Written by Donovan Law.
God often chooses interesting moments to reveal the deep mysteries of life. One of those moments happened with a group of Christian brothers in the lobby of a Hospice House. My wife of twenty-four years and mother of two boys was spending her last day on earth after going through a four-year battle with breast cancer.
As she drifted into an unresponsive state, the woman with whom I had shared every moment of adulthood was fading. These brothers shared comforting words as I shared my feelings and emotions of the moment. As often happens, there was a divine processing in that conversation that turned into a revelation of God’s purpose for marriage.
Marriage and the Church
The Apostle Paul’s words in Ephesians 5:31-32 remind us that the oneness of marriage is a profound mystery and an example of Christ’s relationship to the Church. That day it was clear that oneness was being dissolved. This felt like the opposite of a father walking the bride down the aisle and giving her away to an eager groom.
It hit me as we sat and talked that it felt like I was the one walking her down the aisle to God, as though I was handing her off in a cosmic wedding ceremony. It became evident later that every part of Genesis 2 is mirrored in marriage and in life.
In Genesis 2, God gives the ultimate object lesson by having Adam name all the created land animals one at a time. At the end of this exhaustive and time-consuming activity, verse 20 says there was “not found a helper fit for him” (ESV). God then placed a deep sleep upon the man, took one of his ribs, and fashioned a woman. In glorious splendor, God walks His daughter to the man and presents him with this perfect provision and the chemistry is immediate! In the first recorded speech in human history, he proclaims that “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” (v. 23).
Glimpses of the frustration of the previous task are evident with his exasperated and relieved cry of “at last.” God Himself makes it official by proclaiming that the two “shall become one flesh” (v. 24), and the man recognizes immediately that this wonderful creation has come from his body. He has awoken to a missing piece of himself, that is quickly returned by God in the form of the woman. It is such a beautiful and physical representation of the God-created need. It is this one flesh journey that defines marriage.
Marriage and Eternity
Looking back over twenty-four years, there was a realization that becoming one is a preparation for eternal life. We had grown together and been honed by each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Life was a great adventure, and we were not the same individuals as when we first got married. I was an easy-going guy who needed some spice, and she was a fiery gal who needed to calm down (a LOT)! It was beautiful.
Marriage is part of the sanctifying work to prepare believers for eternal life with Jesus. Paul writes in Ephesians 5:25-27,
“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.”
Later, Paul would quote Genesis 2 and offer commentary when he writes,
“’Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:31-32, ESV).
Notice the language of the sanctifying work of oneness and the imagery of presentation. Our lives together, every adventure, every hardship, and every mundane moment all served to prepare us both for eternity. When she was a bride, her brother-in-law walked her down the aisle and put her hand on mine. Now I was escorting her and placing her hand on the hand of a Savior whom she loved with all her heart.
Marriage and the Journey
Marriage is a challenging and great adventure. It requires a lot of work and sacrifice. It is rigorous and dynamic. The trials can be difficult but often color the rewards of an overcoming life. These difficulties become trophies of God’s goodness and the birthplace of true intimacy. Couples often look at points of contention as stumbling blocks to happiness, but they are opportunities for Christ to work.
Two Becoming One teaches that a spouse is God’s provision. This is a painful truth for some and a challenging statement for even the best of relationships, but it does offer some reminders.
1.) Humility in a relationship goes a long way. Willingness to enter the give-and-take of oneness requires transparency, honesty, and deference.
2.) Couples must have a willingness to make each other a priority. Take time each day to build trust and true intimacy. Being self-aware and finding ways to invest in a relationship leads to personal growth and greater connection with God and each other.
3.) Live every day like it is your last. Leave nothing unsaid or undone. If an apology is needed, do it. If something needs to be said, say it. Do something nice and unexpected. If your marriage is on the rocks and struggling, honor your spouse by allowing God to work through any dysfunction to hone your character. If the situation is overwhelming, seek out help from a friend, pastor, or professional.
My wife and I became the catalyst that each other needed to become the people that God intended. This mirrors the relationship between Christ and His bride, a Church that is spotless and without blemish, ready to be received to the wedding banquet prepared for Him and His Beloved.