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About this series
Experiencing God's Dream for Your Marriage
Would you like a fresh breeze to blow in your marriage? Do you long for a marriage where intimacy and communication are a reality instead of a dream? Experiencing God's Dream for Your Marriage is a topical series by Chip Ingram that examines God's design for marriage, with practical instruction to help you make your marriage what God desires it to be.More from this series
Second, He says, after leaving, “And shall cleave to his wife.” That’s a strong word.
This is you leave and then you bond. You cleave. Where? Every level. It is an intermeshing of one another at a deep, deep level physically, spiritually, mentally, and emotionally.
It’s your souls connected. You leave and you cleave. And the implications of cleaving is, our response to our spouse: My allegiance and loyalty to them and them first. Not the kids, not the job, not our parents. It’s recognition of my need for my spouse. “I need you.”
Sometimes we never just verbalize that. “I need you.” And some of us that try really hard in our marriage – the first five years or so, I tried to be such a super husband.
I’ll never forget the time: we were out of money. I’m in seminary. I’ve done everything I can. I was selling insurance at the time and the guy failed his physical. I have got no money. I’ve got ten dollars in my checking account; I’ve got three kids; I’m working full-time; I’m going to school full-time. And I’m sitting at the kitchen table and I’m working until about midnight every night and leaving at four o’clock to study Greek for two hours. So, after about two and a half years of four hours of sleep, I don’t care who you are, you look like an idiot.
And my emotions were frayed and I’ll never forget sitting at the kitchen table and I just broke. And as a man, most of you understand, I bawled like a baby. And I’m just crying and I’m thinking, “Oh my. Oh my. My wife’s going to think she married a weenie. My wife’s going to think, you know…” But, I couldn’t hold it in any longer.
And a day or two later when you go out for coffee and you talk? And so, Theresa says, “Chip? You know in the kitchen?” And I said, “Yeah.” And I felt kind of ashamed.
She goes, “In this first five years of our marriage, I have never felt closer to you than when you were crying at the kitchen table, and I put my hand on your shoulder and I prayed for you.”
You know what she was saying? You’ve been trying to be such a superstar husband; it’s nice to see you have need. It’s nice to know I bring something that you desperately needed.
And it can be the man or it can be the woman but some of us that work so hard and try so hard, we never let the person know: I need you.
See, that’s what it means to cleave. It means decisions are made – not I do my thing; you do your thing. Let’s balance our separate accounts. It’s us in focus and it requires a death blow to the self.
The only way you cleave is that’s why God makes marriage first in relationship with Him and then with one another. For me to cleave to you, then I’ve got to give up some of that: my way. My time. My opinions. And I’ve got to ask what’s best for us. What do we do? Do you understand?
This is the process. And you know what? All the rest of your life, progressively leaving. There’s a point in time you do it – progressively leaving. Cleaving. And then notice there’s the break, there’s the bond, and then now, the blend. You shall become one flesh.
Notice the verb. It’s a process. This is a response to life’s pressures and demands. This is putting your relationship ahead of others and other things.
As you get married, this becoming one flesh means: your relationship matters more.
Ladies, take this. Lean back, please. Put your pencil right here. Lean back. Those that have kids, this means your marriage matters more than your kids. And guys, you can lean forward.
This means your marriage matters more than your work and your hobbies and who’s playing and who’s winning and how your fantasy team is doing.
You’ve got to become one flesh, it means you take time and prioritize – what? Time for spiritual oneness to occur; time for soul oneness to occur and time for physical oneness to occur.
And you, when you put down your schedule and you see how you’re going to do life, you say: the greatest thing for our kids is a great marriage so we need to work on us first.
And the greatest thing for my job is the kind of guy that shows up with his tank full in line with God and in line with his wife. And after that, enjoy the hobbies and have the fun.
But under pressure, what we tend to do is instead of becoming one flesh, we learn to manipulate and we come to a legitimate stand-off of: I’m going to get this close but the next steps will be too painful.
Let’s just, sort of, live together, say we love one another, have little times like this, but let’s not talk about the finances because that always brings problems.
Heaven forbid, let’s not talk about sex. Let’s just argue at Thanksgiving and at Christmas about whether we go to your parents’ house or my parents’ house. Let’s…
And so, what we have is people that get in these rhythms that can last ten, fifteen years where you just co-exist. It’s pretty decent.
But we’re talking about God’s dream for your marriage, not what can work for ten or fifteen or twenty years. Because by the way, you play that out, the frustration level keeps growing, doesn’t it?
It keeps growing, keeps growing, keeps growing. There’s a reason why when those kids are out of the house, the affairs skyrocket.
Everyone’s getting a blonde, a red sports car, and going to Curves. All right? The surgery over here and the younger woman over here and everyone is trying to figure out how to turn back the clock twenty years because some of those unresolved issues.
And I’m just telling you, by the way, the next round is usually more painful than the first. The third round is far more painful than the second.
And this is – hear God’s heart. I love you. I care for you. There are seasons that are tough. They’re painful. You don’t want to go through them. I want to help you. Okay?
So, we’ve got the blueprint. It’s a triangle. God created marriage; the goal is oneness. The oneness occurs as we walk with God and learn to have intimacy with one another. The process to develop that is three part. One, we obey God and how we do it is we leave, we cleave, and then we become one flesh.
And then He says there’s a reward. Notice verse 25. 25 says, “And the man and his wife were both naked and they were unashamed.” Spiritually, emotionally, relationally, and physically. I’m going to tell you, I long for and I’ve had tastes of it and on this side of heaven I’ll only have taste, but I want deeper and deeper and more tastes. I want to look into another human being’s eyes who sees my good, who sees my bad, and even sees my ugly and look into their eyes and see: I love you. I’m for you. I appreciate you. And I accept you just the way you are. And that’s what I’ve experienced with Theresa.
Have we had fights? Absolutely. Disagreements? Unbelievable. Seasons where it’s been up? Oh, this is great, I guess this is what it’s like. Five months later, seasons where it’s down. Man, how do you get through this? That’s normal.
But God’s reward is intimacy or oneness. Those times where your heart wants to explode because who you are has been accepted and you know that it doesn’t measure up. That person becomes an agent of grace and looks at the ugliness in your life and the selfishness in your life and the hurts in your life and expresses the love and the compassion of God.
And it happens at the spiritual and the emotional and the physical level and we get tastes of it this side of heaven and that’s God’s reward in marriage. He wants you to experience it.
Just don’t get thinking you’re going to get that 24/7, 365 days a year. It’s those kind of expectations that will thwart real intimacy.
Because intimacy means – what? Iron is going to sharpen iron and as two people move closer and closer together, the conflict increases, not decreases. So, what we tend to do is pull apart and just live like this.
Because the conflicts increases – why? You’re invading her space! She’s invading your space. When my wife starts invading my space, I don’t like it.
But the little clue is, down deep in my heart I’m desperately insecure because of the fall. And down deep in your heart, you’re desperately insecure.
And even to the woman that I’ve spent almost three decades with, there is a deep-seated fear that if she really saw all of who I really am, she’d reject me. And it is that fear that causes me to play games and put up barriers so she doesn’t get too close, but those protective walls also keep her love out.
And so, let’s do a quick, little intimacy test. I want you to do this little test and I want you to do it just saying to yourself, we’re doing a little evaluation, we’re going to look at some sensitive areas, I’m going to be perfectly honest. By the way, you can put your hand over it so your mate doesn’t see it because you may want to process this later. That’s okay. All right?
And I’m going to give you three questions in each area, and let’s see, it says here a five means that you strongly agree; a one represents strong disagreement. And my personal rule is no threes. Okay?
Because I’ve done this before with Theresa. I gave a three, three. Three means: I don’t want to admit I think it’s going really good and I don’t want to admit it’s really going bad. So, twos, fours, ones, and fives. Start your engines.
Evidence of Spiritual Intimacy: Question one: My spouse and I often tend to agree in many of the important issues concerning values and beliefs. Whatever comes to your mind. Just put…don’t, “Oh, let me think. Do we really…?” Just your initial reaction. One, two, or a four and a five?
We seem to practice honest confession followed by genuine forgiveness when one of us has hurt the other. Strongly do that? That’s pretty much it, or not?
Third: As a couple, our spiritual closeness through prayer or sharing Scripture insights is quite good. Strongly agree? Disagree?
Evidence of Emotional Intimacy: I remember special times when my spouse and I shared strong emotions like grief, sadness, joy, or brokenness.
Next: We seem to be good at giving one another undivided attention when listening or talking. Does your mate give you undivided attention? You agree with that, or disagree?
Next: Verbalizing my needs and desires concerning our relationship to my spouse would be normal for me. I mean, you feel comfortable. It’s just normal. Hey, this is what I have needs. I have struggles in these areas. Is that normal or I’m fearful? We don’t do that.
Evidence of physical intimacy: We seem to prioritize frequent times of quality talking and having dates together. Strongly agree? Strongly disagree?
I’m comfortable communicating my sexual desires and preferences to my spouse. Is that, like, an open area that you can talk about or kind of uncomfortable?
Third: I’m very satisfied with my spouse’s sensitivity in meeting my sexual needs. And by the way, it’s interesting. With all the developments we’ve had of sexual freedom and openness and what’s happened on TV and cable,
I’ve done a number of these kind of conferences with my wife and I will tell you,
if you’re thinking, Gosh, I don’t really want to talk or bring this up.
In Christian circles, this is one of the biggest issues and biggest needs I’ve ever seen.
Usually, my wife and I do a deal where she does about an hour and a half with the women and I do about an hour and half with the men and we just, kind of, talk real straight.
And I know when she gets done with that session I’m not going to see her until supper because she’s going to have women lined up for about three or four hours to talk about: part of it’s baggage, part of it’s struggles, part of it’s uncomfortable, part of it’s a warped view of sex.
We had a couple come up to us. And he was a gray-haired gentleman, he looked to be in his seventies. And we had done this. And you know when you’re walking in a room like this, He grabs my arm like this. He goes, “Could I just talk to you for a second?” And I said, “Yeah.” And I’m sitting here. He goes, “No, over here.”
I’m thinking I don’t know what we’re going to talk about. And he had this big grin on his face. And he said, “I’m a leader in my church and I’ve walked faithfully with the Lord for over fifty years. I’ve been married forty-two or forty-four, I can’t remember.”
And he said, “You know those assignments you gave? And talking and all the rest?” He said, “We come from a different era and we came because we wanted to bring some young couples. And we thought, Forty-four years - what are we going to learn?”
He said, “We talked about things we’ve never talked about in forty-four years about meeting one another’s sexual needs because it was just, kind of, taboo. And those little questions helped us to get something and we realized that is as spiritual as the emotional, the mind, or the heart. And he said, “I’ve just got to tell you, it’s really been a neat weekend.”
God has a blueprint. It’s the triangle from Genesis. He has a process. Leave, cleave, and become one flesh. He has a reward. It’s going to take a journey and a lot of hard work and tons of grace. But He wants you to have oneness and intimacy in all three of these areas.
And then, finally, He has a purpose. And I’ll ask you just to just to fill these in. They’re very obvious, but I want you to know it’s just more than about you.
Purpose number one for marriage is – for impact – is physical reproduction and pleasure. Genesis 1:26, 28 says, “Be fruitful and multiply.” And then, if you’re a little uncomfortable about sex, read Proverbs 5. This is right out there.
He says to the man. Solomon, in all of his wisdom, “Don’t let your fountains go out on the street. Let your wife’s breasts satisfy you.” God wants marriage to have sexual pleasure. So, physical reproduction and pleasure.
The second is relational intimacy. It’s not good for a man to be alone. It’s not good for a woman to be alone. God gives the gift of celibacy to some. For the rest, he has a partner.
And third, spiritual impact. I believe, with all my heart, if we’re going to revolutionize the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ, what we need to do is live out these kind of marriages in a way where people see the gospel in how we treat one another.
I was living in Texas and there was a young, very beautiful gal who went through a very messy divorce followed by a live-in boyfriend that didn’t work out, followed by she hated men.
And we never got to know her all that well because she wasn’t home very often. But we were cutting the grass and the little kids and we’re playing basketball in the driveway.
We’re, just sort of the little family. And as many of you know our background. Theresa came from a pretty rough childhood and I didn’t grow up as a Christian.
So, we’re kind of like two pagans reading the Bible and trying to learn to have this kind of marriage with all the normal ups and downs and kids and struggles.
And I remember the moving van came. And she was leaving after being next door for five, six, seven years. And we never really got to know her. And invited her over a couple times but still was pretty surfacy.
And we had this window of just, it was really neat. And we said, “Well gosh. We’re sorry you’re leaving and we wish we could have gotten to know you better.” And she goes, “Well you kind of know,” because we knew two of the men that she had been involved with and how it all happened. And she goes, “Well, you kind of know my story, don’t you?” I said, “Yeah.” She goes, “Well I don’t think I ever want to get married ever again. I think men are rotten.” I said, “Well, you know…”
I didn’t know what to say so I kind of change the subject or something. What do you say? “Yeah! They’re rotten!” I didn’t know what to say. So, I kind of, “Oh, well…I’m sorry,” and things like that.
And then she said something that was really powerful. She said, “But if I ever decided or ever wanted to get married, I’d like to have one like you and your wife have.” I said, “What?” I mean, it’s not like we had these deep talks.
She goes, “When I see how you guys treat one another and I see you out in the yard with your kids and as I hear what happens.” Because the houses were real close – you didn’t need radar.
And I thought to myself – she goes, “My only hope, if I’m going to do any relationship again, is that I guess people that really love God and are committed to it have the best chance of making it work.”
And I want you to know that your marriage is more than physical pleasure or having kids or even solving your loneliness problem. But when you start thinking about working on your marriage and wanting to experience God’s dream, it may be the most powerful testimony. You need to sign up for that so that your marriage life reflects the relationship of Jesus and His Church.
He could have decided on any number of metaphors to describe his relationship with the Church. But, what did He talk about? The bride and the bridegroom.
And other than the body of Christ living out the truth, I know nothing more powerful in all the world that will say Jesus is in fact God, that He died for our sins, that He rose from the dead, and there’s hope than when He redeems broken people like us, and takes people whose marriages haven’t worked here and have struggled here and brings them together and makes it new.
He is a Redeemer. He is a Lover of our souls and no marriage is beyond hope. You may be here thinking, we’re fifteen feet in the hole. Well, God has a sixteen-foot rope to give you. Well, we’re a thousand feet in the hole. Well He’s got a thousand-and-one-foot rope to lower down. That’s what grace is. Where sin abounds, grace super abounds.
No one is beyond hope. Will it take a lot of work? Will it take a real commitment? Absolutely, but there’s a lot at stake.