To Have and To Hold #1
Country Western Comedienne, Minnie Pearl said: “Gettin’ married’s a lot like getting into a tub of hot water. After you get used to it, it ain’t so hot.”
Somebody else wrote: “In marriage you learn loyalty, patience, understanding, perseverance, and a lot of other things you wouldn’t need if you’d stayed single.”
I remember hearing a comedian say: “I think everybody should get married, there are lots of things in life that go wrong that we can’t blame on the government.”
We poke a lot of fun at marriage don’t we? Partly because it is so sacred. Partly because at times it’s so serious. And partly because humor always helps us deal with and understand both the serious and the sacred. The truth is marriage is like twirling a baton, doing a hand spring or eating with chopsticks. It looks easy until you try it.
Let’s look at passage for today: Gen 2:18-24
 Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.”
 So out of the ground the LORD God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name.
 The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every animal of the field; but for the man there was not found a helper as his partner.
 So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then he took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh.
 And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.
 Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one shall be called Woman, for out of Man this one was taken.”
 Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh.
So, where did the idea of marriage come from. Marriage was created by God. It’s God’s idea. It’s not a mistake. It’s not an accident. It was ordained from the very beginning. If you remember the creation story, God did all the creation stuff each day. God put in a full day creating light and the heavens and the plants and trees and all the animals and at the end of each day God sat back, looked at what had been accomplished and declared it, “Good.”
God created Adam and put Adam to work naming everything. In the process of naming everything, Adam was also trying to find a good companion. God looked at Adam one day and after declaring everything else about creation “good” said, “it is not good, that Adam is alone.” So God created a companion, a helper (not a servant) someone just like Adam from Adam’s rib. And God declared this first couple not just “good” but “Very good.”
The point of all of this is that marriage is God’s idea. And believe it or not, just like the title says, Ward and June Cleaver from the old sitcom “Leave It To Beaver: had it right. Oh, not the pearls while vacuuming or doing dishes. And not necessarily their lifestyle. I don’t advocate going back to the 50’s or 60’s style of life and marriage. Their name, “the Cleavers,” is what was right. Genesis 2:24 Reads: “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” I have no idea if the producers knowingly chose that play on words or not. But since first reading that passage, I’ve thought it was a great pun. We’re called to be like Ward and June. We are called to be Cleavers.
So what does this word, “cleave” mean? The Greek and Hebrew definitions mean “to adhere or join” sort of like gluing together. The NIV and NKJV both translate the word “cleave” as “being united with.” The NRSV translates it as “cling,” But that almost sounds codependent and needy unless you think about “clinging” to one another for balance and support, which is how I would interpret it.
When Adam woke up and saw who God had created from his rib, he was filled with joy and sang the very first love song and wrote the very first love poem. He said: “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one shall be called Woman, for out of Man this one was taken.” (Gen. 2:23)
In that moment, Adam realized he and Eve were created for each other. They became the first of the Cleavers. So what does being a Cleaver mean for us? This passage says: “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” As Cleavers, we are called to be one flesh.
How many of you watch or record Leno? Well, on Monday June 20th, Leno interviewed 100 year old Dorothy Custer who’d been married 68 years. When he asked her how she and her husband met, this is how she answered. WATCH
Did you catch that last line, “After that, there was no one but Marvin.” What a lucky man. What an incredible witness to the commitment needed in marriage and to the idea of cleaving together. As Christians we’re called to be Cleavers. As Cleavers, as husband and wife we’re called to be one: One in Family, One in Fidelity and One in Intimacy.
I. ONE IN FAMILY:
A. What does it mean to be One in Family? Every marriage creates a new family. This doesn’t mean that we aren’t still related to our old families. You just don’t get rid of Mom and Dad that easily. But a brand new family IS created. A family that is unique and filled with promise and potential. The man and woman become one. This is the only time when mathematically one plus one equals one.
There has to be a separation from the home and the family of origin for both partners. Sometimes this separation from family of origin is hard. It can be because there is too deep of an attachment to one set of the parents. One partner may be “clinging” to their old family and not “Cleaving” with the new spouse. It might be unspoken expectations that the new spouse would be just like Mom or Dad.
The biggest mistake I made in our first year of marriage (and I made plenty of them, just ask Mary) was constantly comparing Mary to my Mother. I know if I had said, “That’s not the way my Mother made or did that,” one more time, she’d still be in prison for murder. Of course, if she’d had a jury of newlywed brides I’m sure she would have been acquitted for justifiable homicide.
The reason for this separation is so that the new family, the husband and wife CAN become one. A man and woman leave their parents and, in a public act of worship, they make a covenant with one another and promise themselves to each other. In this worship service the couple shares some simple but also some pretty incredible vows dealing with love, comfort, honor and faithfulness. These vows deal with issues of security and issues of intimacy. If a couple commit themselves to God and to following through on these vows, and the intent of these vows, (with God’s help and guidance) their marriage will be blessed and they will become one.
B. This oneness isn’t globbing on to each other. It isn’t totally absorbing the other person like some Science Fiction movie. It is two unique and distinct personalities working together, growing together, loving and worshipping together and forming a new personality as a couple. All this while still maintaining each other’s own unique personality.
I don’t remember where I read this but someone wrote, there is some wonderful symbolism in how God created Eve from Adam’s rib. God didn’t create Eve out of Adam’s head, so Adam couldn’t rule over her. God didn’t create Eve out of Adam’s feet so Adam couldn’t walk all over her. God created Eve out of a rib from under Adam’s arm so they would both protect and be protected, and a rib near Adam’s heart so he would both love and be loved. God used a rib taken from Adam’s side so that they would be equals and walk side by side.
That’s the whole idea of cleaving. We are called to be Cleavers, to be One in Family.
II. ONE IN FIDELITY:
A. And we are called to be One in Fidelity. I really love the vows of marriage that we use in the United Methodist Church. They are simple yet elegant. They start with God and acknowledge that both parties are created in the image of God. One thing I really like about the vows in the UMC is that the bride and groom give and take the same vows. In some denominations the vows for men and women are different. But listen to the simple, yet complex, question asked of every bride and groom.
“Will you have so and so to be your wife (or husband) to live together in holy marriage? Will you love her, comfort her, honor and keep her, in sickness and in health, and forsaking all others, be faithful to her as long as you both shall live?” Those are simple and to the point. And packed with so much about fidelity.
B. A man and woman are joined together in order to take responsibility for each other’s welfare and to love each other above all others. That’s fidelity. That’s faithfulness. Even if our marriage was one made in heaven, we are still given the responsibility for the maintenance of our marriage through fidelity.
We are to be one in fidelity. Marriage is like a guitar; it doesn’t work without the strings. And when the music stops, the strings are still attached. This idea of fidelity is not just limited to the physical, it is fidelity to your spouse in all areas of life. It is physical, fiscal, emotional and spiritual fidelity.
In old cartoon, with deep feelings of love, Hagar the Viking says to his wife Helga, “Grow old along with me, the best is yet to be.” As they embrace, Helga replies, “It better be!” (1)
Fidelity is faithfulness even if the best never comes. And when we are faithful, Scripture says we will be blessed. Proverbs 28:20 “A faithful person will abound with blessings.”
A mother and her son went to a wedding. At the end of the service the couple each took a lit candle, lit a unity candle and then blew out each others’ candle. The mother leaned over and asked the son if he knew what that meant. He said, “Yeah, it means no more old flames.” And he was right. There is no room in a marriage for a third person other than God. We are called to be Cleavers, to be One in Family and One in Fidelity.
III. ONE IN INTIMACY:
A. And we are called to be One in Intimacy. “Some people think marriage is a three ring circus. First there’s the Engagement ring; then the Wedding Ring; And then the SUFFER – RING.” (2)
Suffering, like that person was talking about, only comes if we fail to work at being one in intimacy. I’m not talking exclusively about physical intimacy. The Apostle Paul addresses that in 1st Corinthians 7:5 “Do not deprive one another except perhaps by agreement for a set time, to devote yourselves to prayer, and then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”
Intimacy is extremely important in a marriage, I think the movie “Cheaper By The Dozen” does an incredible job of showing that intimacy in the midst of a huge family.
We need that kind of intimacy in our marriage but intimacy is more than just physical intimacy: there is spiritual, emotional and psychological intimacy as well. These are just as important, if not more important than the physical intimacy. Taking time for intimacy, time to talk, time to share, time to laugh and support one another is important to the wellbeing of a marriage.
B. The best way to gain this intimacy is to put God at the center of your marriage. I personally think God is the greatest asset to romance and intimacy there is. I mean, God thought it all up in the first place. God breathed life into us. God gave us a soul. We are a soul wrapped in flesh. When we fall in love, it isn’t just physical attraction. If it IS just that, it won’t last. It’s also spiritual attraction. God opens our eyes and let us see into someone else’s soul. We fall in love with that inner person, that soul connected to God, too. If God is included in every aspect of your marriage, God will lift your marriage above the level of the ordinary to something rare and beautiful and lasting.
We are called to be Cleavers, to be One in Family; One in Fidelity and One in Intimacy.
Have you ever noticed how a braid of hair appears to contain only two strands of hair. But it is impossible to create a braid with only two strands. If the two could be put together at all, they would quickly unravel. What looks like two strands requires a third. The third strand, though not immediately evident, keeps all of the strands tightly woven. In a Christian marriage, God’s presence, like the third strand in a braid, holds husband and wife tightly together.
Our challenge in marriage is to let God be the third partner in our marriage, to be the spiritual glue that holds our cleaving hearts and souls together. Our challenge in marriage is to be the Cleavers, to be one with God and one with each other. Ward and June had it right, be a Cleaver. Be a Cleaver, hold each other up, give that balance God intended and put God at the center of your life and your marriage.
This is the Word of the Lord for this day.
1. Hagar The Horrible by Chris Browne, 11-27-91
2. Leadership-Vol. 7, #4
Other References Consulted
Laugh Your Way To A Better Marriage, Mark Gunger
We can Work It Out, Clifford Notarius & Howard Markman (Berkley Publishing Group, New York, 1993)
Love Life For Every Married Couple, Ed Wheat and Gloria Okes Perkins (Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, 1980)
Fighting For Your Marriage, Howard Markman, Scott Stanley and Susan L. Blumberg (Jossey-Bass Publishings, San Francisco, 1994)
The Interpreter’s Bible, (Abingdon Press, Nashville, 1953)
The New Interpreter’s Bible, (Abingdon Press, Nashville, 1995)
Willaim Barclay, The Daily Study Bible, (The letters to the Galatians and Ephesians) pp. 129-130. The Wesminster Press, Philadelphia, 1976.
Parables, Etc. (Saratoga Press, P.O. Box 8, Platteville, CO, 80651, June 1995
The Pastor’s Story File (Saratoga Press, P.O. Box 8, Platteville, CO, 80651, June 1995
The Autoillustrator, P.O. Box 336517, Greeley, CO 80633
Stories for Preachers and Teachers Software, HeavenWord Inc. 1999
Bible Illustrator for Windows 3.0, 199-1998, Parson’s Technology, Inc.
Leadership, P.O. Box 37060, Boone, IA 50037-0060