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Friday, October 21, 2011
This is the second in a series of truths in tension. I’m examining marriage truths that must be considered in light of other offsetting marriage truths. For a successful and thriving Surrendered Marriage you have to be willing to hold what you think you believe about marriage up against other truths that may seem to conflict.

Today’s truth in tension topic is closely related to my previous post, “Does Surrender Mean Losing My Self?” The question at hand today is how to balance the truth that marriage is about two becoming one against the contrasting truth that you still need to retain your individuality.

Two Become One

Quoting from Paul’s instructions to the Ephesians on marriage:
"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

Here Paul quotes the verse from Genesis that you hear in almost every Christian marriage ceremony today. More on that in my next post. What I want to focus on here is that our understanding of being one-flesh in marriage can be compared directly to the way in which we are one with Christ.

This “great mystery” that Paul alludes to is God’s wonderful demonstration of a perfect paradigm for marriage: Christ and the church. When I believe in Jesus I become one with him. The Bible says we are “hidden in Christ.” But I don’t stop being me. Though I am a “new creation” I am still the person God created me to be, only more so. My personality doesn’t change, though my disposition may and the manner in which I manage my emotions may. I’m the same height, same eye color. I am still me. In Christ.

What about all those ungodly habits, “fleshly” behaviors and sinful tendencies? I’ll make two important points that relate closely to oneness in marriage.

First, because of what Jesus did for us on the cross, when God looks at me he sees me (and you, if you believe) as perfect. All that garbage is covered, erased, gone! This is the message of grace found in the gospel. This is a message for marriage that we must embrace. We need the grace to look past all the stuff we don’t like or that doesn’t meet our expectations and love our spouses anyway. That’s how Jesus loves us.

Second, the process of growing in oneness with Christ is simply a process of surrender. With our past dealt with by the cross, we have uninhibited access to the deepest possible intimacy with Jesus if we will but embrace it and yield ourselves to it. That requires yielding of “self” and “embracing Christ.” But as I said in my previous post, this surrender is not about losing yourself in the sense of pretending to be something you are not, but holding onto your self through the process of transformation, through growing up in Christ. In the same way, growing in marital oneness involved renewing our minds to a different paradigm. If you will but view your marriage from a one-flesh understanding, it has radical power to transform your marriage.

Transformation not Conformation

Just as it is when we are joined with Christ, when a man and woman get marriage they do not then form a third entity as a couple, “the marriage.” It’s wrong to think that they leave themselves behind and become a part of something different in marriage. Rather, each brings the fullness of their being to the marriage, just as they are, but with the understanding that they are now part of something greater than them alone.

The goal in marriage is not to “conform” yourself into the person you think you should be or the person your spouse thinks you should be. The goal is to “transform” your thinking to begin to look beyond yourself, to ask, “How can I bring myself to this marriage in a way that benefits, blesses, honors and delights my spouse?” You may discover along the way that there are parts of your being that need to grow and change along the way, but the motivation is not conformity but love and intimacy. (There’s a very similar mechanism in Christian maturity as well, but I’ll leave you to ponder that for yourself.)

Are We Two or Are We One?

So the answer to the question of how two people become one and still remain individuals is indeed a mystery, but there is transformational power that can radically impact your marriage when you hold these two truths in tension.

What do you think about my description of a one-flesh paradigm that retains the sense of individuality? Love to hear your thoughts!

Next time I will a look at this unity vs. individuality question from a slightly different perspective. Part three in the truth-in-tension series will look at why sex is a great picture of becoming one flesh that has many implications for becoming one outside the bedroom.

 - - - - - - Further Reading - - - - - -  

Check out One Flesh Marriage for some further great insights on this topic:
Thoughts From Kate

Brad’s perspective

My series on One flesh starts here or you can check the whole series on the blog sidebar under notable series entitled On Being One Flesh


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