First off, I’m a newbie at marriage, and I fully acknowledge that. We just celebrated three beautiful, difficult years full of blessings from God. However, my rookie status does not make me any less passionate about the subject, though I’ll admit there’s much I have still to learn, and I am excited to do so.
With lots of discussion of divorce around me recently, and it being summer the time of weddings and such, it has recently sprung up as an issue close to my heart that I feel the need to express- that unity in marriage is no simple thing, but rather an intricate interweaving of two lives intended to begin when the lives are united in holy marriage and strengthens over time.
I was just thinking the other day, probably because of our anniversary, how thankful I was to worship with my husband playing music off the laptop in the kitchen while making cookies; how it gladdens my heart to talk with him about God and gently debate out theology on car rides to our mutual benefit of learning more about the great God who has created us and drawn us together. I found myself thinking, “I don’t ever want to stop. I don’t ever want there to be a time when we stagnate, so to speak, and discontinue chasing after God, quit talking about Him and with Him, a time when I couldn’t sing His praises in front of my husband for lack of emotional comfort or ease in the same way a stranger in my car would be a hindrance to my busting out the vocals to a song on the radio. Daniel truly does cause me to love God more because his love for me is derived from God Himself. God is the fountain from which Daniel gets every drop of love that he gives me. It is God loving me through Daniel as Daniel submits to God and loves me “as Christ loved the church.” God is the One who has brought us together and the one who unites us.
There are several implications and truths to this concept of unity. I am awake thinking about them. So I’m going to pull an Andy Andes and write stuff. Feel free to read if you want, but don’t expect the most brilliant writing ever. It’s 3 A.M. I’m going to ramble each one off as it approaches my brain. First though: a Scripture reference because I will need to recall it later I’m sure.
18 Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”
But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. 21 So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22 And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23 Then the man said,
“This at last is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called Woman,
because she was taken out of Man.”
24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. 25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.
I heard/read one person (I’d cite him if I remembered whom) make the claim that our example for what unity was is the Trinity. He said, “Could you see the Holy Spirit telling Jesus, ‘well I think we should just agree to disagree’?” That’s the ultimate union, and an enormous goal only reachable if at all through communion with the Triune God Himself. I am happy to hope that my marriage reflects God’s relationship with His church appropriately to the world. That’s a challenge in itself as well, only attainable through God.
When we got married, I remember that Pastor charged those in attendance with supporting our marriage. For family members he told them that this was a new chapter in our lives, we were now one, and were now to begin our own family. He implied that it was time to give us up, so to speak, to be with one another. (This is the symbolism behind why the father gives the brides hand over the groom. This is also what makes the mothers cry I assume.) He cautioned them not to meddle or interfere. In fact, our wonderful pastor even asked us in premarital counseling if there were any family members he needed to lovingly explain this to before hand. And when we were back in his office later for marriage counseling on an entirely different issue, he cautioned us to not go running to our parents for help, because it would divide us.
To everyone in attendance, he challenged them to help us stay together by praying for us, helping us grow in God, and stepping in and correcting us if need be when we are too stubborn and selfish to see that we should forgive one another, love one another, and stay together. For this reason, I pretty much have a policy that if I attend your wedding, and later in life you want to end it, I’m likely to tell you (hopefully in a loving manner) that it’s a horrible decision and guide you as best I can to see that God brought you together for a reason and you should stay that way. Don’t invite me if you don’t want that. Absolutely do not make me stand up there next to you if you don’t want that. Feel free to do that for me as well, to the degree that you are my Christian friend, brother or sister. I can only have unity with my Daniel by and through God, with the help of our Christian family in their prayers, words, and actions. I am very thankful for this unity with him, am increasingly blessed through it, and will fight for it. The same goes, for your marriage or future marriage as well.
It is the duty of other Christians to support the unity of the marriages around them in prayer and love, and to do nothing to tear them apart. This means that if a friend may come to me with complaints about her husband, I am not to encourage any ill feelings she has towards him with my own speech. I can listen to her vent, grieve, and spill her heart out, but any response I make cannot deride her husband, should not come out as anything Satan can use to cause any further division between them. I should instead, love her, pray with her for her husband, pray for their union myself, and remind her of some of his better qualities if the timing is appropriate and I know of any.
Satan attacks marriages, and he has a well-equipped army for the task trained in the use of every imaginable weapon. 1 Peter 5:8 applies to the couple as much as to the individual Christian. Why? Ephesians 5 again for the answer (quoting Genesis 2 within), emphasis mine.
31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
Did you catch Paul there saying that marriage refers to Christ and His church? How many other places does God use the picture of marriage to explain His love for Israel? We just finished reading through Jeremiah in one of my groups, and let me tell you it is full of comparisons of idolatry with adultery, flat out interchanging the terms. Check out Hosea, where his actual marriage to a prostitute was a prophetic picture to Israel of what she had done to God, and how in the end He still loves her and is going to redeem her.
(“And in that day, declares the LORD, you will call me ‘My Husband,’ and no longer will you call me ‘My Baal.’ … And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the LORD.” Hosea 2:16, 19)
Anyway, it is for this reason that Satan attacks marriages. Marriage is a living display God has ordained for the world through which His love for His people ought to be displayed. God loves His people. God loves marriage. Satan attacks what God loves as an attack on Him. If Satan can mar marriage, blur it, break it, change its definition, blow it to smithereens, he will try, because it will prevent the world from turning to the God who loves them.
This provides me with good reason for love and caution in all my relationships- family, friends, coworkers, classmates- all possibly involve married people. My father in law is the husband of my mother in law. My best friend is a wife to my friend. The classmate I am friends with on Facebook has a wife in his profile picture. All these marriages should be respected no matter what my relationship may be with them.
I turn my attention to a specific friend of mine with whom I shared a conversation this evening, both of us picking at her husband. I grew up with him so I know him pretty well. When they began dating she entered my life through my friendship with him, and she and I became best friends over time. It is very easy for us, knowing him well, to both to enjoy some laughter at his expense in a lighthearted “we still love you” kind of way (she loves him exceedingly more). While there is nothing inherently wrong with that, even what I say in jest should be said with caution. (Ephesians 5:4 includes joking.) If the Holy Spirit says, “Hey, stop now.” I stop. If I am implored to apologize, I do so. Because it is my friend’s duty as his wife to build him up, not tear him down. While poking fun at him can build him up, because he’s a character and enjoys laughter and attention, I must be cautious to the Spirit’s leading so that I may not assist/ enable any tearing down activity. May God help me do so, and forgive me when I haven’t.
On another note, since husbands and wives are one, this unity means that if you attack one you harm/insult/offend the other. If you touch one, you touch the other. If you do something to the husband, you do it to the wife and the same is true for the reverse. So, if I am upset with a member of a married couple and I call him a name within earshot of her or directly to her trying to get her on my side- it hurts her, and if she were to join “my side” it could divide their marital unity.
This is the reason for dressing modestly, and for purity, aside for them being good reasons on their own. I ought to be cautious in my touching of anyone, including those who are not yet married even, because one day that body will be part of a married “whole” a unified “one.” Even more so with those already married, because they are one. If you smacked a man’s wife, do you not think he would feel the blow in his heart? If you entice pleasure where it’s none of your business to, it’s like handing Satan a saw to put to the couple.
I’m not saying one is guilty of doing something purposeful even when there is no clear intent. (I am saying we could lovingly act to prevent more accidents.) You are only guilty of intent where intent is in existence, and only you and God know your motives. Christ has mercifully forgiven us all our sin. I am simply promoting caution. Yes, that person is just as responsible for his or her own resistance to temptation, where you are also responsible for caution in your actions and manners.
I don’t leave my underwear lying around the house where guests can see it for many reasons, this being one of them. I don’t fling them around my finger in the middle of a group of people or stick my bra up on display on the Barberitos bulletin board. If I’m talking with a female friend about such a thing, and a guy walks up, we stop. For the same reason, I don’t discuss what size, color or kind my unmentionables are on facebook. They are unmentionables, not to be flashed about, including online.
When the father of the baby I watch shows up to take her home, I am fully dressed and modest. Thank God he doesn’t drop her off in the morning, his wife does, and I have a bit of leeway at 7 A.M. to remain in my pajamas if I need to. If he did drop her off, I would be showered, fully dressed and modest. I have no other kind/respectful/loving choice.
That union spoken of in the “two shall become one flesh” is serious. It should be nurtured by others, not torn apart. It doesn’t just mean that they “get together” on their wedding night.
I am thankful that many in my life invest in my marriage, thankful for parents loving and helping us, but letting us grow though obstacles on our own, thankful that we don’t have a stereotypical “meddling mother in law” on either side, thankful for friends who step in when I am mad at him and lovingly encourage me to forgive him, thankful for his friends who encourage our unity by not calling him to stay out with them all night but encourage him to come home to me, thankful when his friends include me in their invitations. You have no idea, friends, how much you have helped. Please continue to do so. Please do so for others. Please pray for unity for those you know who are married. It’s hard. Only God and God alone can hold them together. It fits that we should be asking Him to do so.