Fables and Fairy Tales

There is a long tradition of teaching life principles with short stories like Aesop’s fables, parables, and fairy tales.  I ran across one such pithy tale in a book by Mort Fertel, Marriage FitnessAmazon.  The story is one of love and sacrifice.  I was struck with how well it illustrated the concept of Selfless Serving, a cornerstone principle of our blog.  Here’s a brief summary of the tale.

There once was a brave knight in King Arthur’s court, Sir Gawain, who uncovered a plot to kill the King.  To save the King’s life, he had to agree to marry Ragnell, the unsightliest maid in the kingdom.  On their wedding night, she was amazed that he never showed revulsion or pity for her and she asked one thing of him.  She asked for only one kiss.                                                                                  

Photo by Gabor Palla

Photo by Gabor Palla

Sir Gawain gently kissed his bride.  When he opened his eyes the most beautiful women he had ever seen was lying next to him and he asked, “Where is my wife Ragnell?”  She replied, “I am your wife Ragnell and now I must tell you the rest of my story”.

Ragnell told him her evil jealous stepbrother had a sorceress put a curse on her, turning her into the ugliest woman in the kingdom and because he had treated her with love and not pity, she could give him a choice.  She could be beautiful by day so that all would see Sir Gawain was a lucky man married to a beautiful woman, or she could be beautiful by night when they were together.  Ugly by day, beautiful by night, or beautiful by day and ugly by night.  It was his choice.                                                        

Sir Gawain immediately declined to make that choice.  He said that she must choose and he would accept her decision.  And at that, the curse on Ragnell was lifted and she was once again beautiful by day and night.

In this simple tale, we are shown that we have choices.  Gawain gave up his right to choose and let his wife choose the best for her.  We can also choose to serve our own needs and wants, or we can choose to surrender our desires and selflessly give to our spouse.

Here’s a Date Night idea.  Take turns asking your spouse these questions:

  1. Do you feel that I am attentive enough to your needs?
  2. Do you think I take the time to really hear what’s important to you?
  3. What would you say are your four most important needs?
  4. What can I do to better meet those needs?

Remember marriage is a “We” relationship.  No one is perfect.  We can all improve and we need each other.  Help each other so that you can better serve and love one another.

Who knows, you may make a fairy tale marriage!

Conditional Watering

Previously we talked about our spouse being like a plant.  We each have the ability to properly “water” our spouse so that they can flourish.  We need to actively grow in our understanding of what unique needs our spouse has so that we can meet those needs.  We have been given the unique responsibility to provide for the nurturing of our spouse and therefore you must look every day at what you can do to help your spouse grow and mature, even if it means putting aside your own needs.

What if you withhold the “watering” that your spouse needs?  What if you are waiting on your spouse to “water” you first?  What if you adopt the attitude, “My needs aren’t being met.  Why should I pay attention to your needs when you aren’t paying attention to mine?”

This is what I call “Conditional Watering”.  In other words, I’ll only pay attention to your needs “IF” you first pay attention to mine.

Does this kind of selfish standoff ever work?  Doesn’t this reduce the relationship to a kind of blackmail:  I’ll give you what you want only if and when I get what I want?  That doesn’t sound like a foundation on which to build a soul mate relationship.

Why is it important to adopt the principle of unconditional love?  Think that through for a minute.  If we give to our spouse only if and when they give first to us, then we are telling our spouse that I’m only willing to give to you “IF” you give to me.  That’s not love.

That’s similar to a business contract.  I’ll give you some money if you give me a widget that I want.  No money, no widget.  Relationships do not work best in a contractual environment, because a contract is by nature self-seeking and self-protecting.  I’ll only give if I get something back.

We all want to be loved unconditionally, not because we do something, but because of who we are.  Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrated His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  God acted in love, not out of contractual obligation.  Moreover, God acted in love when we were utterly undeserving!   Our relationship with our spouse will grow and flourish if we begin by modeling that kind of selfless love to our spouse.  Husbands are commanded to love their wives as Christ loved the church.  They are commanded to love unconditionally, to love “no matter what!”  Just as God did.

In Luke 6:38 we are told, “Give and it will be given to you.”  The context of this verse is dealing with money, but I feel that the principle of “giving first” applies here as well.  We are to consider the needs of others first.  In the context of selfless serving we can create a foundation for a relationship that will last for years, grow in quality, and be the place where we experience unconditional love.  It’s not “I love you if,” but rather “I love you no matter what.”

Water often and always be willing to water first.