Becoming One Flesh (Nov – Dec 1993)

By Matt Dabbs

by Larry W. Bridgesmith
November – December, 1993

16They sat at opposite ends of the sofa. Neither looked in the other’s direction. Glances never met. Staccato speech belied a seething hostility barely beneath the surface as each tried to act civilly while civility was the farthest thing from their minds.

Another marriage in shambles. Two lives shattered by the unrealized expectations of an unrealistic bride and groom. The wedding was beautiful, the marriage was not. After six years, the honeymoon was definitely finished. Unfortunately, so were faith, hope, and love.

I thought, “At least they are willing to work on it. At least they are willing to talk and pray about it.” I was grateful they would meet and agree to look outside themselves for solutions to the problems that threatened to destroy the sacred covenant they once made in the sight of “God and all these witnesses.” I prayed, “Please God, help them see that which joins them is far more powerful than that which would separate them.”

Trying desperately to find common ground, I asked them to tell me about their wedding. I asked about guests, songs, colors, and attendants. Curt responses followed, devoid of emotion. I asked about the ceremony, the minister and the vows.

He smirked and with a cutting tone reserved only for the most reviled said, “I guess that’s the problem. She’s not too big on ‘cleaving.” He went on to explain that his wife did not act as if she understood his need for physical intimacy, or if she did, she obviously did not care. His stony glare testified to the memory of embraces unreturned, of passion unfulfilled.

She replied that he also had difficulty with Genesis 2:24 because he did not know what it meant to “leave” his father and mother. She recounted instances when her husband’s family assumed greater importance than either she or the family unit they were trying to form. Tears and sobs punctuated her grievances.

Prayer, encouragement, and a request to seek professional counseling was all I could give them. I wish I could report that their wills softened, that their hearts became submissive and that their marriage survived. It didn’t. Their rights overcame their wrongs and the law insured that each received an “equitable share of the marital estate.” The court granted them an absolute divorce … absolutely.

As they drove away that day, each in a separate car, I thought how much our fellowship is like a marriage at risk: A battle of wills. Control versus submission. Me first. My way or the highway. My rights and your wrongs.

After their cars rounded the last curve leading from the house, I turned once more to Genesis 2:24. I discovered again the formula for unit. Leaving and cleaving leads to oneness. Leaving that which is comfortable, that from which we care and clinging to the other, not our own self-interest, makes us one.

In our marriages and in our churches we often elevate one element over the other or turn each inside out. We cling selfishly to our wants and desires. We demand that our preferences be satisfied. Insisting on our way and getting it if we are insistent enough.

Instead we need to learn how to cling to the best interests of each other, pursuing the other’s good over our own. Wrapping our waist with a towel, we need to become the servant of each other, striving to be the first to wash the other’s dirty feet.

Leaving may be even harder to do. Leaving the comfort of our traditions, the comfort of our self-satisfaction and comfort of our self-importance is essential if we wish to become one with another. Your expectations of the contours of Christian fellowship are rarely the same as mine. Each of us must relinquish some aspect of our idealized view in order to become one with each other.

The only way we can co-exist with our differences is for God to make them clear to us (Philippians 3:15). he does that when we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, the source and author of our faith, as we press on to the goal. When our eyes are fixed on our differences, our wants and our desires, there is no room for God to work. Just as in marriage we must learn to cling to the other’s best interests and leave our comfort zone for true unity to result.

May God grant us the grace and good sense to stop sitting in stony silence, or even open hostility, destroying the covenant relationship God intended for his church. The beautiful bride of Christ requires no less than our sacrificial, selfless, and servant-like dedication to each other and the groom to whom we are wed. The unity God intended is bigger than our petty jealousies and the self-interested agendas that would separate us. After all, a marriage is forever and our covenant should never be broken.Wineskins Magazine

Larry W. Bridgesmith

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Profile photo of Matt DabbsThis author published 1581 posts in this site.
Matt is the preaching minister at the Auburn Church of Christ in Auburn, Alabama. He and Missy have been married 12 years and are raising two wonderful boys, Jonah and Elijah. Matt is passionate about reaching and discipling young adults, small groups, and teaching. Matt is currently the editor and co-owner of Wineskins.org.

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