It is most striking, and brings a fresh tinge of awe over one's spirit in thinking of the marvellous Jesus, to recall how his character blended, and blended perfectly, all of the essential traits that we class as masculine and feminine.
The strongest man is drawn irresistibly to Jesus as furnishing that ideal of manhood which he longs to attain. And the gentlest, womanliest woman finds herself as surely looking up. to Him as embodying all that goes to make up her perfect womanhood. He was the ideal man because the likenesses and differences that mark man and woman blend in Him perfectly.
Is not this a bit of God's plan in the ideal friendship? that man and woman living together in the union of love shall each so absorb the life of the other, that each shall become a perfect human being, even while retaining the distinctive traits; and that both together shall make the perfected human unit. This was Tennyson's thought as, with keen discrimination, he penned his exquisite lines in "The Princess"
"For woman is not undevelopt man,
But diverse: could we make her as the man,
Sweet love were slain: his dearest bond is this,
Not like to like, but like in difference.
Yet in the long years liker must they grow;
The man be more of woman, she of man;
He gain in sweetness and in moral height,
Nor lose the wrestling thews that throw the world;
She mental breadth, nor fail in childward care,
Nor lose the childlike in the larger mind;
Till at last she set herself to man,
Like perfect music unto noble words;
And so these twain, upon the skirts of Time,
Sit side by side, full-summ'd in all their powers,
Dispensing harvest, sowing the To-be,
Self-reverent each and reverencing each,
Distinct in individualities,
But like each other e'en as those who love.
Then comes the statelier Eden back to men:
Then reign the world's great bridals, chaste and calm:
Then springs the crowning race of humankind." (Tennyson.)
Full growth of character requires two, two in one, that two who while distinct and separate are yet one. For character needs an atmosphere of love for its full growth; a free admiring, thoughtful love of which it is the absorbing object and centre. Only so can it grow into full size, and into that fineness of quality native to it. And character needs to love for its full growth, too. It needs an object that will draw out its love, and draw it out continually, and to the full; a love based upon respect and admiration. Man must love. We live only as we love,
"Let us love, let us live,
For the acts correspond." (Elizabeth Barrett Browning.)
There must be some one upon whom we may lavish out freely and fully the love and devotion of the heart.
"The night has a thousand eyes,
And the day but one,
Yet the light of the bright world dies
With the dying sun.
"The mind has a thousand eves
And the heart but one,
Yet the light of a whole life dies
When its love is done."
Humanity exists in duality. It takes two to make one. This is the higher arithmetic of human life. Each is but half, and when both halves come together, and then grow together, then is perfected the love-plan of God for each, and for both. When two such hearts find each other, and are joined together by the ordinance of man, it is merely a ratifying of the act of God already done. The two are made one legally and technically when, by the wise and necessary provision of law, the words are spoken in the exchange of sacred vows, and in the sanction of clerical lips.
They were already one in heart when the holy flame of a discerning choosing love welded the two together. They become one in life, as through the years, with gracious steady self-discipline, they grow into oneness of purpose and habit and mutual attainments. It is not the oneness of subserviency, one yielding to the other; but of co-operation, each to the other; two strong, growing lives, each maturing fully in himself under the gracious influence of the other, and each fitting fully into the other.