By Ross Engel –
One of my favorite movies of all time is Rocky. I love the entire series (Minus the disappointment that was Rocky V). In the first film, Rocky is training hard for his shot at the champ He lands himself a girlfriend, the lovely and slightly awkward Adrian, who later becomes his wife. When his trainer Mick finds out that he’s involved with a woman, he grumbles at Rocky and tells him point blank, “Women. Weaken. Legs!” At that point, Rocky reluctantly agrees not to “fool around” anymore with Adrian.
Rocky goes on to fight Apollo Creed, does well, and in the process, sets up the Rocky franchise for another seven films and counting. He listened to Mick and prevailed!
“Women. Weaken. Legs.”
In my sports career, I often heard such a saying from coaches. Every coach from junior high through college had their own way scaring my teammates and I away from women, who all apparently have the skill to “weaken legs.” If you wanted to perform your best at a sport, then dating was forbidden. Now, I’ll readily admit that this wasn’t a problem for me for the first seventeen years of my life. My dorky haircut, crooked teeth, and glasses did a fine job at keeping the girls away, so I had an abundance of time to focus on my sports.
When I got to seminary, I recall a now-departed professor who offered similar words of encouragement to the married guys to abstain from the joys of “husband and wife-ing” on Saturday nights so that we would be “better focused on the preaching task” on Sunday morning. His words were a bit more vivid and slightly more disturbing than I think the Jagged Mafia is ready for. But apparently, even in the preaching task, “women weaken legs.”
I do understand the rationale behind such encouragement. It is echoed by Paul in 1 Corinthians 7 when he writes, “Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. But this I say by way of concession, not of command.” Paul encourages husbands and wives to abstain from the act of one-fleshing for specific purposes, and it seem to me that the purpose is so that they would not be distracted from the things of our Lord—prayer and those precious Means of Grace that our Lord uses to strengthen us in our faith.
Notice that the text continues with the encouragement for husbands and wives to reconnect after a time of abstaining for the purpose of being stronger together in the face of temptation. I think there is more to the returning to be together than just combined strength in the face of temptation. I truly believe that husbands and wives do better, not only in their vocations of husband and wife, but in every other station and arena of life, when they are finding their strength and their joy in each other and their one-flesh union.
There have been many studies done on the positive and negative physiological and psychological effects of “husband and wife-ing,” but this isn’t a health sciences thesis. I’m more interested in the God-given stations and vocations that we have in life, and how, when husbands and wives participate in the marital union that God has blessed them with, they find greater enjoyment in life, strength for the day, and function more effectively in every area of their lives than when the physical aspect of their marriages is missing.
When I perform a wedding, part of the wedding address includes these words, “The union of husband and wife in heart, body, and mind is intended by God for the mutual companionship, help, and support that each person ought to receive from the other, both in prosperity and adversity. Marriage was also ordained so that man and woman may find delight in one another” (Lutheran Service Book pg. 275). When husbands and wives find delight in one another, they aren’t as likely to be living in fear or wonder about the status of their relationship. They are more likely to feel secure and so then are also freed up to do whatever tasks God has given them to do (both in the home and in their workplace).
Sometimes couples find themselves stuck in a habit of separation. Sure, they’re going through the day-to-day tasks of living under the same roof and even sleeping in the same bed, but the joy is missing. The intimacy and joy of delighting in one another isn’t there, so their life together suffers. Tempers flare. Trust or faithfulness can be questioned. The desire to help and serve each other dwindles. Even the tasks in one’s career can suffer when husbands and wives forget to take delight in one another.
So toss away the temptations to marginalize your marriage. Stop going through the motions as husband and wife. Don’t let the intimate bond that you have as a husband or a wife fall by the wayside. Don’t let the harried pace of life weaken the bond that God has united you in when you said “I do!” Go on a date. Plan a night to be together. Send flowers. Leave messages of love and intimacy. Talk. Make your spouse and the union you have with them a priority. Turn off the TV. Put down the stupid phone. Stop endlessly scrolling through Facebook. Get rid of all those distractions that have no point beyond their own continuance. They only get in the way of you being a husband to your wife or a wife to your husband. It’s simple, though not easy, but I guarantee that it is absolutely worth it.
St. Paul’s encouragement to the Corinthians was to deprive one another of the act of “husband and wife-ing” for only a short time, but then to come back together so that both man and woman, husband and wife would be strengthened and encouraged in their life together.
Taking delight in our spouses does not weaken our legs or anything else in our lives. So, husbands, love your wives and be willing to give your life for her. Wives, love your husbands. And husbands and wives, get to it! Take delight in one another! Find joy in all the tasks, great and small, that our Lord has given you to do.