Sunday, August 31, 2008

The two shall become one

And, as the old joke goes, "But which one?"

I believe it is a new one, a one which never existed before. Some say this mystery speaks only of the fact that the married couple has sex. I've written about this elsewhere.

I believe it speaks of unity.

The two become one, and that one is a sum greater than its parts. No one dies; no one disappears. In fact, you become more. You become completed in this other person. In Christ, you become the three-chord strand that is not easily broken.

It's a good thing.

Yes, because we are sinful creatures, there are struggles along the way. Sometimes we want selfishness, power, laziness --- whatever --- over unity. Sometimes our natural inclinations make us seek out friends and advisers who encourage us to set other things ahead of unity. Marriage is not so much about unity, they will say. It's really about who is the boss. It's about a CEO and a plant manager and a bunch of employees-in-training. It's about a commanding officer, an enlisted soldier, and a bunch of raw recruits in boot camp. It's about getting what you want. It's about manipulating your husband into doing whatever you don't want to do, and being all self-righteous about how submissive you are. It's about the fact that men and women are so different that they can't possibly be one in any way other than through sexual intercourse. It's about having babies and little else. It's about the superiority of all males over all females. It's about winning in the culture wars. It's about providing men with an alternative to prostitutes and pornography, with the added benefit of a live-in cook and maid. It's about providing women with a free ticket to easy street, so they'll never have to work at a real job again. It's about me, me, me, and whether I am fulfilled and whether my needs are met and whether my spouse does what I want.

And, if it is about being one, let's make sure that I am THE ONE. I won't see beyond me. When I look at my spouse, all I see is me. It's all about me, me, me, me, me...

You know what? I don't get any of that when I read the Bible and see what it actually says about marriage. I don't read about business plans and military conquests and husbands wielding swords against their wives. I don't read about selfishness becoming sanctified and acceptable in marriage. I don't read that it's suddenly OK to seize authority and to ignore Christ's example of coming to serve rather than to be served. I don't read that passivity and weakness and manipulativeness and guile are wifely virtues.

Instead, I read about unity. I read about love, the sort of love that is described in 1 Corinthians 13. I read about living together in understanding. I read about respect. I read about submission. I read about being one. Not being one person or the other. Being one, both together in unity.

Recently I heard a husband who said that, no, he didn't submit to his wife. He didn't believe that was Biblical. But he did submit to the Lord and to his marriage. Specifically, he submitted himself to maintaining and increasing unity and intimacy with his wife. His wife submitted to him and, since that was his goal for their marriage, she was happy that it was her goal as well. In fact, that is a big factor in why she married him. They both believed that, in unity with Christ and with each other, they could serve Him far better than they could separately.

I've worked in the business world. I really am not looking to pretend to be a plant manager and to have a respectful, professional relationship with the CEO of the company. Because, the truth of the matter is that I know this is, at best, a distant relationship. I never wanted to have sexual relations with any of my bosses. It would have been unseemly and inappropriate and an abuse of his power. So why pretend this is a model for marriage? I don't want a business arrangement. I want a real marriage --- a Biblical marriage. The corporate world holds no appeal for me.

I believe in the order of creation. I take it literally. All six days. I honestly believe that it all happened in just that order. God can set me straight when we get to Heaven, and He can chuckle at my naive simplicity. But, in the meantime, I'll take His Words at face value. I also believe Him when He declared it all good.

That's not all I believe. I also believe that the husband should leave his parents and that he should become one with his wife. For some men, that has meant giving up their dreams, their entitlements, their friends --- all for the sake of unity with their wives. All for the sake of loving their wives as Christ loved the Church, giving up His life for it.

I also believe that God meant what He said when He declared that a man who finds a wife finds what is good, and finds favor with God. And I believe His warnings against husbands dealing treacherously with their wives. And I believe that a man's poor relationship with His wife can directly hinder his prayer life.

There is so much more that I believe...

I also believe that we are to die to ourselves, take up our crosses daily, and live for Christ.

And I believe that there is only one God, and that He is a jealous God.

I believe that, as wives, our desire for our husband can be so strong, so overwhelming, that we are tempted to make an idol of this man. Even though the Bible teaches us to be one with our husbands, it does not teach us to put this unity, this intimacy, ahead of God. God is a jealous God. He does not take kindly to idolatry, whether it is self or another that we worship.

I believe that husbands are tempted to rule over their wives, and that too many of them far prefer this over intimacy and unity. It is safer for them, more comfortable, and gets them what they want. Very few want true servanthood. They especially do not want to serve a woman.

But I believe that Christian marriage is different --- or should be different --- from what so many are stridently claiming marriage should be.

It's so much better. So much better. On the day I was married, I thought my father-in-law sweet but quaint and idealistic when he prayed a prayer over us that included the word "bliss" to describe marriage. Yes, he was sweet. Perhaps a bit quaint and idealistic as well. But not so much as I thought at the time. He knew. He grew into being a good husband. He laid down his own life. He gave much and served much, especially in his later years. He knew. He had experienced that bliss first hand --- the rewards of his obedience to Christ.

May we give up on the world's ideas of marriage, even if they are trumpeted forth loudly and eloquently and convincingly by those claiming to be Christian. May we instead submit to Christ and follow Him in all things, especially in our marriages. May we discover the bliss, the good thing, that God has always intended marriage to be.

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