Leaving and Cleaving

marriageGenesis 2:22-25

Jesus’ favorite passage on marriage was in Genesis chapter 2.  He quotes it in Matthew 19:5:  ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’  A healthy marriage was one in which a man did some “leaving and cleaving.”

Leaving means forsaking all others for the sake of our spouse.   Mike Mason in The Mystery of Marriage says:  “Your primary responsibility is now with your family unit. Next to the love of God, the ‘one thing’ that is by far the most important in the life of all married people is their marriage, their loving devotion to their partner. Nothing on earth must take precedence over that, not children, jobs, other friendships, nor even ‘Christian work’.”  Leaving is shutting out anything that might separate the two of you.

Then there is cleaving (KJV) or “being united” with your spouse.  The Hebrew word here is dabāq: meaning a strong bonding together of object, used to represent gluing or cementing.  A man and wife become “one flesh” or as C.S. Lewis put it “a single organism.  Like a lock and its key are one mechanism, or a violin and a bow are one musical instrument.”

God invented sex. We display the unity He wants a man and a woman to possess, when sexual intercourse takes place.  The intimacy felt  in the sexual act is more than just a physical reaction to pleasure. It is a bond that cuts to heart of our soul. “One Flesh!”, Jesus said.  That is what marriage was created to be.

Now this One Flesh concepts relates to more than just sex. We are to have an intimacy that transcends the physical.  H. Norman Wright told of an incident told him by a counselee:

“Phil, a man in his thirties, had been under intense pressure and stress for several weeks. His new job was a disaster because delays and unreasonable demands from his supervisor were wearing him down. Added to this, Phil and his wife had moved 2,000 miles away from home to take this job, and both sets of parents continued to express their displeasure over the move.

On one particular day everything was going wrong at work. On top of work problems, Phil’s parents called him at work to dump on him about abandoning them. And as he was walking out at quitting time, his supervisor informed him that he would have to work on Saturday.  When Phil arrived home he was totally dejected. His nonverbal signals screamed discouragement. He told me later, “I felt shattered, discouraged, and unable to please anyone.” He immediately headed for his chair and slumped into it in silence.

When Phil’s wife came into the room she could read his signals and knew it had not been a good day. Phil explained, “Eileen just came over to me and stood behind me, gently stroking my hair and massaging my stooped shoulders. All she said was, “Would you like dinner now or later:” and “Would you like to talk about it or not?” Her sensitivity, her touch, her willingness to give me freedom to talk or not talk encouraged me so much. I didn’t feel all alone anymore. I knew I had someone who would stand by me even in my discouragement. I felt blessed. In fact, I know I am blessed in having such a wife.”

Wow! That’s being one…  feeling what the other is going through and then knowing what to do to encourage them… sharing each others burdens as well as joys.

Married?  Going through a rough patch?  Get back to basics.  Leave and cleave.  That’s the prescription Dr. Jesus recommends and the road to health again.

The Gift of Repentance

James 4:7-10

It was a lonely stretch of road at the Nevada border.  I read the sign:  last stop for gas for 20 miles… so I pulled in.  I gased up, went in to get some food and then left.  I had just re-entered the freeway when it hit me.  I had forgotten to pay for the gas.  It was not a good place to have such a realization.  There was no way to turn around.  A deep gully lined each side of the narrow two lane highway I was on.  It was 20 miles before I could exit and return.  ARGH!  What I would have given for a place to turn around.

That is what repentance is… a place to turn around.  We rarely receive it as a gift, but God offers it to all those that find themselves on the road to self-destruction.  James commands:  “Submit yourselves… to God” and “draw near to God.”  And what will you find when you come to your senses and make the long journey back from the far country?  The wrath of God?  His rejection?  No.  “He will draw near to you.” 

Now this repentance always begins with a degree of pain.  James speaks of “changing laughter to mourning” and “joy to gloom.”  It doesn’t seem like the process is going to be all that fun.  But it isn’t the turning that’s pretty, the beauty is in what you travel back toward.

Mike Mason wrote:  “Repentance consists of two parts, but many people settle for only the first part.  Repentance means to turn, but many get stuck halfway.  The first part of repentance is to turn away with loathing from sin; the second part is to turn toward all the good things God offers in exchange.  Indeed it’s impossible to turn away from greed without turning toward generosity, to put aside lust without taking up love, or to escape bitterness without embracing celebration.  …  Many people grow tired of repenting because it doesn’t seem to make them happy.  Yet full repentance is a joyful act in itself.  If we’re not happy, we haven’t finished repenting.  The sign that we’ve repented well is happiness, as God consumes our sacrifice of sorrow and exchanges it for joy.  (Champagne for the Soul, pp. 17-18)

We humble ourselves before Him, and then that He lifts us up.  What a gift repentance is!