Weaving: We all want intimacy in our marriages. We want our spouses to spend time with us, to consult us about decisions, to share our hopes and dreams, and to encourage us when we’re struggling. We want openness and humility. We want to be treated kindly and to receive grace. Are there things we should be doing and not doing to achieve those things? And, if so, what are they?
We’ve been discussing the three components of marriage God laid out in Genesis 2.24 and other places in Scripture: leaving, cleaving, and what we’re calling “weaving,” growing in a one-flesh relationship. Last week we started talking about “weaving” and today we’re going to go a little deeper on the subject.
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Marriage: Made in Heaven? “Weaving 101”
As you remember, our foundation Scripture is:
Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh (Gen. 2.24).
As I’ve said, the three key components mentioned here are all critical to a God-honoring marriage. They are “leaving,” “cleaving,” and “weaving (becoming one-flesh)”
Three weeks ago I focused on leaving. Briefly, it means we no longer depend on our parents emotionally, financially, or relationally. It means what they want or expect does not take priority over our spouse’s wishes and it means not running to them with every problem.
Two weeks ago, we talked about cleaving, including the fact that marriage is a covenant relationship.
Last week we began discussing what it means to become one-flesh.
Again, this one-flesh relationship includes the sexual aspect of marriage, but it is much more. Wayne Mack in his book Strengthening Your Marriage says, “Marriage is a total commitment and a total sharing of the total person with another person until death.”
Weaving our lives together means becoming one-flesh relationally, socially, and financially, as well as, physically. It’s a sharing of everything: thoughts, ideas, dreams, abilities, problems, fears, concerns, successes, and failures.
2 Kinds of Math: “1 + 1 = 2” or “1 + 1 = 1”
Because my husband and I have done so much marriage counseling over the years, we often notice how couples interact with one another. One of the saddest things we’ve observed is how often older couples go to a restaurant for dinner and eat the entire meal with hardly a word exchanged between them.
How does a couple who were once newlyweds, excited about marriage and each other, become so distant they can spend a hour sitting across the table with nothing to say? It happens one day, one choice at a time.
When God said, “they shall become one flesh,” we could say God’s marriage math is “1 + 1 = 1. That kind of math doesn’t happen by default. It takes effort. It takes laying down pride and selfishness. It takes making the time to communicate. It takes putting the other person’s preferences ahead of your own. And it takes being vulnerable and open to change.
Sin, selfishness, and pride are the enemies of a one flesh relationship. And without God’s help to change us from the inside out (2 Cor. 5.17), we are all selfish and prideful at our core. Even as believers in Christ, we’ve got to choose to put off pride and selfishness and to do those things that contribute to a strong, thriving marriage (Lk. 9.23-24).
But with many couples, the process of weaving never really happens or it gets short-circuited along the way.
Sometimes short-circuiting begins almost before the honeymoon is over.
These are couples who get married but still maintain a great deal of autonomy. The husband has his friends. He goes to the gym just as he always did. He and his buddies go out after work. She has her friends. Girls’ night out is a regular thing. They’re a couple, but they still hold on to much of their single lifestyle.
But for others the short-circuiting is much more subtle. It goes something like this:
Joe and Pam meet. They begin dating. Pam gladly goes to sporting events with Joe. Joe attends family events with Pam and her family. When they’re not together, they’re talking on the phone or sending sweet texts throughout the day.
Joe finds out Pam likes a certain restaurant and plans a special date there. She is careful to wear the perfume he gave her and the dress he complimented.
Pretty soon they’re planning a wedding. The honeymoon is wonderful and they’re excited about their new life together.
Before long, Pam’s family invites them for a birthday celebration, but it conflicts with a game Joe wanted to watch. He encourages Pam to go and says he’ll catch up with her later. The following week, Joe is looking forward to watching the game with her by his side, but her sister wants to go shopping. Pam tells him she doesn’t really like football, she just watched it to be with him and today she’d really like to go shopping with her sister.
Joe and Pam both work. Pam only works part-time and she likes to keep her check separate for clothes and little extras she likes to buy. At first, it’s OK with Joe, but when money is tight he starts to resent it.
Since he’s paying all the bills, he decides to make a large expenditure without discussing it with Pam. She’s hurt and, rather than discussing it with Joe, starts talking to a friend about it.
Then there are dinners out. They have become a battleground. Pam wants to eat healthy, but Joe is a meat and potatoes guy. Preferring one another has gone out the window. Some nights they eat in silence and other times they just go home and fend for themselves.
Marriage has ceased to be about 1 + 1 = 1 and become 1 + 1 = 2.
Puts Offs & Put Ons in Marriage
Ephesians 4-6 give us some of the most concise instructions for daily living. In future posts, we’ll take a closer look at chapters 5 and 6. But today lets look at part of chapter 4 starting in verse 21:
21 Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, 22 throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception.23 Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes.24 Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy (Eph. 4.21-24 NLT).
The remainder of the chapter provides a series of examples. Many of which apply directly to marriage.
25 So stop telling lies. Let us tell our neighbors the truth, for we are all parts of the same body.
We have no closer neighbor than our spouse. We are not only one body, but one-flesh. So, we must choose to put off lying and deception. There are no such things as “little white lies.” Openness and honesty lead to greater intimacy. Dishonesty and deception push others away.
26 And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 for anger gives a foothold to the devil.
31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. 32 Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.
We must learn to control anger without clamming up, giving the silent treatment, or refusing to deal with issues. And instead of pridefully hardening our hearts, we should be quick to forgive and quick to ask for forgiveness.
We should, also, be kind and tenderhearted with one another. Sometimes, we’re kinder to strangers than we are to our own spouse.
29 Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.
Notice what we say should be good, helpful and encouraging. The New American Standard Bible says it this way:
Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.
Our words should be edifying. They should be timely. And they should give grace to the hearer.
Speech that is edifying seeks to build up not tear down. We should never have a win or lose mentality. Even when discussing tough issues, we should seek to do it in a constructive way.
Choose the best time to discuss issues, probably not the minute your spouse comes in the door after a long day. Pave the way with prayer. Try to find a time when neither of you is exhausted and try to set aside time to really talk.
Finally, grace. Grace is what God gives us, not what we deserve (praise God), not always what we want, but what we need, from His perspective. And just as God gives us grace, so should we to one another.
30 And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.
Remember the goal is to please God in our marriages, as in all of life (2 Cor. 5.9).
Joined at the Hip?
Having a one-flesh marriage doesn’t mean we have to be joined at the hip or that we can never get together with old friends or play golf with the guys. It doesn’t mean we must like everything the other one does. Nor does it mean we can’t both have some discretionary spending money.
But a one-flesh marriage means we’re a team. We share our income and other resources. We don’t have a “yours” and “mine” attitude.
It means we lay down our right to do things we prefer so we can built on our relationship. That might mean recording the game to watch later or missing it all together. It might mean foregoing shopping with a friend just to hangout with your husband and keep him company. In light of eternity, what has real value?
It means we’re a team when it comes to making major decisions. That sometimes means we discuss them and pray about them and discuss them again.
It, also, means there’s no “yours” and “mine” when it comes to secret passwords, email or social media accounts. It means we’re open and honest about those things. It means we discuss boundaries like not texting or connecting with friends old or new of the opposite sex.
It means we don’t have secret credit cards or bank accounts. We don’t hide purchases or go against our spouse’s wishes when it comes to spending.
It means we make being together a priority. Things like regular date nights (they don’t have to cost money), having dinner or watching a movie without the kids (even if it’s $5 pizza and Redbox after they go to bed), taking walks together, attending an event or activity that our spouse enjoys, and just turning off the TV and talking, need to be planned into our busy lives.
It means making spiritual growth and being involved in something bigger than ourselves a part of our life together. Attend worship services as a couple. Find a Bible study or buy a couple’s devotional and read through it together. One of my favorites is Sweethearts for a Lifetime: Making the Most of Your Marriage by Wayne and Carol Mack. The readings are short, but thought provoking and full of scriptural truth. Set a goal to read two or three a week or more if you desire.
Be involved in one another’s work or professional lives. Ask how things are going and how you can pray for each other. Attend appropriate functions as a couple and get to know each others co-workers.
Be each other’s cheer leader. Life, work, and even ministry, can all be hard at times (Eccl. 4.9-12). Listen when your spouse wants to talk (Jas. 1.19). Learn enough about their work or ministry to be able to pray and encourage. Learn about one another’s hopes, dreams, and fears.
The Golden Rule and the Golden Result
Most of us have heard of the Golden Rule: “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Matt. 7.12).
Too often in marriage, we have it backwards. We want intimacy in our marriages. We want our spouses to spend time with us, to consult us about decisions, to share our hopes and dreams, and to encourage us when we’re struggling. We want openness and humility. We want to be treated kindly and to receive grace. But if we don’t, instantly, get those things, all bets are off. We refuse to give them either.
But Jesus said, do first for the other what you want yourself.
But did you know the Golden Rule usually leads to the Golden Result: “Other people will usually treat you the way you treat them” (Matt. 7.2).
Not always, but usually. Because that’s how God made us.
While our primary motivation for treating our spouses (and others) well should be our desire to please God (2 Cor. 5.9), if we develop a pattern of choosing to be loving and unselfish, of cheering the other on, of showing an interest in what matters to them, of being quick to forgive, that’s what we’ll usually get in return.
And in the end, we need to remember that we’re only responsible of ourselves.
9 Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad (2 Cor. 5.9-10).
We’re to do our part and leave our spouse’s responses in God’s loving, capable hands.
Lord, Help me to do those things in my marriage which lead to peace and unity. Help me to be unselfish and to prefer my spouse over myself. Help me to be honest and transparent. Help me to do my part to grow as a couple and have the one-flesh relationship You desire for us to have. In Jesus name, amen.
Next week we’ll begin talking about the wife’s responsibilities in a God-honoring marriage.
My favorite couple’s devotional:
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