Grace, mercy, and peace are always for you from God our father and our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ. Amen.
Would you associate the words “paradise” and “marriage” in the same sentence? In American culture, we grew up listening to Snow White from Walt Disney’s 1937 animated movie classic singing the song, “Someday my prince will come” It creates a utopian idea of love, a longing of the heart for a euphoric, romantic connection that will last forever. This is natural. In fact, it is how God created us.
Today I want us to look at Genesis 2, the story of God’s first marriage joining Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, the garden of paradise. What can we learn about the lifetime covenant of marriage from this story?
The first thing is, God says it’s not good for man to be alone. He has created us to be relational and to love one another. Adam named the parade of birds and wild beasts but no soul mate was fit for him. It’s difficult to cuddle up with a giraffe, share your mind with a monkey, or think of a loon as your soul mate. So God made a helper suitable for Adam.
Scriptures teach that God created us in His image. The essence of God’s character is to love. God created this world and the people in it so He could give His heart to us in love and share a relationship with us in a joyful way.
It’s not good for man to be alone. When you and I give and receive love in our relationships, we are reflecting the very image of God.
Second, God said He would make a helper suitable for the man. In our culture we think of the word “helper” as meaning inferior, subservient, or of lesser value or status. In the Old Testament this particular Hebrew term is used twenty-one times – twice for Eve in the garden, three times for other helpers, and sixteen times as a description of God Himself. If the term describes God’s action and heart, it can’t possibly imply someone who is inferior or subservient.
The term literally translates, someone who is vitally, powerfully, important. A person who is essential in support within a relationship. An individual who brings strength to another and seeks to bless them. No wonder God describes the woman as a helper, a strong, essential, powerful helper vital to Adam in his paradise life.
We can conclude that the gift of love – particularly married love – is God’s treasure given from woman to man and from man to woman. Love in this sense is something beautiful. The lover sees the gifted potential in the spouse and draws the best out of them by encouraging and affirming them. Love builds the other up and cheers them on to live for God’s glory.
Scripture goes on to say God fashioned the woman for the man. He designed the woman for the man, and we might imply that God designed the man for woman. In our society today there is a promotion of the idea of gender confusion, a blurring of the lines. I’ve even heard people say, “Pick your gender.”
In Genesis 2, the Bible tells us something vastly different. It tells us that God, as the Creator, the source of life, designed man for woman and woman for man. Though they’re integral in their connection and made of the same flesh, they are distinctively, delightfully different. Male and female are harnessed together in a way that is a beautiful enhancement of both. As they come together in partnership and companionship, they are stronger together. That is marriage at its best! God fashioned a companion for the man, and she was a wonderful friend and partner to the man.
When I think of how God must’ve presented Eve to Adam, I can imagine Adam saying, Wow! At last I have a soul mate. Someone who will resonate with my heart. Someone who will dream dreams with me about our future together. It says the man leaves his father and mother and cleaves to his wife, and the two become one flesh.
Through the years, I have known many wives and children who were left behind by their husbands. They had higher priorities in life than the commitment, care, and love for their wife and children. This is not what God planned. I’ve also known young couples who ran to their parents the first time they had some fight or disagreement, and the parents resonated with the perspective that their young person had married a monster.
The term “leave father and mother” suggests the new marriage creates a new family, a new circle of relationship, and that new marriage has to have the highest priority of love of any other relationship in life.
The idea that they cleave to one another also suggests that they cling tenaciously to one another in the ups and downs of life. When the storms come and when the sun shines, they cling to one another and find a way to make it work. Marriage, you see, is not based on a utopian feeling of the prince coming to create some romantic sensation within the heart. It is a commitment of the heart, man to woman and woman to man. Further, it is God binding them together by His power into an integral oneness that cannot be separated. The man leaves his father and mother. His new highest priority is to cleave to his wife. The commitment they make to one another is for life.
In becoming one flesh, the two become one. An intimacy is experienced that is beautiful. It is God’s gift. Intimacy is defined as an interpersonal relationship, which is emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual. In married love, the intimacy is romantic and sexual to give pleasure to both and further deepen their bond to one another. But it’s more than that. Married intimacy is the closest of friendships with deep personal trust. Intimacy always has honesty, trust, vulnerability, unconditional love.
Intimacy is an acceptance of one another within the construct of mutual respect. The promise made to one another invites trust and freedom within the love.
That is the difference between living together and marriage. Living together by definition is conditional. A big question mark is put over the whole relationship. We even use language like, “Let’s try it, and see how it goes.” Living together is performance-based. I’ll stay with you if you continue to please me. I’ll live in this relationship as long as I am pleased by all you do. It is performance-based.
In contrast, marriage promises the heart in devotion to the other for life. The covenant promise frees the couple to relax in their relationship trusting that, with God’s help, they will journey through life together. The covenant promise means they share mutual values, dreams, and goals. There is a oneness.
When couples in their faith journey draw closer and closer to Jesus Christ, they also draw closer and closer to one another. That is the power of the spiritual component of marriage at its best.
As you are listening to me, you may think, My marriage isn’t anything like that. That idea may haunt you. Notice that the Bible is full of stories where God heals broken hearts and resurrects people to new beginnings. So if you have been in a marriage that ended against your will or by your will, know that God still loves you and invites you to receive His love. Trust Him to raise you up to new beginnings again.
Perhaps some of you are in a marriage where painful moments have wounded your heart and seeded sadness and distrust. I encourage you to ask Jesus to forgive you for your failings and empower you to forgive the other the wrong that was suffered so there may be healing in love. Jesus, in John 15, said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. As you abide in me, love will flow. As you abide in me, you will have great joy. As you abide in me, you will enjoy fullness of life.” Bring the needs of your marriage to Jesus Christ and ask His Spirit to maximize the wonderful potential of your love.
Some of you may have developed patterns of relating to one another within the marriage that are not healthy. You spend your time bickering, nagging, and being hypercritical of one another. Again, I ask you, as by faith you abide in the grace of Jesus, to ask His Spirit to break those negative patterns and empower new patterns of loving each other that are filled with mutual respect, sensitivity, and compassion.
Some of you, in the course of your marriage, may feel like you now live with a stranger. You’ve grown apart. Ask Jesus’ Spirit to rekindle your love and affection, heal the breach, reconcile your hearts to one another, and restore your joy in the marriage.
The oldest couple I ever had the pleasure to marry was Ralph and Gina. Ralph was ninety and Gina was eighty-four when they spoke their vows to one another in God’s presence. At the end of their ceremony, I invited them to kiss, and it lasted more than thirty seconds. When they parted, Gina announced, “That’s just a foretaste of the feast to come!” They were filled with joy. Their faces were beaming. Even though both of them had been through some rocky moments in previous love and marriage relationships, in faith they believed that the love of God in a marriage would fill them with joy, hope, and a new beginning.
May the Lord Jesus bless all your love relationships, strengthen your households and families, and rekindle the fire of love and passion in your marriage. Amen.
Pastor Lee Laaveg