an error in the way a law, rule, or contract is written that makes it possible for some people to legally avoid obeying it (merriam-webster.com)
I didn’t think of myself as a quitter, but when it came to our marriage I wasn’t so sure anymore. Marriage had turned out to be more than I bargained for. It was too hard and I wanted out. There had to be a way, something I’d overlooked or read wrong that would give me the loophole I wanted. Little did I know that in my search to get out of our marriage, I had inadvertently started a wrestling match with God.
It was in Matthew 19 that I saw a loophole forming, right there in verse 11:
Not everyone can accept this statement, only those whom God helps.
And the more I thought about it the clearer it became …only those whom God helps. Right. If God was for this marriage it would be easier. There would be peace. I began to see hope. Yes, divorce is a hard process but afterward, life would improve for everyone. It had to be better than what we were presently experiencing. I could see my loophole getting larger.
… Until God asked me if I was a eunuch.
Wait? What? …. A what?
Have You Not Read?
When God asks you a rhetorical question, you just know He’s got your number. We’ve seen this line of questioning before. Jesus did this with the Pharisees back in verse 4:
Jesus answered, Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator made them male and female?
… have you not read …? Obviously, they had read it – they were the religiously educated, Jesus knew that. Yet, the intent of his question indicates they missed something. … just like I was missing something too.
I missed it because, like the Pharisees, I was looking for something that wasn’t there. Fishing for an excuse, any excuse to twist God’s Word to my benefit. Any excuse that says it’s ok to give up on marriage, on a spouse … on a person.
To challenge the Pharisees, Jesus began with an overview from way back in Genesis, as though they really hadn’t read from their own scriptures. But before He could finish, they interrupted Him with another question. Then the disciple’s interjected with a comment of their own.
Misfire From Both Sides
On the one side of Jesus, the Pharisees are saying they should be able to break the marriage contract whenever they choose. And on the other side, the disciples are emphatic about not even venturing into a marriage if it’s going to be a covenant situation. Both sides had different reasons but both groups were missing the bigger picture in order to avoid doing the hard work that marriage sometimes demands.
First: The Pharisees want to be able to trade-in for a new partner: Jesus tells them their focus is all wrong. Their reasoning is that if they have all their Ts crossed and Is dotted through a contract of divorce, dissolving the marriage along with the contract is clean and tidy: sanitized. The paperwork is all in order. But Jesus wants them to look back further than their own relationships, beyond themselves, back to when marriage was established and grasp its original purpose: Not a contract; rather, a covenant to stay together. But they won’t have any of it, instead, they shot back in rebuttal:
“If that’s so, why did Moses give instructions for divorce papers and divorce procedures?”
Jesus tried to be a teacher and help them but they resisted with technicalities. So He responds with more deliberate words, You are the stubborn, hardhearted ones to pursue divorce in the first place. But if that weren’t enough Jesus pushes back with more, So you want to play hardball with technicalities? I have a technicality for you. You thought you could just divorce by saying your spouse cheated so you could find someone better? It doesn’t work that way. You want to leave your marriage? Alright, but you cannot ever get married again because you will only bring your hardheartedness into another marriage.
Apparently, there’s no trading in, or trading off. Only trading out. The technicality is too much for them, they got more than they bargained for. They came out to play Jesus for the fool, but instead He bested them at their own game! And they just quietly disappear before the end of the chapter.
And then: The Disciples don’t even want to start without an escape clause. Jesus recalls Genesis 2 in an effort to draw our attention to the original purpose of the male/female design of creation: so that they would covenant in marriage. No escape clause is the whole purpose. Remaining single because there’s no escape clause goes against the intended design. The only pure motive for choosing to not marry is to serve God.
At this point in the conversation, Jesus had turned his attention to the disciples and was directly addressing them. The only people that don’t have the capacity to accept the covenant of marriage are eunuchs, everyone else does.
“Not everyone can accept this statement,” Jesus said, “Only those whom God helps. Some are born as eunuchs, some have been made eunuchs by others, and some choose not to marry for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.”
I wasn’t a eunuch (as God rhetorically reminded me) which put me in the category of everyone else. It applies to …everyone …else? I didn’t like that very much. “God, You’re not actually saying that it does apply to everyone else, are You? Just that it doesn’t apply to eunuchs.” OK, that was wrong, I knew it. I had tried the same trick that Pharisees had: a technicality.
Although there was less confusion about my own heart, I was still disillusioned about our marriage. It didn’t seem fair. What about him? Why am I the one with the hard heart towards him? I could feel God’s hand pull me out of my self-pity pit: “No, it’s not Darrell you will become hard hearted towards … it’s Me.”
This was my game changer: It’s not about my spouse and me, but God and me.
Accept it, if you can
If I left our marriage my faith would weaken because I wouldn’t have given God the chance to come through for me. To demonstrate His power through me … through our marriage.
To leave Darrell would be to not trust God to work out all things in our marriage. Leaving him would also be saying to God that Darrell is such a lost cause that even the Creator of the universe isn’t able to do anything in him. I would be saying that God is not able to finish the good work He started on our wedding day.
And if I didn’t trust Him in this area of my life, what would be the next area that I would withhold from Him? And then the next? God is everything He says or nothing at all. I don’t get to pick and choose the areas of my life that He gets dominion over.
So. I’m not a eunuch, clearly. My only other choice was to seek a divorce with a hard heart towards God. Or, stay in admittance that Christ’s teaching on marriage was for me to accept.
With that thought, my loophole vanished.
When the demands of a God-centered marriage contrast against the world’s view, our vision towards marriage in general, can become jaded. When this happens it gets really hard to see marriage as a gift, much less be thankful for it. The world calls our flesh to do what’s best for itself, to think of self first and to have its own way.
There is a temptation to want it now and to think we know what’s best instead of waiting for God’s plan to unfold. Remember, He said His ways are higher than ours and Jesus said His peace is different than the peace of the world. Don’t look at a God-centered marriage with lenses that have been fitted to the world’s view.
When you find yourself in an emotional tight spot, sin crouching at the door of your temptation, resist the lure to think negative low thoughts about your husband. Instead through gratitude and praise, elevate your mind to the higher things.
In their letter to the Philippians, Paul and Timothy tell them, and us, that we’ll do best by filling our minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious — the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.
Be empowered by grace as you head into your weekend!
Sarah didn’t follow Abraham’s schemes because she was a doormat who believed she had no choice other than to sit in a victim mentality. She was a woman who was victorious in love and victoriously ahead of her time. She was living in the dispensation of grace before grace had arrived.
It was her choice. She already had the freedom to choose, otherwise, Abraham wouldn’t have asked her to decide in his favour.
The World is a system. It is more a way of thinking than it is a specific activity that takes place outside of a religious venue.
There is a sharp contrast between how the world system operates and how God operates in the spiritual realm. The peace Jesus refers to in John 14:27 is just one of the examples He uses to draw our attention in order to contrast the two different methods. Sometimes it gets tricky because the world masquerades as Jesus by appearing as right, righteous or good. It’s only in the outcome of the benefit that the truth is revealed; am I all for me or am I all for another.
Sarah chose Abraham instead of herself, not just once but twice (see Genesis 12:11-13 & Genesis 20:2). She trusted God and He protected her. Her radical faith enabled her to choose grace for her husband, unlike Eve who believed her way was better than Adam’s. Eve chose self-benefit which lead her to self-trust. Sarah chose for the benefit of someone else other than herself which lead to deeper trust in God, instead of self.
In Sarah’s choice, she became free. Free where it really counts. In Eve’s choice, she became a slave. She lost the freedom she already possessed and lost it where it really counts. God has got some fine things to say about Sarah, but all He says about Eve’s character is that she was deceived.
Through feminism, the world tries to tell me I don’t have any freedom and to get it I must choose self over everyone else. Yet it never actually gives way to any real freedom. There is only one way to have freedom; true freedom for everyone. It’s not found in a movement that tells you to take what you think is yours, but in a Person who demonstrated how to give it.
Satan uses the same old strategies in new trendy ways:
Deception of withholding. By masquerading as a good choice. For the illusion of freedom.
Sarah demonstrated how to shift our focus from the debilitating self-centered view that only sees a glass ceiling and instead rise to the top with the true vision of the only corporation that really matters: Heaven’s hierarchy.
When I first started to study the life of Sarah I thought she was mindless and weak. And even though Paul said I could be her daughter if I saw her as a mentor, it was many years before I believed what he was saying; I didn’t want to be her daughter. I was already a daughter of the feminist movement and preferred the mantra, “I am woman hear me roar.” But like many other women who’d been raised in that same culture, I found out, albeit the hard way, that I was already powerful and strong. I was created that way and didn’t need to draw my strength from a movement but from the source: God.
So began the illumination about the 50/50 split* in marriage and why it’s not God’s view of marriage, but the world’s view.
When I think back I can remember my insides squirming in conflict whenever I came across Sarah, especially this little gem from 1 Peter 3.
It was thus that Sarah obeyed Abraham [following his guidance and acknowledging his headship over her by] calling him lord (master, leader, authority).
This just didn’t translate into fair and equal for me, which is what I believed marriage was about. He can run his fifty percent and I’ll run my fifty percent. Now that’s equality.
I believed the equality moniker licensed me to argue whenever “I” believed “I” was in the right. In hindsight, God is funny … and patient. It was like He slipped a little burr called marriage, just under my skin and whenever I pushed up against what I thought was IN-equality between us, I felt the sting of that burr.
I struggled with that burr, all the while blaming Darrell because the only time I felt the sting was when my conflict was with him. My “prayers” for help seemed to fall on deaf ears. I would point out (to God) all the things that my husband was doing wrong and how he wouldn’t listen to me. I wanted to do things my way. I had ideas and solutions on how to run our family, but there was always so much conflict between us whenever we tried to talk about options or solve problems. And it just kept getting worse.
Weeks turned into months then into years. I became more contentious about having the right answers. More determined to fight for my rights; my way.
… and the burr just kept slicing away.
I had created a war zone in our home and a hardened heart within myself.
WHAT IS THE REAL BURR?
While mentally replaying a recent quarrel in frustration, I complained to God, “Fine, I just won’t have an opinion about anything, is that what YOU want?”
SILENCE. A deafening silence.
(We all have eye-opening, pride-crushing moments in which God in His infinite grace allows us to wrestle with Him so we see the truth of ourselves. This was one of mine.)
I had been in our kitchen doing dishes and slamming cupboards and the silence stopped me dead when I realized what I had said through gritted teeth and to Whom I had said it. I fell onto my knees, not so much in repentance and adoration of God, but in a slump of emotional fatigue and confusion. “Why did You give me a brain if You didn’t want me to use it? There will be nothing left of me.”
This was the first time I ever heard God’s voice, I remember it like it was yesterday. “Yes. There will be nothing left of you; that is the point. My Spirit cannot work in Darrell or you, with you in the way.”
With that first glimmer of understanding and the freedom that comes with the death of self, the burr started to loosen.
Focusing on getting our own way and own rights, 50/50, clouds our insight to the change God wants to do in us. The issue had never been about obeying Darrell because he was right, or me “not using my brain.” But rather God remaking us into whom He created each of us to be; using the tension now present in every marriage: Desire.
BEHOLD the real burr -> Desire … TO BE IN CHARGE; TO RULE
Yet your DESIRE and longing will be for your husband, and he will rule [with authority] over you and be responsible for you.
It’s my position that Genesis 3 is not a prescriptive text. God was not delineating what He was going to do to each of us [Satan, Adam, Eve]. He didn’t put desire in wives, but rather He was describing and explaining what we had each done to our own selves. He was letting us know how the relationships had changed and how they would play-out, on the outside of Eden.
Remember that He’s the Alpha Omega. He doesn’t just know the future, He IS the future. He wasn’t making plans for us, He already knew. In His grace and love for us, He was giving us a “heads-up.”
Eve’s creation is from power and strength, but not with teshuwqah: the desire to over power, conquer and rule. Teshuwqah in wives is a consequence of sin and therefore not our natural or most beneficial state.
The challenge for me was (and still is from time to time) to resist the temptation of teshuwqah that lives in my flesh; that rears it’s head to contend when something seems not fair for me, or ‘right’ in my eyes.
Teshuwqah or submit
The nature of 50/50 calls for someone to be that dividing line between the two 50s making sure it’s all equal. Whether you call it mutual submission or egalitarian style someone will end up being the scorekeeper to make sure that the submission actually IS mutual or to make sure that no one IS actually leading (or that both are leading … equally). To ensure the dividing line is equal someone is either given the authority to say, or someone takes the authority and says so.
If Satan can keep you fighting for your rights and contending for your 50% of the 50/50, if he can keep your focus on the mutuality of “taking turns submitting” to the earthy fleshly circumstances of life, you will lean more and more on your own steam and less on God’s. Satan’s goal is to keep you in the mindset he led you into in the first place: Teshuwqah
In reality, 50/50 is the gender issue, the “he/she” of it. I had pitted myself against my husband by choosing my own side of the dividing line. As much as I said I was for our marriage, the evidence of score keeping proves that my heart was not all in. Make no mistake, a home divided against itself will not stand. (Mk 3:25) Here are the two blinding illusions: First: You cannot give 50% without withholding 50%, one cancels the other. You are either 100% for your husband or you are withholding 50% in the name of mutuality or fairness. It is the nature of equality: someone tracks the transactions. Second: No one knows but you and God.
Well, I was a scorekeeper. And that’s what I hadn’t liked about Sarah; she wasn’t.
Sarah was 100% for Abraham. Looking at her through my 50/50 lense she appeared wimpy and unacceptable to me. Sarah was willing to submit herself. I was teshuwqah; making sure everything was “equal and fair.” I was the one keeping score … calling the shots from on top of my dividing line.
Then, that day on my kitchen floor …. BOOM, I wasn’t.
Isn’t it always like that with God. He does the revealing, the healing. All He asks is that we be willing to honestly look. Even if it is through squinted eyes at first. And as I began to view Sarah through His lenses, the low value I placed on her changed to overwhelming pride in being able to say, I am a true daughter of Sarah’s!
Her life exemplified a complete and undivided heart of trust in her LORD. She demonstrated with her own marriage how opposite mine was. And finally, a new level of dependence on God emerged that I had never experienced.
I will probably never submit as perfectly as Sarah and that’s ok. At our house we aim for progress, not perfection.
The focus shouldn’t be on a quid-pro-quo relationship, but on the marriage vows. When we keep score, we automatically see the other person as the problem and absolve ourselves from guilt. –Eileen Silva Kindig
* other 50/50 references meaning the same thing, include: egalitarian, mutual submission