There was a time when husbands and fathers worked close to home, in their workshop or in the fields. Their work did not take them far from their families. The Industrial Revolution transformed civilization; it took fathers (and often mothers) away from the home and into cacophonous factories and the mines that fueled these factories.
These days, many men are able to work from home, and wives often have careers to support the homestead. The practical role of husbands and wives constantly change. So what do the husbands and fathers of today have in common with their predecessors? What about marriage has remained constant in the face of dramatic social change? “The whole aim of marriage” wrote GK Chesterton, “is to fight through and survive the instant when incompatibility becomes unquestionable. For a man and a woman, as such, are incompatible.” With these words, the ‘Apostle of Common Sense’ touched upon an enduring truth of marriage: it reconciles the irreconcilable. It repairs that which was destroyed by the Fall of Man, the harmony that was broken by the discordance of sin.
I cannot sum up in a few words the incredible mystery of husbandry, but I can relate an experience unique to a husband and father. Earlier this year, the child my wife was carrying stopped growing. The loss of my child was my life’s greatest grief. I still remember and pray for my child, but I have found it easier to move on than my wife. Miscarriage is crippling to the mother. I doubt she will ever stop grieving. She carried and nourished our child for a few short weeks, and she continued to hold his body in the womb until he passed.
Her loss is far more intimate than mine, but I see her through it. I was with her when she heard the awful news; I was there when she miscarried at home in the middle of the night; I am there for all the tears and agony. I do not feel or understand her sorrow. I cannot, and yet I am bound to it just as I am bound to her joys. By marriage, we have “become one flesh.” We no longer function as two solitary individuals, but as husband and wife. My wife and I are intrinsically different, incompatible to the core, but we have become intrinsic to each other’s lives until the very end.
- Ian Skemp