I read an interesting article in the paper awhile back about a well-known actress who was getting a divorce. She sounded a cynical note about marriage in general. She said, "I don't want to sound bitter because I am definitely not. But I don't know if people are meant to be together forever". This article goes on to say that this actress is not alone in wondering. There is no doubt particularly as lifespans have increased that there is less certainty about finding and keeping lifelong love with just one person.
A 2014 survey of millennials commissioned by the USA Network drama Satisfaction found 43% listen to this 43% would support a beta marriage model. That is testing relationships for two years before deciding to commit or dissolve. A beta marriage model. Then also 36% backed the real estate marriage model in which couples would commit to a set period of time ranging from 5 to 30 years and at the end have to renegotiate if they want to remain married. Let me help you out if you think this has some validity.
The beta test and the real estate test are not going to work. You do it God's way and it will work. You do it these other ways you are already setting the stage for failure. I think that sometimes people think we will just live together. We will have all of the fringe benefits of marriage without the commitment. This will be sort of a test run to see how we will do later if we are ever to get married. Actually that is a good way to set the stage for a divorce not a successful marriage.
I read an article that said couples who live together are gambling and are losing, listen, in 85% of the cases. Many believe the myth that they are in a trial marriage. Actually it is more like a trial divorce in which 8 out of the 10 couples will break up before the wedding or afterwards in divorce. So a successful marriage is a total commitment. You just go for it or you don't go for it. Let me say a word about not going for it. Really if this is your attitude. If you are not sure you are marrying the right person do not get married. It was Benjamin franklin who once said, "Keep your eyes wide open before marriage and half-shut afterwards".
I think the problem is we walk into marriage with our eyes half-shut. Sometimes the girl will say this guy has a lot of flaws but he is going to be my project. I am going to fix him. News flash. He is probably going to get worse. He is going to just become a more exaggerated version of himself. If you can't love him as he is, if you think you are going to change him, you might be in for a real shock. The same for the guy marrying the girl. That is why I say if you are not married yet, if you are courting, even if you are engaged and it doesn't work out go ahead and break up. Do us all a favor. Break up. Get the break ups over with before the marriage so there will be none after the marriage you see.
Now my wife and I we broke up three times. We were young kids too I might add. We courted for three years. There is a word you don't hear any more. Court. Three years we went out. If you will it became an annual event. We broke up. It was one of those break ups like I never want to see your face again. Then we got back together. Finally after the third one we said this is it. We know we are meant for each other. We got married. Honestly. This might even surprise you. Even if you had your wedding announcements printed and a month out you decided this is a bad decision go ahead and cancel. Just give the gifts back to the people.
That is all I am saying. Don't be a runaway bride. Try to not do it on the actual wedding day. My point is figure this out ahead of time because wedlock should be a padlock. If you are not willing to make that commitment then do us all a favor and stay single. God has a plan. If we will do it his way he can bless it. You know what? God has given us an instruction manual on life. That includes marriage. That includes family. That includes raising children. That includes being single. It is called the Bible. B.I.B.L.E. Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth. We need to pay attention to what the Bible says.
God has invented marriage and it is insane to me that we think that we can now redefine it. Our supreme court gets together and gives us a new definition of marriage. They don't decide. God decides. We built our very nation the United States of America on the foundation of marriage and the family. George Washington our first president warned that we can never expect in his words, "The smiles of heaven on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which heaven itself has ordained". As we disregard God's rules, disregard God's laws, we are going to pay a price for it. It has been said that a family can survive without a nation but the nation cannot survive without the family.
God has given us this template. The further we get from it the worse things become. By the way this institution of marriage has been tested by millions of people over centuries and in multiple cultures. It has not only survived. It has flourished. Timothy Keller in his excellent book on marriage made this statement. "Marriage did not evolve in the late bronze age as a way to determine property rights. At the climax of the Genesis account of creation we see God bringing a woman and a man together to unite them in marriage. The Bible begins with a wedding. That of Adam and eve. And ends in the book of revelation with a wedding of Christ and the church". He concludes, "Marriage is God's ideal".
Ok. So let's drill down a little deeper now. Why did God bring the woman to the man? Because she would bring what was missing in his life and the purpose and objective in marriage can be summed up of two words. Go back to Ephesians 5:31. "For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave unto his wife and the two shall become one flesh". I want you to write down two words if you are taking notes. The words are leave and cleave. Two very important words that must be in constant play in the marriage relationship to keep it vibrant and strong. It is leave and cleave. Or sever and attach to. Or loosen and secure.
A successful marriage begins with a leaving. A leaving of all other relationships. Listen guys. You can still have your buddies. Girls you can still have your girlfriends. You can have those relationships. But the most important relationship is that of you to your spouse. It is kind of hard to have a best friend that isn't your husband or wife. You can have close friends but your best friend should be your spouse. I hope I don't need to tell you that it is very problematic to have close friendships with members of the opposite sex. Right. If you say to your wife, "Hey honey I am going out with my best friend Mary and we are going to go to dinner and a movie but there is nothing here to worry about". Forget that. OK. That just has to stop. You can't do that. Your best friend should be your spouse.
Here is a really key verse. You might want to write it down and look at it later. I will read it to you. It is Malachi 2:14. God says, "The Lord has been witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, although she is your companion and wife". I believe that husbands hold the key to a successful marriage. You say, "Greg why do you single out the husbands"? Because God has called the man to be the spiritual leader in the home. God has called the man to be the initiator. What are men told to do? Or mens. It is plural. They are told to love their wives as Christ loves the church. Why does the church love Christ? Because he first loved us. The wife's submission, the wife's respect comes as a response to her husband's loving servant leadership you see.
Just like we became Christians because Jesus won us over with his undying love. With his everlasting love. We said I want to follow Jesus. So the husband can win over his wife by the way that he loves her and the way that he serves her. Sadly in too many relationships the husband is not the spiritual leader. In fact the wife is often the spiritual leader. The husband is passive at best. Sometimes hostile at worst. We don't want that now do we? We want the husband to be the leader God has called him to be.
Becoming one flesh is an event. It is also a process. It is interesting after Adam and eve were married the Bible says God called their name Adam. He saw them as one flesh. To become one. When you are married you are technically one flesh. But now it is going to take a lifetime to kind of work that out. Cathe and I realised recently that between us we have one complete brain. It is I have one half and she has the other half. When I forget something she remembers it. If she forgets something, I remember it. Together we have one working brain. But you see it takes time. It takes a lot of time to get to know a person and to flex with a person and adapt and all of the things that happen in a relationship. That could be said of our relationship with God.
The day I become a Christian I am forgiven of my sin. Right. The day I become a Christian the Bible says I am justified which means that all of my sins are forgiven and the righteousness of Christ is placed into my account. Then there is what is called in the Bible sanctification. Sanctification is now living out what God has done in my life. It is sort of that way in marriage. You are technically married. You are technically one flesh but it is a lifetime now of discovering what that means. First you leave. Then you cleave. What does the word cleave mean? It doesn't mean to divide as in a meat cleaver. It actually means to bring together. It suggests a determined action. There is nothing passive about the act of cleaving. It is like climbing a mountain. You are hanging on.
I see these people who go and scale the sides of mountains. They have their little tools, and their little hammers, and nails and lines that they hang. I can't believe what these people do. They get up there and they reach up and they dink, dink, dink. Then they put in the little rope and they will swing. That is insane to me. That is what marriage should look like. You are holding on. You are clinging to each other. It doesn't mean you are stuck together. It means you are sticking together.
I think sometimes people think that God disapproves of sex. How ridiculous. God created sex. Clearly in the Bible we can see he gave it to us to be fruitful and multiply. Yes it is for procreation. Yes it is for bringing children into the world. God didn't say you couldn't have some fun while you are doing it. You can have fun in sex. It doesn't have to be a dirty word. It doesn't have to be a taboo subject. It is something that can be enjoyable, pleasurable, and listen to this, even blessed. But only in the boundaries and safety of a marriage relationship. That is the only place God will bless it.
Outside of marriage actually sex can be an extremely destructive thing. It is sort of like dark rich soil. It is beautiful in the garden. Not so nice if you bring it on your white carpet in the house. We need to keep sex in its proper place. Casual sexual encounters are made to look harmless and fun in sitcoms and music today it is celebrated about all of these things that people are going to do to each other. You think of the impact it has had on our culture. Think of how different our world would be if we just obeyed one of the Ten Commandments. Just one. Thou shall not commit adultery. That means families would be together. So many families are broken up because of adultery.
Then there are people that have premarital sex that never get married so the child is conceived out of wedlock. I was conceived out of wedlock by the way so I know a little bit about this. I know what it is like to never have a stable father figure in my life. I know what is like to make a lot of bad choices and face the consequences for them. That was my trajectory until Jesus Christ came and turned my life around. So many kids today haven't heard about Jesus Christ. There is no dad. There has never been a dad. Mom just got pregnant. Maybe it even happened to her three times. Maybe it is even different dads if you want to call them dads though they really are not much of a father in my book.
What about innocent babies killed through abortion? What about that? That alone is mind-blowing how many millions of children have been eliminated. Who knows out of all of those millions of children that have been aborted if we would not have had the next president of the United States? If we would have not have had the next doctor who would have found the cure for cancer? If we would not have had the next who knows great preacher to reach our country? What ever. But all of those lives needlessly thrown away. It doesn't hurt anybody? What about the mother that contends with the abortion years later? Sometimes the pain of the abortion doesn't fully sink in until that young girl who may have got it in her teens now realises what she did. As the years pass by and she sees other little children who would have been the age of her child if she had brought the little one to term, she realises the significance of what she has done. What about that? What about venereal disease? What about the aids virus? It does hurt people. God has laid these laws down for our own good. We want to pay careful attention to them. Because God will bless this as you come together in his perfect plan.
Another way we express this oneness to each other is through communication. One of the keys to a successful marriage is communication. That means you have got to talk a lot together. You need to spend time together. You need to take time off together from all of the things that you are involved in and share your heart. In fact I read a survey that pointed out that divorced couples were asked why their marriage failed. Do you know what the number one reason was? Deficient communication. 86% said my marriage failed because of deficient communication.
So you see why leave and cleave are operative words all through a marriage. First you leave all other relationships and make your marital bond your most important. Then you are constantly cleaving. Constantly growing. Constantly loving. And expressing that love toward one another. It is as simple as telling your spouse that you love them. When is the last time you said to your wife, "I love you" or to your husband, "I love you. I appreciate you". Even a hug would go a long way.
C. S. Lewis made this great statement, and I quote. "People get from books the idea that if you have married the right person you can expect to go on being in love forever". Of course I would say that is reinforced through movies, music, TV, and everything else. You meet that person you will be in love forever. Then Lewis continues, "As a result when they find they are not in love forever necessarily they think this proves they made a mistake and are entitled to a change not realising that when they have changed the glamor will presently go out of the new love just as it went out of the old one. In this department of life, as in every other, thrills come at the beginning, but they do not last. But if you go through with it, listen, the dying away of the first thrill we will be compensated for by a quieter, more lasting kind of love".
Get it. I love that. He is saying there is that initial thrill. Sort of like firing your car up. You don't run a car off of starting the ignition. You start the ignition. Now you drive the car. Romance and initial attraction is the ignition. It fires up the engine. Now the engine needs to run. Now you need to maintain the engine. You need to keep going in that same direction that you have been driving. In this case in God's will staying in the right lane. Not getting out of your lane. Doing it the way God has called you to do. Do everything you can to cultivate and weed the garden of your marriage and you will live happily even after. Why? Because God said you would in the Bible and you can trust what God says.