Folding the Laundry: A Meditation on my Wife’s Birthday

Today is my beautiful wife’s, Stephanie Augusta Elliott’s, birthday. The more I think about her and all of her amazing qualities and virtues, I realize that I value her birthday infinitely more than mine. For, birthdays are a celebration of an individual’s life, and I would much rather celebrate my wife’s life than my own. For, God (and my family & friends for that matter) knows who I would be without her.

Stephanie is such an amazing wife, as she loves me despite my insecurities and downfalls, my lack of empathy, my occasional lapses in judgement, and even my hatred of folding laundry. She does not simply “suffer” through my problems, she calls them out and urges me to live in the grace of God. I manage my money better with her; I am more disciplined with her; I even wax the car now because of her. She has challenged me to “grow up” in so many ways. But, alas, folding the laundry still evades me, in all honesty, I don’t want to grow up in that area.

Continuing on, Stephanie is such a diligent worker. This year alone she finished her accelerated post-baccalaureate nursing program and graduated with her Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing, passed her NCLEX, and accepted a nursing job. She even did side cleaning jobs to make extra money to pay for our move across the country. Stephanie empathizes so effortlessly and is extremely caring. Steph and I were youth group leaders at our church this past year, and she constantly talked with her small group girls whenever and wherever she saw them. She had them over for spa nights, movie nights, cookie party nights. Stephanie legitimately invests in those with whom she is connected. Seeing her be this person, challenges me to equally be as diligent and empathetic. And, while Steph has her faults, as all humans do, no human has intimately shown me God’s grace more than her.

St. Clement of Alexandria once stated, “For with perfect propriety Scripture has said that woman is given by God as “an help” to man. It is evident, then, in my opinion, that she will charge herself with remedying, by good sense and persuasion, each of the annoyances that originate with her husband in domestic economy.” Perhaps it is just the editing and translating of Philip Schaff and Alexander Roberts, but I love that St. Clement uses the term annoyances. In marriage, men are given wives to refine our rough edges or as St. Clement puts it “annoyances.” Woman make men who they are. Women are the sanctifying tool of God for the life of mankind. Not only do they physically and literally give life to all of mankind, women metaphorically give life to mankind as they educate, develop, and refine mankind through marriage and motherhood. This is the true beauty of marriage as an institution; this is the beauty in which the triune God created man in his image, as specifically man & woman. Man is not truly man without woman.

All this to say, I am not fully who I am without you, Stephanie Augusta. Your Christ-centered love and righteous jealousy do not merely make me a better human, but rather they are the very dispensation of the triune God’s grace for my sanctification. I look forward to the many years ahead, to the children we will raise in God’s grace, and to the hope that one day I will enjoy folding the laundry.

“The marriage, then, that is consummated according to the word, is sanctified, if the union be under subjection to God, and be conducted “with a true heart, in full assurance of faith, having hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and the body washed with pure water, and holding the confession of hope; for He is faithful that promised.” And the happiness of marriage ought never to be estimated either by wealth or beauty, but by virtue.

St. Clement of Alexandria – Chapter XX: A Good Wife

Happiness Examined

Let me ask you a question: What is it in your life that if you lost it, you would think my life just went down in value? What would you have to lose to become unhappy? What is it? Your spouse? Your children? Your job? Your degree? Your money? Your house? Your religion? Your fame/popularity?

All humans have a common denominator; every man, woman, and child have something that unanimously binds them. All humans are united in this singular action. WHAT IS IT? Simply put, it is the pursuit of happiness. Every human, while living their life on earth, is searching for that one object that can bring them happiness, so we could say that the highest and common good for man on this earth is his pursuit of happiness.

For Christians and all people of faith, whether Mormon, Muslim, Jew, Scientologist, or Zoroastrian, the highest good is God. Deists would say that it is their duty to pursue God. God is their highest and common good. So this begs the question, if the highest good for man is the pursuit of happiness, but most men believe the highest good is God, how can these two statements be true? Simply, Because God is Happiness.

All men when they seek happiness do not seek happiness in things which are bad, do they? No, they seek that which they believe to be good, so it can also be said that man seeks goodness when he seeks happiness. This makes one realize that happiness and goodness are one in the same. A man seeking happiness is seeking goodness. If happiness is the same as goodness, and God is happiness, then it can be said that God is Goodness, which we know to be true. Therefore we can see that it is not wrong to say that God is Happiness. He is the summum bonum, “the highest good.”

Now, let’s return to the proposition that man seeks happiness through objects. If happiness is something that all men seek, can it be said that happiness can be found in a singular object?  Do all men find their happiness in wealth? What of fame? What of power? What of their career? What of their family? All men find happiness in different objects, so can it be said that man can find happiness in an object? If all men seek happiness, but all men seek it through different objects, can it be said that the happiness comes from the object? No, for the happiness is not in the objects, but in what we have stated earlier, God, who is Happiness and the Goodness itself.

So what does all this mean? What is the purpose of proving Happiness is found in God and not objects? Contentment, something that is not often preached in our day and age, but has been praised by all men whether Plato, Aristotle, Confucius, St. Paul, or Jesus Christ. Boethius, a fifth century lawyer and Christian thinker, wrote, “A man who knows how to find contentment can be happy in any and all circumstances.” (1) This is similar to what St. Paul said in Philippians 4, “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.” Every object found in our world is not constant. Every object is given to us and taken away from us by fortune or misfortune. Therefore it makes no logical sense to find happiness in things that are inconsistent, but in that which is the true constant, God.

One will always be happy and content if he realizes how he came into the world, and from whom he receives all things. Your happiness will be constant if you find it in the Happiness itself which we know to be God. If our happiness is to be found in God, we must be free of finding our happiness in objects. This is not to say we cannot enjoy objects, but it does mean that we have to give thanks for all objects. Every man for all of history has come from his mother’s womb naked and without any objects in his possession, and every man leaves this world the same way, without the things of this earth in his possession.

So What is it? What object would cause your life to lose value? What object would you have to lose to become unhappy? Whatever it is, remember that it can never satisfy your desire for happiness, for there is no happiness in an object that can be lost. Happiness can only be found in the one constant in all of history. God, who is Happiness and who is Goodness.

1. Boethius, The Consolation of Philosophy, Book II.