Brothers & Sisters

The Marriage Triangle – Unity, Part 3

Unity With Others

Although I’ve said in Parts 1 and 2,  it can’t be overstated – unity is the goal for every relationship in Christ, including marriage — The purpose for unity in marriage is different.

Inside relationship with others we try to keep unity by, getting along as much as it depends on us (Rom 12:18).  We try to keep unity by, submitting to one another (Eph 5:21).  And even though we know we’ve, freely received everything we need to get along with each other (2 Pet 1:3-4), sometimes, no matter how hard we try to keep the unity through honest conflict resolution with one another, (Matt 18:15-17) – it doesn’t work.

If a sister or brother continues to sin against you and you’ve followed the steps for reconciliation outlined in Matthew 18, then a break in friendship is the next step, and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a pagan and a tax collector.

Marriage Eclipses the “I”

When you get married, the marriage is the top priority, you are second.

While you can be reconciled with a brother by following the steps in Matthew 18, applying the outcome works against the one flesh.  The essence of marriage is intimately close, and to treat your husband as a pagan and a tax collector is intimately far apart, and seeks to destroy the one flesh covenant.

The escape clause in Matthew 18:17 is meant for dissolving friendships — not marriage.  But, if we’re going to direct it towards marriage, then we must accept the indictment from Jesus (Matt 19:8) that comes with it, Moses permitted divorce only as a concession to your hard hearts, but it was not what God had originally intended.

Jesus didn’t say you couldn’t divorce your husband, only that if you do, you’ll be revealing your hard heart.

So, what’s the alternative, if you don’t want to be hard hearted?

Let the covenant do the work God designed it to do—it’s based on His truth not your feelings.  It’s the connection during crisis, when God is all you’ve got left.

LOVE: a better way

When I started this series, it was because we found the original marriage triangle ineffective – it had no practical application for a struggling marriage.  The theory was too kitschy—clean, seamless.  And very logical: you both grow closer as you grow closer to God—orderly, sanitized.

It just didn’t resonate with any of the wreckage that the both of us had become, or the conflicts and raw pain that were increasing in our marriage.  Maybe it was because we had both lived by the world’s standards for so long.  Or maybe it was just the nature of who we were as a couple, I’m not sure, probably a combination.

The shift in paradigm, from the traditional marriage triangle to a new One Flesh Triangle perspective, stops the chaos of selfishness and always re-centers me to the basics of God’s love—back to the beginning of Him and me:

I love Him, because He first loved me. -1 John 4:19

During trials and conflicts (which I’m happy to say are now basically non-existent in our marriage), the imagery from the One Flesh Triangle immediately reminds me of what’s important—loving God, because He first loved me.

LOVE: begins and ends with God

But how?  How do you love God back?  He is everything—has everything.  He has so much love that it’s infinite—He gave everything and held nothing back.  Love is who He is—His mainspring.

If anyone boasts, “I love God,” and goes right on hating her brother, thinking nothing of it, she is a liar.  If she won’t love the person she can see, how can she love the God she can’t see?  The command we have from Christ is blunt:  Loving God includes loving people.  You’ve got to love both. -1 John 4:20-21

How, is it possible to give God love?  By loving the brother who’s right in front of you:  You.Do.It.First.  Demonstrate love the way God does—Instead of giving us what we deserved, He loved us first.

I  don’t get to mistreat my husband because I think he deserves it, nor do I get to belittle him because he won’t do what I think is right.  I don’t get to toss him to the curb because he’s not the kind of husband I want him to be.  My husband’s sin is not greater than mine. (Col 3:6-7; Eph 2:1-3)

Look again at the One Flesh Triangle.  I receive God’s love but the only way to love Him back is through my husband.

And the king will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ -Matt 25:40

Read the signs

If there’s a fair amount of strife in your marriage or some triggers that never go away – If you’ve heard the same phrases repeated in arguments and disagreements –  If your communication often breaks down into “every-man-for-himself,” you might just need a new marriage paradigm like we did.

I found with our Marriage Certificate along-side the image of the One Flesh Triangle, there was (and is) no way Satan’s going to divide us—Semper fi!

 

SOUL-utions

  • Do acknowledge the love you’ve received from God through our Savior (2 Peter 1:1), it encompasses all His power and strength as you take steps to align your life under His Lordship.  God gave you all of everything you need to take that step (2 Peter 1:4)
  • Don’t let Satan trick you into getting stuck in that rut between verses 2 and 4—only concerned with what you get from God our Father.
  • When we’re born again, we’re all immature and drinking only milk-it’s the beginning growth.  But, as Paul implores us, choose meat and grow-up (Heb 5:12-14).  And when we do make that choice, Peter instructs us how to walk it out (2 Peter 1:5-7).

 

 

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The Marriage Triangle: The One-Flesh Triangle

In Part 1, I explained how our marriage experienced trouble when we tried to fit into the template called, ‘the marriage triangle’.  That instead of simplifying marriage concepts, it had made it more confusing.

What we discovered was that the triangle paradigm is more realistically suited to all other relationships within the body of Christ, except the marriage.  So it’s better named, A Family Triangle:

Within every one of our relationships with other Christians, there are three separate interchanges going on:  1-Darrell has his own relationship with God.  2-I have my own relationship with God.  3-And then there’s Darrell and I, as brother and sister in Christ.

It’s relationship #3 that defines this as a Family Triangle instead of a Marriage Triangle, it could be with Darrell or any other brother or sister in Christ whether they are friends, neighbours, co-workers, cousins, etc.

When the triangle supports all other relationships, it can’t also express the one-flesh in marriage.  The one relationship that’s not interchangeable with any other:  The Covenant

The marriage covenant anchors

The Bible leaves no doubt that the Trinity is three in one,  Father, Son, and Spirit.  Within the Trinity, there’s a rich symbolism for marriage – a supernatural blending of multiples into a single:  God is three in One – marriage is two becoming one.

In marriage, people are not separated into 3 different relationships like in a Family Triangle – they’re joined.  God invites us to covenant with Him because He knows we’ll need His help to make it work.  We cannot become a thriving one-flesh relationship without His help because it’s a supernatural relationship.

The covenant holds us together as God begins the process of infusing two earthly people into a single unit:  One-Flesh, for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. (Ephesians 5:31)

If you’ve anchored your marriage to God by His covenant, it begins and ends with Him.  He created it in the beginning, it’s His idea, it belongs to Him.  He doesn’t join your marriage … you join His marriage.

I think we forget how real that covenant is because we can’t see it.  Unlike the visible rituals of buying the government license at city hall and signing the certificate of marriage at the church, the covenant we make with God – even though unseen – is the real deal. As such, it has far more gravity.

I agreed to covenant with God in marriage through my role as a wife.  I made an agreement with Darrell too, but it’s a contract with another human, a natural being.  God’s covenant is super-natural and supersedes an earthly marriage contract.

At a glance, The One-Flesh Triangle makes the invisible visible and, if we’ve let God anchor us, we’re reminded of that gravity.  At that instant, when we need it the most – in the heat of conflict, frustration, hurt, anger (and sometimes even hate) … it can reset our hearts and minds back to what matters most:  not me, not Darrell – But God. His covenant matters most.

There are ups and downs in every marriage; some have more ups than downs and some go down further than others, but we all need a strategy to remind us of the purposes of marriage.  In the good times in marriage, no one needs a prompt.  But in the hard times, when our wedding day feels like a lifetime in the past … when marriage gets painful and it reaches that breaking point – when we start to think, “This is too hard,” the questions we needed to ask are, will I lean on my own strength or wait for God’s?  Am I going to put the human contract above my covenant with Him?  What’s more important?

SOUL-utions

  • Understand that your marriage is a completely different breed of relationship than all others found on earth; it can’t be treated the same.
  • Accept that your marriage is under tremendous strain from Satan. His main goal, since the day you got married, is to unravel your marriage by coming between the two of you so you’re separated.  He’s the ultimate predator and wants you alone – out of your one-flesh strength.
  • Believe in the realness of your covenant with God.  Trust Him with His own idea of marriage; trust Him with the role He assigned you as a wife.  Let this visual be a trigger to jolt you out of any emotions of hurt, back to the facts.

 

 

The Marriage Triangle

The idea of the marriage triangle has been around for years and generally, it looks something like one of these drawings:

Although it seemed like a tidy principle, I found it to be misleading.  When I first saw this triangle… I wanted it to be true.  The assertion was so simple and clean of how marriage should work.  But whenever I tried to apply it, something seemed off… unworkable.  In peeling back some of its layers, I found an idea that was just that – an idealistic theory instead of practical applications for my real-life marriage.

If we’re equal, shouldn’t we equally grow?

Within the diagram, there’s an accepted assumption that we grow the same.  The problem was, that wasn’t the reality of our marriage.  And neither is it for most other marriages.

No two people in the world are alike, we all have different starting points and varied experiences as we grow from childhood through adolescence into adulthood.  Since maturity comes from our experiences, it’s doubtful that couples mature through the same experiences, at the same moment in time.

The sin nature doesn’t disappear because the couple becomes husband and wife (symbolized by the bottom portion of the triangle). Nor does the wedding day equalize each other’s sin to make it the same.

In this paradigm, the disconnect is that they appear parallel because they’re now one flesh.  The arrows that move us up the triangle, further support the disconnect:  each spouse is moving closer to God and each to each other, at the same rate of growth.

In theory, it appears that’s what should be happening, they should be getting closer to each other.  But what I’ve discovered is that one spouse always matures faster or one spouse has more emotional baggage and is more wounded: It’s never the same rate of climb.  Instead, the stronger personality emotionally forces the other to keep pace. The weaker/gentler or more tolerant personality goes along, or at least tries to for a while, to keep the peace.

These are the couples that one day, they’re just… divorced – and no one saw it coming.

The rhetoric of equality

As much as we’ve been told that men and women are equal – the same in every way…  we’re not.  God didn’t make females to match males but to contrast them.  He purposefully created us women to be unique and opposite of men: Chiral –  everything about us that’s female is reversed.  God doesn’t erase this biology because we get married.  In fact, it’s through the one flesh relationship that we get to experience the contrast of our opposites in the deepest ways!

You’ve always processed through a female lens and your husband through a male lens.  You’re not equal to anyone in your human experience.  Your fingerprints prove that you’re exclusive, you.  Your different human experience on earth is what gives you an entirely different history and relationship with God.

We never have conflict

Another presupposition presented in the diagram is that couples always see eye to eye on everything.  They’re both pretty agreeable so they’re both moving seamlessly up the triangle, together.  I could see this working if I believed that there were two people who:

  • Had perfect childhoods
  • Both always said and did what they should
  • Never had a difference of opinion
  • Didn’t bring any baggage from being raised by sinners
  • Hadn’t suffered any pain or hurt from life in general

Further, to say that a marriage doesn’t have any trials, tribulation or troubles, makes Paul’s warning in 1 Corinthians 7, of pressure, affliction, and anguish, an untrue statement:

[…] Yet those who marry will have physical and earthly troubles […]

 

Not a triangle for marriage

I don’t believe this paradigm can represent marriage on a practical level – it’s missing the connecting glue: The Covenant.  The main thing that separates a marriage apart from every other relationship:  The One Flesh.  It doesn’t matter how many Bible verses you include on that diagram … there’s still no representation of that mystery symbolizing the one flesh that only happens in marriage.

For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. ~Ephesians 5:31

HOWEVER, it is an accurate depiction of relationship, just not for marriage – it’s a family triangle!

 

A triangle for Family!

The idea of superimposing Bible verses about relationships over a triangle, then naming it the “marriage triangle,” was confusing me. I kept ending up with the same question:

If there’s no distinction between the relationship with my brother (and sisters) in the family of Christ and the brother I’m married to – if all the verses apply the same to everyone, why even put verses about marriage in the Bible?

Marriage Triangle or Family Triangle … What’s the difference?

The obvious answer was, of course, sex – with one person.  But becoming one flesh is about more than sex. Being married to a brother in Christ means I’ve forsaken all others in the body of Christ – making this one brother a husband to me:  The two have become one flesh.

It’s a completely different and deeper dynamic than all other relationships within the body of Christ … a weightier one because it carries the glory of representation.

This mystery [of one flesh] is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. ~Ephesians 5:32

We’ve got to stop trying to make marriage the same as every other relationship in the body of Christ – it’s just not.  Marriage is the only relationship that’s been given the responsibility of becoming one flesh, and the only relationship in which God demands a covenant.

A triangle where there’s no one-flesh representation for marriage, cannot be a “Marriage Triangle.”  This paradigm represents the family relationships; it’s a “Family Triangle.”

SOUL-utions

  • Don’t try to force your husband to change or grow by following the principles, ideas, programs or books that you think are the best. Real growth with God and real intimacy with each other happen through unanimous agreement – not emotional coercion.  Sadly, a lot of wives think because they’re one flesh with their husbands they have the freedom to step in front of the Holy Spirit.
  • The renewal of your husband’s mind and heart will match his own weaknesses, history and understanding – not yours. God knows the best way to heal and grow him, and the optimum time to do it. It won’t be on your timetable.  You either hold his heart as the Holy Spirit does the work in it; or you’re the obstacle in the path of the Holy Spirit.
  • You married a man, not a sister, not a girlfriend or a BFF. He’ll become more like Jesus Christ through his role of the husband, not your role as a wife.

 Part 2:  The One-Flesh Triangle

Desire to please

upwithmarriage_desire-to-please

A guaranteed way to get into my heart is to treat my kids well … or even my dogs.  People are especially drawn to you when you value what they love.

Special treatment of who I love endears you to me.

When I value people who God’s chosen, I show that I love Him.  Treating any of His kids, a brother or a husband, poorly doesn’t endear me to God. Instead, it draws His corrective eye.

Parents in the natural, siblings in the supernatural

As a parent when one of my kids mistreats their sibling in retaliation, especially when the offending sibling is not mature or is not emotionally strong, it shows me that child is lacking in something.  I don’t think any parent – including God – wants to see their kids exacting revenge on each other.

And, being made in God’s image, it makes sense that our parenting outcomes would be similar to His – we want our kids to grow up and do well.  We want them to do right, to others and to do right, for themselves.  In our marriage, God is the Father of us both, a son and a daughter, and He wants both His kids to grow up and do well – for ourselves and to each other.  But if my brother sins against me and I choose to not reflect Christ in my response (Rom 8:29) I will draw God’s parenting corrective eye rather than endearing myself to Him and making Him proud of me.

Choose – think – act

As soon as my marriage became truly about God, a spark was ignited which fueled my desire to be a better wife. It seemed to be a very natural progression, a win/win.  I’m not saying it was an effortless progression, we’re still required to flesh out things in our lives, but at least now, I could see the plan.  It’s similar to getting healthy. Just reading about working out and proper nutrition won’t make you healthy.  You need to first have the desire, then get the knowledge, and finally, fulfill the activity of the knowledge – it’s still going to be work even though you can see the direction you’re going.

In this example, I’m after the corollary of good health and activity:  A lean(er) fit body.

I’m betting since you read Upwithmarriage, you already have God at the center of your life and He was probably a part of your wedding day. But has He been moved to the hub that your role as a wife rides on in the marriage?

Once God occupies that position, you will naturally choose better thoughts.  With better thoughts, you automatically speak better words.  My desire to please God – better thoughts – better words – better treatment of my husband – God’s pleased.  It starts and ends with God but our proof is in the middle.

Flesh or Spirit

It always comes down to that fight inside of us, doesn’t it?  Am I going to position myself in that hub or am I going to willingly let God have it?  I found out, He won’t fight you for it – He doesn’t work that way.  Just like your choice to accept Jesus Christ for your life, you have to willingly hand over the position, over and over again.

The question we have to continually ask is:  Which desire is stronger?  The desire to get our own way by doing it our own way – to please the flesh.  Or the desire to do it God’s way by following Christ’s way – to please the Spirit.

My counsel is this: Live freely, animated and motivated by God’s Spirit. Then you won’t feed the compulsions of selfishness. For there is a root of sinful self-interest in us that is at odds with a free spirit, just as the free spirit is incompatible with selfishness. These two ways of life are antithetical, so that you cannot live at times one way and at times another way according to how you feel on any given day.  –Paul to the Galatians

I recently attended a webinar from Jeff Goins.  He had lots of great information, but it was a question he asked at the beginning that resonated with me for marriage:  “Are you looking for an excuse, or are you looking for success?  Because you’ll find whichever one you are looking for.”

As long as I was determined to have Darrell’s problems always be the excuse, our marriage was moving in the direction of failure.  But when I set my sights on God for my success as a wife, the direction of our marriage changed to success.

The truth is, whether you think positive or negative about your husband, either way you are right.  Don’t underestimate the effect you have on him – it’s profound in ways you can’t imagine.

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WIFE: the missing link

"She’s got gaps and I got gaps, between the two of us,our gaps meet and we sort of fill each other in." -Rocky Balboa, Rocky

Have you ever wondered why God didn’t use the same raw material and method to create Eve that He used for Adam?  I have.  He could have used the same dirt or a petal from a flower or a leaf from a tree.  Why from the man at all?  And what is so significant about the rib?

So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam; And while he slept, He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place.

I wonder what that experience was like for Adam.

What is missing?

Imagine standing in your kitchen, in the middle of making thanksgiving dinner.  In a brief lull as you wait for the turkey drippings to reach boiling for gravy, you doze off in a daydream for a few seconds but when you snap out of it, all the spoons are missing, even the one in your hand!

That’s what happened to Adam.  God took something away from him.  The part that God took was not a spare part or an extra part, but an essential part; it made him autonomous.  The piece that enabled self-sufficiency in Adam, was now missing.  Let that marinade for a second:

Adam was created complete and self-sufficient; he needed nothing

but when he wakes from his nap

he now has a … gap.

Something has changed inside of him,

he is not self-sufficient anymore.

he has a lack.

Adam’s rib, more than just bone and marrow, is an essence.  The Amplified describes it as, a part of his side.  Not literally less a rib, because men and women have the same number of ribs, but something represented by a rib.

WHo & what wives are?

Dig a little deeper into this essence and what you find is power and strength.  God took power and strength out of Adam’s side (his rib) and used it to create another human.  This strength and power is both beautiful and dangerous.  Beautiful because it can propel a man to be his best.  Dangerous because it can cause a man to limp along in life or even stop him in his tracks; to literally cause him to halt.  That is some serious power.

Now the LORD God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.”

Of all the English words to describe God’s intent for wives, helper meet is the weakest.  I struggle with the English translation because it casts the vision of a companion to remedy isolation or to fill a void of loneliness.  God said “alone” not “lonely.”

The word for wife [helper] is ezer.  It means power and strength; just like God is power and strength.  Interestingly, the word ezer is used many times in the Old Testament and it is almost exclusively in reference to God.  When you are at a loss or at the end of your rope, and you’ve got no one who is powerful enough to do the job … God Himself will be your EZER.  He is ESSENTIAL.

Dig even deeper under the strength and power and you find purpose:  To rescue, to save.  Not to save eternally, as God does, but in a human relational sense: to save the emotions.

In keeping with the fullest meaning of ezer, a more accurate interpretation of Genesis 2:18 might be:

I will make for him a power and strength that will rescue and save

How Wives Do It

In simplest terms wives receive, respond and reveal through reflection.

It makes perfect sense that God chose the power and strength from the man to create woman. He knew there was going to be some tension in marriage as two people become one flesh.  The woman needs to be a match for man’s strength and power, otherwise, she wouldn’t be an accurate reflection and she wouldn’t be strong enough.

The original word is, kenegdo.  It means parallel or opposite to  each other.  Think of a mirror.

In her book Captivating, Stasi Eldredge quotes Hebrew scholar Robert Alter, who has spent years translating the book of Genesis, as saying, “…that this phrase [ezer kenegdo] is “notoriously difficult to translate.”  She goes on to say, “The various attempts we have in English are “helper” or “companion” or the notorious “help meet.”  Why are these translations so incredibly wimpy, boring, flat … disappointing?” “

I’m with this Stasi on this.  When I hear “helper, companion, or help meet”, I think of a two-dimensional, compliant safe Stepford Wife, one that is a supplement to a husband; instead of a real woman like Sarah.  Ready to risk as she steps into the fray for Abraham.  Sarah, the essential.  The power and strength that would have been required for her to submit to Abraham’s requests to exchange her own safety for his just aren’t captured in the word “companion.”

Training Partners?

The Torah Study for Reform Jews defines an ezer kenegdo as a “helper against him.”  The tension between male and female is there by God’s design.  We are adversaries with a common goal:  we are against each other for the sharpening of each other, As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens [and influences] another [through discussion].(Proverbs 27:17)  But these well-sharpened blades are not to be used on each other, but FOR each other in the greatest battle against our common enemySatan.

Training from within to conquer together is played out every day in sporting teams.  I love sports metaphors and analogies because they transfer from the natural to the spiritual perfectly.  There isn’t a team sport out there that doesn’t practice against one another, as adversaries, to get stronger and to learn.

This is why God wants us bound in marriage.  The sharpening of each other, that is, the becoming of one flesh can be quite a ferocious battle.  We are both such powerful forces on our own … but together, wow!  When we stay together and fight together; back-to-back against Satan through God’s power … we are unconquerable.

Are you using that strength and power that God used to create you for your husband or against the marriage?