Tuesday, December 3, 2013

High Priestess in the Temple of Love

I read the Twilight series a few years back, easily caught up in the angst and drama that reminded me so much of my secret dreams. Many of my “if only” feelings played out in an eerie alternate reality.

Though Meyer probably didn’t intend it, the series played a clear role in bringing to light a certain uncomfortable attitude I had brought into my view of love and marriage. A perspective encouraged by church leaders, self-help books, and many of my mentors and advisers through the years.

Few would ever describe it as I finally did. Much of the imagery they used was deceptive, a result of skewing the Bible toward a predefined relational appearance.

Wife and husband are representatives of the church and God. Wives submit … like the church. Husbands lead … like god. And there was a subliminal, unspoken theme through it all, “Love will provide all your needs, if you do it right. If not, then you probably messed up.”

And so it seemed clear that a primary purpose of life is to find a holy prince/princess and worship/love together as high priest/ess on the altar of unity. In this way you will find eternal salvation from loneliness and live an idyllic life of service to god while raising children to do the same.

Sacrifices are necessary to fulfill this role.

So I worshiped love and followed my husband along the path to perfect union. We were our own cult of two in the temple of marriage, where I hoped my self-sacrifice would bring blessing and great joy … somehow … even though the prince/priest failed to play his role properly. After all, God had designed this demonstration of his relationship to us from the beginning of the world, right? Even if only one of us fulfilled their part, the other would be saved as well.

If my ex had played his role, I would never have realized what I was doing. I would have blindly worshiped our relationship till death, with the church cheering alongside.

Edward contrasted the man I had married against that mythic ideal in a shocking way. His cloyingly sweet obsession revealed its shadow in X, an angry demand for the worshipful, dependent response Bella gave, and which I felt compelled to offer. I couldn’t help but think Bella might one day regret her eternal marriage as I closed the final book.

In reality my husband wanted me to become undamageable so he could have his way without the annoyance of guilt. He claimed his rough and lustful nature was just part of who he was, and to be expected. All women must handle such inborn male traits. Didn’t I know it is a woman’s responsibility to wrap herself around those cutting edges and make men safe for the rest of the world?

I was too eager to become unbreakable, but I didn’t have a vampire husband who could offer me that immortal fantasy. All the same, I often lamented my sensitivity, and managed to reach the point where I could no longer weep over my internal wounds, apologizing for my tendency to wince away. I developed a remarkable ability to forget abusive events, though I couldn’t suppress the associated emotional agony.

He didn’t have the grace to hope I would remain myself.

In the end our love was exposed as simple idolatry. All my years of obsessive effort to force my contribution to our relationship into the ideal mold was only worshiping a lie. I closed my eyes and wept, but my soul couldn’t help but see the intangible temple as the light finally entered.

I watched the curtain tear ... and there was no holy of holies beyond it … only a rotting relationship and the bloody altar of my abused heart. My righteous sacrificial robe was only a filthy rag. My treasured ornaments were barbed chains.

God was not my marriage and never could have been. Even if our relationship had been healthy we still were both imperfect. Marriage will always clearly demonstrate how deeply human we are; that is the beauty and the terror of relationship.