This is the fourth installment in a study on marriage vows.
“I, Patricia, take you, Patrick, to be my lawfully wedded husband, to live together…”
No, this is not an article answering whether Christians should live together before marriage. As my friend Pastor Tommy Boland, says, “There are some things you need to pray about and seek God’s direction. But when the Bible is clear, what is there to pray about?” In the case of living together before marriage, God calls it fornication, and the Bible says, “No.”
The questions we should be asking are:
What does God expect of us when we promise to live together as husband and wife?
Will our living together produce Kingdom fruit?
In the beginning, God ordained that we leave our mother and father to become “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). This is often referred to as a mystical union. “One” here in Hebrew is echad, which is also used in Deuteronomy 6:4; “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” The word for God here is “Elohim,” which is a plural form. God’s math: three Persons equal one God. In marriage two persons equal one new tree producing Kingdom fruit.
Grafting is the process of joining two different plants to form a new one. If you love the flavor of pears but want a studier fruit, you could graft a pear tree with an apple tree.
Before joining plants, each has to give up a little flesh. (Ouch!)The exposed flesh is then tied together until the bond is complete. This is not an overnight process. It requires patience and TLC.
In marriage, bonding requires time together. Perhaps this is why God gave “the Honeymoon Law”:
“A newly married man must not be drafted into the army or be given any other official responsibilities. He must be free to spend one year at home, bringing happiness to the wife he has married” (Deuteronomy 24:5).
Romance, heroes and unlimited sex
American writer and humorist Lewis Grizzard once said, “I came from a big family. As a matter of fact, I never got to sleep alone until I was married.”
We all come to marriage with great expectations of marital bliss. Just as the Israelites crossed the Jordan anticipating “a land flowing with milk and honey” (Exodus 3:8), so we cross the threshold expecting a land flowing with romance, heroes and unlimited sex. What we don’t anticipate is the pain involved in giving up flesh for the graft to take. We will be living with someone who doesn’t talk, keep house, work or play the way we expect based on our backgrounds, upbringings and proclivities. This can make living together seemingly impossible for seasons.
Probably the least anticipated difficulties are those related to sexual intimacy. Sources of problems may be fatigue, illness, ignorance or the busy-ness of life. With images of hot steamy sex portrayed in movies, we may be surprised how difficult maintaining a great sex life can become.
Living together and bonding are not easy for anyone. You are not alone. There are resources to help you learn to live together. Mentors are a great option, as are books such as Sexual Intimacy in Marriage by Cutrer and Glahn,
“Does This Dress Make Me Look Fat?”: A Man’s Guide to The Loaded Questions Women Ask by James and Thomas and “Yup.” “Nope.” “Maybe.”: A Women’s Guide to Getting More out of The Language of Men by James and Thomas. There are also great seminars and retreats, like Family Life’s “Weekend to Remember.” Take advantage of these resources.
“Baby’s Gone Home To Mamma”
This Josh Turner song demonstrates what we often do when we don’t get along — we separate. Even emotional or sexual separation under the same roof can endanger our echad, making it vulnerable to disease (sin), and consequently graft failure. Short of child, spouse or substance abuse, the promise to live together is a commitment to stay and pray through it all — under the same roof — seeking wise counsel as needed. Physical, sexual and emotional abandonment are not options.
“We grew apart.”
One of the most commonly cited excuses for divorce, this statement indicates that the grafting string that tied us together rotted and fell off when no one was looking. God gave us a number of ways to ensure our string stays in good shape: Scripture, prayer, church and fellowship. If we stay connected through these, it is unlikely that our strings will rot away.
Echad requires intentionality. Will you vow to live together in a way that produces fruit for the Kingdom, constantly checking your grafting string for signs of wear and tear?
Patricia Hartman is a CPA/partner at Kofsky, Hartman & Weinger, PA. (khwcpa.com) and author of “The Christian Prenuptial Agreement: The Power of Marriage Unleashed” available at ChristianPrenuptial.com. Twitter @CPrenuptial.