Wednesday, March 6, 2019

What I Learned (Or Re-Learned) At The Marriage Enrichment Seminar (After 30+ Years!)

I'm guessing, it's been over thirty years since I've been to a marriage enrichment seminar.

But there, I was last month, at Central Presbyterian's (where Robin serves as organist) 'Satur-Date' event.

And it was exceptional!

It really was.  The ambiance was special.  The food was terrific (even with vegetarian options).  The main presenter was so well informed.  The dramas were unpredictable and real-ly funny.  The resources were innovative and fresh.  The age span, wide-ranging and varied.

And we even won a giveaway (a thirty-dollar gift certificate) for having the most persons at our wedding (over 400, because of all our church connections; one congregation even chartered a bus!).

I especially loved that we weren't seated with couples our own age.  I mean, it was great:  everyone was younger, with the same question aimed in our direction: does it get any easier?  Our answer: it gets better...but not necessarily, easier!  

And so...even veteran married folk, like me, need to keep learning.  And so, I was thankful for some new (and/or neglected) insights 'spouting up,' that Saturday night.

Satur-Date Truth #1 -- Marriage Is A People-Growing-Machine

Please note:  marriage is not the only incubator for human-growth.  But marriage is a prime opportunity for those who do wed, to 'grow-up' into fuller expressions, of the fullness of Jesus. 

I'm guessing, that's why scripture speaks so passionately about the sacredness of marriage and the holy intimacy, reserved for its covenant.

Covenant is critical, for without intentionality-of-bond, before God, an 'anything goes' mentality can sweep us away, into self-centered fulfillment, and pleasure.

Currently, I'm reading an overview of Pauline thought:  Apostle Of The Crucified Lord, by Michael Gorman.  In this marvelous book, Dr. Gorman notes, that instead of a covenantal view of marriage and sexuality, persons, even within the early church, were adopting a permissive, individualistic way of life.  Corinthian Believers were the worst, making little or no connection between Spirit and Body -- convinced -- even a Christ-follower could do anything he or she wanted with his or her body.

But Paul passionately disagreed. "...There's more to sex than mere skin on skin..." Paul argues in 1 Corinthians. 
“…Sex is as much spiritual mystery as physical fact. As written in Scripture, “The two become one.” Since we want to become spiritually one with the Master, we must not pursue the kind of sex that avoids commitment and intimacy…Didn’t you realize that your body is a sacred place, the place of the Holy Spirit? Don’t you see that you can’t live however you please, squandering what God paid such a high price for? The physical part of you is not some piece of property…God owns the whole works. So let people see God in and through your body.  (1 Corinthians 6: 16-20, The Message).
Thus, as delightful as the sexual component is in marriage, it is not the primary component.  The prime component is a greater spiritual connection with the Divine, as three entities join in the marriage covenant:  woman, man, and the Creator of woman and man -- the One, True, God.

And so, it's as we grow-up to God, that we indeed grow, and marriage becomes a people-growing machine.

Satur-Date Truth #2 -- Women And Men Are Equal, Mutually Accountable, One To The Other.

A confession:  as a Baby-Boomer, I've acted like our generation solved the problems of the world! Why we solved racism through Martin Luther King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference --  we solved militarism, through anti-war marches and other protests against the Vietnam war -- and we solved sexism through Gloria Steinem and the feminist movement of the 1960s.

But boy, am I wrong.  Because in spite of Baby-Boomer activism -- racism, militarism, and sexism are greater today than ever before!

All three 'isms' can impact a marriage, but especially sexism.  I mean, in spite of advances in 'leveling the playing field,' between women and men, there is more patriarchy in marriage (and the larger culture) than ever before.

Patriarchy?  What's that?  In essence:  it's the view that men are the superior gender, with women, in turn, weaker and subservient, by virtue, of their created order, at Creation.  It certainly appears that way from an initial read of Genesis 2:19ff
"...Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky…But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs…Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.  (Genesis 2:19-24, emphasis added)
The operative word in this passage is 'helper,' which in Hebrew, is the word, kĕnegdô. A careful word study of kĕnegdô reveals -- however -- not a sense of subordinate servanthood, but co-equal servanthood.  As Marg Mowczko has pointed out:
"...The ideas expressed in kĕnegdô are of similarity, correspondence, mutuality, equality. There is not [a]...sense of subordination here. The idea of similarity continues with the man’s description of the first woman. When he sees her for the first time he doesn’t remark on their differences, he comments on their profound similarities and kinship: “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh . . .” (Gen 2:23a)..."
The classic Biblical sage, Matthew Henry echos such similarity in his classic commentary on Genesis 2 -- often quoted:
"...That the woman was made of a rib out of the side of Adam; not made out of his head to rule over him, nor out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be beloved..." 

Satur-Date Truth #3 -- We Die To Live 

And so the image of 'helper' in Genesis 2:19ff is really a mutual call -- to both husband and wife -- to serve one another.  

Frankly, a big part of such service is sacrifice -- as we die to self-centeredness -- and rise Christ-centeredness.   Paul says it so well, in Galatians 2:
 “…I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me…”  (Galatians 2:20) 
Just as Christ gave himself to us, we are to give ourselves, to each other, in costly ways. Marriage that 'goes the distance' is the marriage 'goes the second mile' -- as each marital partner thinks more of the needs of their spouse, than their own priorities.

A practical expression of such sacrifice, advanced at the Satur-Date, was learning each others 'love language.'  For example, in my own marriage, I need to hear the language of affirmation, lots of affirmation!  Whereas, Robin, needs to hear (and see) the language of practical deeds of service.  

Frankly, I don't naturally speak Robin's love language and resist articulating it.  But, over the years, I've learned that if I truly desire to serve my wife -- I need to sacrifice for my wife -- and learn another language -- her love language.  For more on love language and marriage, access the link that follows:

Overall, the Satur-Date emphasized that marriages falter because of a failure of imagination.  I agree -- especially the imagination of Christ, who truly modeled the life of sacrifice and servant-love.  Is it any wonder, Paul goes on to challenges married folk...

“….Wives understand and support your husbands in ways that show your support for Christ. The husband provides leadership to his wife the way Christ does to his church, not by domineering but by cherishing...Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church—a love marked by giving, not getting. 
Christ’s love makes the church whole. His words evoke her beauty. Everything he does and says is designed to bring the best out of her, dressing her in dazzling white silk, radiant with holiness. And that is how husbands ought to love their wives. They’re really doing themselves a favor—since they’re already “one” in marriage. (Ephesians 5: 22-28, The Message)

No comments:

Post a Comment