As a young starry-eyed bride, and even as a married woman of almost ten years, there is one verse in the Bible that speaks truth to me on a daily basis, but one that is also very easily dismissed and forgotten in the tangle of life’s mess. In Sunday’s episode of When Calls the Heart, this verse reverberated through my spirit once again when Rosemary humbly presents herself to Lee and says, “I don’t always listen. I don’t always give you the respect that I should.” How many times do I address the men in my life with the attitude of the humble Rosemary and how many times do I choose to relate to them in the attitude of the hot-headed, stubborn, and selfish Rosemary? I suppose, if I am honest with myself, this question is really more about my heart’s condition and not my voice.
The Apostle Paul ends the 5th chapter of Ephesians with “…each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” While my husband and I were engaged, we went through multiple Biblical studies on marriage, but the one that has had the most impact, and the one I most often share with any of my friends who are struggling in their own relationships is a study called Love and Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs, which he bases on the larger passage from Ephesians. His argument is quite simple: women need love and men need respect. He does not mean to say that women don’t need respect and that men don’t need love, just that how we understand those attitudes is different.
In Sunday’s episode “Courageous Hearts,” when Lee purchases a brand new car, Rosemary wants him to put her first, encourage her, understand her, and teach her to drive – right now. In so doing, he will demonstrate his love for her. His actions show love, and she feels loved. When he tries to put off her trip to purchase fabric for dressmaking in order to give her more practice driving, she feels unloved because he is not putting her needs first. Because she feels unloved, she reacts disrespectfully, deciding to stay with Elizabeth and ignoring Lee’s desire to ensure her safety. This act of disrespect causes Lee to respond in an unloving manner. And the cycle begins.
I have seen this cycle wash away relationships, dig unfillable holes, and drive wedges between the most loving couples. What begins as an argument, or even just a misunderstanding, escalates into a prideful determination to hurt the other more than we have been hurt. Our tender spirits just can’t take another moment of vulnerability. There’s the crux of the matter, though. Being vulnerable is the only way to get the relationship back.
You see, thanks to the honest and open friendship between Elizabeth and Rosemary, Rosie is able to learn some important truths about herself: Selfishness and stubbornness do not a happy marriage make. Shouldn’t we all have an Elizabeth in our lives? A friend who knows us better than we really want to admit, who speaks the truth in love? The book of Psalms exhorts us over and over again to seek wisdom. Through the wise counsel, of Abigail, Elizabeth learns to give her fears to God. Through the wise counsel of Elizabeth, two hurting and angry boys reconcile with their father and begin to open their hearts again. And through wise counsel, we can identify the unloving or disrespectful attitudes that are splintering our own relationships. We must make ourselves vulnerable within those relationships, so that we can accept the counsel and apply it as it is meant.
Then, just as Rosemary heeds Elizabeth’s words and approaches Lee in humble repentance, we must do the same. Instead of holding fast to her anger, instead of succumbing to stinging pride, Rosemary swallows her hurt and agrees to respect Lee’s decision. She speaks to him in love and humility, acknowledging her failings. Her vulnerability in that moment is the highlight of the episode for me. It is not often that we see restoration, forgiveness, and mutual respect in today’s media. But it is vital to our friendships, family relationships, and marriages.
I believe I will let my new motto be, “I don’t always listen. I don’t always give you the respect that I should.” Imagine a world in which we truly listen to each other, not just the words but the heart behind them. Imagine truly respecting the person across the dinner table from you, not because he has earned it but simply because he is part of God’s creation. While it takes a humble and vulnerable heart to make such an attitude a reality, perhaps a courageous heart is one that does just that.