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Sunday, May 16, 2010
Face it, most of us like things black and white. We like clearly defined boundaries. We like to know if we’re in or out, if we are winning or losing, if we are OK or not OK. Such things make life safe and easy. No mess, no fuss, no fuzzy ambiguities.

To an extent I think many in the church are afraid to tackle some of the tougher issues related to the biblical truths about marriage because marriage is an inherently messy business. Marriage doesn’t tend to fit neatly into our little black and white boxes. That’s because God, the one who designed marriage, doesn’t either.

You see the Kingdom of God is full of truths in tension, things that are completely true but that must be held in healthy tension against other things that are also completely true. Consider a few example truths about God:
  • God is completely sovereign. AND God gives us free will.
  • Jesus is fully God. AND Jesus is fully man.
  • God is trinity (Father, Son, Holy Spirit). AND God is one.
In each case, if you stick only with one half of the truth, you get a distorted and incomplete picture of who God is.

There are plenty of marriage truths that must also be held in tension. It’s when people try to isolate on one part of a truth that the missing tension leads to unhealthy imbalance. The strongest marriages are willing to embrace the tension, the fuzziness if you will, and live in the continual pursuit of proper balance.

So since I’m going for tension, I’ll start with one that’s sure to create some:
  • God gives authority to the husband in a marriage (head of the home). AND a husband is to display that authority by loving his wife with the same kind of sacrificial love that Christ shows for the church.
Feel the tension? If that’s not enough, here’s one more:
  • A wife is to submit to and show respect for her husband. AND a husband is to love his wife as he loves himself.
Each of these truths and counter-truths are clearly stated in various portions of Ephesians 5.

I posted a while back how many attempt to distort and refute what the Bible says about marriage by focusing on part of the truth without the counterbalance of what else the scriptures say. For example, if all you look at is the submission part of what is taught in Ephesians 5, it’s easy to draw completely wrong conclusion that women are to be subjugated and subservient to men. Likewise if you only see what that chapter says about a husband being the head of his wife, without reading on to see what that looks like, you fail to see that the model for leadership is Jesus laying down his life for his bride.

Those who use the scriptures as a weapon, either to beat women into submission or to paint the biblical concept of marriage as unfair and unacceptable, generally pick and choose what parts they accept or reject. I don’t think that’s helpful or wise.

If it’s in the Word, it’s in there for a reason. You can paint me as a fundamentalist or a fanatic, but I believe our job is to figure out what that reason is and apply it to our lives, with the help of the Holy Spirit’s illumination. Yeah, that’s messy business. Yeah, it can be hard to work through and apply to the infinite variety of marriage relationships that exist. Yeah, it probably means making some mistakes and occasionally having to retrace some steps (or mis-steps). Yeah, there is a potential for mis-use and abuse of the truth. But I don’t think the answer is to ignore it.

The fuzzy mess is OK with me, and I think it’s OK with God. Is it with you?
Wednesday, May 12, 2010

I just came across Esther's blog post about the purported article entitled “The Good Wife’s Guide” from 1955. (If you haven't yet seen it, you can click on the images on the right. Go ahead, click. You know you want to.) I've seen this a time or two before, but seeing it again got me thinking...

Now, depending on which email version was forwarded to you, this little tidbit of womanly advice supposedly either came from a Home Economics text book or an issue of Housekeeping Monthly. Turns out that neither is true and the authenticity of the article is seriously in question (See Snopes analysis here). Most often the email in question is accompanied by scornful rants about the poor wives who had to endure the misogynistic, abusive and repressive post-war era and extolling the liberated virtues of the modern-day woman.

There are those who equate what the Bible teaches about marriage with the “good wife” depicted in this often circulated article. They claim that it’s a throwback to a time where the wife was nothing more than a subservient, docile, brainless housekeeping slave to her husband. (I’m not all that certain that this good wife stereotype was actually the prevailing post-war marriage paradigm, though I’m sure it has existed to various extents at various points in our history. That’s not really the point.)

What I’ve found is that, for the most part, those who believe that the Bible asserts a similar “good wife” role for women in marriage haven’t really looked very deeply into it for themselves. Rather they rely on bad preaching, false stereotypes, incorrect assumptions or feminist propaganda in order to form their opinions. I often hear a wife’s submission described in terms of subjugation, oppression and loss of self. Likewise a husband’s authority in a marriage is equated with self-serving domination and overbearing control. But none of these is part of the true biblical definition of marriage. Nowhere near.

How about you? Does the term “submission” cause the hackles on your neck to stand up? Does it conjure up Stepford Wife images that make you want to throw out whatever you’ve been told the Bible says about marriage? Do you think of June Cleaver, fastidiously vacuuming in a dress and pearls?

Really, I’d love you hear your thoughts. How does “The Good Wife’s Guide” relate to biblical teaching on marriage? I’ll follow up later this week with some of my thoughts.
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
I subscribe to an email newsletter on Christian marriage that is distributed from crosswalk.com.   I was happy to read today's update from an engaged young woman writing about "this whole imitating-the-love-of-Christ-for-His-Church thing."  Reading it was refreshing, because I don't often read a lot about the Bridal Paradigm (my phrase, not hers) from other writers.  It was encouraging because I know I am not alone in this.    I was delighted that someone who hasn't yet entered into her marriage clearly get's it so wll going in .  I'm convinced that hers is a marriage that will last.  

Here is a part of the article. It's a good read.

More Than a Table for Two: The Difference a Christ-centered Marriage Makes
Stephanie Duncan

With thirty-six days standing in between us and our vows, Zach and I are still trying to track down late RSVPs and figure out the difference between white, ivory, and champagne. But even with so many pressing details, we know that these are fringe matters compared to glory we will represent when we soon meet at the altar. The pastor, who is Zach's father, will say a few words about how marriage is a picture of Christ's love for the Church, we will all (pastor included) cry our way through the vows, and then in front of everyone we will be declared husband and wife.

In many ways, we have no idea what we're getting ourselves into. If you've spent any time on a Christian campus (like the one where we met with courtyard foliage that incidentally spells out "I Do") you know that it can double as a stage for relational drama. Between the two of us, Zach and I know at least eight couples who have broken off their engagement. And while we have friends whose marriages we greatly admire, the tragedy remains that the divorce rate for Bible school graduates is no different than the world's.

But what anchors us to a sanctified perspective is that in thirty-six days we will join ourselves together in the divine portrait of the Savior's all-giving love for His Bride. How miraculous it is to reflect the Father's naming attribute, as He is called Love, and extend this care to another. It is this understanding that prompted Zach, during a surprise snowstorm one April, to tell me that he loved me. And from the conversation that followed until now, we have understood that because God is Love, to proclaim love is to invoke His very Name. To me this seems sacred, something I cannot afford to take lightly.

This is why we are delighted, anxious, excited and scared half to death of putting into practice this whole imitating-the-love-of-Christ-for-His-Church thing. How, I think, will this majesty translate into brushing our teeth at the same sink and doing our laundry together? How can my messy, trip-up self be entrusted with the high calling of reflecting redemption in our daily domestic life?

Paul answers me simply enough, "This mystery is profound" (Ephesians 5:32a). It is a mystery as much as it is a mercy, I think, that a husband and wife might rehearse the love they have divinely received in their conduct towards each other.

Yet our culture tells so many stories of relational wreckage. Instead of learning love from a Personal Being, a secular marriage too often practices love not as a sacred quality but a sentiment divorced from its very Creator. In a sense, they are borrowing an attribute that belongs to a God they don't know and exercising a representation of a spiritual truth they don't believe. To be fair, there are people with good marriages who have detached the basic virtues that uphold their relationship from theology. But if they do not understand the holy reason behind why their marriage works, neither can the fragmented family be expected to pull together apart from God's paradigm of sacrificial love.
I could have written this. OK. Maybe not so well. But I found myself thinking as I read, "yeah, so true, that's good, oh yeah."

How about you - does this resonate with you?  Expecially if you are newly married or about to be.

If you enjoyed this excerpt,  you can read the rest of the article here.  You might want to consider going to www.crosswalk.com/marriage and signing up for their newsletter.  They put out some good stuff.  Yes, this is a shameless attempt at compensating them for plagerizing the article. 

Oh and if you are reading this and haven't yet responded to my plea for lurkers to de-lurk and show themselves, please go here and do it. NOW!  Help make this a community with your comments.
Monday, May 3, 2010
It was interesting to check my blog visitor stats over at my stat counter (http://www.statcounter.com/ - in case you need a cool free counter with tons of cool tools). 

The first thing that struck me is how global my readers are.  Here's the map for my last 500 page loads - that's all you get for free.  So the map below is missing some early hits, which I recall were from Russia and the Phillipines and a few other far-flung places, which have since flushed out the end of my log.


Another interesting tool tells me when someone finds my blog via a search engine.  Here are a few examples of searches that seemed to be right on:
  • marriage as a spiritual pathway
  • surrender and intimacy
  • is the soul part of the flesh
  • bridal paradigm
Then there was this search, which stuck out like a sore thumb:
  • naked wife
Pity the disappointed person when they landed on my blog!

Another thing that struck me was how few of you leave comments when you stop by.  So, all you who simply lurk, it's time to show yourselves!  One key goal here is to engage in conversation with others who are interested in exploring this amazing journey we call marriage, especially as it relates to our spiritual journey. 

So it's time.  Come out, come out, wherever you are.  Let me know where you are from, whether your are married and for how long, what you like or hate about this blog.   Your pet's name.  I don't really care what you post.  Anything is fair game.  Just let me know you are there. I'd also love to know if you have some topic suggestions for future posts. 

And if you are getting this via an RSS reader, blog feed, or email, won't you consider stopping by "in person" and saying hello.

As always, thanks reading.

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