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Tuesday, March 30, 2010
OK, so we’ve covered at least part of what I think it means to be one in spirit and one in soul, and so that leaves us with the third and final dimension of our humanity, and that is the body.

The most obvious facet of being one body is sexual intimacy, which is the only interpretation many people give to the scriptural mandate for a man and wife to be “one-flesh.” The bedroom (or wherever) is where being “naked and unashamed” takes on a literal meaning. Much of what I said in those first few posts applies also to the marriage bed.

…being one flesh is not so much about conforming yourself to your spouse, but about bringing the fullness of your self, naked and unashamed, without fear, into the relationship.
I could post a whole series on how the world has corrupted sex and therefore the church has largely ignores the topic, but let me sum it up by saying that I believe God designed sex between a husband and wife to be the ultimate expression of intimacy and deepest form of human pleasure. I also believe that we have to have a deep connection both at the soul and spirit level before the connection with our bodies reaches its pinnacle. Finally, I believe that the scripture clearly states in 1 Corinthians 7:3-4 that a husband and wife are responsible for each other’s sexual satisfaction and each is to view the other’s body as an extension of his/her own. The implications of this are also vast.

There's much more to this topic, but I’d better stop there…

So what do you think, have I missed some important aspect of being one flesh? Is there something more you can add to the spirit-soul-body connection between husband and wife? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Monday, March 29, 2010

As I’ve mentioned, I think the concept of being one flesh is a little esoteric and mysterious. So I thought I’d share a very recent example from my own life, thinking it just might add a bit of clarity. So here we'll pause for another installment of Paradigm in Practice.

I am not a charitable driver. Truth be told, I tend to think other drivers are simply inept. My normally quiet and reserved natured goes by the wayside, and I tend to express these sentiments out loud. I use the word “idiot” – a lot. I’m not proud of this fact, but it’s a fairly deeply engrained behavior.

Now my wife is pretty much opposite of me in this respect. She gives people the benefit of the doubt. She has grace in her heart at times where I would have only malice. When someone cuts us off, she says things like, “maybe his wife is having a baby and he’s on the way to the hospital.” She has actually said these words to me. So you can see the contrast in our two personalities when it comes to driving.

This is a genuine soul difference.

She has on more than one occasion gently expressed her dislike for the vitriol I exude when I drive. For the most part I have seen this as a yet to be renewed part of my soul, an area where my faith and the influence of the Holy Spirit hasn’t crossed over into my thoughts and words when I’m behind the wheel. God is still at work in any number of areas in my life, and I had viewed this as just one of them.

However, yesterday, after we had (once gain) conversed over some choice words I had for the ineptitude of a random driver, a different thought struck me. I realized that this behavior of mine actually offends her spirit. The unkindness I show when I drive cuts against the very grain of who she is in her nature. The realization struck me that this is more than just something that God has to work out of me because it’s against His nature; it’s actually something that He wants to work out of me because it’s also against my darling wife’s nature.

It's not about me becoming like her in my response to other drivers.  We are very different people in this regard and probably always will be, and that's OK. I am actually thankful that God made my wife and I with such different personalities - it makes life a lot more interesting, plus we tend to round each other out a bit.  No instead it's about me being aware of how what I think and say affects her and purposefullly honoring her spirit.

Will this realization suddenly cause me to be spite-free in my driving? Probably not. But in the future, at the very least whenever she is riding with me I will certainly be more aware of the impact my thoughts and emotions have when they come out in the form of unkind words toward of other drivers.

That’s just a tiny example of what it means to be one in soul. In this case it means harnessing my thoughts and words as I drive in an effort to honor the fact that to do otherwise hurts my wife in a way that she cannot help, because of who she is.
Friday, March 26, 2010
In my previous post I explained how Christian maturity is a matter of allowing the Holy Spirit to have a stronger influence over our souls (mind, will and emotions) in order that we become more Christ-like in our words and actions. But, as I explained earlier in this series, the one-flesh goal in marriage is certainly not for husband and wife to think and act alike, so what is the marriage equivalent of the Bridal Paradigm that relates to our souls? In the marriage relationship, neither person’s spirit is more important or more “right” than the other’s; it makes no sense for me become more like my wife, nor for her to become more like me. So what is the spirit-soul relationship in marriage?

Here is at least one part of what I think it means to be one-flesh in the realm of the soul. It means purposefully developing and focusing your own mind, will and emotions a way that nurtures and fosters your spouse’s spirit, or their true, ideal nature. In addition to growing in Christ by yielding your soul to the Holy Spirit, I believe there is at least some part of your soul that should likewise be attuned to the spirit of your husband or wife. That’s why I said it is essential to gain supernatural insight into who your spouse really is in order to consider the implications for your soul.

Are your thoughts of your spouse only formed in response to external factors, such as what they say and do or the way they express their emotions toward you? Or are you able to use the insight that God has given you into the spirit of your mate to think of them as God does, through the eyes of love and grace. Can you see your spouse as perfect and beautiful, regardless of what you see in the natural?

Are your own emotional responses driven purely from the emotions and actions of your spouse or from your own self-interests? Or are you able to work in cooperation with the Holy Spirit to react with grace and kindness, with unselfish love and true affection, even when it isn’t necessarily warranted or deserved? Does the truth of who your husband or wife truly is inform your emotions or do you instead allow your emotions to degrade your understanding of who they really are?

Is your will completely self-centered, or is there room in your desires and dreams to accommodate the desires and dreams of your spouse as well? I’m not saying you should capitulate or give up your own desires and dreams, but rather that you must not consider yours in isolation.

So to me, being one-flesh in the realm of the soul is not about thinking, feeling and dreaming the same way as your spouse, but rather about thinking, feeling and dreaming in a way that honors your spouse’s true nature, as God created them to be in their inner-most being. This is what it means to be soul mates.
Thursday, March 25, 2010
I’m not entirely satisfied that I’ve adequately explained this “great mystery” that Paul describes in Ephesians 5:32 as a husband and wife becoming “one flesh.” The mystery is still unfolding for me and probably will be as long as I live. That’s the thing with mystery – it’s so darn mysterious. So , hang onto your hats, folks, this gets deep in a hurry.

When I have an issue in marriage that I have difficulty getting my head around I always go back and ask this question: What does the Bridal Paradigm say? The question is compelling in this case, because Paul most clearly states that there is a related 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
The common understanding is that men and women are made up of three parts: spirit, soul and body. Each of these has relevance in the Bridal Paradigm examination of the one-flesh truth. I believe that a husband and wife become one in all three dimensions.

What started out to be a single post, now appears will morph into at least three. So we’ll cover these one at a time.

One in Spirit

When we give our lives over to the Lordship of Jesus (i.e. get “saved”) our spirits become one with God’s Holy Spirit. It’s an unseen and spiritual union, but it is very real nonetheless. In the same way, I believe when a man and woman marry, they are tied together in their spirits in a similar kind of spiritual union or covenant. I think the common view of marriage as a disposable institution denies this truth and that much of the damage wreaked by divorce is in the realm of their spirits (but that is yet another topic…).

Christian maturity, or growing in our relationship to Jesus, comes about as we allow more of the Holy Spirit, already joined with our spirit, to empower and infuse our soul (mind, will and emotions), which in turn works its way into our body’s external expressions (what we say and do). The more our thoughts, our desires and our feelings come under the influence of the Holy Spirit, the more Christ-like we become, the more the Kingdom of God is manifest in our lives, and the more intimate we become with Jesus.

Because the human spirit is invisible, it’s a bit hard to clearly define (at least for me). Opinions vary, but in essence I see a person’s spirit as their internal, invisible, and non-material essence, what the Bible refers to as your “innermost being.” People use words like conscience, intuition and life-force to describe it. It’s also hard to separate the spirit from the soul, because it’s in the realm of the soul that your spirit becomes manifest. (Recall the scripture that says the Word of God is so sharp that it can separate spirit and soul, an obvious reference to the close link between them.)

With all that said (and still lacking in much in the way of real clarity) let me state what I think about the spirit connection is in marriage. To me, it’s the extent to which you “get” your spouse. Do you really know him or her in their innermost being, despite what might be exhibited externally to you and others through their soul and body?

Gaining this kind of understanding requires tapping into the spirit-bond between you (~intuition) in addition to getting some supernatural revelation via the Holy Spirit. Pray and ask God to show you your spouse in the way that God sees them, because He alone, as their creator, knows them that intimately and thoroughly. This is more than just a one-time occurrence but requires a continual revelation and significant consideration.

Before you can really move onto consider what it means to be one flesh in the realm of the soul, you have to know who your spouse really is in their spirit.
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
I think there’s common misconception that somehow living as “one-flesh” causes you to lose your sense of self. But I don’t believe that unity is necessarily mutually exclusive with retaining your individuality.

I don’t see that when a man and a woman marry the two individuals leave themselves behind and become part of a new third identity as a married couple. Rather, I believe each brings the fullness of who they are to the marriage, probably including as yet undiscovered aspects of their nature. Skills and talents, personality traits, weaknesses and strength alike all come along for the ride, whether you consciously acknowledge it or not. You get and bring the full package.

The goal of becoming one flesh is not to leave your self and move toward the marriage. That’s the wrong way of thinking about it. Nor is it correct to try to move your spouse away from who they are toward something you believe they should become in order to be an acceptable part of the marriage duo. Of course people will grow and change as they mature over the course of a marriage – that’s a natural part of life, but don’t go into it thinking that you must change yourself or your spouse in order to become one flesh. At least as I see it, that’s not what being one flesh is about.

As I explained in my previous post (Naked Without Shame), being one flesh is not so much about conforming yourself to your spouse, but about bringing the fullness of your self, naked and unashamed, without fear, into the relationship. It also means not casting judgment on your spouse when he/she does the same, but responding instead with love and grace, just like Jesus responds to us in our weakness.

The deepest kind of intimacy happens when you are fully known and fully loved. There’s nothing better.

The unity called for and the intimacy offered by the one-flesh mentality means adding strength to strength, offering strength for weakness, and accepting the same. It means finding and thoroughly enjoying the places where the two of you fit together perfectly, whether that be as compliments or in likeness, and filling in the gaps and conflicts with grace and love as much as possible.

Taking such a view of being one flesh will give your marriage the pliability it takes to survive and thrive over the long haul.
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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