Like Josh and Nancy, most couples begin their marriages with great expectations. In time, however, life's stresses begin to take their toll on the relationship. Bills must be paid, home repairs demand our time and jobs consume much of our energy. Additionally, as studies show, the arrival of children typically brings greater stress to the marriage, pushing husband and wife further apart.David Popenoe, The National Marriage Project at Rutgers University, 2002How do couples remain connected while negotiating real circumstances of life?
The Theology of it All
Human beings have an innate desire to connect, to experience dynamic relationships with one another. And, the deepest, most intimate relationship exists in the marital bond between husband and wife. What is the source of this human longing?
Considering all biblical information, God exists as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This Trinitarian construct has profound implications both for God and human beings. Rather than a mathematical or mere conceptual depiction, God as Trinity indicates that God, in essence, is relational. There is an internal dynamic that characterizes the God who created. Interestingly, ancient theologians used the word "perichoresis" (lit. "a dancing around") to describe this dynamic relationality of God.
Because of this inherent relationality, God appropriately is described fundamentally as "love" (1 John 4:7, NIV), since authentic love occurs only in relationship. The triune God created humans to exist in relationship, not isolation, just as God exists in eternal relationship as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Hence "man" (Heb. adam) who bears the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27) consists of male and female to exist in relationship. In this fundamental way, human beings reflect the image of God – we long to connect in meaningful ways to one another.
The Male / Female Connection
Genesis 2 gives a more detailed description of the creation of human beings. The Creator expressed dissatisfaction with the aloneness of the man. Possibly to expose or solidify the man's sense of relational need, God paraded representatives of the animal kingdom before him. In the process of naming these animals, the man discovered that none of them completely corresponded to his humanness.
Once the man was aware of his isolation, the Creator caused a deep sleep to fall on him. Taking a "rib," or perhaps better, "scooping flesh and bones from his side," God makes (Heb. banah) woman. This unusual word in the creation narrative literally means "to build." God uses the very substance of the man and "builds" it, forms it and molds it into the woman. The word suggests a delicate process in which God carefully, artfully constructs the woman.
The Longing for Relationship
When the man awakens from his divinely-induced slumber, he sees this different, but completely-human, being. Literally in the Hebrew, he exclaims: "This is this time"—in contrast to his experience with the animal kingdom—"bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh, she will be called 'woman' for she was taken out of man" (Genesis 2:23). Man (ish) and woman (isshah). Linguistically linked; essentially the same; sexually distinct; made for one another.
The divine commentary on this human connection was: "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh" (Genesis 2:24). This gives a theological basis for the ubiquitous longing for male/female relationship. It's as if God "split" the singular human into male and female, and there is, therefore, a primal yearning to reconnect physically, spiritually and emotionally.
While these will be fleshed out in subsequent articles, some helpful implications for marital relationships emerge from this biblical description of human creation.
- The well-documented distinctions between women and men are divine in nature. Both women and men share equally in the image of God, but it is reflected in unique ways. Recognizing this helps us appreciate, rather than resist, these differences.
- As bearers of God's image, both husband and wife mediate into the other an important aspect of God's nature. In marriage, husband and wife have the opportunity to experience God uniquely through his or her spouse. In its most beautiful sense, connecting to one another facilitates a connection to the Creator.
- The source of authentic love is God, not humans. Rather than attempting "to find love in one's own heart" for the other, the biblical image is to allow God to pour through the husband his love for the wife, and vice versa. In this way, both husband and wife express and experience God's infinite love—they begin to experience marriage as a "sacred dance."
In the following article, we'll consider how God's intent for marriage has been adversely affected by human brokenness and draw out some implications on how to mitigate its effects on our relationships.
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