The last month has been one of the best months of our 12-year marriage that I can remember. And the holy part is that it had nothing to do with circumstances. It wasn’t because of a week in Hawaii, a $10,000 check arriving unexpectedly in the mail, or any other outside change.
It’s the result of a shift that God has brought at the deepest level of our core beliefs about marriage.
As the ancient proverb goes,
“When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”
We’ve been pursuing healing, deliverance, restoration, and freedom for many years. We’ve individually sought personal counseling and many prayer sessions. But it still hasn’t touched the rift of deepest pain in our marriage. Cherie and I would both say that most of our marriage is healthy and strong. But a small percentage is incredibly painful – perennial patterns of hurting each other, missing each other’s hearts, and mutual misunderstanding lead to all sorts of problems.
Then: a rescue.
Through the help of a couple who has chosen the narrow road in their marriage (Jared and Megan Anderson, thank you) and the ministry of an older and much wiser couple showing us the ancient path (thank you, Tim and Anne Evans), we were led back to God’s design and given an entirely new layer of revelation on what is possible for marriage.
They brought us back to the timeline of the Larger Story. Our story began in Eden when all was “good” – as it was meant to be, a design that brought life. With the Fall, all hell broke loose and separation from God wreaked havoc and rendered broken almost all that our hearts hold as true, beautiful, and good (The Sacred Romance retells this story in a most compelling way).
Through the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus – restoration began. And we find ourselves partway, in the “not yet”, but headed back to Eden – to the restoration of all things.
We were challenged to begin our theology about marriage on God’s design before the Fall. They invited us to meditate on Genesis 1 and 2 every day for three months in order to let God’s design, God’s desire, and God’s intentions find deep roots in us.
And in Genesis 1 and 2 they helped us unearth a timeless secret.
Let US make them in our image… let them rule.
We were made, fashioned and formed, in the image of a Trinitarian God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. A mystery of one God who is also a holy fellowship and community, a Unity of three being One. And we were given the assignment, and the honor to care for, protect, and graciously rule over all of creation together, man and woman.
In Genesis 2, God takes us right into his creative studio and shows us how he rendered this mystery and holy possibility. First, He draws man from the dust of the earth, from organic compost. Then He does the most intimate and extraordinary act in all creative history (relived countless times every day in maternity wards around our nation and in homes around the world): God “breathed into (Adam’s) nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7). God’s spirit fills our mortal bodies with an inextinguishable LIFE from his very own breath (Eccelsiastes 3:20).
It was framed to us this way: “God brings us to life with the intimacy of a kiss.”
And then He goes into this wildly mysterious and nearly preposterous story…. Adam alone is not enough. Humanity is not yet complete and whole. Adam is the image of God indeed, as a man but not yet as a fellowship. So Adam falls asleep, a rib is drawn from his side, and woman is created. The “crown of creation”, to quote Captivating. The completion of the holiest landscape of beauty, wonder, adventure, and life that God could dream up.
The very next sentence contains the secret that Cherie and I have been missing for twelve years. “Therefore,” the text reads. In other words, “All that I have just shared was prologue for this next idea.”
OK, wild and creative Trinity, you have my attention.
“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united (cleave) to his wife, and they will become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).
A man and a woman become one. They are united.
Jesus echoes this mystery when the legalist on divorce challenges him. He avoids the question (and the trap) entirely by going back to this very place in the Story; he cuts to the heart by going back to God’s design, desire, and intention.
“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘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…Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning” (Matthew 19:4-8).
And here is the crux.
Cherie and I are a team. We’ve been trying to fight for the best in each other; hoping that through each other’s love, we each will become more than we ever could have been without the other. But most of our life we tag team. It’s taking turns – shuttling kids, making decisions out of efficiency, seeking God… but separately.
We’ve been missing the biggest point.
Union is what He is after.
And in our relationship with Him.
Unity is the point. Not productivity. Not doing good things for God. Not making good decisions on behalf of our spouse. Unity cultivates increasing intimacy. And intimacy – in marriage with our partner and in union with our God – is the goal and the prize of this story.
And more is available than we have been led to believe. Much, much more.
We have both surrendered our “trump cards” in our marriage. We have embraced a dream of cultivating our marriage to reflect and embody more of what we see available in the heroic fellowship and union of God Himself, the Trinity – the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
It is not “efficient.” We’ve had to put the brakes on in a big way. Punt on many decisions, offload commitments, and slow down.
We’ve had to listen to each other’s heart and pain like never before.
We’ve had to come to the center of how the other is feeling, seeing, and hoping and be with each other in that place.
We’ve had to seek God together and on behalf of “we” – this holy union.
And the fruit is already being realized. Joy. Trust. Hope. Kindness. Unity. Strength.
And, God-willing, slowly, one day at a time this “we”, this union, will bring about something new in this world…something dreamed up by our God since before creation, some piece of his promise to a hurting world that “all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well” (Julian of Norwich).
Unity trumps disunity.
What would it look like to unfurl this banner over your marriage and your relationship with God?
What’s the next step for you today to take and bold, risky and honest step closer to what Jesus referred to when He talks about God taking two unique people and through some holy mystery making them become one (Mark 10:9)?
The choices in this decade will set the trajectory for the rest of our lives.
For some hope and nourishment for your marriage I encourage you to lean into the heart-centered counsel in these books: