01 December 2011

Why Marry?

That was the question I asked the ladies Saturday afternoon, as the woman's group has finally resumed meeting twice a month to study God's Word together, pray and just enjoy the fellowship. I know why we get married (or say we get married) in my culture, my world... I know what the Bible says about the goals and purposes of marriage, but I was curious to know what the women from this world, this culture would say.

Here were their responses:
  • the family is the base unit of organization in society
  • the family is a place of safety, security and provision
  • it is a shame to our parents if we do not get married
  • strengthen families as well as family ties/social relationships
  • it is a shame to a woman if she does not/cannot have babies
  • marriage is the only permissable way to have babies
  • God has told us to be fruitful, multiply and fill the earth
  • children honor and take care of us when we grow old
  • God ordains marriage
  • physical attraction and marriage is the only acceptable way to enjoy a physical relationship with a man
  • love
...and they were listed pretty much in that order, as I recall. Some of the reasons are the same across our two cultures, although they carried different priorities. Some reasons did not cross cultures at all.

After discussing these for a few minutes - we also talked about Biblical purposes, including the fact that God uses marriage to illustrate the relationship between Christ and His church, it is a tool that God uses to make us more like Him... more holy... and it is often in marriage and through the process of having/raising children that we truly learn to think of another first - more concerned about someone else's needs and desires than our own.

After talking about these, I asked the ladies if the Bible spoke much or little about the topic of marriage. Their immediate consensus was that it only just touched on the subject - that more time was spent teaching about God and what we should or shouldn't do. But as we started talking about passages that discussed marriage and passages from which lessons could be directly applied to women in their roles as wives (Genesis 2 & 3, Matthew 22, Luke 14, Hosea, Song of Songs, Proverbs 31, Ephesians 5, 1 Corinthians 6 & 7, 1 Peter 3, 1 Timothy 2... and many other individual verses throughout God's Word) it became apparent that the Bible has much to say on this topic. (As an aside, it was neat to see the ladies' surprise... and delight... that God has spoken so abundantly on a topic that is very significant to them!)

Thus, per their request, it was agreed that we wouldn't be spending just one Saturday looking at what a biblical marriage should and could be... we will continue this train of thought over the next several Bible studies.

And so last Saturday, we concentrated on Genesis 2.18-25:   
   Then the Lord God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him." Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the sky, and to every beast of the field, but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him.
    So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. The Lord God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man.
    The man said, "This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man." For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.
The first thing we discussed took place before any discussion of marriage: God took pity on the man in his solitude... and that God knew long before the man had a clue just what the man would need. God had created man to be a social creature - to need other people, to desire interaction and relationship with others, to serve and to be served. But God didn't just God let Adam discover this truth himself. He caused all of the animals to come before Adam to receive their names and after this, it dawned on the man that everyone else had a like companion. He didn't - and he noticed this.

This led to a discussion of whether or not the man was complete without a companion. As followers of Jesus, we often profess that He is all we need; we sing songs containing the idea that God is our all in all. Yet here,  God was the One Who stated "It not good for the man to be alone;" He said this before the fall, before sin and corruption entered the world. Can we then assume, then,  that as God experiences complete unity and fellowship within the Trinity, He desired a similar experience for His creation - simply for the joy and delight it would provide, and for the privilege of knowing God better? Could it be that we were created, first, to know God, to delight in and glorify Him. And we were created for relationship, to meet the needs of others, those we find all around us?

A corollary follows right on the heels of that thought: Nowhere do we see that we are created for our own amusement and pursuits. We were created for God's pleasure and to be in relationship with, serving, others. Yet a large bulk of our time is spent chasing our own dreams, working towards our own yearnings, seeking self-benefit rather than looking to serve. It was in this context that God ordained, the first marriage. 

Adam saw his need - God provided. He caused Adam to sleep and formed woman from his rib. When Adam saw Eve, he recognized her uniqueness from all the other creatures... in her different-ness from all else, however, she bore an unmistakeable likeness to him... this seemed to both surprise and delight him. He knew she stood apart from all others he'd seen so far, even though he was "sleeping" during God's actual creation of her. God had given him a companion, a helper, one who suited and complimented him, perfectly.

As God establishes this very first marriage, we see in these verses specific responsibilities - or tasks - given to the man.  He is to leave his parents, his birth home, and begin a new social/family unit that is equal in stature and status as that from which he came. He is to attach himself, fixing himself to and joining with his wife so pieces coming from two different family units meld together to become a single family. And finally, during the course of this marriage, he is to do all he possibly can to see that their marriage exemplifies the reality of two who have, by the word and will of God, have melded together to become one - physically, emotionally and spiritually. He no longer belongs to himself.

The woman also has responsibilities. She is to become the man's helper - suiting herself to him, conforming... adapting... fitting herself to him as he takes the leadership of this new family unit they are making by joining together in marriage. She conforms to him, not the other way around, taking her cues from the direction he leads. She, like the man, is also to dedicate herself to the task of "two becoming one." She no longer belongs to herself.

I should not be looking or thinking of ways my husband can serve and take care of me. I should be looking for ways to support in all that he does. I should not think about my desires or my plans, but rather enabling him with his wishes and goals. Marriage is not about making me happy, but rather about "suiting" my husband as his companion and helper, complimenting him and becoming one with him... a new family. A husband leaves behind what he knew, taking the leadership of the new. He binds himself to his wife - to leading, caring, providing for, serving so that two become a completely a unified "us." Thus individual goals must take second place, and all of this within a context of transparency without shame.

As I shared with the ladies, a very real and practical application of this idea - that marriage is not about me, my needs and my wants, but more about two becoming one - happened as I was preparing Saturday morning for the study. I'm not normally a procrastinator when it comes to Bible study preparation, and I'd done some reading, praying, thinking and meditating throughout the week - but I'd also had an incredibly busy week, and so did not stop long enough to actually make any notes until that morning - while busy cleaning the house, fixing breakfasts and lunches, doing laundry... Tim was, at the same time, preparing to preach on Sunday. My thoughts immediately started along this train: He'd already taken several mornings to study and prepare. He still had all day Saturday and wasn't preaching until Sunday night... Why wasn't he helping more (he was helping) with the daily stuff and giving me a few minutes to feel ready for the afternoon? Of course, at the same time, I'm meditating on the very point of this lesson: I need to think more about him, his goals and his needs than about me, my goals and my needs. Doing the second comes completely naturally; the first requires continual choosing, perseverence and a Philippians 2 mindset. Honestly? Sometimes that thought was all I needed to "reboot" my attitude. There were times, however, where my selfish frustration inside spilled outside and I treated others around me less than graciously.

Of course, back to the beginning of our Bible study... all of this is within a greater context: God created man for His pleasure and His glory... and He created us to serve and meet the needs of others and to allow others to serve and meet our needs - while not selfishly demanding that that be the case. Thus, marriage (and the family) is a ideally, a "gym" where and how we better learn to be... and practice being... what God created us to be.

Such a simple truth.

So hard to live in so many of my moments.

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