Updated: Sep 3, 2020
Single people often wonder what marriage is like? The simplest analogy I have found in my five years of marriage is this:
Marriage is like getting on a boat and entering the open waters. It’s an adventure. It’s scary but that’s also what makes it exciting. You have an idea of what is likely to happen, but the truth is you don’t know. There’s a reason they say ‘every marriage you see is like an island that you never want to visit.’ Every marriage is crafted to match those two unique people. Hence the popularity of shows like “Trading Spouses”. You think you have it bad until you visit someone else's marriage, and all of sudden you return to your own marriage with a new found appreciation of your synergies. All this to say that every marriage is different, and to compare apples with pears is not only a huge basic math error, it’s a catastrophic life error.
Why do I think marriage is a journey into the open waters? When you’re dating, most of this world is predictable. With the constant images in movies, songs, and books we know how to do this, or at least we think we do. Flowers are bought, romantic dinners are enjoyed, spontaneous trips are planned....when in doubt, basically “ASK GOOGLE.” There’s a theme to this phase: FUN FUN and more FUN. The more fun the more we should definitely get married. Right? Maybe, it’s just by design. After all, at this point you’re on land, if it doesn’t feel right you can walk away. Literally. Not to diminish the difficulties of dating, it’s a jungle, where one must proceed with caution to find “the one”.
The two becoming one! Celebrations are over: Wedding bells have rung! Time to get into the boat with your beautiful bride or handsome groom. You both never looked better. It’s a huge milestone in all cultures and societies. The theme to this life-long journey is: COMMITMENT. It’s a little more serious sounding than fun, but I didn’t say there’s no fun in commitment. There has to be fun to make the commitment light-hearted and yet dead serious. As you enter the boat, you look out, and realize the possibilities are endless. One thing I suggest: Decide there and then, that it’s going to be a great life together. Then work to make it so.
Things have changed in an instant! Being in a boat, out on the open water, makes it not as easy to get out. The adventure has begun! There’s going to be a lot of rowing, before you upgrade to a speed boat of course. I have never been into rowing, but something tells me it’s not the easiest of sports. There has to be synchronized effort in the same direction - sounds simple but this will prove the hardest challenge yet. You have separated from what you knew. You knew your way around the land. This is new to both of you. Being alone with your partner in the boat means there is no room for third wheels while you discover your way around this marriage thing. The only map you need is the bible. It will guide you by leading your heart. The bible says;
“For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.” ~ Genesis 2 : 24
How will we become one flesh? I wondered why the bible didn’t say we become one spirit but rather one flesh. Then I realized marriage is a flesh thing. Everything about it is in the natural. Remember when Jesus is questioned about a woman who has been married to several brothers - one at a time. The cultural tradition was that when a man passed away, his widow would become his single brother’s wife in order to raise children for the deceased. The religious teachers of the day asked Jesus:
“Now then, at the resurrection, whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?” Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.” ~ Matthew 22 : 28 - 30
Marriage being a flesh not a spiritual oneness is both terrifying and freeing. One thing is certain, we are to be one in spirit with Christ. That has nothing to do with marriage. Single persons have it easier by this standard - they only have to work on their spiritual oneness. We are all to join ourselves to Christ.
The terrifying part is that the bible assures us that the flesh is always at war with the spirit (Galatians 5 : 17). Perhaps this is why the Apostle Paul suggests that it is best to not marry but if we desire it in the flesh, we must (1 Corinthians 7 : 9) . These scriptures assure us that marriage is not going to be easy. There’s an internal battle that takes place in each one of us between our spirit and our flesh. Now add the flesh of two people working to be one, and the spirit in each one. Sounds complicated! It’s apparent, when we look at the rates of divorce across the world that it’s not a fairytale. If it were easy everyone would stay married. No one gets married with the hope of divorce in the future. No one gets married because they’re lacking love. The problem is our understanding of love and what it requires.
Coincidentally, love is not a marriage concept, it’s an all people who are followers of Christ mandate. The magnifying glass is put on love in marriage, and yet it should be put on all aspects of our lives. There is a reason 1 Corinthians 13 goes into detail about what love is.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” ~ 1 Corinthians 13 : 4 - 7
God knew we would get it all wrong. The media would convince us that love was something carnal. A flesh thing. The word tells us that God is love. It’s a spirit thing. The spiritual is eternal. The flesh has an expiration date. Therefore a single person is not lacking love. We all have love, if we accept Jesus Christ as Lord of our hearts. That’s different from desiring companionship. When God made Adam, He saw that it was not good for man to be alone. He needed a helper. God made Eve (Genesis 2 : 18).
How then is marriage the fulfillment of love? The word has given us the definition of love. We now have to understand what God intended marriage to be. It was to be a mirror of our relationship with Christ. “Wives submit to your husbands as you do to the Lord...Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her...each one of you must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” (Ephesians 5 : 22, 25, 33).
When we take the word in pieces and not in context, it’s easy for us to get hung up on twisted ideas about submission in our society. However when we look at that scripture in light of the core of Christianity, which is love, it’s a reflection of that. The whole of scripture hangs on two verses about love.
Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” ~ Matthew 22 : 37 - 40
First, we love God. Then we love our spouse, in the same way that we love ourselves - there isn't a closer neighbor than our partner. Interestingly, the way we love ourselves is the measure by which we love our spouse and others. While you’re single, learn to love yourself.
It’s not easy to possess love or to be consistent in expressing it. This is true in any context, not just marriage. We have to consciously choose love in every situation. The world is full of anti-love - list all the -isms of this world. There is a history of hatred that runs deep in us as people. Love is a deep concept, it has to push out everything that is contrary to it. Love is a radical thing! God is love ( 1 John 4 : 8).
Does that mean marriage is doomed? Not at all. Quite the opposite. All that is critical in marriage is already mandated in our lives as believers. Marriage is an add on that requires transformation of our hearts and minds to be Christ like “Two must become one flesh” and be united in this pursuit. That is why the bible urges, do not be unequally yoked with one who has different beliefs (2 Corinthians 6 : 14). We’re making it harder when we do this, making something that is already a challenge more so. However if we find ourselves already in this situation, we are told to be devoted because our faithfulness is able to bring our partner to a knowledge of Christ (1 Corinthians 7 : 12 - 14; 1 Peter 3 : 6). When we are united in Christ we can overcome anything.
“And though one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” ~ Ecclesiastes 4 : 12
God has to be in it. God is love.
What's the biggest lesson you have learnt from your marriage?
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