What a big question! So many thoughts and images ran through out my mind I could barely grasp them. None seemed full enough to encapsulate my thoughts. I could say it is about companionship, commitment, loyalty, love, coming together of two people. Yet while all of these are true not one on its own or even grouped together really begin to come close to what marriage means to me.
Once upon a time we had a word that was understood and perhaps would have been able to describe my thoughts. Regrettably it is a word that no longer holds the same meaning and has become somewhat obsolete and misunderstood.Perhaps if I try to unravel that now.
I am talking about covenant. Perhaps you look at that and say I know what that means, it's a promise. Only it really is so much more than that. Covenant is a joining together of flesh, it is a picture of Christ and His bride the Church.
Let us start by looking at covenant historically. When a man and woman entered into covenant relationship they took a goat and split it right down the middle. Each half of the goat was laid out and the couple would walk between them (through the pools of blood) and vow that if they break their covenant that God should treat each of them as the goat. That they should be split down the middle as well. This was referred to as the walk through death.
The blood covenant had no escape clause, once you have entered into it there is no backing out unto death. This covenant is stronger than family ties, which is why the bible tells us that a man is to leave his family and cleave to his wife. It is the joining of two people to one.
Let me say that again, covenant is two people becoming one flesh. One life.
It is the coming together as one in all aspects of life. It is connecting emotionally, physically, spiritually, in literally every aspect of life. Each person takes on the others friends, foes, debts, wealth. there is no division. They are to be each others closest allies, and they demonstrate that two together are stronger than one alone.
While my focus here is on marriage covenant I need to say that covenant is not just between man and wife. King David was in covenant with Saul's son Jonathon, and God the Father entered into covenant with His people. Nations entered into covenants with each other as well.
I hope that was able to demonstrate that when I say marriage is a covenant relationship I mean it is for life, it is not something to be entered into lightly. It encompasses all things, and one must be prepared to love the other person as they love themselves.
Ephesians 5:31 "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh"
Ephesians 5:28 "In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself."
God calls people to a marriage relationship for other purposes as well. Yes for procreation, but for a much deeper purpose as well. In genesis God says it is not good for man to be alone and he creates Adam's Ezer Kenegdo, or help mate. What is interesting here is that Ezer Kenegdo is only used when referring to people the one time. Any other reference is to God being man kinds Ezer. (I could spend a lot of time just on that, but I need to focus!)
What I am reading here is that it is good that man not be alone but that we should have a help mate. Through this special relationship God is able to work, and teach us. I believe it's intention is to demonstrate Christ's love for us. While we live in a fallen world and of course will always fall short of the glory of God; in this covenant relationship there should be a basis of trust, and a feeling of security, that we should fully be able to share of ourselves to the other person without fear of judgement or recrimination. It is in the safety of the marriage relationship that we ought to practice and find forgiveness, to extend grace in the manner that God intended.
Let me ask you this... Have you ever had someone love you? I don't mean that oh you're just the bees knees kind of way, but rather really love you. They see you, all of you, and they love you so much that that person would be willing to lay down their life for you. This is the way Jesus loves you, and this covenant relationship is intended to mirror Christ's love for you and draw you deeper into relationship with Him.
Marriage is also used as a refining tool. We are reminded in Proverbs 27:17 "Iron sharpens iron; So a man sharpens his friend's countenance." This is where I point out yet again that we live in a fallen world where sin abounds. We are imperfect and joining as one is surely not an easy task. Living in a society that values independence instead of interdependence, learning to walk in step as one is a challenge. Certainly, as it is walking through death into a new covenant, that death should signify the old lives, leaving it behind for the new life as one.
This in itself means sacrifice and surrender. It needs to not be about who wins or who loses during a disagreement. It needs to be looking at what the other persons needs are and putting them ahead of yourself. You need to remember at this point that you are one flesh and you are called to love the other person as you love yourself. As self centered beings this is not an easy task but with Christ as the center and basis of the relationship, I should hope the other person also wants to put you first.
1 Corinthians 13 :4- 13
"4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues,they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love."
While really I feel like I could write a book talking about this I think at this point I will summarize. Marriage is a covenant relationship, it is a shadow of Christ, marriage refines us. I hope now though that through those simple words, that marriage is so much more.