3) Marital Intimacy, Things Can Change (Bill Raddam)
4) Speak the Truth in Love
5) Marriage: Two Shall Become One
MARRIAGE : GOD'S FINAL ACT OF CREATION
Often marriage is seen as a way to happiness. Man and woman say "I do!" expecting only great things from each other. They expect to fit nicely with their new mate. But they do not and they begin to grate upon each other, and sometimes even crash on each other. There is nothing more painful in relationships than the grinding and grating that goes on between husband and wife.
This is partly true because it is so unexpected. When you meet that special guy or gal you feel like everything is well with your world. You feel so comfortable with each other. And then you get closer and he or she starts to rub you the wrong way, starts to irritate and push your buttons.
As the grinding, chipping, and clashing goes on you find yourself getting hurt. You respond by insulating yourself to protect yourself from further hurt and rejection. Afterall, only a masochist likes to be hurt. And since most of us are not lovers of pain and rejection we recoil from them. Then when the insulation is not thick enough we begin the process of isolating ourselves from the source of pain.
Unfortunately, that source is not the corner bully, but our spouse. The one who is supposed to be our refuge from a trying and tiring world becomes our tormenter, the thorn in our side. You just kind of stay away. You find it easier to focus on the kids and minister to their lives because they give you the fulfillment you are looking for, or you stay away at work where you experience success and approval.
I came across a story in Larry Crabb's book, The Marriage Builder, that illustrates the surprise and bewilderment that many feel about their marriage.
"A deacon sat across from me and shook his head in anger and desperation. 'I have taught Sunday School for 20 years and I even taught the courses on the Christian home. You can't tell me much about the Bible that I don't already know and I've tried, God knows I've tried, to the best of my ability to be the husband, the father, the deacon, the businessman that God wants me to be. And don't get me wrong, things have gone pretty well, well, real well in the church and also my business. But no matter what I do, I can't get my marriage together. Right now I'm so frustrated and so angry and so miserable that I'm actually ready to quite. And actually, I've met somebody else. Now look, I know it's wrong and don't give me a lecture on sin because I haven't done anything yet, but if you knew the frustrations I live with at home, maybe you wouldn't be so quick to judge. We haven't slept together, but God knows I want to simply because she's so different than my wife. We've been married for 22 years and I never so much as looked at another woman until now. I want to please the Lord, I really do, but there's just no way to make this marriage work.'
"If you were the counselor, what would you say? You could turn to Ephesians 5 and tell him that 'God commands you to love your wife and if you do you will feel better about the situation.' You may even guarantee him that if he loves her she will always reciprocate his love back. But what if she doesn't? What if she feels threatened by intimacy or closeness? What if she prefers distance and does not have a strong love-belonging need? Or, just does not respect his maleness and ridicules him at every turn. What is he supposed to do, then? The situation could very well be reversed and instead of reading about Bill we could be reading about Mary or Jane."
What do people do when their marriages are far less than they hoped them to be? Trite and pat answers will probably get the resigned nod and smile, but the heart will begin to back away from you, and maybe even the church. I believe there are some other answers. I want to start by increasing our understanding of what marriage is all about, combating, somewhat, what our secular culture says marriage is all about. I want to elevate our view of marriage to the grandeur that God designed it to have.
Marriage is not simply a human contract.
Marriage is an act of God's creation. Our world looks at marriage as an agreement between two people who will stay together as long as it is comfortable and profitable for them. And if they grow tired of each other they can break it apart. It is happening all around us. If it is not a divine contract, then there is no divine help. If it is not a divine contract, then it does not matter who or what you marry. But I want you to recognize from God's Word that He has a plan for marriage.
Marriage is important to God.
I want to increase the majesty and sanctity of marriage and decrease the mystery. Read Genesis 1:26-27: "Let us make man in our image. In our likeness as we are and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and the livestock and over all the earth and over all the creatures that move on the ground." What does God mean, "In our image?" He is not talking to the angels here. The Trinity is conversing within Itself. "Let Us make man in Our image." In some way, this new creature was going to resemble the Creator unlike any other creature. He makes it clear that male and female humans are related to each other unlike all other creatures.
The Word of God does not say, "God created the bulls and then God created the cows, or first the stallions and then the mares, or first the roosters, then the hens." God takes just a few words to mention the creation of the plant and animal life on Earth. But He gives special care in describing His creation of humans. "The Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and the man became a living being." And then verse 15: "The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden to work it and take care of it." Stop there for a minute. No woman yet. Adam, a man, had a job to do and he was happy. He was made competent. He did his job well. But there is something missing. In verse 18 God says, "It's not good that man be alone. I will make him a helper suitable for him." This "helper" is not an assistant. Helper means a complement to completeness. It is that which is needed to be complete in manifesting the image of God.
To understand what it means to be created in the image of God, it helps to get a grasp of what the word "image" conveyed in that language at that time. Whoever was an empire's ruler at a particular time had statues made in his likeness erected throughout the kingdom reminding everyone that he was in control and that his role was to rule the kingdom. You see statues of Nebechadnezzar in Babylon, Augustus Caesar and Octavian in Rome, and Alexander the Great in Greece, for example. These images represented far more than mere art work. They were visible images that pointed to the role and power of the ruler. So when God says, "Let us make man in our image" and "Let him be fruitful and multiply to fill the earth and subdue it" He is telling him what his role is in the earthly creation. "Man" does not mean just men, but man and woman together, as humans.
Humans were intended to bring peace and harmony to God's earthly creation. What God gave them in the garden they were to extend to all the earth. Isn't it tragic that because of the fall the exact opposite occurred? The violence and corruption that was in the fallen human heart fills the earth and pollutes the environment. The extent of the worldwide corruption instructs us as to the extent of the original command to bless and rule the earth. Humans were to be God's viceroys for goodness and wisdom on earth. The command to subdue does not mean dominate and exploit for selfish gain. It means to tame and bring under the control of God's orderly ways.
Adam and Eve, as our representatives, were called to this task, together. Adam could not do it alone. He needed Eve to help him. Men, can you admit that this world would be a dark and loathsome place without women. They bring a grace to this world that is vital to its well-being. Only after He created woman, Eve, and brought her to Adam did He say, "It is good" of His earthly creation. The graces that are in women are needed for the well-being of any society!
Recognize, God created Eve not from the dust but from Adam's side, from his very flesh. It would not be degrading to be created directly from earthly elements as Adam and the animals were but that is not how God chose to make Eve. He could have made Eve the same way He made Adam and breathed life into her as He did for Adam. But He wanted us to know He was not making a parallel being for Adam. Eve came from Adam's side, close to his heart. She was bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh. They were to be related in some special way unlike all other male and female relationships elsewhere in nature.
God wanted Adam, and us, to know He did something special when He made Eve. God had something special in mind when He formed Adam and Eve and the method of each's creation points to ends beyond them. We have already seen that one of those tasks was to righteously rule and peacefully tame the earthly creation. The other end is also special.
What is the last thing God created during the Creation 'week'? If you said "Eve" you are incorrect. Read Genesis 2:22: "Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib and brought her to Adam." He brought her to Adam. The last thing God created was marriage. Marriage is not some patriarchal, capitalist, or heterosexual plot but is vital to the functioning of any society. Healthy marriages between men and women are good for society. Unhealthy marriages and widespread divorce are bad for any society. Joint rule over the earth is not to be like the corporate mentality. It is to be like the marriage mentality, mutual care and submission. Marriage is God's ultimate act of creation. Marriage is important to God. It is not simply a human contract. It is not an association of convenience or reaction toward conformity. But it is an act of God's creation. He made Adam and Eve for each other and the world. We are the pinnacle and glory of His earthly creation and this glory is represented most through man and woman together.
From the very beginning humankind was designed for outward action and inward relationship. Men are generally fitted best for the outward action and women are generally fitted best for inward relationship. But importantly, both functions are required from each, howbeit to different degrees. Both strengths help to fill in the other's weakness. God's plan for men and women is to be distinct as individuals but united as one. Each individual is created in the image of God. It is not that man has half of the image and woman has the other half. It is that each has certain strong and weak points within that image. And each draws on and is enhanced from the strength of the other.
Do you remember how the book of Genesis starts (Genesis 1:1-2). "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was empty, a formless mass cloaked in darkness. And the Spirit of God was hovering over its surface."
Genesis 1:3-1:31 describe the process by which God brought life and vitality from lifeless chaos and darkness. God, in a sense, subdued the chaos and darkness by bringing light, life, and beauty to our world. Men and women are to take their cue from God. As He subdued so are we to subdue.
At this point one can wonder why God just did not do the subduing of the earthly realm for us. Instead He forms us to help Him with this project. He created man and woman to be His helpers. He wanted someone to share this project with. Notice the partnership implied in Genesis 2:15-22 and Genesis 3:8-9.
The Lord God walked and talked with Adam and Eve about their daily lives and chores. They were His partners on earth! What a gracious God we have. He does not hog all the glory and blessing for Himself. He loves sharing, overflowing into the lives of His people. Men and women were called to bring order and peace to a world that tends to decay back toward chaos and darkness. They need each other to accomplish this task. And both need the grace and strength of God to help them accomplish it.
Any society that has valued man-woman marriage and encouraged longevity with these unions has benefited by reaping stability and continuity between generations. This is true even if the nation or country was not Christian. Long term commitment to the marriage union, in and of itself, blesses a society. And the more women are respected within that society the better the interpersonal relationships tended to be. Societies that exploited and dominated women tended to be harsh places to live.
The view of marriage in the Western world is deteriorating toward decadence. Instead of viewing it as a major anchor for a stable society, many view it as a hindrance for their self-expression and sexual appetite. The Christian view is that when one says, "Yes," to his or her spouse at the marriage ceremony he or she is also saying, "No," to all other women or men, whatever the case may be. Many in America and Europe do not share the lofty view of marriage described in Genesis and elsewhere in Scripture. As they attempt to throw off the 'shackles' of Christianity for self-expression they also tend to devalue the man-woman marriage relationship.
If both the man and the woman have the biblical vision of the marriage relationship, then the marriage will be strong and it will endure. Both will also experience much more satisfaction than disappointment despite our sinful tendencies. But what if one of the pair does not share the vision and commitment? What if there is more disappointment than satisfaction? Look at Leviticus 21:10: "The high priest, who has had the anointing oil poured on his head and has been ordained to wear the special priestly garments, must never let his hair hang loose or tear his clothing." What did tearing your clothes mean in those days? It was not an issue of neatness. It was a matter of despair and hopelessness. In Exodus, Aaron had sons that were unruly. They were arrogant and went into the Holy of Holies, the most sacred place in the tabernacle or temple, and offered a sacrifice that God said they shouldn't. They treated their approach to God as a light matter and devalued the whole holy process. They died on the spot. Everyone else in Israel was expected to mourn and were allowed to tear their garments as a show of grief, but the high priest was forbidden to tear his robe. Why? Because he had the unique opportunity to stand before God, to know that God is sufficient to meet all circumstances, to know that God is alive and with him. In the same way, every Christian is called to be a priest and minister (1 Peter 2:5-10 and Revelation 1:4-6) of the sovereign Lord. We are called as priests to know that God is alive and well and that God can sustain us no matter what our wife or husband is like.
Our husband and our wife will never truly satisfy us, anyway. They are not God. We should not expect them to be! Our core security and our core significance must ultimately come from God. The role of our husband or our wife, or for you singles, the church, is to help you feel that significance, to feel that security. We are here to help you experience what God has done for you. If you rely upon your husband or wife to satisfy that, you will end up not only disappointed and hurt, but you may end up in despair.
Marriage requires the grace of God. Marriage is not a trade-off, not a bartering of favors. Mutual giving and sharing works best, but it is not a matter of keeping score or getting out the measuring rod to demand reciprocation. That is the only answer that I can give Bill. To tell him that "God is sufficient to make up for what your wife is lacking and that the grace of God can fill in the gaps, and more, that are lacking in the marriage relationship. God nowhere calls us to change one another, but He calls us to be changed."
Wives, you cannot change your husbands! Husbands, you cannot change your wives! But God can, and God can change you, too. That is the business He is in and that is the hope that we have.
Beyond seeking a closer walk with God, there are a couple things we can all do to improve our marriage relationships. First, we need to see the image of God impressed upon our partner. What are his or her strengths? What can we appreciate about them? And if those strengths were turned toward God and His kingdom what could be accomplished? We need to see them as created in the image of God for a purpose, on purpose, for our lives.
Secondly, we need to grow in the grace of God, to exhibit grace to them as we try to love them in ways that matter to them (as long as we never do wrong in the process). You and I are not perfect. We should not expect our mates to be either. Forgiveness is required. We must resist the temptation to press for change in our mates. Nagging and hounding him or her into submission will not yield a happy and loving mate. Love and care that are worth anything must be given willingly. You give it by God's grace. If your mate does not respond in ways that matter to you, learn to appreciate what he or she does do for you.
Marriage can be a wonderful adventure that two people share for a lifetime. If your partner does not share this vision, then love them, go to God when you are hurt, and pray for God's intervention in his or her life.
God loves and treasures marriage. He is invested in it. From the very beginning of creation, marriage was a part of His plan. For those reading this paper who are not yet married but who want to be married some day, if you share the high view of marriage recorded in Scripture look for a mate who also shares this view. Do not settle for anyone else. Do not marry someone who has deep spiritual and character flaws that will eventually lead to a low view of the marriage relationship. If you must wait for such a person, then wait!
Marriage is not a mere cure for loneliness. How many lonely people do you know who rushed into marriage expecting the other person to cure a lonely or insignificant feeling? Bad idea! Get involved with God and His work and you will be able to wait. Your holy patience will be rewarded by a righteous God who will honor your commitment to the marriage relationship.
MALE AND FEMALE : UNDERSTANDING THE DIFFERENCES
Male and female humans are designed to be different. But these differences are not like the differences that exist between humans and all other animals. These male and female differences are designed to complement each other. Males and females are designed to be different together. They are designed to complement each other. Even though God designed men and women to be self-sufficient, volitionally independent beings, we are also interdependent as we learn to rely on the strengths of the other.
These differences are rooted in the core nature of men and women and often are the source of great irritation and friction. But they are not designed for frustration. They are designed by God for social progress and soul fulfillment. These differences are essential to His purposes for His world. Neither gender is deficient, defective, or incompetent. Women are not intended to act like men and men are not intended to feel like women. We are to celebrate the differences because those differences bring strength to our relationships. Embrace and treasure those differences because they are part of God's design.
The female is made for relational tenderness, sensitivity, communication, and understanding and the male is made for ruggedness, courage, competitive challenge, and to be a change agent in the world. Men and women, generally, have different perspectives on many issues. Men tend to focus on the outside world and women tend to focus on the inside. Men watch the environment around them with their eyes and stress reasoning abilities. Women, on the other side, watch the homefront with their heart. Genesis 2:15 says that God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. He put him in the outside world and in verse 20 Adam is given the task of naming and categorizing the animals. Notice Adam's focus is on the earth around him. But despite Adam's busy schedule there was something missing. And the Lord God said, 'It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a companion who will help him.' ... So the Lord God caused Adam to fall into a deep sleep. He took one of Adam's ribs and closed up the place from which he had taken it. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib and brought her to Adam."
God designed Eve for relationship with Adam. They fit physically, emotionally, and spiritually. They were meant to be together. Homosexuality is a perversion. God never designed such relationships. They are sinful human creations that are considered shameful and an abomination (Romans 1:21-28) to God's created order!
Genesis 2:18-22 describe the last thing God created - marriage. Without Eve, Adam had no one to share his day with, no one to connect with. Yes, he visited with God daily but by God's own testimony he needed more. He needed a human mate suitable for him. Without Eve, there was no real home. A house, maybe, but no home. Men tend to have an outward focus and women tend to focus on the home. But both are called to participate in both realms of life. So, I am not saying that either focus is exclusive. I am not saying that women do not care about things beyond the home or that men are blind to home issues, but there is a tendency that is seen around the world, no matter the culture or country studied. These are innate differences.
Man's view toward the outside is seen in his role as provider and protector, as the great hunter and the warrior. A lady's focus is toward the inside and it reflects her role of nurturer and the sustainer of the home. Even when women take jobs in the corporate world they still have an inner draw back to their home. It is always very important to them. Seldom do we see a woman who does not care about her home.
Many times, ladies, you feel a little frustrated because you feel and believe with your whole heart that the home is to be the center of the universe. It is the center of your universe, but it is not designed to be the center of the man's universe. A vital, essential part of it, but not necessarily the center. He is not wired that way. God gave him an outward focus so that He would be able to build a society that would be safe and provide security for the home. To look outside and see the dangers out there and take care of the dangers before they invade your home. To look out there and see how they can provide what is needed for the home.
Men and women are given different perspectives on life because in God's view they are both important for balance. Men and women left to themselves over a long period of time tend to yield an unbalanced approach to life. Maleness needs femaleness. Femaleness needs maleness.
I want you to notice something interesting in Genesis 1. The whole chapter is filled with God's accomplishments, with His achievements. "It is good" describes the job He did. Genesis 1 focuses on His activity, His actions. But notice something different in Genesis 3. When God created Adam and Eve, He meet with them every day. In the cool of the evening, God comes to be with Adam and Eve. He asks Eve, "How are you?" And asks Adam, "What have you been doing?" I want you to catch the difference. The woman wants to be able to tell how she is, what she's been thinking and feeling. The man wants to say, "I did this and did that." Social researchers observe that boys tend to play outside in large groups. They develop hierarchy with winners and losers and rules to govern behavior. Girls tend to play indoors in small groups or many times in pairs with a best friend and when they do play in larger groups, everyone has to get a turn whether it's jumping rope or bouncing the ball. Different perspectives. Different values.
Look at Psalm 33. Throughout the Old Testament there is a dominant command God gives His people. Psalm 33:8: "Let everyone in the world fear the Lord, and let everyone stand in awe of him." Well over 100 times in the Old Testament the command to fear (respect and value His words and what He has done) God is given. In contrast, in the New Testament it is expressed less than a half dozen times. The New Testament focuses on a different command-"Love the Lord thy God." There are love passages in the Old Testament, but the focus, by far, is the fear of God. Jesus Himself said the greatest command is to "love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your mind." Our relationship with God is to be one of respect and love.
Now if men and women are made in the image of God, what do you think the man and woman's relationship should be to each other? Turn over to Ephesians chapter 5. It really is rather surprising how few commands there are in Scripture for men and women in a marriage relationship. Very, very few. But in Ephesians chapter 5 we have the outline, what I call the blueprint for marriage.
Verse 25 says, "husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her." And then verse 33 of chapter 5 continues the thought, "Each one of you must love his wife as he loves himself and the wife must respect her husband." What does a woman need? She needs love. What does a man need? He needs respect. Is a man to be loved? Yes! Is she to be respected? Yes! But again, like the common human needs, the issue is degree and emphasis.
A common extreme with women is to focus too much on children and home, neglecting the husband and objects in the outside physical world. A common extreme with men is to focus too much on job, physical objects in the outside world, and personal recreation, neglecting the wife and the home. The presence of the wife is designed to pull the man toward a more balanced disposition. The presence of the husband is designed to pull the woman toward a more balanced disposition.
Your husband, ladies, will never totally meet your security issues. They can help you to feel more secure, but your security ultimately must come from God. Guys, your wives will never totally meet your significance issues. There will always be something missing until you allow God to involve you in His work--"You are significant and important for My plan for this world." Marriage requires tolerance and forgiveness. But when done well it is a beautiful thing!
MARITAL INTIMACY: SUDDENLY, THINGS CAN CHANGE A Conversation with Bill and Debbie Raddam
We are going to pray in just a minute. First, I want you to recognize that the greatest gift, one of the greatest gifts God gives us is the gift of one another. Of the opportunity to intersect lives, sometimes for a week, sometimes for a month, sometimes for ten years. God is our shield, He is the lifter of our head, but many times, He brings someone with skin on to come alongside and lift our hearts, lift our heads and shield our hearts.
Bill and Debbie Raddam have been those kinds of people to Katie and I and to many of you. Let me just ask you this morning, if you have been in one of Bill and Debbie's marriage covenant groups or in study with Bill or in study with Debbie, say "Amen."
On Friday morning an unusual thing happened. Some men were talking about God on the golf course--with respect. On the first hole, at the tee-off spot seven guys gathered around and put their arms around each other, which is unusual for guys to start with. And they prayed because they knew Bill was speaking this morning. And they know the difference that Bill has made in their lives and how God has worked through him and they knew that they wanted God to make a difference in our lives here this morning. So we are going to pray for the same thing so I ask that you put your arm around somebody, grab a hand, I do not care if you know them or not, we are family and connect with one another this morning.
"Lord, we thank you for the opportunity that we have for your spirit to visit us, to indwell us, and also to come on us. Lord, Bill has been a blessing and Debbie has been a blessing to us for many years, already. We look forward to what you will say, the words you have poured into Bill's heart that will come out of his mouth that will come to our ears and that will affect our life. Lord, may your spirit speak to each of us this morning and give us what we need to take home with us. In the name of Jesus we pray. And God's family said, Amen."
Bill, come on up. Bill, I invite you to get comfortable, take off that jacket if you want.
I just want to say that I feel that God has me exactly where I am supposed to be. I am supposed to be here speaking from the pulpit and talking to you about what I think marriage relationships are about. I want to tell you that I feel like it is an honor to speak to you today. I am not taking this lightly and I am not taking this as just something I am doing. I feel that since the day I was born God has been preparing me to sit before you today. He has something to say to us.
In the first service I had this rose with me and I put it on that chair and said, "Debbie will be here at 11:00 but that she was here with me with this rose." But this service I am going to hold the rose because Debbie is with me. And this is really for her. I love that woman and I gave her diamonds, too. Know the commercial? "I love that woman and I gave her diamonds, too" and the woman tries to hold the guy and says, "Would you be quiet?" but you can see by the face that she loved to hear that. So I am going to speak to you but I am really talking about what we have learned together, about what God has taught us.
I want to tell you a little bit about me. And while I am speaking to you I would like for you to look up some Scripture for me. It is Luke 2:13 and Acts 2:2. Look for a common word in those Scriptures and think about it for a little while. While you are doing that, I am going to tell you about my background. Several years ago I became a Christian. But before I became a Christian, I was having an affair and it almost ruined my relationship with Debbie. I had sin in my life and I figured out that I needed to do something about it. I always thought that God was my Savior, but I never did think that He was my Lord. But because of my relationships I knew I needed to get closer with God. I had a previous marriage and divorce and it had gone on in that relationship, too. I finally figured out that God is what I needed.
And so now if you fast-forward all the way to today, Debbie and I are battling ALS and it seems like the ALS is winning. But it just seems that way, and you will know why I say that, shortly. The circumstances are not good and there are a lot of feelings and a lot of tears and there is no guarantee about tomorrow. But after all, isn't that the way we all live? So, with that in mind, I am going to take you back to the Garden of Eden.
Adam was there and everything around him was good. But God found one thing that was not good. Adam was without a companion suitable for him, he was alone. God's relationship with Adam was really good and Adam had a vocation. He was naming the animals, he had a great relationship with God, and he had a really nice place to live. But God decided it was not good for him to be alone.
Now I do not think that Adam figured that out. I think God just knew it. And I think He gave Adam some things to do for him to figure out that it was not good for him to be alone. Just like He does for us. He gives us things to figure out. And so God told Adam, "You know, I am going to put you asleep, it is going to be painful, but it will be all right, I am just going to take a rib, make a woman. I am not going to make her like I made you because I want her to be like you but not the same. Because, see, if both of you are the same, one of you is not necessary. I am going to make a complement for you." And so, Adam goes to sleep and God makes a woman and Adam wakes up and he looks and he says, "Whoa, man!" Adam was very pleased and excited at the sight of Eve. God had made a companion suitable for just him. And she was good! You see, God knew what to do. He knew that man needed someone like himself. Fellowship with God was not enough and so He made the woman. He told them to have a good time and to do whatever they wanted to do, but there was one tree He did not want them to eat from--the tree of good and evil. "You can do anything you want in the garden but do not eat off that tree."
So Adam and Eve went along and they did their thing and they lived day-by-day and all of a sudden, things changed. Suddenly. That is the word that you saw in the two Scripture verses I asked you to look up-"suddenly." I want you to look at that word "suddenly," and I want you to think. In your life, as we talk about what intimacy in marriage is, realize that because of your relationship with God suddenly it can be better. You know what happened, Eve took a bite out of the forbidden apple because the serpent told her that it would be all-right. "You will not die," he said. "You will probably be like God and He does not want you to be like Him. He is afraid you might be better than He is, so just go ahead and eat that apple." She takes a bite out of it. Probably the best apple she ever ate in her life. Isn't that how it is when we do something wrong. When we first start it always feels so good. Adam comes along and Eve just shoves the apple in his mouth and says, "Here, try this. This is really good." "Sure, 'ok'," he says, and he takes a bite and all of a sudden, suddenly, things are messed up. And they run and hide.
Well, God goes looking for them and He finds them and He tells them what the penalty is. We all know the penalty because we live through it every day. I do not have to remind you what the penalty is, you know. What I am interested in is what happened after that. God clothed Adam and Eve with an animal skin and sent them out of the garden. I will bet you the animal skin was from a lamb and I will bet you there was no blemish on that lamb, signifying their relationship with him. So, suddenly, fig leaves are no fun. It is much better having clothes made of animal skin than leafy plants. God is trying to make it better already!
The same thing happens in our lives. We choose either the tree of life or the tree of good and evil. I want you to try to understand that the tree of life is always available when you become a Christian and you know who Jesus is. No matter how bad your circumstances get, no matter what it is, the tree of life is always available. Now, to be able to understand what intimacy is, first of all, you have to have a relationship with Jesus because there is sin in your life, just like I said where I came from. My desire was to make my relationship with Debbie better. My legacy as a man is to take my children and make them more than I am.
I want to give you a few hints on how I think you can do that. You need to learn how to communicate with your spouse. Communication is sharing life with each other. If you want to become close to your spouse, you need to become close to God. And in order to become closer to God you need to learn what God's Word says because His Word is His communication to us about who He is. Your words from your spouse are communication to you about who she or he is. If you want to learn about who she or he is, learn about who God is. The closer you become to God, the closer you become to your spouse. Now that is not easy. We are self-centered and we want things the way we want them. We do not have time to talk. But that simple little thing of trying to understand each other requires that you communicate with each other.
In our marriage classes we start that topic in the second week and we go for however many weeks we think we need to. It is usually twelve but it can go further depending on the couples involved. But the one simple concept we try to teach is that you have to spend time with each other. But the world says, "We do not have time." But God says, "You do have time." We need to get our priorities right. And these priorities are God and your family. And the priority in your family is your spouse. Your spouse is your number one priority after God.
God made marriage a blessing and not a curse, but there are many people who think it is a curse. And they think it is a curse because they do not understand each other. It is hard to understand each other because we have feelings that can be provoked from any number of things. And feelings can be tough to understand because they are often spontaneous, come in groups, conflict with one another, and they never stop. It becomes overwhelming, just too much for us, so we feel that we cannot handle it and we do other things to escape.
Have you ever thought about dirt, or soil? Dirt knows what to do. It grows stuff. God made dirt, or soil, to give nourishment so that plants can grow. It just does its job without thinking about it. It just functions according to how God created it. But we have to learn. Debbie and I have been doing this for ten years. I had been teaching the marriage class for about five years trying to teach couples about having quiet time with God but I had not been doing it myself. Then one day I walked into the kitchen and saw Debbie. It was six-thirty in the morning and she was reading her bible, taking notes, and praying. She did this every morning. It finally hit me. "Bill, if you want to get closer to Debbie, get closer to God and start having quiet time." So I started having quiet time.
Sometimes it takes a while, but the number one thing we need to learn is how to communicate with our spouse and the only way we can do that is you have to share yourself with him or her. And that takes time. When the couples come to our class we have them learn about couple exchange. We have them sit in front of each other, hold hands, and look in each other's eyes. We like to do this because that is what you did when you fell in love. Can you get back to the garden? I say, "Yes!" because that is where intimacy comes from and I think that God made it possible for us to get back much of what we lost in Adam.
Adam and Eve were in love in the garden because life was perfect. When you are in love life is perfect because you feel like God has put you together. You are enchanted by that person. You feel like you cannot get enough of that person. You want to talk to them about anything they want to talk about. You will go anywhere in the world with them and you will do what they want to do. You do not care because you are in love. God put that in us and "Yes!" I believe we can get back much of what we lost in Adam. It does not matter how long you have been married--six months, six years, sixty years, four days-the answer is "Yes!" if you learn what communication is.
Communication is not just talking to each other but it involves sharing life with the other person. Remember when you were in love, you could not wait to share with that person. But after you get married and time passes you learn that ongoing communication is not that easy. You have to work at it. You are going to have to think about it. But you know what, when you think about it and you do it, God blesses you.
When the couples are talking about different things in the class, this happens every time, we give them little things to talk about so they learn about each other. They can learn how to talk with each other and every time we give them an assignment to talk with each other about something they always run over the time we give them. I say to them, "Look, when you leave here you can go talk about this while you are going home. It is 'OK'. You can do that." But for some reason it gets hard again.
You simply have to make time for each other. You know what happens when you make time for your spouse? It gives them self-worth. They think that they are still special to you because that is what you did when you were in love with them. That is how you won their heart. And you can win them again. I can tell you with confidence that it works because I did it.
I am proof that a bad situation can be turned-around to be good. And look where I came from, from having an affair, trying to ruin my relationship, and now my wife is battling a disease that nobody has a cure for, nobody has medicine for. You can do anything you want but all there is to do is pray and hope for the miracle and you know what? Suddenly, something happens. It always gets better. No matter how bad things get, no matter what happens, and it is only a thought away.
No matter what the circumstances are, no matter what you are going through in life, no matter what you have to deal with, suddenly you can choose the tree of life instead of the tree of death. Because we live here in this world, the tree of death and corruption is offered to us all the time. And the tree of life is only a thought away. And that is all you have to do is think, "I need the tree of life."
Life is bad for people a lot of the time. But you have a choice. If you can convince your spouse that she is the most important person or thing in your life, she will respect you. And that will feel good because men want respect. That is what they need. So you have to learn how to love your spouse and God will teach you if you let Him. The closer you get to Him, the closer you get to your spouse.
A while back, I met a man who was living in similar circumstances to mine and I told him my story and he listened to me. He was living in sin. I met with this man for three or four months and I kept doing the same thing. I kept trying to get him to understand that maybe it was not all his wife's fault. He kept blaming her and when you live in a relationship and blame starts, reconciliation is more difficult. That is what Adam and Eve did. Eve said it was the serpent's fault and Adam said it was Eve's fault. When you live that way you cannot have intimacy. Blame is your first warning sign that trouble exists in your marriage. When you start blaming each other for something, you need to get closer to God.
I kept meeting with this man and I kept talking to him. He kept taking notes. He would take notes every time I would tell him something. Made me feel good. I thought, "Wow, this guy thinks I am good or something." One day we went to lunch and he said, "Bill, I'm going to throw in the towel. I have just had it." He had already moved out. He was living by himself and I said, "You ought to be lucky you have got a towel to throw in." That is all I told him. And he said, "I will think about that." He wrote that down-"Lucky I have a towel to throw in."
That weekend he called me on the phone and he left me a voice message and he was just sobbing. And he told me, "You know I thought about that towel. I did not want to throw that towel in. I need to go back with my wife. I am going to get rid of all those girlfriends. I am going to strip my whole life. I am going to start over." Then he told me why he decided to start over rather than give up. "Bill, let me tell you why [And this is key. Listen to this.], you believed in me!"
You need to believe in your spouse. They are going to disappoint you. Just like you they are not perfect. That is why God gave us forgiveness. Confrontation is not a bad word. It is 'ok' to confront one another. It is 'ok' if you are willing to forgive. Suddenly, you forgive. Suddenly, it is 'ok'. That is what you need to do. You need to forgive. Start over. Debbie and I did. Started over. It was a long haul.
In 1988 Debbie wrote this in the Bible she gave me. We did not even know what respect and love were all about, we just, you know, were starting to learn about it. It says: "Presented to: Bill Raddam; Occasion: Because I love and respect him. Merry Christmas, 1988."
Debbie Raddam's Message Written in Bible:
"Dearest Bill, words cannot express how much I appreciate you and the wonderful husband you are. Thank you so much for being so supportive of me during my difficult times. Difficult times are always coming. I just thank God for Jesus and for the Word because our lives are so changed and renewed in the knowledge of Him. I pray this Bible will give you all the answers you will ever need in your life. There is so much to learn I just know we will continue to learn step-by-step helping each other along the way. May God grant you every happiness in the world and may we work together to be the turn-around generation in our families for the Lord Jesus Christ. Love in Him, Debbie."
And she has a little triangle with God up at the top point and a B and D at the bottom corners. The closer we get to God, looking at Him and focusing on Him, the closer we are going to get to each other because the triangle goes up. Because of my past marriage, both my kids are about to go through a divorce. My son's wife had an affair and that blew me away because I thought it was going to be the other direction. I thought he would follow in my footsteps. I could not get to him and he did not learn from me because of the divorce.
That is one reason I am trying to get you to understand that you do not want to not make your marriage work. Too many people get hurt. God hates divorce. I called my son and I talked to my daughter-in-law and the only thing I said to my daughter-in-law is the same thing that I am trying to get across to that man. Do not give up; do not throw in the towel! I am telling her that I believe in her and that she will do the right thing. I call my son and tell him I am proud of him for staying in the relationship. I promise him that if he stays that life will become 'ok'. And he is bound and determined because he knows what I did to him when he was seven. But I am going to do everything I can to try to help that situation.
One of the other things we do as a couple is to pray for each other. Before Debbie goes to sleep every night, I pray for her, I pray for our family, and I pray for Jason and Jamie (my children from my first marriage). When you pray, suddenly, things happen, things can change. If we can get couples to pray together they are on their way to building intimacy in their marriage.
One more thing I want to tell you. I thought for Valentine's Day that I would take Debbie out to dinner because we love to go out to dinner. Debbie has a hard time now because she can hardly drink water. I thought I would take the stuff to mix up in the water and whatever she wanted to drink, we could mix it and make it where she could drink whatever she wanted to drink. And I called the lady that owned the restaurant, it is a nice little, quaint restaurant, and I explained to her the situation. I told the lady that Debbie was diagnosed with ALS and that she has a hard time eating. And if she chokes, not to really worry about it because she is not really choking on the food. It is just a spasm that happens because of the ALS. She said she understood because she knew somebody with ALS. I made sure that a soup would be available for her that she could drink that would not have anything in it. She said they made a mushroom soup that was really good and so I said, "We will have the mushroom soup then." And she said, "Yes, we will take good care of you."
And so the day came, we went the day before Valentine's Day so it would not be as busy, and I asked her, "Would you put us in some place that is in a corner so we can be by ourselves so that if something happens we do not want to make a scene and I want to try to have a good time with her." And we came up to the restaurant and we walked in and one of the owners, it is a man and woman that own it, looked at Debbie and me and said to me, "Taking your favorite woman out to dinner, are you?" And I said, "Yah." And I walked in and I saw Carol, the lady that owned the place, and I told her my name and she recognized me and said, "Oh, I have got a table for you." We followed her to a little corner table. And so we ate the soup and we are going through the meal and everything was just going wonderful. And I got my steak and Debbie says, "I want to get fish." Because seafood can have toxins in it, I would not let Debbie eat any. But this time, because I wanted her to have a good time I said, "Just eat fish. Let us have a good time." And she said, "Well, they could probably get fresh fish and it will be well cooked." I tasted it and it just melted in my mouth. She took a couple bites and sure enough, she choked. And you know what happens when you choke. You try to stop it; it gets ugly. I mean, she tried the best she could to stop it and people were starting to look, so I thought, "You know, I need to try to do something here so I can make life good for Debbie because I really do not want her to be embarrassed."
What do people want when something happens? They want to help or see someone else helping the situation. And so I ran around behind her, I was going to act like I was going to do the Heimelich maneuver, but I did not do anything. I was just holding her. And so everybody, when they saw me do that, they must have thought, "Oh, everything's ok," so they went back to eating. I handed her a napkin and she wiped her face a little bit and I said, "Well, just calm down a minute and when everyone seems like they are comfortable again I will take you out." I took her out and sat her down and the owner came up and she said, "Is Debbie 'ok'?" And I said, "Yes, she is fine." "Where is she?" "She went outside." Carol then said, "I've got to go talk to her." Carol went outside and talked to Debbie. That was so kind of her.
When we both got into the car she looked at me and said, "You know, I did that for you." And I told her, "I did that for you. I was doing that for you." And you know what, that is what intimacy is all about. Whenever you cannot tell where you start and the other person begins because you complement one another so well.
By God's grace that is where we are in our relationship. She gave me a Valentine's Day card recently and it kind of sums up everything I have been trying to tell you. I want to read it to you and when I get through reading it, Tom Vissi is going to come up here and sing a song. And Tom just does not sing a song. This man has helped me more than he knows. I call him on the phone and I talk to him and he tells me about what he thinks about God and it just helps me every time. And I love his family and kids. And the song he is going to sing ["I Can Only Imagine"] he is going to sing it to Debbie. Debbie wants this song to be sung for her when she dies, but she said, "I want to hear it before I die." That is why Tom is going to sing this song this morning!
Debbie Raddam's Message in Valentine Card: "If I had my way, there wouldn't be any clocks or calendars, any places we have to go or things we have to do. Just an eternity of weekends and days together, time enough to take long looks at you across the table and long walks with you in the park. Time enough to talk and listen and hold you in a lingering embrace. If I had my way, there would finally be enough time to love you the way I want to love you. The way you deserve to be love. Totally! Endlessly! Happy Valentine's Day! If I had my way, Debbie."
SPEAK THE TRUTH IN LOVE!
There is a profound difference between being in love and loving somebody else. Being in love has to do with your feelings, with the way you experience the relationship. It is primarily self centered. She makes me feel so wonderful. It is self orientated, self focused. The agape love the Bible speaks about is on the other end of the spectrum. It is a love that pours out and sacrifices its own contrary feelings for the good and benefit of the other person. In all relationships we have we are called to love one another with a love that gives and overlooks past problems, that has a hope and a dream for the future where the relationship is better than it is at present.
Marriage is not simply a human contract, an agreement that a man and woman make and can decide to break any time they want. It is something that God ordained because He saw a need for a man and a woman to be together for their moral and spiritual development. God made them different so that they would recognize that they needed each other. The innate strength of the one would complement the limitation in the other. And together they become more than they could have been by themselves.
It is amazing to me that even after the heartbreak and frustration that people go through in marriages that fail, they want to try again. Marriage is important to most people. Most people still believe in it as an institution. Despite all the modern philosophies and lifestyles that want to redefine or do away with male-female marriage, or marriage altogether, the desire to have a marriage that works and lasts a lifetime is still strong in most people. Why is that?
There is a hole that exists that God has placed in us that yearns for that special relationship found only in marriage. Adam felt that hole, that incompleteness. Unless God has gifted someone for singleness, this longing exists in each man and each woman. Fear, ideology, and avoidance of pain can cloud this inner desire, but if the heart that God placed in us is allowed to blossom, marriage between a man and a woman will be highly valued.
Ephesians 4:14 warns believers to be aware of being misinformed, misled by the world. But in contrast, in verse 15, Christians are to hold to and speak the truth in love. Speaking the truth in love does not take a lot of exposition to understand. But it takes a lot of work to apply it to our lives. Speaking the truth in love does not mean simply not telling a lie. It means communicating truthfully in a gracious and redeeming manner. It means communicating, connecting with the other person.
I came across a story that illustrates how couples often start out in man-woman relationships without a clue about the real differences that exist between males and females. It is a simple story that is also humorous, but it shows the need for real communication.
A guy named Roger was riding with his girlfriend Gloria. They are coming home after dinner one night and Gloria said off the cuff, "Do you realize that after tonight we've been seeing each other for exactly six months?" There's silence in the car. To Gloria it seems like it is a very loud silence. Gloria is thinking to herself, " wonder if it bothers him that I just said that? Maybe he's been feeling confined by our relationship, maybe he thinks I'm trying to push him into something he doesn't want or isn't sure about." Roger sitting behind the wheel is thinking, "Wow, six months."
Gloria keeps on, "Hey, I'm not so sure if I want this kind of relationship either. Sometimes I wish I had a little more space so I'd have time to think about whether I really want to keep going the way we are. I mean, where are we going? Are we just going to keep on seeing each other at this level or are we heading toward marriage or are we heading towards children, to a lifetime together? Am I ready for this level of commitment? Do I really know this person?"
Roger is thinking, "So that would mean, lets see, February. Yeah, I just got the car back from the dealer from having the oil changed and the transmission worked on. Oh, man, I'm overdue for an oil change."
Gloria thinks, "Oh, he is surprised, I can see it on his face. Maybe I'm reading him completely wrong. Maybe he wants more from our relationship, more intimacy, more commitment. Maybe he sensed it before I sensed it that he is, that I am, feeling some reservations. I think that's it. That's why he's so reluctant to say anything about his own feelings. He's afraid of being rejected."
Roger continuing his thoughts, "I'm going to have them take a look at that transmission again, too. I don't care what those morons say, it's still not shifting right. And I paid them six hundred bucks!" She continues to herself, "Oh, he's angry now. I don't blame him. I'd get angry too. I feel so guilty for putting him through all this but I can't help the way I feel. I'm just not sure, maybe I'm too idealistic waiting for some knight on a white horse to come riding by when I'm sitting right beside a perfectly good person. A person I truly do care about and who now is in pain because of my self-centered romantic fantasy."
Roger, clueless about where this conversation is going thinks, "I'll bet they'll say it is out of warranty now. They want a warranty; I'll give them a warranty." "Roger, Roger!" Her eyes are filled with tears. "Please don't torture yourself like this. Maybe I should never have, oh, I feel so. . ." "What?" "I feel like such a fool. I mean, there's no knight, and there's no horse, it's silly. I really know that." Roger: "There's no horse?" Gloria: "You think I'm a fool, don't you?"
Now Roger's hoping that this might be the one time he's supposed to disagree with her and offers a hesitant, "No." Gloria continues, "It's just that, it's just that I need some time." Roger thinking as fast as he can and tries to come up some kind of reasonable response to Gloria's outburst but the best he can come up with is, "Ok!" Deeply moved and touching his hand, Gloria responds, "Oh, Roger, do you really feel that way?" Roger: "What way?" Gloria: "That way about time." Roger: "Oh, sure." Gloria gazes deeply in Roger's eyes and causes him to feel very nervous about what she might say next, especially if it involves a horse. "You can speak freely, Roger." Roger says, "No problem!" and inside silently relieved to have seemingly passed some kind of test that he was not expecting.
Then he takes her home and as soon as the door closes she heads for the phone and calls her best friend to talk about the situation for six straight hours, never reaching any conclusions but never getting bored, either. Roger goes down to his place and opens up a bag of Doritos, turns on the TV and becomes deeply involved in a rerun of a tennis match between two Czechoslovakians he has never heard of. A tiny voice in the far recesses of his mind tells him that something major was going on back in the car, but he's pretty sure that he had no way of understanding what.
Over the next several weeks Gloria and her friends continue to discuss the encounter, analyzing it from every angle, meanwhile Roger, playing racquetball a few weeks later with Gloria's brother, pauses just before serving and frowns and says, "Norman, did Gloria ever own a horse?"
Conversation is not usually a 50-50 arrangement, but it does take two. Roger needs to say a little more than, "Huh, ok, sure." He needs to speak the truth in love. Dobson's research shows that little girls are blessed with greater linguistic ability than little boys and that this remains true throughout their lives. His research told him that women express, speak, 50,000 words a day compared to men's 25,000. This simply shows that women talk more than men.
Men usually use 90% of these words in an 8-10 hour workday and is usually verbally drained when he arrives home and consequently needs space to recoup. He is switching into screen saver mode when he walks through the door while she is ready to download the data. She wants the data to come back and be processed by him and all she gets is a blank screen. Do you understand the problem?
Women complain, "All I get are grunts and one-word answers. I ask, 'What are you feeling?' And he usually says, 'Nothing.' " Ladies, first of all, pick an appropriate time to converse. Consider you are asking him to communicate in an area where he is at a disadvantage. Men often resist talking about feelings that can be very complex because they do not have the same vocabulary for self-expression that women do. Men process emotions by being quiet, by pulling back, getting alone, going out in the garage and working on a project. Women want to discuss it, want to talk it through. We process things differently.
Remember, men, if she is telling you about her feelings, do not offer your opinion or advice, but give her affirmation and support. Ladies, this is hard for us, because we believe our best gift to you, our best gift to women is problem solving. That is our orientation. And so when you complain, we hear a request for help. We want to solve the problem. We want to rise to the challenge. But the solution is often not the issue. Empathy and understanding are the issue and you end up feeling diminished and unwanted when we offer help before we listen to your feelings. Men, resist the inclination to ride to the rescue and save the damsel in distress, unless she is saying, "Help, help!" Speak the truth in love. Realize you are there for more than fixing stuff, but to partner, to connect, to support and affirm her heart. Please, do not make the mistake my good friend made. He thought he has a good system set up in his mind. "I will just ask her when she starts talking, 'Ok,' is there something you want me to fix or do, or do you just want to talk?" What he is basically saying is, "Do I need to listen or can I think about other things." Speaking the truth in love means you need to be clear about what you want.
Ladies, your husbands want to be your heroes. Give them the chance. Affirm them. Speak the truth in love. Never underestimate the power of affirmation. If it is not worth a few words of thank you and appreciation, then it is not worth it to him to go out of his way to work for a few hours for you. Speak the truth in love.
Truth telling for both men and women also means avoiding polarized generalizations. Global words like "always," "never," "everybody," and "nobody" short circuit your conversation and demoralize the other's heart. Global words are accusing words. Only an enemy is always against us. To say that someone is always doing things 'wrong' is to accuse him or her of either being an absolute fool or your enemy. It diverts attention from the present situation. Truth telling means not letting negative feelings color the conversation. You feel lonely so you decide that your partner does not love you. You feel angry so you decide that your partner is behaving like your enemy.
Feelings do not necessarily reflect reality. You feel discouraged, so you conclude that the situation must be hopeless. Honest self-examination will look for the reality of the situation and will not allow negative feelings to dictate negative thoughts. Look for the truth the feelings represent. Look for the truth and then work from there. Why does he feel that way? Why does she feel that way? The feelings may be unfounded and not in line with reality, but your partner is feeling them for a reason. Find out why. Listen for the truth represented in the feelings.
Sometimes it is hard to discern between facts and feelings. But the tone of your voice and the manner in which you speak makes a great difference in the conversation. Before you even start speaking be committed to avoiding a couple things. Avoid placing blame and avoid speaking in an angry, biting tone. Proverbs tells us that pleasant words are as honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. It goes on a little farther and says, "It is better to live in a desert than with a quarrelsome or ill-tempered wife." Words can destroy or words can heal. Truth spoken in love is not controlling, competitive, or combative. It seeks reconciliation, if possible.
First Corinthians 13, the love chapter, tells us a little bit about speaking the truth in love. "Love is patient." Truth spoken in love picks appropriate times to confront. Not when one or both are fatigued or absorbed in something else. "Love is kind." Truth spoken in love is not demanding, critical, or blaming. "Love keeps no record of wrongs." Truth spoken in love does not bring up a list, a list that has everything he or she has done wrong in the last twelve years, thirteen, fourteen years. "Love is not self-seeking." Truth spoken in love does not insist on its own way. When you say something, and he or she has heard it, do not nag about it. Do not keep on piling on the words like a snowdrift until the other person is buried in them. Find out what they think about what you are saying. What is going on inside that person, discover where your partner is, rather than laying the words on until they become a burden to the conversation. "Love is not easily angered." Truth spoken in love is not irritable or touchy. It does not attack. Anger generates anger. A good scolding really does not encourage mutual sharing. As Proverbs says, "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but harsh words stirs up anger." Ephesians 4:31 tells us to get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander along with every form of malice.
Can these attitudes exist in a marriage? Not a happy one! Start over with one another. Forgiving each other just as Christ in God forgave you. Consider the price that He paid for us. That is truth. That is what He did. We have no right to carry the bitterness and anger over into the most important of all human relationships--your marriage. We must let graciousness rule our conversations. Do not hurt the one you are called to partner with and care for. Speak the truth in love!
Marriage: Two Shall Become One
Marriage is very important to God. It was the social institution that God created before all others. It is to be the foundational unit undergirding a society. Good male-female marriages are necessary for a healthy society. This is not just my opinion it is God’s opinion; God’s command. But God’s ideal of a stable male-female marriage in which children can grow up knowing a mother and a father is under attack today. The following was written by Jonathan Petre for an English online newspaper.
“The Office for National Statistics' Social Trends report, an annual snapshot of Britain, said that the figure rose to 42.3 per cent last year (for out-of-wedlock births). In 1994, the figure was 32 per cent and in the early 1970s it was less than 10 per cent. The number of births outside wedlock exceeds 50 per cent in some parts, including Wales. In the North East, it was 54.1 per cent last year. In London, where a higher proportion of young mothers are Muslims who adhere to more conservative family values, a third of children were born outside marriage. The report said Britain now had the fourth highest level of births outside marriage in Europe, after Sweden, Denmark and France. Much of the rise comes from a sharp increase in people living together. But the number of one-parent families is also increasing. The figures have alarmed family campaigners, who say the collapse of marriage could have a serious impact on social structures. They say that most of the statistical evidence suggests that children brought up by married parents do better than those raised by cohabiting couples or lone parents. Dr Brierley, the executive director of Christian Research, an independent organization that analyses Church statistics, said he had tracked birth patterns for his latest publication, "Religious Trends 5". "If we get to the stage where more than half of children are born outside marriage, we are fundamentally changing the basis on which society has worked for centuries. A whole range of traditional thought about 'home', 'marriage' and 'living together' will have to be re-examined. Psychologists say the children from single-parent families do not achieve so much or behave so well as those raised by married families." Dr Brierley said his extrapolations show the number of married families will decline from 62 per cent in 2001 to 49 per cent in six years. In contrast, the proportion of cohabiting couples will rise to about 18 per cent (from 13 per cent in 2001) and one-parent families could represent up to 33 per cent of the population (compared to 25 per cent in 2001). "There is much more at stake here than statistics," he said. "The implications are quite frightening."
Although much concern has focused on single parents, cohabiting couples also provide less stable backgrounds for children, said the Economic and Research Council, a Government-funded social research body. John Ermisch, a professor of economics at Essex University, said in a paper for the council: "Only 35 per cent of children born into a cohabiting union will live with both parents throughout childhood, compared with 70 per cent born within marriage.' Campaigners and Church leaders have accused politicians of marginalizing marriage by undermining its legal and financial privileges and shying away from promoting it above other types of family…. Ann Widdecombe, a former Tory Home Office minister, said: ‘After the death of the extended family, we are now seeing the death of the nuclear family. The long-term consequences are bad for everyone. A well-ordered society is based on the bedrock of marriage, otherwise we will have increasing social disruption.’”
The same trends are occurring in America. There are forces at work in our society that want to do away with Judeo-Christian culture and they see the traditional family unit as a threat to what they want to do. Humanism-Socialism-Marxism has long attacked traditional marriage. With the loosing of moral and spiritual absolutes and considerations, traditional marriage has become a target.
But God has other ideas. It starts in Genesis. What is the last thing God created during the Creation ‘week’? If you said “Eve” you are incorrect. Read Genesis 2:22: “Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib and brought her to Adam.” He brought her to Adam. The last thing God created was marriage. Marriage is not some patriarchal, capitalist, or heterosexual plot but is vital to the functioning of any society. It is foundational! Marriage is God’s ultimate act of creation. Marriage is important to God. It is not simply a human contract. It is an act of God’s creation. He made Adam and Eve for each other and the world. Any society that has valued man-woman marriage and encouraged longevity with these unions has benefited by reaping stability and continuity between generations. This is true even if the nation or country was not Christian. Long term commitment to the marriage union, in and of itself, blesses a society. The view of marriage in the Western world is deteriorating toward decadence. Instead of viewing it as a major anchor for a stable society, many view it as a hindrance for their self-expression and sexual appetite. The Christian view is that when one says, “Yes,” to his or her spouse at the marriage ceremony he or she is also saying, “No,” to all others. Many in America and Europe do not share the lofty view of marriage described in Genesis and elsewhere in scripture. As they attempt to throw off the ‘shackles’ of Judeo-Christian culture for humanistic self-expression they also tend to devalue the man-woman marriage relationship. What we are seeing today are the consequences of pushing God aside and placing ourselves at the center of all we do.
In the very beginning God said, “And the two shall become one.” That is different from the growing trend today. Genesis is very clear that “two” is referring to a man and woman union--not man-man or woman-woman relationships. Notice also, it says “two,” not three or four or whatever. “The two shall become one.” And notice also it says, “The two shall become one flesh.” When God created man He said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable to him.” Many times you hear that word “helper” and it sounds like it is talking about an inferior person or position—a sort of second-rate servant. That is not what it means in this passage. It means helping him do what he cannot do by himself. Did you know Scripture says that God is our helper? “Behold, God is my helper. The Lord is the sustainer of my soul.” The Holy Spirit in John 14:16 and 15:26 is caller our helper. Does that mean we are superior to the Holy Spirit? No! And in Hebrews 13:6 the Lord Himself is called our helper. Does that mean we are superior to the Lord? No! Helper is His role in our lives--to help us do what we cannot do by ourselves. I do not know about your relationship with your husband or wife, but I know Katie is a sustainer of my soul. When I am not with her, when I am gone for a long period of time, there is something totally missing in my life. I could have a good time in a rental car, seeing other things, doing other things, being away, sleeping in, but there is something missing. “For this reason a man and woman shall leave the father and mother and be united to his wife and they shall be one flesh.” I focus here on being one because that is truly the focus of the passage. But it also says “one flesh” indicating something special. It is speaking about man and woman created to share life together. Men and women are different. That is by design. God said, “It is not right for man to be alone,” but realize it is not right for woman to be alone, either. This ‘aloneness’ for man is not just talking about living a solitary existence it is talking about living without women. Man-man or woman-woman unions violate this principle. God did not make a bunch of ‘Adams’ to tend His world, a bunch of ‘Adams’ to work in His garden—men alone. God made woman to partner with man, each meant to help the other. Left to their own devices they become less than they were intended to be.
Now, if you are single, recognize that Paul endorses that. God’s general plan for social life on this earth is marriage and family. However, this does not mean everyone has to get married. As Paul said, if you find yourself unmarried, it is good and it is good to remain unmarried because there are things you can do that you cannot do if you are married. If singleness is God’s call on your life, then it is for a reason. You can spend more time and energy on what God has called you to if you are not married because you do not have the marital and familial obligations married people do. And at times this is a good thing. Notice, Paul is not talking about co-habitating or engaging in sexual relationships outside marriage. He is taking about devoting yourself to valuable, energetic, and time-consuming endeavors. If you are called to be single, you are not missing God’s plan and you are not inferior. But recognize you can still benefit from working relationships with men and women as you benefit from the strengths of each. In other words, you can be a single man and still benefit from the influence of godly women. Or you can be a single woman and still benefit from the influence of godly men. The sad thing is so many times I hear husbands and wives saying, “We are just too different. We need to divorce. We are just too different.” God has designed us differently on purpose and we need to find a unity amid that diversity, strengths that God has given to complement the weaknesses of the other. When you get married, you say “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health.” There are going to be difficult times and when you get married you commit to the other to go through them with that person. It is proven historically that couples can make it through anything if they will do what God says to do, if they rely upon His strength and look to Him. They can make it through and they will be better and bonded closer because of it. Marriage actually, if you think about it, is not all that complex. But people are complex and anytime you bring two people into a marriage relationship the complexity multiplies. If the complexity of my heart is a five and the complexity of Katie’s heart is a four, we have complexity of twenty. It is not nine; it is twenty. It multiplies because the way men and women fit together is complicated by our innate differences, our sins, and our wounds. We are not whole beings. We are fractured. We are broken. We are not one with God or each other. So problems arise. We have rebelled against Him and His ways and the sins of others have wounded us, failed us. But with God’s help and plenty of love and understanding it can work. And the more good marriages any society has the stronger and healthier that society will be. It is social suicide to think otherwise!
Do you realize that no one is loved in the way that God intended? We relate to and are parented by less than perfect people. People let each other down. Even in the best of relationships we can be hurt. How many guys have father (or mother) wounds? How many women have mother (or father) wounds? You feel like you will never measure up. You are 50, 60, 70 years old still trying to prove to your dad that you are ok, that you are not a knucklehead. Women, the same way, afraid because their dad walked out on them that their husband is going to do the same thing. Or your mother’s critical voice still rings in your ears. And often we carry these same wounds into our marriages complicating an otherwise uncomplicated thing. It is people who ruin marriages not the other way around!
Men carry along with them common fears of domination and failure. Domination means feeling controlled and manipulated, like being pushed when you do not want to be pushed. These are dominant fears that men have. We cover them up and try to conquer them, but they are still there and sometimes they lead us to react in irrational ways. And women have their deep-seated concerns, as well. Women have dominant fears of disconnection and abandonment. Men have those fears also and women also have fears of domination and failure, but predominately men and women have these two different fears at the top of their lists. And the one word that sums them all up is rejection. Men fear being seen as useless. Women fear being seen as unworthy of relationship.
What does God give us to deal with these issues? He gives us a very simple command. Look at Ephesians chapter five. Ephesians five gives a very detailed description of what a wife is to do and what a husband is to do, but I want to summarize it in two simple ways so that all you men and women have to remember is one thing. Verse 33: “Nevertheless, let each individual among you also love his own wife even as himself and let the wife see to it that she respect her husband.” Very simply, each husband must love his wife. It is stated in the aorist imperative tense. It is a command, a requirement. It is not an option. There is not a plan “b”. It is not you “should” love your wife if she does these things for you but love her no matter what. It does not mean enable her sins or overlook the harm she does to others but love her as she needs you to do. On the other side, a wife must respect her husband by valuing the things he does for her, the things he has to offer her. She can respect him by walking by his side through life and not trying to lead or take away his roles as husband and father. There is no plan “b”. This is a command. It is right there in the text. It does not say, “If he deserves respect, then you are to respect him.” It is the word for “honor”. He is lifted up in your life. A wife must respect her husband and that goes against her grain. A husband must love his wife and that goes against his grain. That is why God gives these to us as commands. They do not come naturally. We want to love those who are loveable and those who receive our love. But if you are hurt, well, watch out! Each husband must love his wife and there are three analogies that are used here to teach us. The husband is told to love his wife as he loves himself and as he loves his own body. But it is the third one I want to use in this message. I want to go all the way back up to verse 25 because it gives us the best illustration. “Each husband must love his wife as Christ loved the church.” How does Christ love the church? If you do not respect your husband or do not love your wife, will he or she still love you? Christ loved us while we were yet sinners (Romans 5:8). He did not enable us in our sinful ways or indulge them for the sake of peace but he did what was necessary to bring us together with Himself. “But God demonstrates his own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Unconditional love. He did what He could do to heal the relationship. It is this same love with which husbands are to love their wives. The best way I have heard to express this is to tell your wife that you treasure her. “I treasure you even if your health changes or you do not look as young as you used to.” “For better or for worse” as the wedding vows say. I can almost guarantee you it is going to get worse. Years and age take their toll on us. Husband, love that woman you married so many years ago despite her fading beauty or failing health. Say to her, “I treasure you even if you change.” Gravity, pain, age, whatever. Husband, let her know you will stick with her through them all. And on the other side, does she know that you will love her even if she does not change? This does not mean you enable her sin or endorse wrong doing to keep the peace but it does mean she does not have to be perfect before you will love her. She can have her quirks, foibles, and little annoyances and you will continue to love her. You will determine within yourself and before God that those kind of things will not stand between you and the marriage God wants you to have. Verse 21 says that husbands and wives are to “[submit] to one another in the fear of God.” They are called to walk in step with each other. Walking in step means that you are headed in the same direction and committed to considering the needs of the other in the decisions you make. The thing I want to highlight with this verse is the power of encouragement. You are for each other. Each wants the other to succeed and is committed to helping him or her along the way. I saw a movie a short time ago that illustrates what I mean. It was based on a true story which makes the role of the wife that much more powerful as you watch her encourage and strength her man. The movie is “Cinderella Man.” It took place during the depression era. It was about a club-type fighter who was given a second chance to succeed in the boxing ring. And motivated for the good of his poor family and with the strong encouragement of his wife he became world heavyweight champion and thereby he was able to provide materially for his family. She empowers him with such love and respect that he was able to do what he could not do before. That is the power of encouragement. Have you ever had the seatbelt discussion? A wife says, “Honey, can you put your seatbelt on?” Now, there is nothing wrong with saying that. You should have it on when you drive. That is the safe and legal thing to do. But because of his background, he may hear his mom saying, “Put your seatbelt on, dear. You are a bad boy.” She did not say anything wrong, but do you recognize how he might interpret it? And some guys have a resistance to domination because of something in their history that has made them feel powerless or incompetent. Communication is not just about what is said it is also about how it is heard. True, something said with no ill intent may be taken wrongly but realize that communication requires a giver and a receiver. Husbands, wives, work to complete the communication process with your mate. We must make sure he or she understands what we are saying so that miscommunications can be kept to a minimum. Work so that the other does not hear something you are not intending to communicate. Work to be patient by not jumping to conclusions. Give the other the benefit of the doubt until proven otherwise. What is insanity? Some define it as doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results that what you got before. It is thinking of doing the same thing you have always done and thinking you are going to get something different this time. It is like watching a roadrunner cartoon over and over again because you know that someday that coyote is going to get him. If you do the same thing, you are going to get the same result. So many marriages are failing because people are doing so many bad and ineffective things over and over again. But God has a better plan for marriage. He says “love” and “respect.” Husbands and wives are to love and respect each other. And whether that changes your marriage or not, you are to do them anyway. I can guarantee you one thing. It will change you. When He sees your heart working on and making a sacrifice of love, a sacrifice of respect even though the other person does not seem to deserve it, He will bless you. Your relationship with your mate might not be as good as He wants it to be but your relationship with Him can be healthy and good. And that will strengthen you to face the challenges that your marriage and the rest of life will throw your way.