Making Marriage Work
"Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh."
With over half the marriages in the USA ending in divorce, it is obvious that for many people marriage does not work. What is the problem? Where have we missed God's plan for marriage? Jesus taught that if you want to learn about marriage you have to go back to creation. Marriage as God intended it ought to work. How did God intend it?
MARRIAGE REQUIRES A "LEAVING"
"Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother." God made a special partner for Adam. For this reason, a man's focus is not to remain on his parents, but be transferred to his wife. The wife also is to leave her parents and focus on her husband. "Listen, O daughter, consider and incline your ear; forget your own people also, and your father's house;" Ps. 45:10.
Her husband becomes her head and she is to look to him. Together they look to God, not to their parents. Husband and wife might decide together to get counsel from their parents, but their parents no longer direct their lives. They honor their parents, but together look to God to direct their lives. Both forsake their previous life and together they form a new household.
His home life was not perfect, nor was hers. God uses their differences to mold a new home atmosphere, building on what they learned from their parents. They both leave parents in that in their differences they cannot just assume either person to be right simply because that is how they were brought up and are comfortable that way.
Often there is something comfortable about the way you were brought up. Childhood memories sometimes include favorite foods, special places, and comfortable relationships. Parents modeled discipline standards, financial policies, and tolerance levels for noise and trash. We enter marriage with all this baggage from the past, some good and some bad. Marriage requires a leaving, not in that we throw out the heritage we have received, but in that we are committed to going on, blending our past heritage through mutual growth into the new heritage God intends for our new family.
A good marriage is built on a growing relationship. Two people who are determined to live in the past will inevitably clash. We must leave our parents, not as though their heritage to us was bad, but because we are committed to learn from that heritage and leave an even better one for our children.
MARRIAGE REQUIRES A "CLEAVING"
Scripture says that the man shall cleave or cling or adhere firmly to his wife. Like grafted skin the two become one flesh and a later separation would result in a painful and bloody mess. We are not told that she shall cling to him, but God planned that the natural instinct of the wife would be to cling to her husband. He is to be the spiritual leader, the head, responsible for the decisions, but if he is wise he will pay attention to the concerns of his wife, the body.
One day as I worked sawing openings under the eaves of our home I sensed a tiredness in the back of my neck. However, it was getting dark and I only had a little more to do so I kept sawing away, ignoring the pain in my neck from twisting my head to see under the eve. By the time I finished the job daylight was gone and my neck was hurting badly. I thought it would be better by morning, but that was not the case. The pain continued and the conclusion of the doctor was that I had developed a spur on the neck vertebrae. Years later the spur continues to cause pain. My head should have paid attention to my body and avoided lasting loss.
The wife's concerns are often God's cautions. Pilate should have paid attention to his wife's cautions when she warned him against condemning Jesus. The wife may sense dangers she cannot explain and unless her husband is sensitive to her spirit he will make some serious mistakes and also will alienate himself from her affections. Ignoring her concerns is a form of rejecting her person and leads to the wife having a sad countenance which is a public rebuke to the husband. Nothing can convince her that he loves her if he continues to wound her spirit. He is to be the spiritual leader of the family and the evidence of her spiritual growth and joyous countenance is his diploma of success.
MARRIAGE REQUIRES A "BECOMING"
The goal of Scripture is that they become one flesh. This one flesh is seen in the children, in that they show resemblances to parents and other family members. The parents become one flesh, but they remain two people and have a special ministry to each other of encouraging spiritual growth toward becoming one in spirit.
The marriage ceremony makes the couple husband and wife in about 20 minutes, but becoming one spirit takes a lifetime. We enter into marriage with many differences. In fact, opposites usually attract. Marriage counseling can help couples face some of the issues ahead of time, but every marriage will have its challenges.
The one partner may have a form of discipline that is lax, loud, and chaotic while the other may be strict, quiet, and orderly. Regarding recreation, the man may be a workaholic or sportsaholic while the wife may be more interested in family outings. In the matter of family finances, for one partner money may slip easily between the fingers, while the other could be very frugal or even miserly.
One may be messy and the other neat. If both are messy, the least messy one resents the lack of help toward the neatness they desire.
Facing marital differences enables you to become the parent and partner you ought to be. As you allow God to change you, He is also free to change your partner. We want to take out the splinter in the eye of our partner while ignoring the beam in our own eye. It is disastrous to think you will be able to change your partner. Instead, anticipate the joy of your own spiritual growth. (In other words, plan on changing yourself.)
Recognize why God gave you a partner. In Gen. 2:18 God tells us that it is not good for man to be alone. Singleness requires special grace from God for a person to be able to live alone and not become eccentric through lack of a partner to help smooth the rough edges. He that findeth a wife findeth good. You need her help. Make sure you are attentive to her spirit, even when she is not verbal regarding her concerns. To properly lead your family you must be aware of her cautions.
But you may think that Adam listened to Eve and it got him into trouble. No, he used her disobedience to justify his own inward rebellion against God's clear command. Eve was deceived by Satan, but Adam knew exactly what he was doing when he disobeyed God's clear command. Being the spiritual leader means you are responsible for demonstrating to your wife and children how to make decisions that glorify God and bless the family. As you grow spiritually you are able to share with them how they also can strengthen their relationship to God. How much have you changed since you married? If you have not changed much, you have missed God's purpose in giving you a wife.
Are you a Christian? Have you been joined to Christ? How much have you changed since you trusted Jesus as your Savior? If not much, you have missed God's purpose in joining you to Christ. God says that you are to be holy as He is holy. Christ died for us, His Church, that He might purify it, and make it a glorious church, without spot or wrinkle. Repentance means I am ready for a complete change to be made like my Savior.
Christ's marriage to His church will work. It will not end up in divorce. Your marriage can also work, and God's best tool for making that happen is your marriage partner. Don't let the devil rob you of the very person who is God's primary instrument in making you like Jesus and in making your marriage work.