In Christian Marriage, Does God See Us as One Person?

4 Apr

This post goes out to some of our young Christian couples, hoping to keep them from making a mistake that Noel and I made, along with many other couples of our age group (and probably many, many other couples throughout the ages, all the way back to Christ’s time on earth). 

It is the mistake of thinking we need to correct our spouse (“edit his image”) in public.  

Used to be that was done with words.  It was totally unsubtle and pretty easy to eradicate early in marriage because it stuck out like a sore thumb.  

Now I notice it more and more on social media.  

A person tells a story about something that happened to his family; his spouse comes along straightaway and either contradicts some of his details or else expands the story outward with more details to make the person’s image or her family’s image more acceptable to her personal standards.  

Ouch!

Do you see what that does to the original storyteller?  Not only shows him his spouse doesn’t think he can reliably represent events happening to their family but . . . makes a point of showing him that in front of his friends.  I think that publicly airing such a lack of confidence in one’s spouse embarrasses the storyteller much more than he could ever have been embarrassed by any detail he might have possibly gotten wrong in the story!

This also establishes a precedent in a marriage that says, “If I don’t like the way you state something out in public, I regard it as my job to come along and ‘clean up’ after you.”  To edit his words, basically.  

That might be acceptable if God regarded us as one person after marriage, because it would follow that we shared one reputation and one image.  It might even suggest it was okay to jealously guard that reputation and image.  

Unfortunately for the spouses who do this, God’s principle of two people becoming one flesh  applies to their bodies, and to some extent, to their souls.  There is nothing quite so comforting as being physically with someone with whom our soul is calm and at peace.  Knowing that person as we are also known. 

However, spiritually, we remain two individuals, both responsible before God for our choices, especially our choice to either receive Him as Saviour and Lord or . . . to not do that.

Our primary relationship remains with the Lord.  The spouse, a very great gift from God, is the secondary relationship.  If we put the spouse before the Lord in our ranking, we commit idolatry.

I have never seen a spouse who edited her spouse’s words who did not end up having an idolatry issue with that spouse–wanting to present him to the world as almost godlike (and thinking she had a better idea of how to do that than he himself did!).  

When we first arrived in Virginia Beach, we had been married a year and a half.  One of our first friendships at our new church was with a couple just a few years older than us, but married quite a bit longer.  I recall as though it were yesterday an issue we faced at church and how well the wife taught me to handle it.

She and I sang soprano in the choir.  At the time, our husbands hardly came to church.  In fact, they hit it off with each other because they both liked to come once a month–on the day when the men’s group made brunch for everyone to eat after the morning service.  Both husbands basically liked to come to the church to fellowship with the men while they were cooking, then to sit around with the families and have brunch together.  They made a big joke of their once a month attendance!  

It was not a very spiritual orientation to life at the new church and I found myself thinking I should put pressure on my husband to come to church every week.  After all, I was up front in the choir . . .

Someone said something to my friend about her husband’s attendance and she later told me that she had to reach deep inside herself, take a breath, and realize she was not ultimately responsible for her husband nor his image.  She was responsible before God for herself–she was able to convey that to the person who cornered her.  

Later, her mentoring helped me a lot when a neighbor came over to complain to me about some painting he thought my husband needed to do on the outside of our house.  I did not promise to pass the word to Noel.  In fact, I was pretty sure he would not believe me that this neighbor was serious about the painting.  So I asked the neighbor to talk to Noel in person.  He never did.

Now either the neighbor really wasn’t serious about the painting or he was doing what innumerable men have done for hundreds of years–trying to avoid confrontation with another man by sending a message via a woman.  

In either case, I wasn’t about to play the game.  I realized that I was doing all I could to care for a baby and to keep the inside of my house clean.  It was not then my job to worry about fresh paint on the outside of the house and I was not about to make it my job, even to relay a message that may or may not have been well-received.  

It was freeing to realize Noel’s image did not belong to me and I was not responsible to maintain it.  I had gotten off on the wrong foot that first year and a half of marriage.  I might have turned into a huge control freak with Noel if my friend had not intervened when she did (even without being conscious, as she did it, that she was modeling appropriate Christian marital behavior to me!).   

Please, young friends, do not edit each other’s words and image . . . it shows an idolatry of the heart far worse than anything you are trying to cover up in your spouse’s life.  

Be that refreshing well of water for his soul.  The one who points him to God as his primary relationship!  In so doing, you will become the most valuable spouse you could ever be.

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2 Responses to “In Christian Marriage, Does God See Us as One Person?”

  1. Kathy Barton April 4, 2013 at 7:29 PM #

    Excellent blog, Mary. As a pastor’s wife I have had people approach me with issues they wanted me to pass along to Dan. I tried to learn early on not to do that, and politely ask those folks to let Dan know themselves. I wanted to keep our home a haven of peace. But i must admit, it has always been a challenge. Thanks for the loving reminder.

  2. Kim Hastings April 5, 2013 at 8:30 AM #

    Great blog Mary and just exactly what I needed to read. Even after 25 years together I still need to be reminded to let go of the need to control. I love your perspective – thank you!

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