Wednesday, July 25, 2012

It is the Best Part of Marriage, It is the Hardest Part of Marriage

This past weekend, I was in a discussion among friends on the issue of becoming one flesh when a couple is married.  This is something I have actually been thinking on for quite some time.  It is such a short and simple verse in the Bible, but what it means to your life is indescribable. 
So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate. Matthew 19:6 NKJV
There are two ways to look at this.  The first is that this is the worst part of marriage.  Before leaping to judgement, please hear me out.  Before we get married, we live basically for ourselves.  I know many of of serve the Lord and feel we live for the Lord, but we do so with only our concerns in mind.  If you want to go on a missions trip, you just go if you can afford it.  If you want to serve the Lord in any ministry for any amount of time, you just do it.  If you want to hang out with your Christian friends until late at night, you just do it.  You do not care or worry about anyone else.  I do not mean this as a bad thing, it is just the reality of your life.  You have no one else you need to care about.  Even beyond doing things for the church, we live for ourselves in every area of our lives.  We eat what we want for whatever meal we want.  We go on vacation wherever we want and whenever we can.  We purchase what we want whenever we want and only worrying about ourselves.  You are completely and totally free to be your self in every area of your life.

Then you get married.  Marriage, as part of coming together as one, necessarily means the death of self.  I can tell you from experience that self does not go quietly into that good night.  Self wants to be catered to.  Self wants to do whatever it wants whenever it wants.  Self does not want to have to take into account another person.  Self does not want to hold off purchasing something for the greater good of the family.  Self does not want to let other people pick what to eat or even compromise.  Self wants what self wants because self is of the flesh.  Self fights tooth and nail to convince you that it need not die.  In fact, it is the failure to put self to its necessary death that so many marriages fail.  Self is the reason for adultery.  Self is the cause of arguments.  Self is the cause of any unhappiness in marriage because unhappiness is only even possible if there is a failure to put self to death.  When you look at marriage from the perspective of the flesh, this idea of becoming one is the worst part of marriage. 

The other way to look at this is that this is the best part of marriage.  When we get married, we are no longer alone.  No longer is it only you who does missions work or any other kind of ministry, but you have a partner in all that you do.  No longer do you have to travel alone on vacation, but you have someone to share all those wonderful memories with.  No longer do you have only your own resources in life, but you have the time, talents, and treasures of someone you are joined with.  All you have belongs to them, but all they have also belongs to you.  You are no longer living for yourself, but you are living for someone who is living for you.  The one flesh that is created can not be selfish because it was created by the union of two who have denied their selves. 

Marriage is a union ordained by God to create something new and better.  If you seek after God for your partner you will find someone especially made for you.  She fills your weaknesses with her strengths just as her weaknesses are filled by your strengths.  Those times you are down, she is there to pick you up.  Those times that she is down, you are there to pick her up.  In other words, you are made to fit one another so that you are able to join together.  You life is made to fit her life and her life is made to fit your life.  When you die to yourself you are living for the spirit.  When you realize that and live for that, you are well on the way to making the marriage successful.  In fact, just as living for the flesh in marriage is the most common way for failure, living in the spirit in marriage is the best way for success. 

The Bible says that marriage is a metaphor for our relationship to Jesus Christ.  This new oneness is part of that metaphor.  Just as how we need to deny ourselves when we come to Jesus, so must we deny ourselves when coming into marriage.  That is, of course, if we want it to be successful.  You will never have a successful marriage if you are living for yourself and you will never have a victorious life in Christ if you do not deny yourself.  Keeping your self means keeping your flesh and your flesh will do all it can to interfere with either of those relationships.  In fact, one can usually tell what kind of husband or wife someone will be by their relationship with Jesus.  The flesh-driven Christian will be a flesh-driven husband.  He will make decisions based on his own gratification and take very little into account in how he treats his wife.  He will do those things that make him happy and for him that will be enough reason regardless of whether or not it makes his wife happy.  These marriages are full of stress and misery for the offended spouse and many times they end in divorce.  On the other hand, a Christian who has denied himself will naturally move into that role as a self-denied spouse understanding that the other spouse's feelings are their own feelings.  In fact, a self denied spouse would not be able to exist in a situation where his or her partner is suffering.  This same principle applies to money in that the self-denied spouse understand that there is no such thing as "mine" and only "ours."  Money is another common reason for divorce, and for the selfish spouse one can see how that can become a major problem. 

As for me (and I am sure many of you), I can see the oneness I have with my spouse from both perspectives.  When I am selfish, I hate it.  When I want a pity party and for it to be all about me, I hate it.  When I am grumpy and my ill feelings hurt my wife, I hate it.  When those inevitable times come when we get angry at each other, I hate it.  Whenever I have to sacrifice what I want for our needs, I hate it.  I hate it all those times because I let my self take over.  I forget that this idea of "me" is dead, and sometimes I even hate that because whenever I am determined to be selfish and act out it is never only about myself.  It is about us.  She hurts when I hurt or when I fail in my attitude and behavior and I hurt when she hurts.  There is no "me", even when I want there to be.  There is only "us." 

On the other hand, I also love this oneness.  I can see God doing an amazing work in my heart.  I can see the amazing gift God has given me in making this wonderful person just for me.  I love even more that God has made me especially for her and that God made me as a gift for someone.  I know sometimes I do not act like a gift, but that is what God has made me to be for her.  When I am able to reckon that old man to be dead, marriage is the most wonderful thing in the world.  I have the honor of being entrusted to care for one of God's precious daughters.  I am given this gift of a partner in this life to have another part of me to compliment my weaknesses and to support me those times I need support. 

This is just like our walk with Jesus.  When we walk in the flesh, our walk fails.  We backslide or stand still.  We feel conviction in our hearts.  We know we are doing wrong, but we harden our hearts not wanting to give up the pleasures of the flesh.   We have the gift of salvation, but we certainly do not appreciate it and we certainly do not experience that abundant and blessed life offered to us by God.  In marriage, when we walk in the flesh, our marriage fails.  We never grow closer together and many grow further apart.  We feel conviction as we feel the pain of our spouse each time we hurt him or her.  Unfortunately, we harden our hearts to that pain seeking after that which we think will make us happy.  We have the gift of marriage, but we certainly never appreciate all that can mean for our lives.  We never experience all the joy that marriage can bring us. 

The point I am making is a lesson I am learning more and more each day.  To experience the true joy of marriage, you have to deny yourself.  Stop thinking in terms of what will make "me" happy and start thinking in terms of  what is best for "us."  The more I grow and the more I am able to put away self, the more and more I appreciate this amazing gift of marriage that God has given me.  I love my wife and I love love being married to her.  It has been a wonderful two years.  Even better, I know that as we grow in Christ together, what is wonderful today will be awesome tomorrow. I know that because I am choosing to sow to the spirit as I learn to deny the flesh. 
Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.  Galatians 6:7-8 NKJV

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