Wayne Bennett is one of the most successful coaches in rugby league history. For over a decade he coached the “Brisbane Bronco’s” (a club side in the Australian rugby league competition). Bennett is revered by players, notoriously difficult for journalists, and widely admired and respected. In 2002 he released a book Don’t Die With the Music In You. Present at the launch were News Limited Director, Lachlan Murdoch, Australian cricket captain Steve Waugh, and a host of rugby league identities and corporate heavyweights. Yet when speaking of his greatest success in life he turned not to his achievements in football but to his home life. Bennett paid tribute to his wife Trish, saying “One of the greatest achievements is to be able to stay married to her, and I hope for the rest of my life that will remain my greatest achievement. It is the thing I want more than anything else. I want the relationship to be there forever and the relationship with my family to be there forever.”
Source: reported in The Sydney Morning Herald May 8, 2002
Marjorie William’s children’s story book, The Velveteen Rabbit tells the story of a stuffed toy rabbit given to a young boy as a Christmas present. The velveteen rabbit lives in the nursery with all the other toys, waiting for the day when the boy will choose him as a playmate.
In time, the shy Rabbit befriends the tattered Skin Horse, the wisest resident of the nursery, who reveals the goal of all nursery toys: to be made “real” through the love of a human. One night we get to overhear their conversation..
‘What is REAL?’ asked the Rabbit one day, as they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, just before Nana came in to tidy up the room. ‘Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?’
‘Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’
‘Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit.
‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real, you don’t mind being hurt.’
‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’
‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off; and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real, you can’t be ugly except to people who don’t understand.’
Source: Quote from Marjorie Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit.
An African tribal legend tells of a village where the cows stopped producing as much milk as normal. Puzzled by this a young man of the tribe volunteered to stay up all night to discover what was happening. He hid behind a bush and waited for many hours, til finally, a beautiful young woman carrying a large bucket rode a moonbeam from heaven to earth. She milked the cows, filled her bucket, and headed back up into the sky.
Astonished by this the young man returned the next night, but this time he had set a trap and caught the young woman. He demanded to know who she was, and the young woman replied that she was a Sky Maiden, part of a tribe that lived in the sky and had no food of their own. It was her job to find food and take it back to her tribe. She pleaded to be set free, promising to do anything the young man asked. His condition was this – he would let the young woman go only if she agreed to marry him. The Sky Maiden agreed. She returned home and three days later came back for the wedding. She carried a large box with her and said, “I will be your wife and make you happy, but you must promise never to look inside this box.”
For many weeks the couple were very happy together, but one day, while his new wife was out, curiosity got the better of the young man and he looked inside the box. To his surprise he discovered it had nothing inside! When the Sky Woman returned home her husband’s face instantly betrayed that he had looked inside the box. “You looked inside the box didn’t you?”
“Yes” replied the young man, “but it was empty. What’s so secret about an empty box?”
The Sky Woman was devastated. A tear trickled down her cheek. “I’m sorry, but I can’t live with you any longer” she said.
“Why? Why?” cried the young man. “what’s so terrible about my peeking into an empty box?”
“I’m not leaving because you opened the box” said the young woman. “I’m leaving because you said it was empty. It wasn’t empty. It was full of sky, full of the light and air and smells of my parent’s home. When I went back to the Sky Village that one last time before we married I filled that box with everything that was precious to me. How can I be your wife when what is most precious to me is emptiness to you?”
Source: Told in H Kushner, Who Needs God (Fireside, 1989)
One of the most talked about films of 1999 was Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut, starring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman. It was Stanley Kubrick’s final film, and one in which he explores the nature of sexuality, desire and intimacy. It’s also very explicit.
Tom Cruise plays a successful young doctor, Bill Harford and Kidman plays his wife, Alice. They’ve been married nine years, have a daughter, have money, and seemingly have it all.
Then one night at a party both engage in a bit of flirtation. When they get home Alice reveals that she once had a very powerful sexual fantasy about a man she saw in a hotel. She’d never met the man before, she never acted on the fantasy, but it seemed so powerful she had actually imagined herself leaving Bill to pursue it. Bill is shocked, and throughout the rest of the film we find himself giving in to his own desires. He has an encounter with a prostitute, and as he spirals further and further into a web of depravity, he ends up at an invitation-only orgy that exposes him to the extremes of sexual desire and almost gets him killed.
Paralleling Bill’s sexual journey is the declining intimacy in his marriage. The sexual tension and deceit push Bill and Alice further apart, until towards the end of the movie they both realise just how destructive this sexual web has been, how close they’ve come to surrendering all that is good in their relationship. The film closes with an act of forgiveness in which Alice tells Bill that she loves him and that they need to make love.
Critics debate exactly what Kubrick was trying to say in the movie, but I think that one of the messages is the power of sexual desire to be constructive and destructive in our relationships. We learn that dark sexual desire lurks in the most unsuspected places – in ourselves, in our partners, in the very everyday people around us. Kubric wants us to see how powerful these are, how they can ensnare even the best of us. We discover that darker sexual desires can be exhilarating when fulfilled, but that they are ultimately empty when compared to the genuine emotional intimacy of a good marriage relationship. And I think the end of the movie makes clear the need to preserve our marriages from sexual depravity through a passionate pursuit of desire within the relationship.
In 2001 Bob Reccord was the President of the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board. During an address to the New Orleans Baptist Seminary he told of how his commitment to ministry almost cost him his marriage. Bob was 29 years old at the time and he and his wife Cheryl had a four year old son and a newborn. Bob was also a “bi-vocational” pastor, working as a businessman and as National Director of Training for Evangelism Explosion. His business and pastoral work had him away from home for 33 weeks of the year.
Returning home from a trip he one day came in the door, put down his suitcase, and said excitedly to his wife, “Want to hear what God’s done?”
Cheryl, looked at him and said, “No,” then began to cry.
“You used to be an asset to this family” she said. “All you are now is an interruption to this family.” Cheryl went on to say that if things didn’t change, she and the children would leave him.
That episode shocked Bob Reccord to rethink his life and make some changes. To the students at New Orleans Baptist Seminary he made the very important point that it is easy for those with strong commitments to ministry to become distracted from what’s important – such as their marriages and families – not by evil things but by good things.
Source: Reported at BPNews.com, November 21, 2001