Trading Spouses - 'The Story'

This week, I want to begin by sharing one of my favorite stories of all time. (Note, this story comes in a number of versions. This one is slightly different from the one I told on Sunday morning).

Once upon a time, long, long ago, King Arthur was riding with Sir Gawain when they came to the rescue of a damsel in distress. To free the lady King Arthur fought a black knight with supernatural powers. And he lost. He was no match for the knight’s black magic. The black knight spared Arthur’s life only at the behest of the witch he served. The witch made a bargain with Arthur: “Answer this question or forfeit your life in a year. What do women want most?”

What do women want most? Sir Gawain and Arthur puzzled over the question as they returned to Camelot. Arthur and Gawain questioned the ladies at court, their maids, the women of neighboring towns, the countryside, and all the wisest people they could gather. Every one had a different answer: Money. Love. Power. Beauty. Wealth. Youth. Castles. Servants. Children.

The year passed without bringing Arthur any closer to answering the riddle. And so it was with heavy heart that Arthur and Gawain returned to meet death at the castle of the black knight, one year after the riddle was posed. Along their journey a repulsive old hag stepped into their path and wouldn’t let them pass. This loathsome lady was the most revolting creature either had ever seen: she farted and belched; she had a face spotted with hairy moles, broken brown teeth, bloodshot watery eyes, matted, greasy hair that had never been washed, and she had a short and twisted body with lumps and bulges in alarming places. She reeked.

“I have the answer you seek,” she hissed. “Who are you?” Gawain queried, “What answer?”

“What women want. I am Ragnell, and I will save the king’s life for a price.”

“If your answer is true, you can have anything you wish,” Arthur promised.

“Women want sovereignty over themselves. They want to make their own decisions,” Ragnell snorted. “And my price is marriage to a knight of your court!”

Arthur sickened by this trick. To marry one of his men to this hideous thing! But he was caught in his promise. “I’ll marry you,” said Gawain. “If Arthur lives, you will be my bride.”

Of course Arthur lived. The answer was true. Gawain, true to his word, married the foul Ragnell. The wedding party watched with horror all through the wedding feast. Everyone pitied poor Gawain.

Poor, gallant Gawain climbed the steps to his wedding chamber. He shuddered to contemplate touching, much less coupling, with this monstrous woman. And there she was, leering at his as he entered the room. “Embrace me, husband!”

And Gawain, ever true to his word, took the bride into his arms. He discovered he was holding a gloriously beautiful young woman.

“Who are you?” Gawain asked as he glanced around the room for his wife.

“I am your wife,” she smiled. “I was cursed to be as you knew me until I could win a true knight in marriage. You can have me as I am either by night or by day, but I must return to my hag form at those other times. Do you prefer me as I am at night, when I am in your arms? Or do you choose me to be beautiful by day, when I will be seen by your friends?”

Gawain thought for a long time. At last he replied, ““This is your life. This should be your choice. You decide.” And in that moment the spell was broken. His gift of her sovereignty granted her complete freedom from the curse and the return of her natural beauty.

As we begin this series on Trading Spouses, this seems an appropriate place to begin. It is this story that we'll return to but today I want you to just set with it.

As we read Paul's words to the Ephesian church, I hope you'll see that Trading Spouses isn't about Trading in Our Spouse BUT to Trading in the Spouse We Are. More to the point, trading in the Person who we are. Because when we look at this passage, as with a great many passages, there is often a double meaning. The marriage relationship is compared to the relationship with Jesus and the Church.

I think there are things that we can all remember about the needs of others, the differences between men and women, that can strengthen our relationships. Often we joke about men and tools and women and shopping. But the real change begins within us – when we work on being the man of God or the woman of God intended us to be. It is soooo much easier to point fingers at another and see it is their fault. Marriage and family provides us the “intense workshop of relationship building” that ultimately effects all other relationships.

What each of us desire, both men and women, is our sovereignty – our free will. In a sense Paul confirms that here. Don't try to point those fingers at anyone other than yourself – Husbands and Wives – be the spouse YOUR SPOUSE NEEDS!

But hidden under this are the words of Paul... “There is a deep secret truth revealed in this scripture, which I understand as applying to Christ and the church. (v 32).” And I think, if we miss this secret truth we miss the vital piece. Just a few verses before, in verse 25 Paul says... “ Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her...”

For years, God has been referred to as “the Sovereign God” and it is in Jesus Christ we see this shown most clearly. At creation, a sovereign God gave us our sovereignty – the freedom to choose his way or our own. Love is always a choice. And in Jesus Christ – God reminded us and showed us, just how much he loves us. And it seems to me here we catch a glimpse of the mystery – God has given you and me the choice – forever he will allow us the freedom, the freedom of sovereign.

So even as we speak about spouses, we are in fact speaking more about who we are as men and women... and then again who we are becoming, not just as A church but The Church – the Bride of Jesus Christ. The next two weeks we'll look more specifically at Husbands and then Wives – and Trading In who we are for who we are CALLED TO BE – in more ways than one.

I want to invite you this week to read the book of Ephesians. There are 6 chapters, so you can read 1 a day. Ask Jesus to show you each day something new about yourself and remember this quote:`

"If the grass looks greener on the other side of the fence, it's because they take better care of it."  ~Cecil Selig You have been given sovereignty - going after God will be your choice.


Dan said...

Great post, Ken. Making room in our lives for another sovereign individual whom we can't control (or at least shouldn't), is tough work, but obviously it's also wonderfully rewarding. And in order to allow our spouses to be who they are called to be, we also have to have a solid level of trust.

The only person I can control is me. All I can do is be who I'm called to be, and then allow the space for my loved ones to do the same. And if I have someone by my side who encourages me to fully become the person I'm called to be, that makes the journey richer; hopefully I can do that for them in return.

Jedi Pastor Ken said...

Thanks Dan and great thoughts!

I am at a place of truly wrestling with that mystery Paul talks about. The whole idea of recognizing the sovereignty of others has come to a place of truly facing God as the sovereign One. I'm still trying to work those thoughts into something I can post...I don't think the web is quite ready for my journal thoughts! ;)

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