John Eldredge popularized the notion that every man needs a beauty to rescue. Despite scathing critique from certain quarters of the Christian community, Wild At Heart remains popular with an average four star rating on Amazon.
The Wikipedia article notes that Eldredge calls men to masculinity without being egotistical,
He challenges Christian men to return to what he characterizes as authentic masculinity without resorting to a “macho man” mentality.(Wikipedia)
Let’s admit to the difficulty in distinguishing between masculinity and machismo. We too often see characters played or portrayed wherein a fellow’s behavior is excused for his abundant levels of testosterone, “He cannot help himself.” We are made to sympathize with the inevitable consequences of a lack of self-control. For a quick case study read some of the reactions to the recent youthful indiscretions out of Stubenville.
Maybe every man does not need a beauty to rescue. It is not that if we really saw someone in need we would refuse to help. Surely we would.
Eldredge’s assertion that every man needs a beauty to rescue requires a certain way men must understand their world – and the women in it. The idea that a man is incomplete until he rescues his beauty creates the necessity for distressed women. A man who subscribes to this premise must frame his potential spouse as a person needing rescue. Husbands who feel a sense of disequilibrium who buy into this notion will of necessity retell the story of their marriage as if he rescued her. What if the underlying story is the opposite? She rescued him!
Marriages seldom survive the cycle. Mutuality in super-hero marriages is oxymoronic. The trouble would remain even if the two took turns at heroism in their marriage. The energy to create crises, or to understand every encounter as a conflict in need of extraordinary solutions, is overwhelming. Eventually one or both will tire of the pretensions.
Human beings, husbands and wives, should steer clear of the impulse to magically rescue the other. We would be better served to share a life of love within the context of our own humanity. Kester Brewin, though he does not write on the subject of marriage, in his book After Magic, describes the very way our notions of the super-hero actually provide no place for love and its frequent companion sacrifice. He traces some of our favorite literary heroes and magical stories and illustrates the way our illusions often become the source of our trouble.
There is comfort in knowing husbands are not their wives super-heroes. It is an exhausting job that requires an alternative story to the long narrative of love and sacrifice between two human beings. You really are not her super-hero.
This post first appeared at @gospelhusbands. I thought I would repost the piece here for two reasons. Some readers here do not know I write weekly for Josh over at www.gospelhusbands.com. And, I met Kester Brewin in the flesh this weekend and heard him speak twice. Maybe he will find this something of a compliment to his work.