Have you ever been in the middle of some truly crazy situation and demanded to know “Whose idea was this anyhow?” It’s sort of the shorthand version of “Stop the world, I want to get off!” and “Hey! I didn’t sign up for this!” And it’s human nature to want to know who to blame for our misery. Somehow we just feel better if we know who the culprit is.
For many, marriage might be regarded as one “crazy situation”. Combine two sets of experiences, add four (and sometimes more) parents, stir in a dash of dual career aspirations, a pinch of goals and a heavy dose of dreams–and make a life together from those pieces. Oh, and yeah, don’t forget to glorify God while you do it. Sounds like a potential recipe from you-know-where. It’s the stuff reality shows thrive on: ”Dr. Phil”, “Divorce Court”, and that embarrassment, “Cheaters”.
So who thought this was a good idea???
Well, the Bible is crystal clear about the author and inventor of marriage: none other than the creator of the universe, God Himself. Matthew 19:4-5 says, “Haven’t you read the Scriptures?” Jesus replied. “They record that from the beginning ‘God made them male and female.’ And he said, ‘This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.’”
Those are RED letters, dear friend.
His plan from the beginning was a unique mathematical equation: 1+1=1. If it sounds impossible, it’s not. But it’s not simple, either. I’ve been married more than 36 years, having been joined at age 19 to my high school sweetheart. When people ask me how we’ve managed to stay together and happy for all these years, I’ve sometimes replied, “I travel a lot.” And I’ve joked a time or two that after all these years, my husband has come the conclusion that it’s “cheaper to keep her.” A sense of humor probably doesn’t hurt either. We’ve agreed to take marriage seriously, and ourselves less so. It’s hard to stay mad when you’re laughing.
We’ve also learned how to fight fair. No name calling, no silent withdrawal, and no one is allowed to get in the car and drive off. Those things are out of bounds in our home. Sometimes it’s loud, but it doesn’t last long. My mom taught me a long time ago that it’s not the vented pot that explodes, it’s the one with the lid screwed on too tight that blows. It may not be pretty, and it’s certainly not “us” at our best. But no one around my house can say, “Gee, I didn’t know you felt that way.”
A dear friend and mentor, Dr. Edwin Lewis Cole, once gave this advice to husbands: “Start every day by looking your wife full in the face, and saying ‘Honey, I am so sorry.’ You may not know what you’re apologizing for, but trust me guys, she will.” You gotta love a man with that kind of insight.
Over the course of those 36 years, we’ve learned a lot about one another and a lot about God. He is on our side. Not MY side. Not HIS side. OUR side. He is on the side of the ‘one’ we promised to become the day I wore the white dress and he wore the tux with the yellow brocade jacket (which seemed so cool at the time). And let me tell you that some days, that promise is easier to keep than others.
He showed us many years ago that He knew it would not be easy to set aside our human nature (me first!) and put things in a correct order, a Godly order. He expects to be first, and our spouse was to be next in His order of priorities. Romans 12 reminds us to “be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another.” That leaves me in the number three spot in my life, which simply runs contrary to my own selfish nature. But if I prefer my husband and he prefers me, we are each well cared for and the relationship is in order as together we submit to God as the authority in our life. But if things get out of order, if just one item tries to move up–my job, or friends, even my kids–the math equation begins to come apart.
The good news is that God is there when we forget how to add it up. And since He created marriage, He has provided the manual on how to care for it and how to repair it when needed. I once watched my dad try to assemble a bike without consulting the instruction manual that accompanied the myriad of pieces in the box. It was not a pretty sight; he wore himself out with frustration and anger. What had begun as an exciting adventure turned into a maddening and unsuccessful detour. The joy was simply wrung out of the experience.
Sounds like some marriages I know. The joy has given way to frustration and disappointment. What began as an exciting adventure became a journey to hurt and anger. And the entire time, the “instruction manual” gathers dust on the bedside table as the couple try to figure it out, often with the help of friends and the latest Oprah-endorsed relationship book. The couple no longer has even enough hope or ambition to fight. An argument at least implies enough interest in the relationship to engage with one another. Silence is not “peace”; it says, “I give up. It is what it is.”
So go to the maker, the author of the instruction manual on marriage. The one who thought marriage up in the first place. The one who believed it possible, if not easy, to create one from two. Matthew 19:6 reminds us “since they are no longer two but one, let no one split apart what God has joined together.” No one. Not. Any. One. Although that sounds like a warning about outside influences, it’s also a reminder to the couple that even they do not have God’s approval to blow it up when things get tough.
Stop mourning the loss of your love, and start fighting for it–together. Open the manual and seek instruction. It is far more relevant than any New York Times bestseller. God’s word never returns without results. Have confidence that God will do His part. Isaiah 55:11 says, “It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it.” He has a lot invested in this relationship. When it works, it is evidence of His presence in the marriage, in the family, in the church. It demonstrates God’s love, His mercy, His grace and His power to overcome the mathematical odds for success. It points a desperate world to Him.
Marriage. Crazy math. To solve it, go directly to the expert. After all, it WAS His idea.