I have a passion for marriage. But I have an even deeper passion for how marriage is the apt depiction of our walk with the Lord Jesus Christ. Of course, by our walk with the Lord Jesus Christ, I presuppose that you have been born-again and spirit-filled with the evidence of speaking in tongues. But if you haven’t, please do not be deterred as the intention of this post is to communicate a vitality of the Jesus message as it regards your marriage.
I see clearly the global need of the gospel message particularly as it pertains to marriage because the very essence of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection was to contract a marriage between God and all of humanity. And therein, in the conjoining of God and man, lay an opening, which if explored could transform our homes and marriages to havens of bliss.
The only pertinent question is this:
Will we be able to enter into these flung-open doors?
The state of our marriages is an all-important factor in the enshrinement of healthy families and communities. In fact, I have recently found new meaning in the words, ‘the state of our marriages.’
Everything in society depends on how things are on the home front. Everything depends on the readiness and willingness of a husband and wife to yield to the wisdom of God without which the structure of society collapses. It is not the state of our homes; that they are peaceful and without conflict that will matter much, but the state of our marriages. It will matter to the kind of men and women we become; the kind of children we raise and the quality of decision we make whether it be about personal finance or climate change.
It is well worth the while to ponder what some concerned thought leaders have said about the quality of today’s marriages:
As we look at the crux of finding what the states of our marriages are in, it is imperative to grasp that God originated marriage. It is also imperative to understand that without God at the centre of our marriages, we are prone to struggle, let alone be happy. Also, without a map or a tour guide, we who are married—or want to be married—are in over our heads, lost in uncharted territory fraught with the landmines that lead to doubt, frustration, infidelity and ultimately, divorce.
The other thing to grasp is that the Jesus message is both our map and tour guide; two blessings in one that show us that divorce was clearly not God’s plan for marriage. Jesus said, ‘from the beginning, it was not so…’ (Matthew 19:8). And He could say this of divorce with flawless accuracy because He was there with God in the beginning, and without Him, was nothing made, that was made (John 1:1-3). Not even marriage was made without the consortium of God and His Word.
All through the Bible, we see the tapestry of a conjoining whether it’s with Adam and Eve; God and His Word; and Christ and His Church. It is what the state of every marriage should be although this is far from the case. Today, the pundits generally say that one in two marriages will end in divorce. Even though the very substance of this statistic seems very contestable—to some degree—the general import of it is that the understanding of what a marriage is is lacking.
Thoughts about Divorce
A few years ago, Hollywood actor, Gwyneth Paltrow popularised the words, ‘conscious uncoupling’ to mean the act of ending a marriage amicably in such a way that the former spouses remained friends, co-parent, if they have children and possibly, stay in love. I don’t know whether it is the idea of being in love without monogamous commitment or the offer of a smooth transition back to singleness that has won widespread appeal among so many, but a divorce—no matter how amicable—is not without its attendant pain points.
Uncoupling—whether it is conscious or not—is always gut-wrenching in some way, for at least one of the spouses because it is unnatural if you go by those words of Jesus: ‘…from the beginning, it was not so.’
Simply put, the exacerbating divorce problem across the world today is not primarily a problem of irreconcilable differences as divorce lawsuits often indicate. The problem is a lack of understanding regarding what states of our marriages are in; and how to change it from one state to another.
For Christians, the states our marriages are in is a direct reflection of the states of our Christianity. Paul the Apostle called it, ‘a great mystery’ (Ephesians 5:31-32) which I will deal with later on.
Until there is an understanding of the state of your marriage, there will always be pain whether you choose to stay married or get a divorce. The secret doorway back to a healthy, thriving marriage is to focus on the state your marriage is in now and not to do away with the marriage itself. Divorcing your spouse and remarrying someone else will not resolve the pain. In fact, studies have shown that the likelihood of people who had previously undergone a divorce, getting another divorce increased with every successive marriage.
‘And He [Jesus] answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”—Matthew 19:4-6
No matter where you are in your marriage, God’s idea is never for it to end in divorce. His idea is for it to end with the death of one or both spouses. It is also not his will for anyone—including you—to end your marriage, even under dire circumstances. Nothing could be more displeasing to God than to put an end to something He initiated no matter how you got married.
Look at it this way, being in a marriage is like being part of a set of conjoined twins sharing the same vital organs; whose separation could lead to the demise of both.
I recently came across the story of Chang and Eng Bunker, a set of conjoined twins whose birthplace gave basis to the term, ‘Siamese Twins’.
Born in Siam (now Thailand) in the early nineteenth century to poor parents, the twin brothers—joined at the sternum with their livers fused together, even though the organs were independent of each other—somehow wind up rich, celebrity, married to two sisters; fathering twenty-one children between them.
Despite the oddity of their physical condition, the Bunker brothers managed to lead very productive lives, even though, not without hitches. They lost most their money during the American Civil War and though they coped well, Chang began drinking heavily. He suffered a stroke and on January 11, 1874, passed away in his sleep. When Eng woke up to find his brother deceased, he cried, ‘Then, I am going.’
I imagine that the Bunker brothers had a profound acceptance of each other that every married couple should have: Though flawed to the outside world, those two shared an undeniable bond that could only have been dissolved in death.
Marriage is this way too. When we marry someone, we are conjoined to that person till death. Otherwise, why are husbands told ‘to love their wives as their own bodies’? Or that, ‘He that loves his wife loves himself’. The presupposition that husband and wife are one trail back to Adam in the Garden of Eden when he first saw Eve and 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.’ (Genesis 2:23)
Three Important Things on Marriage
Researching the subject of marriage these many years, one is poised to conclude the following:
- Marriage requires knowledge
- Marriage has different seasons
- Marriage is always in a particular state
Marriage Requires Knowledge
The biggest challenge to marriages across the world is knowledge. God declared it back in the Old Testament that without knowledge my people perish (Hosea 4:6). And I might add that without knowledge, a marriage perishes. Since marriage is the fashioning of a new person—from two people—by God, it is safe to approach your spouse not as a partner but as a part of you, yet to be discovered. ‘And they two shall be one flesh: so then they are no more two, but one flesh.’ (Mark 10:8) Do you understand the import of being one with this person you are married to? The general misunderstanding of what this oneness of marriage is what has wrecked many homes. Knowing your spouse should be a lifelong commitment once you accept him or her as a part of you. ‘Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.’(1 Peter 3:7)
In essence, a husband is to dwell with his wife based on knowledge valuing her, not as his partner but as delicate part of himself and vice versa. The word translated knowledge is the Greek word, ‘gnosis’ from which we derive English words like diagnosis or prognosis. The idea these words communicate is progressive knowledge; that your marriage should be a lifelong commitment to studying the person we marry while making ourselves open enough to be studied by them as well.
Marriage has Different Seasons
Typically, marriage happens in phases. For most marriages, the couples get lured into saying, ‘I do’, basking in the passion and romance of being around each other. It is the phase where you and your spouse are like peas in a pod. In this season, everything about your relationship is full of promise; the promise of children; a promising career; a home and most of all, the promise of someone to share it with. I call this the Oxytocin phase. But then, that season is quickly overtaken by a season of realization when the rubber finally meets the road. In this season, couples begin to see each other for who they really are. The fog of fantasy clears away, leaving the stark facts about this person you married in full view. This is the Settling-down phase. The unsettling aspect of this phase could be the manner in which you respond to the new discoveries you are making about your spouse. Seeds of conflict are sown in this phase that begins to escalate in the next phase. The next phase is the critical phase. Usually characterized by intense conflict based on your pre-formed expectations and the need to try to manage those expectations, a power struggle ensues to try to establish a kind of order for the way things should be in the marriage. Quite often, one spouse will push to dominate while the other spouse may push back, leading to an escalation of conflict. This phase is where marriages are most predisposed to all kinds of infidelity and ultimately divorce. This phase is one of the reasons why I wrote this book to help you navigate through this season of your marriage. If you hang in there, making the decision to know your spouse more, understand the season you are in and alter the state of your marriage, you can make it through to the next phase.
The next season is typically cathartic. The spouses, having weathered the power struggle borne out of difference learn to accept, forgive and cooperate with each other. This is where the real ‘cleaving’ happens in a marriage; where maturity sets in. Most marriages that fail never get into the maturity phase for the lack of knowledge.
You need to know what a marriage is. And no one can define it better than its creator—God. You need to know the season your marriage is in. While the passing of time will take you from the Oxytocin phase through the Settling-down and Critical phases of your marriage, only knowing the season you are in and in what state your marriage is in can take your union to maturity.
Marriage is always in a Particular State
As I wrote earlier. The state your marriage is in is more important than marriage itself. Why do people get divorced and tear down their whole lives when they could have simply tweaked the state their union was in? If you have contemplated divorce, know it that even if you marry someone else and are happy at the beginning, you will still need to learn how to shift your marriage from one state to another over the different seasons. The stats show that divorced people are two times more likely to get divorced again than couples are in their first marriage. There is a God way to tweak the state of a marriage.
First, what do I mean when I say, ‘The state of our marriages’?
By state, I mean the type of relationship you are having with your spouse (which is often a reflection of the type you are having with the Lord Jesus Christ). Every marriage is always in one of three states. It is in either a state of co-dependency or a state of partnership or a state of union. And while I will deal with these states in later posts, what guarantees the success of your marriage is knowing God’s original for marriage, the season your marriage is in and the state of your marriage.
In his book, Getting Married, George Bernard Shaw noted, ‘When two people are under the influence of the most violent, most insane, most delusive, and most transient of passions, they are required to swear that they will remain in that excited, abnormal, and exhausting condition continuously until death do them part.’
Shaw rightly accepts the transient nature of the seasons and conditions of marriage. However, this book seeks to help couples manage the transient using the immutable.
This piece is culled from my manuscript titled, We: The Antidote to Divorce written under the pseudonym, I.B. Glover.