The last chapter of our February book, Hallowed Be This House: Finding Signs of Heaven in Your Home, The Bedroom. Thomas Howard again emphasizes the constant theme, “My life for yours.”
As a married woman, mother of 7, my thoughts on the bedroom will look differently than Emily’s and I would hope that Miss Emily would please share all her wonderful thoughts with us in the comments or in a post I can link to. (Yeah! Emily took the bait and wrote about the bedroom from a single woman’s perspective.)
This total self giving, or at least the supposed self giving, can take many forms in the bedroom. Howard begins with talk of conception and comes full circle to talk of death. Both are a laying down of life…or a beginning of a new life. And so the bedroom is rightly called a place of beginnings and ends.
This total giving of self, hhmmm…How many times does our gift of self dissipate before the door even shuts behind us? And our husband, well, he’s left with the crumbs…Oh, and we want the lights out even though we’re already covered by an old gym shirt and years of insecurity?
And when we do have the lights on, what do they reveal? Is our bedroom junk drawer of the house? Laundry scattered, toys strewed, papers stacked here and there and a night stand with a tower of dusty books reaching higher and higher as if infused with the same magic Jack and his infamous beanstalk were?
The saying goes the kitchen is the heart of the home. I contend the bedroom is the heart of the family. If there is discord in the bedroom…there will be discord in the family.
Right before Leo was born I started making my bed regularly, turning on some soft Gregorian Chant and using a candle warmer to set the mood for our bedroom. Now, Chris could care less about any of the stuff. But for me, it made my bedroom a sanctuary. Now, since Leo’s birth, my bed is not made regularly, some days I forget the music or candle warmer…and the bedroom loses its oasis like qualities; it has just become another room in the house. It is not set apart as a mysterious sacred space in which the whole family benefits.
And your bedroom is a sacred space. It is in the bedroom we become co-creators with God. (Without being vulgar, I realize there are other rooms in the house in which intimacy can be achieved.) The bedroom most clearly express the reoccurring theme of laying our life for another in two very distinct ways.
And in the rite of conception, we can see, as we have seen in a dozen other exchanges and acts around the house, the whole story in one little act. Here, life is “laid down” quite dramatically, in order that the life of love may be born anew, and that literal new life may come into being. The exactness of the picture is astonishing, not to say amusing: both bodies laid down, like the corn of wheat; both laid open, like the corn of wheat. Vulnerability, defenselessness, giving and receiving–nay, giving and receiving wholly indistinguishable from each other, for who will keep tally in these blissful exchanges to make sure the score is even? My life laid down for you; our two lives laid down, becoming one life, and in this laying down and union, lo, the springing forth of new life. My service to you turning out to be joy. Your life laid down for me turning out to be joy. Your acceptance of me being itself your gift to me.
Hallowed Be This House: Finding Signs of Heaven in Your Home
And the two distinct ways our life is laid down? One, when we lay down our life, we do so with the least shred of pride. There is not time to think of self, only of the one whom we are willing to sacrifice our very life for. And yet how often do we shun a compliment from our husband? Dress quietly behind the bathroom door or wait until it’s dark? How often do we never fully relax and enjoy the most intimate of moments–two bodies becoming one? And so we have not truly laid our life down…we’ve covered it in thick blankets of wool and darkness. We’ve kept a part of ourselves hidden so as not to be hurt, laughed at or scorned. We assessed the risk and figured it to be of too great a price. The sacrifice of our life has not been made. We kept a part of ourselves back.
We may not be willing to splay ourselves in front of the body we vowed unity, but we push ourselves wide open to bring forth a new life…the second way we lay our life down in the bedroom. Each new soul that enters a family brings its own special set of graces…it also demands its own special set of sacrifices. This pregnancy may demand the physical sacrifice of the very food we eat; nine months permeated with bouts or days or even months of nausea. And yet another pregnancy may seemingly demand very little but the colicky baby more than makes up for the nine months of expectant bliss.
We easily see the need a child has for us to sacrifice all: sleep, comfort, self…in order to care for the defenseless. But what about our husbands? They have the same need of us. They need our complete sacrifice as well. And they are just as defenseless. Just as defenseless as we are when we slip under the sheet in the skin we came into the word. The baby and the grown man, both vulnerable in the skin God gave ‘em. Our men are at their most vulnerable and they cry…only silently. They want to be completely accepted. They want to be totally needed. They want unconditional love. We do not deny these things to a creamy white skinned baby, why deny them to the grown man?
Well, “He can hurt me like a baby can’t,” we may contend. And yet we carry that same power. Our wicked tongues compare them or tear them down as they lay naked next to us. Or our own bodies stiffen as they approach. The “closed” sign slapped in their face.
Each sacrifice, one of laying with our man and one of laying down to bring forth man–none the more sacred than the other. The process of bringing new life into the world emanates from the sacrifice of being totally known. It is no coincidence the Bible says “Adam knew his wife.” And that one little word brings me back to my initial thought…the bedroom is the heart of the family. This “knowledge” must be rightly ordered or the family will suffer various forms of disorder.
I almost hate to bring this up…Years ago when I would watch Dr Phil, he said something one time that made so much sense. I will paraphrase to make it less crude. Basically, if things are going fine in the bedroom, that part of your marriage equals about 10%. If things are going poorly, it’s about 90%.
The bedroom is the heart of the family.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic, this chapter on the bedroom. I’m sorry this post was so late in coming up, I couldn’t quite get the words together. Hopefully I did now.