A Birkenhead Breakfast

A Birkenhead Breakfast

             This morning, we enjoyed a breakfast of turkey sausage and baked oatmeal, which is made with coconut, raisins, cinnamon, and chocolate chips, so there are seldom any leftovers. After we thanked God for our food and other things, I began to serve the oatmeal, starting with my wife, and then the youngest child and my daughter, next my older boys, and finally myself. I sensed a teachable moment, so I asked my children why I served this way, and where the phrase “Women and children first” came from. They didn’t know; do you?

Somewhere in the 1800’s I (I think), a ship named the Birkenhead set sail with many families on board, but before it landed, it had to be abandoned in shark-infested waters. All the men on board made sure the women and children were safely in the lifeboats before they thought of themselves. Many died, but their story continues to inspire the truest kind of manhood. Check out the book, “The Birkenhead Drill” for more details. It was there that the phrase “Women and children first” became known, but the idea behind it is ancient.

In the garden of Eden, we see the woman in danger, the enemy attacking, and the man in the place of the hero for the first time. Adam refuses to act, the woman is deceived, and the serpent has a temporary triumph. And ever since, men struggle with fear of failure and laziness, and women struggle to believe in God’s goodness and trust their men. But God promises a Savior, the ultimate man and hero, to rescue the woman and her offspring, the women and children. These offspring are so important to God that they are first in His mind and heart. This was the reason the enemy targeted them; he knew God loved them, and he hoped to get back at God in the first example of passive-aggressive dysfunction.

Throughout Scripture and history, song and story, this theme, the Divine Romance, appears over and over and over. Most country music, pop music, rock-and-roll music, and praise and worship music echoes the wanting, the rescue, the estrangement, or the fulfillment of some part of The Romance. Biology, even evolution theory, cannot escape the requirement of both parties cooperating, even enjoying and sacrificing to create and protect offspring.

At the table, I began to tell my children these things, and my wife joined in. We became a picture of the manhood and femininity we tried to explain. We reminded our children of Christ’s example, how He laid down His life for us, how no one can show greater love than to lay down his life for his friends, how while were even sinners, Christ died for us. As the Man in the Divine Romance, He fulfilled the role of redeemer and defender for us, and continues to be our provider, comforter, protector, and guide. He leads and gives Himself up for us, as men were made to do after Him, and we follow, as He calls His Church to do. Just as Christ is the Man, so we are His Bride, and fulfill the role of the Woman in the Romance, the responder, the follower, the care-taker of the young in the faith. We are to direct the family of Christ to follow Christ, to imitate Him and do what pleases Him. And every marriage since is an opportunity to show the world Christ’s worthiness and faithfulness, and His Bride that trusts Him and finds identity and security in Him.

Do you begin to see why our enemy attacks marriage so vehemently and relentlessly? Every form of media portrays marriage mostly as something to ridicule, a set of old-fashioned rules to break free from, a ball and chain with no adventure or growth. Meanwhile, every door held for a woman, every family that serves the youngest first, every father who leads and every mother who follows him shines a breath-taking contrast of truth and beauty for all the world to see. And the best the enemy has to offer are worthless traps of misery by comparison.

This is why we sacrifice for our family. This is why we make our sons hold the chair for their Mother, and why we train our daughter to invite, rather than command, her brothers. Men lead, and women let them. Moms protect the children, and Dads protect the family. Dads provide a home for protection from the elements and the world, and Moms make it a nice looking, nice smelling, comforting place with good food. We train our children obey their mother. We train our children show respect to their father.

This system is so natural and works so well in every culture the world over that it’s astounding how hard our current culture tries to fight against it. We seem to think that our genes, our desires, our needs, our history, our God, and our enemy have nothing to do with it, as if we were characters in our own video game that no one else plays or watches. We seem to think ultimate satisfaction, adventurous living, and knowing who we were meant to be are just too good to be true. We couldn’t be more wrong.

Remember, God didn’t put men in the leader’s role because they deserved it, nor did He put women in the role of captivating beauty because they always looked the part. God puts us in the place we need to be so that the trials we face will bring out the spectacular in us. Men become better at being men when forced to be responsible for someone else. Women become stronger, softer, braver, and more beautiful when they are forced to trust someone to be responsible for them. God did this on purpose…because He plans for the marriage between a weak man made strong, and a hurt woman made beautiful to reveal a loving, powerful God saving, restoring, leading, and providing for a loving Church that is so connected to Him, focused on His desires, full of Him that He spills out and blesses those around her.

We are to love our wives; we are to respect our husbands. God isn’t being arbitrary when He admonishes us about these things in the Scriptures. He is using us, allowing us, to be the powerful weapon of vengeance on His enemy and ours. Our right relationships with Him and each other overcome the lies of the enemy, set captives free, and bring truth, beauty, and strength to a world in desperate need of rescue.

When I sat down to breakfast today, I wasn’t thinking of all this. I was just hungry. But because my parents knew these things and trained me by example, because my God came for me and I answered His call, because my wife and I decided to live a Godly marriage, God gave our kids get a lot more than sausage and oatmeal at the table; He gave them an identity, a crucial role in the most important story ever. Pass the milk and the Bible, please; I want more of what’s good for me and my family.

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