“Do you think Kavanaugh’s wife knows those terrible things about his past?” the college girl at the table behind says to her study partner.
I looked over at them and outed myself as an eavesdropper:
“I’m sure she knows even worse things about him. She’s married to him after all.”
While the truth behind the allegations against Brett Kavanaugh yet eludes us, this much we can know for certain. His wife knows far worse things about her husband than any of the allegations against him.
All wives do of their husbands.
All husbands do of their wives.
There’s a trashy, cringe-worthy story in the Bible about an intense romance and an even more intense deception. In fact, I love to read it at weddings because I think it’s the story of every romance that results in rings and vows. Leave it up me and I’ll choose 1 Corinthians 13, with its pablum about love being patient and kind, never out of ten times. Leave it up to me and the story I’ll choose is the story of Jacob and Rachel (and Leah!) in the Book of Genesis. In the tradition of Christ at Cana, Jacob probably has a few drinks more than he should at his wedding to Rachel, and then he has a few more. Then, drunk, Jacob stumbles into bed.
The morning after:
Jacob rolls over in bed. Lying next to him is not Rachel but Laban’s other daughter, Leah, the less lovely, maybe less love-able, and certainly the one harder for Jacob to love.
Jacob’s is the story of every marriage.
One day you wake up, and you expect to find Rachel, the person for whom you fell, and you instead discover Leah, someone unfamiliar and maybe disappointing to you.
Jacob’s is the story of every marriage.
Like Jacob, we marry Rachel and Leah.
Like Jacob, one day you wake up and you realize you married not only your spouse’s best self but their unlovely, unloveable self too.
You married the person whom you deeply admire, and the person with whom you will often be deeply ashamed.
You married the person whose admirable qualities shine in the light, and the one who hides their flaws and foibles in the darkness. And they married you.
All of us bring an unlovely, and maybe, to our mate, even unloveable, Leah to the marriage bed. Married or not, adults and kids, we’re all simultaneously at once Rachel and Leah.
Give it time, your marriage will cast your shadow self out into the light. All the old arrangements of bed and board then will have to be rethought or thrown out altogether. Every relationship is fraught and folly because we never fully understand another person. Every person brings to the relationship both a lovely and loved “Rachel” as well as an unlovely and possibly unloveable “Leah.”
The philosopher Alain de Botton insists in The Course of Love that “Expectations are the enemies of love.” Expectations are the enemies of love, de Botton says, because expectations, born as they are by infatuation and passion, pop songs and princess weddings, overlook one central fact about people in general.
Everyone has something substantially wrong with them once they become fully known.
Every spouse sure enough knows what the Church already learned long ago. We remain, simultaneously so, Rachel and Leah. We are always the self we present and its shadow, sinner and saint. Were it otherwise, we wouldn’t need God’s grace.
Fortunately (or, depending on your point of view, offensively), the Gospel isn’t about what we in our secret selves do. The gospel is about what’s declared of you.
The reality is that you’re already and simultaneously several someone elses and all of them, in Christ, are loved and justified. The gospel isn’t about becoming. There’s no becoming necessary. The gospel is the message: You are now, already and forever, holy and righteous.
You are a saint though you be a sinner. You’re Rachel and Leah both, at the same time.
And at the same, both of the yous you call you are loved without condition.
This means the trick, when it comes to relationships, is to learn how to love the people in your life, their Rachel and their Leah, according to that same grace. It’s only when you’ve seen all that is unloveable in another, yet choose to love them anyway that you’ve loved in the way Christ loves us— Christ, who, as St. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians, does not count our trespasses against us but became all of our wrongdoing so that we might become his righteousness.
Who knows what the ongoing investigation into Dr. Blasey Ford’s allegations against Judge Kavanaugh, but every Christian knows what every spouse already knows: the human heart— his in particular— is a more complicated ying/yang of sinfulness and sanctity than our black and white headlines can afford.
The way Kavanaugh’s story gets parsed in our partisan, politicized culture we’re led to believe— naively so— that he’s either an upstanding choir boy or a hypocritical villain. Only his wife knows that, to some still not yet known extent, he’s both.
As, to some extent or another, are we all.