Making The Most Of Marriage
I once had the privilege of meeting Art Linkletter. Many of you will remember his famous interviews with children and his book,
Kids Say the Darndest Things.
It’s interesting to find out what kids think about marriage. In answering the age-old question about whether it is better to be single or married, Anita, age 9, answered with some good insight:
“It’s better for girls to be single but not for boys. Boys need someone to clean up after them.”
And, when asked how best to make a marriage work, 10-year-old Dustin perceptively replied:
During February, when many people
“Tell your wife that she looks pretty even if she looks like a truck.”
are thinking about love, romance and marriage, perhaps it is a good time to focus on how to make the most of marriage. As a Pastor for many years, I have observed that no two marriages are alike. That’s true whether people have a very happy marriage or one that seems to be troubled. They are all dynamic experiences between two people.
It does help to have a model, just like putting together a complex new piece of equipment or a roadmap for a long journey not traveled before. Because it is so personal and dynamic, marriage could never have a “nuts and bolts” level of description which would fit everyone. However, key guidelines found in the Bible tell us what it is supposed to look like. “Otherwise, it is just a guessing game.”
Genesis 2:18-25 gives us much needed insight into how to make the most of marriage.
Just like the other major events of creation, God paused to reflect on what He had done and called it “good.” In this instance, He remarked that it was good for Adam to have a “helper.” So often this word is misused. God was not saying a wife was created to bring the chips and dip or to wash the husband’s clothes. “Helper” has a far deeper meaning in the Bible and even was used by Jesus to talk about the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Mates are present to make up for or to complete something lacking in the other. “It’s not that the man is better than the woman, or the woman better than the man, but that each one is inadequate alone.” That’s how God designed the marriage relationship. The husband and the wife both need each other. Marriages where that is recognized and reflected in the relationship have a far better chance of success.
Verse 24 is familiar to us, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” These few words contain powerful building blocks for a happy marriage. Let’s consider three of them.
One is severance. In the most basic understanding, people who get married leave their parents. In the broader context, it means there must be some break with past routines and relationships in order to form a marriage with the other person. “Leave” is a very strong word, but it doesn’t have to be harsh, just firm. It could also be translated “forsake.” God teaches that there should not be any higher loyalty left on earth than that with one’s spouse. People will not form a strong bond in marriage without some severance with the past for both.
Another is permanence. God says that once you leave, you then need to be committed to permanence. The word “united” literally means to be glued together -- “to melt two separate entities together to form a permanent bond.” The word you may hear in some weddings is “cleave.” It has the idea of being bonded or welded together. “The union is so strong that it takes something extremely violent to dissolve it.”
A third word describing the marriage relationship is oneness. God’s Word teaches that the two are to become one flesh. This phrase conveys not only intimacy, but the idea of partnership or oneness. When a married couple becomes one flesh, their hearts and lives are knit together. This unity is to be experienced emotionally, spiritually, and physically. God’s objective for marriage is a loving relationship of oneness. That means neither make decisions of life without thinking of its effect on the other as well as their lives together.
Only God has the ability to knit lives together in oneness. Only He can create a relationship where you can safely be transparent and vulnerable without fear of being put down.
That oneness and intimacy does not happen automatically. It takes work. It involves understanding your spouse and working to meet his or her needs. It is for that reason I am a fan of and suggest couples read the book, His Needs – Her Needs by William Harley, Jr. If you don’t work at it, oneness and intimacy can unravel. You’ll just start drifting apart.
The kind of marriage I am speaking of in this article is a “God thing.” He joins people together so that they are no longer the same two people, but rather as one, stronger and better than either could be apart.
Let me illustrate. Here’s an engineer’s analysis of how much stronger something is when you double it. “He was not aware of how much stronger a rope is when it has two strands but he told me that when you double a 4x4 piece of angle iron, you increase the load 43 times! In other words, one piece can hold 2,200 pounds. When you add the other one, it can bear 96,000 pounds!” That’s pretty amazing isn’t it?
Add to that what Solomon said in Ecclesiastes 4:12, “A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” If a second strand provides strength many times over the single strand alone, can you imagine how much stronger a cord of three strands would be? Do you get the picture and who is the third strand? The third strand is Jesus Christ. “As you open yourself to Him, as you confess your sins and shortcomings, as you surrender to His leadership in your life and your marriage, He will give you a fresh start, and He will give your marriage strength you could never have alone.”
What I have painted for you is a theological picture of what God intended marriage to look life. But as you know, theology without practice is of little value in daily living. Some years ago Philip Yancey wrote a book on marriage called, After the Wedding. In it he described everyday workable principles found in healthy marriage. As I share them with you be reminded that these will not be possible for long in a relationship unless the spiritual fabric described above is also in place.
The first principle: reintroduction. In order to avoid drifting apart, make sure your partner knows who you are and what you are thinking at this time in your life.
The second principle: convenience. Marriage works well when responsibilities are shared in the home and not primarily determined by gender or rigid roles and more by who has time to do what needs to be done.
The third principle: dialogue. Partners must learn to talk everything through and to honestly express feelings in a safe environment.
The fourth principle: selflessness. Healthy marriage partners are not focused on their rights which need to be protected, but rather on their mate’s needs which are to be fulfilled.
Most of this article has been for people who are married. If you are one of those, I urge you to take a moment to recommit yourself to your marriage. I want you to brainstorm some ways that your marriage can move toward oneness. Be specific. What are those things that you personally can start doing to have a marriage of oneness? If you want to be real daring, ask your spouse what he or she thinks you should be doing to build your marriage.
If your marriage is in some difficulty, this would be a good time to seek Godly counsel. Pray for God’s healing power to help your relationship and to change the atmosphere in your home. Make sure your life is right with God if you want God to help your marriage.
If you are not married and want to be
“If you’re having a wedding, make sure Jesus is there.”
married one day, pray that God will bring the best mate to you in His own time. Commit yourself to purity and tell the Lord that you won’t settle for second best.
This article began with children. Let’s close it the same way. A little boy sat through a Sunday School class and learned about the time Jesus went to a wedding and turned water into wine. When he got home, his dad asked him what he learned from this story. The boy thought for a moment and then answered: