Of Steak, Hamburger, and a Sidelong Glance at the Gospel
Two women. Two days. But the story is the same. Somehow it’s always the same.
The first I met one day at the pregnancy resource center where I volunteer. She sat before me, quiet, beautiful, embarrassed. Tears fell from eyes that, Eve-like were open to a truth she'd rather forget. She had known better. Of course she had. But knowing isn't believing, and late one night, as the moon shone cold on her solitude, she gave in; her flesh the price of a few moments' togetherness.
It's the classic story really. Lonely girl meets guy. Guy lays out the lines of some song he's heard. Girl gives in. And so it goes.
It's a classic story and yet somehow it never loses its tragedy. More than anything else in the world, she wanted love—a love that lives, a love that will not leave, a love that would never, ever let her go.
But he had.
And now she was left with the faded scraps of her own self-worth, and the nine-month expectation of one thing more. Trouble is, self-worth makes a threadbare wrap for a newborn.
Anyway, her sorrow, her longing touched a chord deep within my heart. Though different perhaps, as to outward circumstances, something within resonated and I knew that the central thing in the matter was the same. It’s the pain of non-personhood, of being overlooked, of being forgotten. It’s the junior high sting of knowing your name is conspicuously absent from the list—of seeing that others know it too – and the dread of knowing that they'll ask.
The truth was that he had left her. Just like the others before him. All of them. Gone. “Gone without a backward glance,” as they say. (At least, I think that’s what they say.) The truth lies more in the way of an empty beer can thrown in her direction, and something about being “a piece of trash”—also thrown in her direction.
But then, clichés are always more comfortable. A sort of refuge from the truth. An excuse to not think too deeply about the way things really are. The sun rises and then it sets. We all laugh and so it goes.
Another day, another woman, another threadbare cloak of respectability. This time it was a dear friend of mine. We had stumbled on a random group of ladies casually debating the latest round of Hollywood fare when, unsurprisingly, the twin subjects of Christian Grey and Magic Mike came up in conversation. Then somebody said it and the heads bobbed in unison, “Why go for hamburger when I have steak at home?”
Just then, I noticed my friend grow silent. I understood. The truth is that when she opens her front door tonight she’ll be confronted with the same stale lump of hamburger and that old familiar pain. The pain of non-personhood, of being overlooked, of being forgotten. The pain of knowing her image is obviously absent from her husband’s heart—the pain of seeing that others know it too – and the dread of knowing that they’ll ask.
Sure, she was married. She wasn’t (ahem) “sleeping around” like the other girl. She honored her God and her vows and her husband but it hadn’t changed the fact that a proverbial pound of hamburger and a lump of cold ache were her portions in life. But then, clichés that concern cuts of steak and hamburger never comprehend that kind of pain. That’s what makes them comfortable. A sort of refuge from the truth. An excuse to not think too deeply about the way things really are.
The sun rises and then it sets. We all laugh and so it goes.
But wait. Is it enough? I mean, really enough? Is it really enough for us to stand back and boast about the glories of a godly marriage? How a lifetime with a great guy exceeds anything that could be bought at the box office or the bookstore? Sure, it makes us feel good, and it certainly builds the husbands involved. But isn’t boasting really just a backward way of saying, “I don’t need smut because I've got the "steak" that's infinitely better”? And isn’t that really just a backward way of saying, “I don’t really need the Cross and the God who redeems us all”? (Jeremiah 9:23-24)
It’s sad really. If my friend remains faithful to a Biblical standard of purity, she has our boasting to anticipate. If she turns to the romance novels to (albeit sinfully) fill the void, she’ll receive our censure. It’s an odd circumstance when you think about it; people don’t typically pity the man who steals for fun, though they do have compassion on the starving man. (Proverbs 6:30–31) Can we not compassionately relate to ladies who are struggling to be content with hamburger? (Philippians 4:11)
(And while I’m being bold and cantankerous and ever so protective: do we really think a great many of these ladies don’t know the difference between “steak” and “hamburger”? My friend knows it. So do countless others—godly women stranded somewhere between the spirit and the flesh—willing to do right but weakened with desire.)
I don’t know. Maybe I’m discouraged tonight. All I can see are the eyes of my friend. All I hear is her silence, and it moves me to write. I suppose in the end, I want to breathe encouragement into the heart of my friend. Into the lives of those like her. I want to say—
You are loved because HE has set His love upon you. You are chosen, royal, and holy; His very own possession (1 Peter 2:9). You are dearly beloved (Colossians 3:12) and bought with an incomprehensible price (1 Corinthians 6:20).
I want to say—you were delivered from the domain of darkness and transferred to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:9–14)… seek the things that are above, where Christ is... Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth…your life is hidden with Christ in God… Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry… In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away… seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its Creator… And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts… And be thankful. Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another… with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. Colossians 3:1–17 (ESV)
I want to say that your worth is hidden away with Christ; that you are not defined by the ring upon your hand, but by the nail print in His. Marriage is an illustration of the greatest love but it is not the fullness (Colossians 3:32). Be careful of making it the ultimate test of your worth.
I could say all of that. I could.
Or I could fall back on those old clichés. Something to make me comfortable. A sort of refuge from the truth. An excuse to not think too deeply about the way things really are. Then we could all laugh.
And so it goes.