Friday, February 24, 2012

Marriage Matters: Honesty and Oneness

There's a lot to learn from Genesis 3:6-13 where Eve meets the serpent in the garden and is deceived by him. What's it called, Paradise Lost? Adam and Eve set up a pattern for destructive communication that is still being used today. Why is it destructive? Because it thwarts the very oneness that is to be realized in covenant marriage and distorts the faithful representation of Christ's love for his bride, the church. Adam and Eve's response to their own sin was swift and damaging. First, because it caused them to hide. (Note that these are only but a few damaging results of their sin.) In shame they attempted to hide their sin by physically hiding from God. Shame is neither a popular nor politically correct word in our present culture, but the blinking light on the dashboard of their conscience operated correctly. Sin shames us and our natural response is to want to hide from its revelation and  consequences, and from the God against whom all sin is committed.
Sin caused them to want to hide from one another as well. It was no longer safe for Adam and Eve to live openly with one another as sin and manipulation cause us to treat one another as objects instead of persons made in the image of God. As a result of sin Adam and Eve attempted to hide from themselves and to deny the truth that they knew about themselves. Hiding from the omniscient God was an attempt to avoid seeing themselves as they really were, sinful, wicked, without excuse, and living in plain view of a holy God. Actually, we know something about that very foolish ploy ourselves. At the same time it is a very merciful God that does not reveal to us the extent of our sin all at once. None could bear up under such a weight of revelation.

Second, sin affected Adam and Eve's honesty. Eve replied to the serpent by saying, "God said you shall not eat of the tree nor touch it." No, He didn't. Not eat, yes. Touch? No. When God asked Adam what he had done, he spoke instead of what his wife had done. And by the way, what God had done. After all, it was YOU God, who gave her to me. Let the finger pointing and deception begin. Neither Adam nor Eve was the picture of the honesty that is hard-wired into our hearts that tells us at the deepest level that our sin rails against the God in whose image we are made. They failed to be truth tellers about themselves but also about God and what He had told them.
Third, the sin of Adam and Eve affected their emotions. What did Adam say? "I was afraid. Don't blame me!" And Eve? "It wasn't my fault! The snake did it!" The cool of the day became the heat of the moment and blame casting, accusations, and projection began in the words that they spoke. They each chose to speak words of injury to the other in order to vindicate themselves. Isn't that what we do with emotions that spill over in the midst of the fray?
And fourth, their sin affected their humility. Delivering accusations while concealing guilt is a lack of humility for it elevates oneself above the other. It is an act of idolatry that knocks a spouse down to size while pumping oneself up in order to escape judgment. Humility would have been forthright about what had just occurred, would have offered sincere observation about personal involvement, and would have claimed ownership for the sin. Adam and Eve's sin blinded them to where they stood before God and one another.
Let's look at how transparency, honesty, emotions, and humility can fit into ordinary moments ways that will bring extraordinary change. Transparency, as opposed to hiding, provides the truth that only you and your spouse can give. It is the fear of abandonment or rejection that keeps us from revealing our hopes, dreams, fears, needs, and observations. But covenant marriage is meant to provide the safety net that allows that kind of expression. Even more, that promotes that kind of expression. How can you say you love, or how can you be truly loved if the real you is hidden in fear? The one who knows me best loves me most. That's how marriage reflects God's love for us. He does not define me or our relationship by my weaknesses but by that which He created me to be when I live in the freedom of his love.
That means taking off the mask. Some of us learn to live behind the mask as children or as students in order to avoid criticism or a sense of failure or insufficiency. Maybe you put the mask on in order to help your dream of marriage come true. For what ever reason, taking off the mask and choosing transparency brings the possibility of beginning to live in new oneness and intimacy with your husband and the Lord. Now, wait just a minute. It's not an excuse to be the real you because that's just who you are and none of us has to change. Lady Ga-Ga theology is a no-go here. What's the worst that could happen if you take off the mask? Since God doesn't define or accept you by your sins or failures, but has instead covered them with the blood of Jesus Christ, you really having nothing to lose but fear and insecurity. De-masking may also provide the freedom for your husband to do the same.
How can emotions provide a format for meaningful change in marriage? First by recognizing that God has emotions and therefore, we do, too. The difference is that His are expressed perfectly and mine are not. (That's an understatement.) Love must be sincere says Paul in Romans 12:9. Emotions are to be a genuine expression of inward feelings and a response to the feelings of others. Without hypocrisy. They are the currency of personal involvement. Lack of emotion does not express neutrality, it expresses indifference which can be every bit as damaging and frustrating as too much emotion. Extremes at both ends of expressing emotions can be used as a means of controlling others, especially our spouse. Either way, those extremes are all about me, not about the other person. Enter hypocrisy. Emotions can be messy and learning to be honest and transparent, while sincere and without hypocrisy puts us on another path to meaningful growth. Husbands and wives who covenant to work together with God on their "glory-selves" seek to promote a sincere, appropriate and genuine display of emotion with one another. That takes a dependence on God, prayer and practice!
And finally (this has gotten waaaay too long) humility. Read Phil. 2:1-4. These verses were not written in the context of marriage, but the content---encouragement, comfort, love, fellowship with the Holy Spirit, affection, mercy, oneness, consideration of others all shout the message of Christ's work in coming for His bride, the church. Aren't each of these exactly what we desire to give and receive in marriage? Meditate on those verses that tell us how Christ set himself aside in order to provide His church with this kind of sincere love that is genuine, complete, and transforming. And remember that God is at work in the ordinary moments. Don't miss them. Join Him.

1 comment:

  1. Would you tell me the sculptor you compared with Michelangelo? I've been trying to google him, but am apparently too far off on spelling to get any hits...

    Thanks so much!
    Kim Pierce