One thing I have noticed at the food pantry where I volunteer is that nine times out of ten a woman comes in to receive food, her male significant other waits in the car. I know this because he and I make awkward eye contact when I help the ladies carry groceries to the car.
I have mixed feelings about this arrangement. Part of me understands why they'd wait outside. It could be that they don't figure "getting groceries" is their area. It is also a particularly male dysfunction to want to avoid asking for help. There is perhaps the shame of acknowledging they couldn't provide for their family. I remember the heartbreaking scene in Cinderella Man when James Braddock finally breaks down to ask friends for a handout. He is a proud man who only goes there as a last resort -- and when he violates his own conscience and receives government assistance he promises to pay every penny back, and does -- and therein lies a good sort of pride.
But is it really a good sort of pride?
What these men are essentially saying is that they would rather their wife or girlfriend experience the embarrassment of asking for help, they would rather that she answer the personal questions required in the assistance office (How many people in the family? Does anyone have employment? What are your monthly bills? etc.), they would rather she carry the often-numerous bags of groceries by herself to the car. (Typically I carry bags for a woman with a kid or two who has accompanied her inside to a waiting car outside with the trunk open and a man behind the wheel.)
I was reminded of this recently when one of our church members related a sad scenario at an abortion clinic last week. She and her husband were there joining a monthly protest, when a car pulled into the parking lot. A young woman she figured was about sixteen or seventeen got out of the car and went inside. An older man my friend assumed was her dad -- although certainly he could have been someone else -- waited in the car.
Who knows what this young girl went into the facility for. Could have been for information on birth control or sex ed. It's not known she was going in for an abortion. And maybe that guy wasn't her dad, but just a "ride."
Still. I picture a teenage girl entering a place like that while her male guardian, even if just for the moment, cannot be bothered to even go in with her. And this image seems so . . . emblematic.
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.
-- Ephesians 5:25-27
Men are supposed to protect women, guard their bodies and hearts. Men are supposed to take the hits for them, not use them as shields. Men are supposed to be "at point," not in the rear guard. Men are supposed to be doing what they can to present their wives to Christ as clean as possible.
Dudes, let's get out of the car.