So, I’m not quite sure how Camille Griep got in my head, especially since I”ve not had the privilege of meeting her. [For a little background, see my previous post, Reflections on Letters to Zell and False Dichotomies] Alas, I seem to be somewhat characterized by Edmund, the husband of CeCi (Cinderella). Here’s a man so focused on not being the jerk guy who expects his wife to wait on him that he can’t listen to her about wanting to follow her passion for cooking.
“Cook dinner? Well, of course you can. But the great part is that you don’t have to. Remember when I told you you’d never have to wait on people again?” “Well, I just . . . See, I want to do something for us. For you.” And he held my face in his hands like he does sometimes and said, “Darling, toiling away in the kitchens is no longer your destiny. We rescued you from all that, remember.” “But it would be like a gift, Ed.” He stepped back. “I never want you to feel as if you owe something to me or that you serve me in some manner. I’m not that kind of guy. You know that, right?” “Of course, but I just—” “All you need to do is be your beautiful self. Besides, we couldn’t have everyone thinking I put you back in the kitchens, could we? Come now and see the gifts I’ve brought you.” (Camille Geip, Letters to Zell, pp. 29-30)
Great guy, right? He cares about CeCi. He also cares about how people perceive him and wants to ensure he’s not considered “that guy.” He so focused about being “right” that he can’t see past his nose and really listen. As I alluded to above, been there, done that and bought the T-Shirt. Of course, if you were to fully confront him, he would back-pedal, begin to listen and maybe even understand enough to support her cooking. But that’s the point – you have to break through the barrier. Opening up is hard enough to do without simultaneously breaking down walls. Stepping past our desire to appear right (and, sometimes, also, actually be right) is hard. Of course, marriage helps. One of its early lessons is that being “right” is a whole lot less important that you might have thought. (Lesson 2 is that “fixing things” may not always be your best, immediate “go to” option, but that’s another post.)
CeCi has difficulty opening up (let’s face it, she didn’t have the most open, warm home on the planet growing up) and every attempt to do so is unwittingly shut down by Edmund. So, how do we get past ourselves, be willing to be perceived by folks as the very thing we loathe and really listen? While most of what little progress I’ve made in this arena can be squarely laid at the feet of my patient wife, one main way to let go of our self-image is be reminded that we’re image-bearers of God. When we rest in the sure and certain knowledge of his love, realizing that he knows our foibles and sin better than we, and despite this loves us with an everlasting love, the importance of other people’s perceptions wane. Indeed, related to my previous post, when we push aside all else, including other people’s perceptions, to fiercely pursue our joy and happiness in Christ Jesus, our Pharisaical nature sloughs away. So, let them think I put you back in the kitchen. By God’s grace, I may arrive at the point where I’ll live with that vile perception to allow you to follow your passion. That, at least, is my hope and prayer.
There is another part to our focus on being “right.” Often, we’re really focused on not being in the wrong rather than any positive quality. I remember in my youth being disappointed by girls and young women who went after or stayed with the “wrong” guy. I was a nice guy; I wouldn’t take them for granted like those guys did (right) or even be verbally abusive. Why did they always seem interested in the “bad” guys? Then one day, it (ever so slowly) dawned on me that avoiding being bad wasn’t an alluring quality. You cannot be defined by what you’re not (or don’t want to be). In this case, not being “like them” is maybe an entry point, but isn’t a positive reason to be with someone (unless we’re seriously settling and that’s a whole different set of problems). This is not just true of people, but also of churches, clubs and other organizations. It’s not enough to not be “those wooly headed liberals” or “those hard-hearted right-wingers” or whatever. What is it that you positively stand for? I keep coming back to this truth – it is the positive passion for Christ that holds us through “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,” not the fact that we avoid some mistake the other church makes. Again, some of that “wrongness” avoidance may be minimal criteria, but not a sustaining raison d’être.
Who knew that a brilliant, albeit snarky, tale of fairy tales colliding with the modern world would have so many lessons?
[Banner photos courtesy of Camille Griep’s Facebook page]