“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. Ephesians 5:31-33
One flesh…beautiful or not? Honestly. Does that idea/ideal for marriage cause you to think how wonderful marriage is to be or does it cause you to give pause to the reality of marriage?
Our culture values individuality and the individual above everything else. Moral standards are relative and personal. Rights and freedoms are for the benefit of the individual over good for the community. Marriage is for happiness not holiness. Nothing matters more than your happiness. These are the things people see as beautiful.
The strange reality of this worldview is that much of what is beautiful loses its beauty because of it. The beauty of community, rich with love, is lost in a world without absolutes. Rights and freedoms that are have been honored over and over again through sacrifices of many are often disfigured for personal agendas and personal gain. Marriages that simply exist for my happiness rise, fall, and split just as quickly as happiness rises, falls, and splits because of life circumstances that cause such happenstance.
Wendy and I have some friends that are reading a book with us titled When Sinners Say I Do. The Gospel is the core of everything in the book. The author applies the beauty of the Gospel to us and our marriages. It is the most Biblical approach to discussing marriage I have ever read. I am learning much about the Bible and myself, and am both loving and hating it, honestly. (One caveat on his writing. He writes, illustrates, and communicates from a very masculine mind. A female editor would have done him wonders. Women might have wrestle through his communication style, but truths are worth it.)
The book has caused great thoughts for me about the depth of what God has done for me and what his love for me really means. Do I love Wendy like that? I do, but I don’t. I try, but I don’t try.
I have, however, recently seen a beauty that has been unseen in my marriage. It is the beauty of servant leadership and submission. In course of a conversation recently, I asked Wendy what and how did she feel she submitted to me. I was not accusing of her of not submitting, but acknowledging I am not sure what that even looks like.
She reminded of a conversation we had just a week before. I thought Wendy was simply struggling to make a decision, but there was more to it than that. She really wanted my thoughts, my guidance, and my help. Why? She values the protection that comes through it. Do not read protection as my guarding her. She wanted the protection of unity. There is protection in shared life. Often our problem is we want our spouse to share in the responsibilities our solo decisions put upon them, but we do not desire for them to share in the decision itself. Wendy did.
I told her that I was very careful in that conversation (about her taking a job) because I did not want her to feel she had to or she had to not. I wanted her to make the decision she felt was right. In doing that, it meant I had to be willing to serve her and our family with a very different schedule and lifestyle. I am okay with that. If she would feel fulfilled in life and in serving the Lord in this position, I want her to do it. So, I was trying to not lead her strongly.
In this one moment beauty went unseen. She lived out Scripture in submitting to me in this matter, and I never knew it. I lived out Scripture by loving her as Christ loved the church and giving her life up for her. And she never knew it. And that is what made it beautiful.
It is no longer beautiful the moment it has to be seen. The moment you need your spouse to see and recognized your service or your submission it loses its beauty. I realized that this has been a truth in our marriage for years. Unseen beauty after unseen beauty. And that alone, makes it more beautiful.
When Jesus is Square One in our lives, when we live acknowledging him as foundation in everything, he makes beautiful what the world would assume is ugly. We quit leaning into our own understanding. We begin to acknowledge him in all our ways. And He makes our paths straight.
Our vision for our marriage is that Wendy and I would be a clear picture of the love of Christ for the Church and the Church for Christ to a lost world and a confused Church. I realize that the more this is true of us, the more the world and the Church sees this in and through us, the less we see the little things that cause it. Why do we no longer see those things? They just are. It is life and marriage, not service and submission.
The unseen beauty is exactly what makes it beautiful.