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Sunday, March 21, 2010
I’ve been wanting to post on this topic ever since I mentioned it back during my "Audacity" series. Life has been a little crazy recently and hasn’t provided me the opportunity to post at all, much less to give the necessary consideration to this complex topic. But a dreary day in a German hotel room has at last given me that opportunity.

I have mentioned in my blog several times that I believe the concept of being “one flesh,” as the Bible puts it, is central to the Bridal Paradigm.
For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Ephesians 5:31-32
But what exactly does being one flesh mean? The obvious allusion is to sexual intimacy, but as important as that issue is, I believe being one flesh goes well beyond this single facet of the marital relationship. There is so much to examine in this single sentence! It will likely take me several posts, and even then I’ll just be able to scratch the surface.

For me, one key to this question is found in the verse that immediately follows Paul’s quote from Genesis:
Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed. Genesis 2:24-25
Here again, being “naked without shame” certainly implies an unhindered sexual relationship between a husband and wife. However, let’s look a little deeper, through the lens that is the Bridal Paradigm. After Paul instructs husbands to love their wives as Jesus loves the church, he goes on to describe what that looks like:
…that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.    Ephesians 5:27
When God looks at us through the finished work of the cross, He sees us as perfectly beautiful. Yes, perfect. Yes, beautiful. It is the knowledge that we are perfectly accepted and fully loved that allows us to be “naked” before Him yet without any sense of shame.

What is shame? Shame is the painful emotion caused by an overwhelming sense of guilt, embarrassment, and unworthiness. Shame is what causes us to attempt to hide ourselves under the fig leaf of pretense, thinking that maybe if we put up a good enough front that God won’t notice our blemishes. Shame causes us to run FROM God and hide instead of TO Him with our weakness and inadequacy.

Shame has no place in the Bridal Paradigm.

Shame destroys intimacy. God wants us to stand before Him, completely naked, stripped of our false and protective coverings, standing only on the truth that in Jesus we are made perfect, adorned with everlasting beauty. He wants us to draw near to Him without hesitation or hindrance, knowing that we are fully loved, completely cherished and totally accepted by Him, even in our broken condition.

In exactly the same way, shame can prevent the fullness of intimacy in marriage, causing us to draw apart instead of together in our weaknesses and struggles. Shame causes us to hide ourselves and eliminates the possibility of truly being one flesh. Shame stirs up fear and destroys trust. Shame divides and separates. Shame causes blame and defensiveness.

Overcoming shame, one key to living as one flesh, starts with the belief that each other’s hearts are good and that each has the desire to see the other truly fulfilled. Weak and faulty though we may be, the Bridal Paradigm implies that we must see beyond the immediate, must let love truly cover a multitude of sins, and see in each other our true God-given potential. Being one flesh doesn’t mean we blindly ignore each other’s deficiencies and difficulties, but it means that instead of judging and condemning, we work at seeing beyond them with the eyes of love. It means we lovingly encourage each other to reach our fullest potential.

Seeing our one-flesh existence as intimately intertwined means believing that if my spouse wins, then I win and if he or she loses, then I do to. Being one flesh means doing life as intimately as humanly possible. A unique kind of intimacy is made possible when we are completely transparent and yet are safe in the knowledge that we are fully and completely loved.

I can hear the protests. “You don’t know what he/she is like.” “You don’t know what I’ve done?” “How do you expect me to overlook it when he/she does x/y/z.” “I’m too fat/skinny/short/tall/old/whatever to be attractive to my spouse.” “You are just being too idealistic.”

I’m not saying that living as one flesh is easy. But I believe strongly that it’s God’s intent for marriage and that overcoming shame is one key part of moving your marriage toward that ideal state. Try it and see for yourself.


Stay tuned for Part 2 next time: Why unity and individuality are not mutually exclusive.

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