mystery of marriage

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

Fearless Wife

This poem is dedicated to all you brave women – you fearless wives.  You chose to put your husband and family first ahead of your career, thereby serving them instead of yourself.  You chose to truly have it all by ordering your life in the sequence of marriage and family first, then career in the latter part.

You know who are and the cost of your sacrifice.  Thank you for your inspiration.

Fearless Wife

A real fearless girl am I, listen to my ROAR,

Away from my husband I’ll never be tore.

The thought of that, I simply abhor.

A victim mind I’ll never be,

No matter what the critics say to me.

On this I know, we’ll never agree.

 

Truly fearless became my heart,

When I married my forever counter-part.

Home’s, truly powerful sweetheart.

The more wholly feminine I am,

A bigger bite out of the enemy’s plan.

To increase the breadth of, his career wingspan.

 

Excellent skill gives respite to refresh,

Grows iron thighs of masculine flesh.

To bear, the more on my Suresh.

Prosperity and strength success to symbolize,

Guarding till he returns with our prize.

His kept await in anticipation, his allies.

 

Fearless wife lacks victim’s gene,

And never divides the homeward team.

Nor forfeits her position of ruling queen.

 

 

Million Dollar Wife

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THE MINIMUM WAGE MENTALITY

This mentality agrees to become part of a marriage, and brings expectations of the wedding into the marriage – but soon finds out it’s not so much fun all the time.  In fact, this marriage isn’t like a wedding – at all.  It’s starting to require too much hard work:  short-sighted

She increasingly thinks someone (usually her husband) owes her happiness.  Being unable to see what she already has because of what she wants, she becomes unable to celebrate her own unique role as a wife because the grass is always greener … somewhere else:  fleshly-focused

Her focus on self is blocking the bigger picture so she can’t see the marriage from 40000ft – God’s view.  What He’s doing in both of them through the marriage.  All that comes into view is what her husband is presently like — not what he could be like:  near-sighted

At the heart of a minimum wage mentality, there’s conditional love.

It’s a kind of love that keeps score with checks and balances.  It leans heavily on the Law – how it should be – and because of the double-standard that often accompanies legalism, it’s blind to a vision of success for the future.  When I had a minimum wage mentality, nothing changed in our marriage – especially not me.  Familiar to me were phrases like.  What about my husband’s part?  Why do I have to go first?  How is that fair to me?

You can tell you might be stepping down into this mentality when you repeatedly hear:  Me – My – I

THE MILLION DOLLAR MENTALITY

This mentality is aware that every marriage has two broken sinners, so there’s going to be good days and bad days.  And sometimes even seasons that are gnarly and emotionally painful.  She accepts the truth about trials in marriage and believes that God can bring healing and wholeness out of any circumstance – she takes God at His Word:  faith

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. ~Rom 8:28

She understands that part of being a successful wife is fearlessness.  She’s able to bring her best to that role knowing God always comes through – she’s confident in God’s timing:  hope

Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. ~Col 3:23

She sees strength and merit in Christ’s example for marriage.  How Jesus chose to please God rather than himself.  Even when the disciples, in their confusion of not really understanding, tried to get him to go against His promise, He didn’t falter because of His love for God.  She knows the source of this power is not her own, it belongs to God:  love

We love each other because he loved us first. ~1 John 4:19

At the heart of the million dollar mentality, there’s unconditional love.

She leaves the scorekeeping of offences to God by leaning heavily on Grace.  Her primary focus is eternal by letting the temporal events fall to the peripheral – and this changes everything.  The higher grade of seed you plant in the soil of the marriage, the higher grade of harvest God reaps into the life of His daughter – you.

[Remember] this: he who sows sparingly and grudgingly will also reap sparingly and grudgingly, and he who sows generously [that blessings may come to someone] will also reap generously and with blessings. ~2 Cor 9:6

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SOUL-ution:

It’s definitely a process to cultivate the million dollar wife. Perhaps you’ve already seen some miserly minimum wage seeds that you’ve planted and have taken steps to move into the million dollar mindset – fantastic, keep up the good work!

He who finds a [true] MILLION DOLLAR wife finds a good thing and obtains favour from the Lord.

~Prov 18:22

But it gets rough. We know it does. When we find we’ve stepped down from that high calling: the call to be a million dollar wife, the role we agreed to on our wedding day…we’ve got to get back.  If you’ve slipped away from being that good thing that God speaks about – your man needs you back.  Remember,

YOU  ARE

A

GOOD THING

 

 

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MARRIAGE IS FIRST

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When people hear that Darrell and I have been married for almost 30 years, sometimes I get the question, “What is it that you do to make it work?”  I respond, Anything it takes.

The biggest reason for the breakdown of marriages, I think, is that people can’t get over the mental hurdle that their marriage is not about them.  It doesn’t belong to them; it wasn’t invented by them, nor is it for them.  The marriage is about God.  Once I accepted that my marriage belongs to Him, I started to look at it differently — and treat it differently.

[Marriage] is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one. ~Paul to the Ephesians

It doesn’t matter what either of us want, need, think, or feel, it’s essential the rings win:  The MARRIAGE must always come FIRST.

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The Grand Design of Marriage

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I’ve heard it said that the main purpose of marriage is to drive us closer to Christ.  And although that sounds like an epic and beautiful sentiment, I don’t see how I can get any closer to Christ than His presence inside me.  Also, what about the people not married yet, or the ones that never marry?  With this application that would mean they don’t get driven closer to Christ?  No, that can’t be right.

Ok, there is some truth there:  Marriage does maximize pressure on people because they live in close proximity to each other, day in day out.  This pressure in life pushes sin to the surface and in turn, our actions affect those closest to us, but that’s far from being the grand purpose or design of marriage.  Having teenage kids or a difficult roommate, or any number of stressors in life can drive you to seek Christ.

In order to find the main purpose of marriage, we have to be transported beyond our own circumstances into the bigger grander picture.  If we allow this to happen, we quickly learn that it’s not about us at all, but about God and what my marriage says about Him?

There are many positive results and benefits of marriage but the singular reason is that marriage is the demonstration in the natural world of the supernatural unity that Paul calls the mystery of Christ and His church.  The more a marriage mirrors this unity the more it fulfills its grand purpose.  And only then does it become truly beautiful.

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The more I indulge in entitlement at the cost of my spouse, the less I represent God’s unity, making my marriage useless because it’s not fulfilling its intended purpose.

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A Marriage Illusion: 50/50

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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.

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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

 

WHAT IS MARRIAGE AND WHY DO WE DO IT?

The Wedding

Do you ever think about your wedding day?  I think about mine.  Do you remember that morning when you woke up, I bet your heart wasn’t filled with doubts and second guessing, “Well, I guess it’s better than being alone.” Or, “I’ll give it my best shot … and see what happens.”  Like me, I bet your heart was full of hope for a great day and the expectation of a wonderful future with the man of your dreams!  I remember laying in bed that morning excitedly thinking, “Today, is the day!”
Generally, most of the weddings we attend, or hear about, unfold seamlessly.  The day is a blur of excitement starting with the ceremony itself leading to a great wrap-up party, the reception!  Lastly, the bride and groom are swept off to some exotic destination … just the two of them.  Life couldn’t get much sweeter!

The Honeymoon

During this beginning season the marriage holds such high hopes of promise.  Beginnings are like that.  In fact, we see the same delight at the inception of creation, everything is:  GOODx6 and a VERY GOOD marks the finale.  But then, within one and a half chapters into the story of humanity, something goes tragically wrong.  Adam and Eve free in the garden, lost in wonder and delight of all that was very good, had their eyes maliciously and irrevocably opened … and the first brick in the wall of separation was coolly placed between them.

The Marriage

It is the same pattern in our marriages, something … changes.  It happens ever so subtly.  Something has slowly crept in between the bride and groom that we didn’t expect and certainly didn’t plan for.  Somewhere between The Wedding and The Marriage, there has been a shift.
Isn’t it true that we wake up on our wedding day assured that we could conquer anything and that we’d grow old together?  But within a few short years we sense an UNsureness, we start to feel a little suspicious that our fairy tale wedding day isn’t delivering everything to our marriage that it promised.  Slowly our expectations are dashed one-by-one as reality is revealed, this slow creep causes the shift to become more prevalent and our marriage begins to get hard … along with our hearts, and it starts to show in our thoughts:  Why did I ever marry this personWhat was I thinkingMaybe they are the wrong person.

MISperception

I know it might sound silly but it never occurred to me that my marriage would be nothing like my wedding day.  In hindsight it became completely clear though, either no one told me or I failed to listen.  Either way reality proves the truth that the marriage and a wedding day are actually polar opposites!  A wedding day is so well planned that you might as well call it a script; everything falls into place perfectly and we work on that script for almost a year, sometimes longer!  Lots of hard work, planning and compromising with each other went into that script for that ONE day.
How did I miss that?  A marriage is not just going to magically happen when even a magical wedding day didn’t magically happen.  I think the knowledge is there for the learning, we just don’t believe the information applies to us when it says, “It could get ugly at some point, what’s your plan?”  Even though we read statistic after statistic that divorce rates have been climbing.  We can’t see past the euphoric pleasure of the present to comprehend any such conflict driving us apart.  And still, somewhere deep inside us we know it makes sense because marriage is the single most challenging adventure of all the earthly experiences.
Marriage is the most significant institution we will ever join and it is the relationship with the most consequential and far reaching effect in our lives.  Yet there are no courses on spousal selection and anyone can get a marriage license with zero training or preparation.  Sydney J. Harris captures the mindset perfectly, “Almost no one is foolish enough to imagine that he automatically deserves a great success in any field of activity, yet almost everyone believes that he automatically deserves success in marriage.

Why Choose to Marry?

So … why do we get married?  It’s a question that begs self-examination.  Is it because of some innate fear of being alone?  Or is it because, it’s just what we do?  You know, you’re born, grow-up, go to school – fall in love and get married.
Fall in love.  There’s a phrase I find … curious.

Falling in Love?

It’s interesting, for a book that is full of love talk, I can’t seem to find anywhere that God speaks of falling in love.  Why do we say it that way?  It does have a romantic echo to the phrase, but it also has a sense of lack of responsibility, perhaps even commitment.  If the marriage gets too hard there is a pathway already prepared:  we can say that when we were falling in love, we fell for the wrong person.
We humans do that.  You can see it in Adam’s response to God when He was looking for accountability of Adam’s actions after eating the fruit.  Adam didn’t only try and shift the blame to Eve but also onto God Himself!  The woman YOU gave me did it.  And then with Eve, she tried to pass the buck too by saying that it was the snake’s fault.  It seems none of us want to take responsibility for our part, do we?
The most romantic description I’ve ever heard as to why people get married is from the movie, Shall We Dance, here’s the clip of the scene:

 

*SIGH*

Now, although that’s a beautiful sentiment and maybe even a worthy declaration, I don’t believe it’s entirely what God had in mind when He established marriage.

The First Marriage

The first marriage was an act of purpose.  The voice that spoke all life into existence then united a team.  It’s interesting that God didn’t create Adam and Eve at the same time.  He could’ve but instead He chose to create Adam in a vacuum.  This wasn’t a mistake.  He didn’t create Adam alone then realize, “Uh-oh, Adam is alone – I guess I didn’t think that one through, maybe one of the animals can keep him company.”
I think Adam was meant to experience his aloneness in the real time of watching the animals come and go in pairs as he named them.  God brought all the creatures to him, but … there was not be a suitable companion for him.” (Gen 2:19-20)  God could have just as easily told Adam that when he was done naming the animals that He would bring him someone special.  Someone just like him!  But God didn’t say anything.  Instead, He let a yearning grow inside of Adam; a yearning for his pairing.
Adam was meant to notice something special in Eve; something he needed.  And he did!  You can tell by his response to seeing her for the first time, “Finally!  Bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh!”  Or, in our present vernacular, “Finally!  Now SHE belongs with me!”
The both of them, were meant to see that they needed each other for the journey, that they had to depend on each other, lean on each other … not blame one another.

The Step From Bride to Wife

I think it’s significant that Eve was never a bride.  She was created as a wife.  We are brides for a single day, but we are wives for the life of the Marriage.  We can make make generalizations for the answer to the question, what is marriage?  And there are lots of different ideas, to be sure.  But in order to find out what your marriage means to you and why you got married?  Only you can answer that, because only you know the woman inside of you.  Only you know if she’s a bride or Wife.