Mystery – two become one

Yesterday the world learned that one of the richest couples in the world, Bill and Melinda Gates, decided to call it quits after 27 years of marriage. Hearing the news I was sad for them.  It was a reminder that we live in a broken world. Even with all their resources, with all the advantages in this world that they enjoy, they somehow could not make it work. The public divorce petition did not disclose anything beyond the fact that they considered their marriage “irretrievably broken.” Please understand that my comments pass no judgment on either of them as I obviously do not know them or their situation.  

Marriage is never easy.

Bev and I were married 41 years, a mostly happy union, but marked with times of struggle and disappointment for both of us. The issues that stressed our relationship changed with the seasons of life. Early on it was the exhaustion of a houseful of little ones. Then, it was the pressure of life responsibilities that took my attention from my home as I worked long days leaving little energy for my family.  After our children grew up we wrestled with the common issue of drifting into separate lives, each of us with our own interests. Then, it was the stress of caring for terminally ill parents that brought some challenges.

We did not stay married because we enjoyed a storybook life though blessed in many ways. It certainly was not just discipline, though that was required, too.  Starry-eyed love ebbed and flowed through the decades but even that was not the ultimate glue in our home.  Our marriage was sustained by a shared love for God and a common conviction about the covenant nature of our relationship. We worked and trusted God together; adjusting expectations, speaking honestly, asking and giving forgiveness, and acceptance of the fact that we each lived with a quite ordinary mortal.

The wisdom of the Scripture is so often challenged, explained away, and ignored these days, but the inspired text remains true. “And further, you will submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. You wives will submit to your husbands as you do to the Lord. For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of his body, the church; he gave his life to be her Savior. As the church submits to Christ, so you wives must submit to your husbands in everything. And you husbands must love your wives with the same love Christ showed the church. He gave up his life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by baptism and God’s word. He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault.

In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man is actually loving himself when he loves his wife. No one hates his own body but lovingly cares for it, just as Christ cares for his body, which is the church. And we are his body. As the Scriptures say, “A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.” This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one. So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” (Ephesians 5:21-33, NLT)

Those words contain wisdom for all of us that will bring blessing to our homes.

The starting point is ‘mutual submission.’ A man and woman who enter into marriage are agreeing to set aside their former ideas about themselves. No longer can they insist on ‘me.’  As they come to Christ together, they choose to think always as ‘we.’  They are ‘one flesh,’ not just a sexual term, but descriptive of their union before God. Marriage, in God’s eyes, is not a contract to form a home or to provide for children.  It is a holy promise to become a reflection of the love of God, in a shared life.

There is a sacred responsibility given to each partner in marriage covenant that involves great love and shared devotion. It strikes me that the passage speaks in extended terms to the husband. He is called to learn to love, to act in the same way that Christ acted. It is tragic that this text has been abused as an excuse for domination, for selfishness.  The leadership of the home is not based in power, nor does God confer a place of privilege on the husband. He calls him to ‘give up his life’ to serve his wife.  It not a wonder to me that this text is rejected by so many.  When God’s word is used to carve out a place privileged power, to justify selfish behavior, the whole of the marital relationship breaks down.

A wife’s willingness to respect her husband rests on twin foundations:  deep faith in Christ to be her ultimate security and the assurance that her husband will choose a pathway in life that seeks the will of God over his own desires. These are not idealistic expressions unattainable in this world. They are the wisdom of God, received by faith, and made reality by the Spirit of God who works in each of us who love and serve Him faithfully.

Christians are tempted to abandon the inspired wisdom of God choosing instead the ‘wisdom’ of our culture. This choice will make a challenging thing – building a solid, loving, and fulfilling marriage – even more difficult. If we interpret these principles as law, we rob ourselves of the joy of discovering the life in them. If we read them through a lens of antiquated ideas about masculinity and femininity we will surely miss God’s best for us. However, if we will come to this text with an open mind, with a heart-felt invitation for God lead us, we will find them a place of life-sustaining truth.

The words of Jesus are the word from the Word today. May He give us grace to receive them. “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” (Mark 10:6-9, NIV)

_______

How Do I Love Her?

Well You know it’s not the first time
And it will not be the last
When You find me here on my knees
Praying for the storm to pass
But what I am really needing
Is much more than just relief
I am crying out for wisdom
Only You can give to me
‘Cause it’s such a mystery
I’m a clueless man
When it comes to knowing how to love a woman

How do I
I love her
How do I
I let her know
She means more than anything to me
How do I love her
How do I love her love her

Out of all the gifts You’ve given
Besides the very gift of life
There is none as precious to me
As the treasure of my wife
And still all the love in my heart
Is like a raindrop to the sea
When compared to Your love for her
And that’s why I’m asking please
Will You teach me what she needs
I’m an earnest man when it comes
To learning how to love this woman

Well I know it’s gonna take a lifetime
To answer this prayer I pray
But that’s okay
‘Cause I’ve given You and her my lifetime
Anyway

How do I love her love her
Tell me please
How do I love her how do I love her
Won’t You tell me tell me please
How do I love her
Tell me please
Tell me tell me tell me
How do I love her how do I love her
How do I love her
Love her love her love her

Steven Curtis Chapman © 2003 Primary Wave Brian (Chapman Sp Acct) (Admin. by BMG Rights Management (US) LLC)

Sparrow Song (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)

CCLI License # 810055

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