Math and I have never been friends. Anything beyond basic algebra and I’m in foreign territory. I like foreign languages but Math is one I have no desire to learn. So…2 =1? Umm…is that like e=mc something-or-other? Please help me, Mr. Einstein! Or, I guess I should say, “Please help me, Mr. Burroughs! You see…my husband was a math major. Yes folks, Pat + Karen = trouble.
You can find this 2=1 business in Ephesians 5:31. In his letter to the Ephesians, the apostle Paul writes, “and the 2 shall become one flesh.” Ohhhh! I get it! Guy meets girl, they fall in love, marry and live happily ever after – sharing one name, one house, one closet, that kind of oneness!
But a relationship with Jesus is the romance Paul gets all starry-eyed about! In his instructions to husbands and wives about how their relationship should function as a mirror of the church’s relationship with Christ, he fires out,
“and the 2 shall become ONE flesh! It’s a profound MYSTERY!”
Then he kind of catches himself because he realizes his audience is probably still at the altar, thinking about the whole living together, biology thing. He says, “But I am speaking of Christ and the church.” I have noticed that often when Paul talks about knowing Jesus, he gets so wrapped up in describing the heavenly realities that he almost forgets his earthly audience. And to me, this passage is one of those moments.
Ok, so… Christ and the church becoming one….yikes! Lord, have you met us Christians? Fleshing out that relationship is not for the faint of heart! It’s a boat load of work is what that is! And so…if it’s hard work for the bride of Christ (those that form the church) to love each other well and live together in unity….oh dear! Do you mean… do you mean that marriage is not primarily about goose pimples and prezzies? Are you by any chance inferring that marriage is work? That it’s meant to be a lifelong journey in learning to love well? Someone please inform Hollywood!
Can there be anything more expectation-laden than the romance-wedding-marriage zone? I think we all come into marriage with expectations the size of a U-Haul truck crammed with a lifetime of “hope chests.” And of course these expectations have all to do with how I will be loved with little thought given to my effort. For sure Hollywood, the wedding business, event planners and photographers - they all do a primo job at building the fairy tale – but I have to lay the burden squarely at the foot of the cross. Jesus left a tough act to follow, seemingly raising the bar out of reach.
“Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church.” “Wives, reverence your husbands.” I absolutely love that I should be loved supernaturally! But REVERENCE your husband? Could we not come up with another verb? How about “be nice to…?” Doesn’t “reverence’ infer attitudes of amazement and awe? That’s a pretty holy-ish way to treat a mortal, not-so-intuitive-can’t read-my-mind-when-I-need-a-prezzie kind of guy! I mean… Pat’s a very good man but…REVERENCE? On the other hand, trust me, I will scoot right up to the table expecting to be fed my own lavish serving of unconditional, sacrificial love! Thank you very much!
Somewhere along the way this culture of ours has ingrained the unholy expectation that love is just a gooey feeling that happens to you and certainly not something that you choose to do for the benefit of another.
Christ loved us and sacrificed himself for us. The sacrifice of self and not the satisfaction of self is the recipe to a loving relationship. He modeled it and we mirror it as we love each other.
I believe that no one comes into marriage with higher expectations than those who follow Christ. And so no one is more disappointed that those who follow Christ – with themselves, and each other. But the good news is that no one is more BLESSED than those who follow Christ.
September 6 marked 40 years of wedded bliss for Pat and Karen. Do you know what the definition of bliss is? A state of spiritual blessedness! Have we enjoyed 40 years of non-stop happiness and delight? Uh…..nope. But have we experienced the spiritual blessedness of commitment, faithfulness and devotion to each other? YES! My sweet niece asked if we were planning a special celebration for our 40th. “How about repeating your vows?” she volunteered. “Why would I do that?” I quipped, “We repeat our vows every day!”
Ahhh oneness! Loving the moments when we don’t have to finish each other’s sentences. And hanging in there during the times we seem to be “speaking in tongues” and there’s no one around to translate! I think, though, we have unpacked most of those boxes of expectations, discarding the rubbish and polishing the silver and gold, the riches of trusting Christ with our shortcomings and experiencing the blessing of increasing oneness. To paraphrase our former pastor, Ronnie Stevens, “God didn’t give us the gospel so that we could understand marriage, he gave us marriage so that we could understand the gospel.”
...and they lived happily ever after.