the honor of that moment. How often have you seen a guy react to a situation with language and -gestures that leave you feeling defiled? Fortunately, Paul did not succumb to anger. Because his character was stronger than his temper, his chivalry conveyed value, honor, and appreciation.
Discerning Our Divine Design
Paul’s act of chivalry was a defining moment in my life, and I was so grateful God had created me to wear garments of gentility and grace. What an incredible calling! It was also my first glimpse into how a misguided feminist movement seemed determined to erase femininity and chivalry from the heart of history and its women.
For further reading on what it means to be a biblical woman today, Mary Farrar’s Choices: For Women Who Long to Discover Life’s Best (Sisters, Ore.: Multnomah, 1994) is highly recommended.
The same movement angrily opposed the belief that men were created to be gentlemen and protectors (warriors) dressed in breastplates of courage, integrity, and honor. A sense of knowing also "whispered" to me that the concept of chivalry would wither until, someday, a cry was heard to resurrect it to its rightful place in society.
Fast-forward to the year 2005. The notion that women were created to wear garments of gentility and grace has been further eradicated over the years. Many of us have struggled to some degree or another to be considered equal to or better than men in a world seen as unfair. Judging effectiveness by outcome would suggest the struggling may have been in vain. Many women are still frustrated and even more men are confused. However, in that pursuit of equality, have we unwittingly stripped our husband of his breastplate—his armor—of honor?
Driving the point home again, we are technologically superior to the generations before us. Surveys indicate women are more ambitious, more independent, and more intelligent than ever before. Yet how wise is it to attempt to thwart God’s design for His own children? You and I should take caution not to let our blind ambition betray us.
Chelsea, a lovely young woman who is single, successful, and wise beyond her years, wonders if we have lost sight of who we are, who we were created to be, who men are, and who they were created to be. And, most importantly, who God is.
Part of the problem may be that we’ve grown disillusioned. In the humanness of life, our husband has disappointed us—which he will do again and again, just as we let him down. There will always be those "difficult" days in marriage. It doesn’t mean we should cancel the original wedding covenant and create a new-andimproved version seemingly better suited for today’s traditions. Though some try, they also fail. Marriage is sacred because God created its covenant. We cannot, with the mystery, magic, and wonder of God Himself, rewrite that which is written on the heart of mankind.
Is it possible that in our prideful quest to prove our we-can-doanything-men-can-do point, we are trying to redesign what the Designer made our husband’s heart to be?
The Joy of the Journey
Imagine planning a canoe trip on a river’s rapids recognized the world over for their wonder and magnificence. But you’re a pioneer at heart, always looking to forge ahead in new frontiers.
Men are great responders to positive encouragement. Show your husband that you are grateful for his chivalrous ways and wait to see how quickly he responds to your loving approval! (For the record, this "key" was submitted by one of the husbands who faithfully contributed to this book.)
You attempt to travel upstream—an inherent struggle against nature. You understand that when you set your course, and even though the current has always traveled in the same direction, you are determined to conquer the river! After all, you have what it takes. You’re educated, clever, and well-prepared, and you know the river . . . or so you thought. Instead, your journey upriver is marked by frustration, untold challenges, and a stinging sense of failure. The joy of the journey, as it was intended, is lost on you. The wonder, thrill, and exquisite beauty are never to be discovered.
If you’ve been trying to travel upstream, won’t you turn your "canoe" around? Doing so is not the mark of failure. Rather, it is the mark of intelligence and expresses your desire to experience the joy of the journey the way it was intended.
Postscript: David Dickey, the wonderful young man whose quote opens this chapter, has just asked for our daughter’s hand in marriage! (Bob knew in advance, as David first asked for his permission and blessing.) Preparing his proposal in the form of a PowerPoint presentation highlighting the blessings of biblical marriage, David knelt near Aubrey as she read it on his laptop. At the end of the presentation, red hearts popped up, followed by his marriage proposal. Taking just a few minutes to giggle, grin, jump on the couch, and twirl around the room, a normally reserved Aubrey finally responded with a resounding "Yes!" We look forward to adding David to the Carden clan in January 2006, when he and Aubrey begin their own covenant marriage.
Chivalry is to romance as a star-studded sky is to the night: both are God’s majestic handiwork—mysterious, miraculous, and magical.
Originially published July 2006.
Judy Carden lives in Winter Haven, Florida, with her husband, Bob. They have three children who are in various stages of undergraduate and graduate studies. Judy is delighted to be a wife, mother, daughter, sister, and friend. As the president and founder of Inspiration Etc., her mission is to encourage lives of purpose, passion, and excellence. "Crash" (as she is known on the slopes) and her husband are avid snow skiers, and also share a love for many other activities. As a writer and speaker, Judy continues to share her secrets for transforming the mundane marriage into a magical, vibrant image of God's plan for the contemporary covenant marriage.
Taken from What Husbands Need: Reaching His Heart and Reclaiming His Passion © 2006 by Judy Carden. Published by Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, MI. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.