Love is Blind but Marriage is a Can Opener
Marlene: There weren’t very many people at our wedding less than 100, I think. Except for Ray’s family, they were all local people.
Ray: The ceremony itself was not unique. In fact, I don’t remember much about it except that the minister conducted the ceremony from behind a pulpit, the only time I’ve ever seen that happen. I do remember that in those fateful few minutes before it all began I stood in a small room off the sanctuary listening to my Dad and the minister calmly discuss the real estate market in the Phoenix area. My father was my best man and my three brothers stood up for me along with my friend Ricky Suddith. I personally picked out the tuxedoes. They were a black wavy design on a white background. To me they were beautiful, but whenever people look at our wedding pictures, they burst out laughing.
Marlene: The bridesmaids wore beautiful pastel gowns and those floppy wide-brimmed lace hats that were so popular back in the 70s. The ceremony was short. We were in and out in 17 minutes.
Ray: My brothers claim that during the recessional I yelled “All right!” but I don’t remember that, either. It happened so fast that the whole thing is a blur in my memory.
Marlene: Afterward, we went to a country club for the reception where everyone offered advice and congratulations. We drank punch, cut the wedding cake, posed for a thousand pictures, changed our clothes, loaded up our little green Pinto and left for our honeymoon. Ray’s brothers and some friends had thoughtfully decorated our car with tin cans and tissue paper. The windows announced the news for all the world to see–"Just Married!”
Ray: We did make one mistake. For our honeymoon we decided to drive to a resort ranch in central Arizona. It was a bad idea. We didn’t leave the reception until almost 10 P.M. The drive to the ranch took us over two hours through winding mountain roads.
Marlene: We arrived sometime after midnight–thoroughly exhausted–only to find the ranch closed up tight. The lights were off, the doors were locked, and nobody was around. After much pounding, we roused the night clerk who checked us in and went back to bed.
Ray: Our room was around on the south wing. You couldn’t get there from the lobby because the inside corridor doors were locked. There were no outside lights which meant we had to feel our way along in the darkness.
Marlene: Eventually we turned on our headlights and discovered that a swimming pool stood between us and our room. Threading our way alongside the pool, we found the outside door, unlocked it, and made our way to our room. It was nearly 1 A.M. when we finally settled in.
Ray: On that unlikely note our marriage began.
Marlene: It wasn’t exactly the way we imagined it would be.
Ray: At the reception that night an old gentleman shared some wisdom with me that I’ve never forgotten. “Young man, they say that love is blind. It’s true. But marriage is an eye-opener.” Then he went on to say, “Love is blind, but marriage is a can-opener.”
“They Don’t Have a Clue!”
Marlene: This August we celebrated our 33rd anniversary. As I ponder the way our marriage began, two thoughts come to mind:
1. We had no idea what we were getting into.
2. That was probably a good thing.
Ray: Today we put a lot of emphasis on pre-marital counseling. Most churches require that couples planning on marriage go through a series of counseling classes.
Marlene: That wasn’t a big thing 33 years ago.
Ray: Our premarital counseling consisted of taking a test designed to show how well we might fit together as a couple.
Marlene: The man who administered the test studied the results and advised us not to get married.
Ray: I wasn’t worried. I knew we could work things out.
Marlene: We had to learn about marriage the hard way, which is the same way most people learn about it. As wonderful as marriage is, no amount of premarital counseling can fully prepare you for what you are about to experience.
Ray: During the 27 years I served as a pastor, I performed many weddings. As I stood there with the beaming groom and the blushing bride looking so happy, so excited, so nervous, so curious, so ready to be married, I often thought to myself, “They don’t have a clue!”
Marlene: We didn’t have a clue that night in Phoenix what marriage really meant.
Ray: Nothing can fully prepare you for marriage. It takes a few years to figure it out.
Marlene: Not every marriage is a good idea. Some people shouldn’t get married at least not to each other. But marriage itself is a good idea because it is God’s idea.
Laugh a Lot
Ray: As We Begin This Couples Conference we know there are several groups here: Some of you are newly married and still in the honeymoon phase. If so, enjoy your time here and keep the honeymoon going.
Marlene: Some of you have been married many years and have weathered the storms of life together. To you we say congratulations and we hope you leave reaffirmed in the things you believe.
Ray: Some of you have been married before and now you are married again. You know the pain of divorce, the challenge of being suddenly single again, and many of you know all about blended families. We want to thank you for coming and we want to encourage you to keep on building you marriage together.
Marlene: Some of you may be in very difficult marriage situations at this moment. And some of you may feel like giving up, but you are a Christian and you don’t want to give up, but you feel trapped in a marriage that is not what it should be. We are glad you are here, we won’t embarrass you in any way, and we hope we can give you some reasons to be encouraged.
Ray: We are not marriage counselors.
Marlene: But we are married.
Ray: Would you like some homework for the weekend?
Marlene: It comes from our wedding night.
Ray: My older brother Andy pulled me aside and said he wanted to give me some advice. “I don’t know much about getting married, but I’ve heard it helps if you laugh a lot.” That turned out to be excellent advice, and all the more remarkable because my brother was single at the time. But that’s one reason God gave us big brothers–to tell us important stuff we couldn’t find out anywhere else.
Marlene: That’s your homework. Laugh a lot!
Your Marriage Is About God!
Ray: Here are two verses to consider as we begin: 1) Hebrews 13:4, “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.”
Marlene: 2) Proverbs 18:22 “He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the LORD.”
Ray: These verses offer a very positive framework for us to consider. Marriage is good and honorable, and deserves our support. Let every husband regard his wife as a gift from God, and every wife regard her husband the same way.
Marlene: Before going further, we should tell you that this session is not about how to have a happy marriage. And it’s not about “five keys” to a successful marriage.
Ray: Our subject is more foundational than that: What should we think about marriage? What were God’s intentions in giving marriage to the human race? Let’s begin with the following assumptions:
Marlene: 1) Marriage is of supreme importance because it is the first institution created by God.
Ray: 2) Marriage is the foundation of the family and the cornerstone of civilization.
Marlene:3) Marriage is what God says it is—not what man says it is.
Ray: 4) Our marriages will not flourish unless we follow the divine blueprint.
Marlene: Marriage is of central importance because it is one of the ways in which God displays his glory in the world. The key word in that sentence is “glory,” which speaks of God’s greatness, his character, and his reputation in the world.
Ray: God intends that your marriage display something of his character to the world. That leads us in some surprising directions:
Marlene: Your marriage is not primarily about you, your husband or wife, your children, or your family.
Ray: Your marriage is not primarily about your own sexual fulfillment.
Marlene: Your marriage is about God!
Ray: We must ask, “How can we order our lives and all our relationships to bring the greatest honor and glory to God?”Marlene: Marriage is a witness to the honor and glory of God.
Ray: Marriage is a window in time through which the world grasps a glimpse of eternity.
Our task in thinking about marriage is to speak of holy things in holy ways. We want to be holy people who think God’s thoughts after him, and so bring glory to him in all that we do.
Back to Genesis
Marlene: With that as background, we turn now to Genesis 2, the most basic passage in the Bible about marriage. Here we learn about God’s involvement in the very first marriage. If this were all we had, it would be more than enough to teach us what we need to know about marriage. Before jumping into the text, please note these two points about the context:
Ray: 1) This story takes place before the fall. That is, the first marriage took place in paradise. It shows us what marriage is meant to be as it comes from the hand of the Creator.
Marlene: 2) We see God’s intimate involvement in the first marriage. Adam doesn’t happen to meet Eve under the cherry tree. He meets her because God orchestrates every part of their relationship.
Let’s highlight six key facts from the passage.Ray: # 1 God takes the initiative to show Adam his loneliness (v. 18a).
It is God who says to Adam in verse 18, “It is not good for a man to be alone.” Adam doesn’t figure that out by himself. After all, he’s never been around anyone else so being alone is all he’s known. You can imagine God saying, “It’s not good for man to be alone,” and Adam saying, “It’s alright, Lord. I’m good with the way things are. I may be alone but I’m not lonely.” And the Lord says, “Adam, listen to me. You’re alone, and that’s not good.” “But, Lord.” “Adam!” The point is clear: God sees Adam’s need and moves to meet it even before Adam realizes he has a need.
Marlene: # 2 God takes the initiative to meet Adam’s need (v. 18b).
God promised to make a “helper” suitable for Adam. That helper would be Eve who will “complete” him and complement him. She will make up what is lacking in him, and together they will be stronger than if they were apart.Ray: # 3 Adam learns about loneliness by naming the animals (vv.19-20).
Having said that God will make a “helper” suitable for Adam, we might expect that the next verse to say something like, “So God created Eve.” Instead we get the story of Adam naming the animals. What’s that all about? Just this. As Adam names the animals, God is preparing him for marriage.
Marlene: He is teaching him to be a leader. The power to name is the power of authority. “That’s a giraffe, that’s a monkey, that’s an armadillo, and that’s a whippoorwill.” By giving Adam the right to name the animals, God was training him to be the king of creation, the vice-regent of the earth, answerable only to God. He is also teaching Adam that humanity stands above the animal kingdom.
Ray: God was also training him to be a lover. As Adam surveyed the animals he saw Mr. Giraffe and Mrs. Giraffe, Mr. Crocodile and Mrs. Crocodile. And so it went throughout the animal kingdom always male and female. But where in all creation could he find a counterpart for himself? God was creating within Adam a gnawing hunger for a life partner, a hunger God would soon meet in the creation of Eve. Adam is not ready for Eve until he sees his own incompleteness. Naming the animals was Adam’s premarital counseling session.
Marlene: # 4 God brings the woman to the man (vv. 21-22).
Note how God takes the lead in all that happens. He puts Adam to sleep, then he takes a rib from his side, then he fashions Eve, then he brings her to Adam. God is the author of the first marriage, and he is intimately involved in every aspect. Verse 22 tells us that God “brought her to the man.” Over the years we have all watched as proud fathers escort their daughters down the aisle. That is precisely what happened in Eden. God was the father of the bride and he personally brings her to Adam. There was no courtship and no dating. The first marriage was an arranged marriage. God himself performed the first ceremony as minister, father and witness.
“This is It!”Ray: # 5 Adam recognizes Eve as similar but different (v. 23).
God’s answer to Adam’s loneliness is simple and profound. He created a partner for Adam like him, from him, yet different. The Hebrew words tell the story. The word for man is “ish,” for woman “ishah.” The difference is the same in English and Hebrew: Man “ish”
Marlene: Woman “ishah”
Ray: Verse 23 contains a poetic exclamation in Hebrew that unfortunately is lost in our modern translations. The first three words “This is now” actually mean something like ‘This is it!”
Marlene: Imagine the scene. Adam is flat on the ground, just beginning to awake from the divine anesthesia. As he opens his eyes, he sees the Lord and next to him a beautiful, blushing creature looking at him in wide-eyed anticipation.
Ray: As he runs down his mental list, he can’t connect her with any of the animals he has seen. She’s definitely not a giraffe. Not a rabbit or a porcupine. Who or what is she? She looks like him. In fact she looks a lot like him but clearly she’s very different in several important ways. Then his brain says, “This is it!” and he blurts out, “Wow!” or “Amen!” or something like that.
Marlene: # 6 God’s intention for marriage is plainly stated in verses 24-25.
“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame” (Genesis 2:24-25). In these two verses we find the four essential components of Christian marriage:
Ray: Leaving means breaking away from your parents to establish a home of your own.
Marlene: Cleaving means being glued together so tightly no force can tear you apart.
Ray: Intimacy involves growing together over the years so that while you are still two people, in a deep way you have become “one flesh.” It includes sexual relations, but it is more than that.
Marlene: Transparency means having a relationship built on such trust that you can let down the barriers and allow another person to know you deeply body, soul and spirit. A healthy, happy marriage is as close to heaven as we will get on earth.
For God’s Glory
Marlene: The difference between man and woman is God’s glory.
Ray: The sharing in God’s image is God’s glory.
Marlene: The completing of each other is God’s glory.
Ray: The satisfaction of the woman in the man is God’s glory.
Marlene: The satisfaction of the man in the woman is God’s glory.
Ray: The rejoicing of the church in Christian marriage is God’s glory.
Marlene: Making love as husband and wife is God’s glory.
Ray: Bringing forth children in marriage is God’s glory.
Marlene: Showing our children the goodness of marriage is God’s glory.
Ray: Preparing our children to be married is God’s glory.
Marlene: Giving our children in marriage is God’s glory.
Ray: Keeping your marriage vows is God’s glory.
Marlene: Walking in purity is God’s glory.
Ray: Staying faithful is God’s glory.
Marlene: Honoring your spouse is God’s glory.
Ray: Loving your wife as Christ loved the church is God’s glory.
Marlene: Submitting to your husband as unto the Lord is God’s glory.
Ray: Treating your wife with kindness is God’s glory.
Marlene: Respecting your husband is God’s glory.
Ray: Staying together for a lifetime is God’s glory.
Marlene: Celebrating your 50th anniversary is God’s Glory.
Ray: Staying married for better or worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad times, never giving up, never walking out, but always being there for each other, this too is God’s glory.
Marlene: These are not small things. These are huge issues. And God is involved in all of them.
Ray: Marriage is a challenge in the best of circumstances but it can also be a great blessing.
Marlene: In a society like ours, where healthy marriages are the exception and not the rule, if we can build marriages that move against the prevailing tide, we will have a fantastic base from which to share the message of Jesus Christ with our friends and neighbors. Nowhere will the difference between Christianity and modern secularism be more clearly seen than in a truly Christian marriage.
Holding Hands on Sunday Morning
Ray: In our early days in Oak Park, when the church had only two services on Sunday morning, Marlene and I always ended the service the same way. I would walk down from the pulpit, come to where Marlene was sitting, and we would walk down the aisle together, holding hands.
Marlene: That way we could be back in the lobby to greet people as they left the service.
Ray: We never really thought about the symbolism, but we learned it was important to many people.
Marlene: One person told us that she looked forward to church on Sunday because she wanted to see us walking down the aisle holding hands together. That simple gesture gave her hope.
Ray: We found out that many people felt the same way.
Marlene: Our holding hands sent a message that everything was alright, that we still loved each other and were happy to be together.
Ray: God uses marriage as a key part in our sanctification: Dr. Al Mohler, in his message “The Mystery of Marriage” asks: “What is the ultimate priority God has called us to? Is the crucible of our sanctification going to be our jobs? No, the Scripture is clear that God will sanctify us largely through our marriages.”
Marlene: Most of us haven’t thought about marriage as part of our sanctification, but it makes sense. Marriage is the place where the “real you” is revealed where the can is opened and all its contents spilled into the bowl.
Ray: Maybe that’s what the old gentleman meant when he said, “Love is blind, but marriage is a can-opener.”
Marlene: You can hide from lots of people, but your spouse knows the truth about who you are. And all the hidden weaknesses that others never see aren’t hidden in marriage. They all come out sooner or later.
Ray: And with that revelation comes friction, pain, and eventually, spiritual growth. Spirituality is all about “growing up” and where better to “grow up” than in the marriage relationship?
Out of Eden
Marlene: God planned the human heart for love, marriage, companionship, home and children. The only thing man brought with him out of Eden was marriage. Ponder that thought for moment. When Adam sinned, he and Eve lost everything except each other. The angel blocked the way back in, but thank God, Adam and Eve came out together. Marriage even in a fallen world is thus truly “Holy Matrimony” and the only touch of paradise we will ever know this side of heaven.
Ray: Marriage is not a man-made institution. We are not free to change it as we like. We are not free to discard it or to redefine it in favor of something we like better.
Marlene: And it is wrong to downplay marriage or act as if it is optional. We should encourage our children to expect to be married, to look forward to marriage, to prepare to be married, and to actively seek a mate according to God’s will.
Ray: From the ancient story of Adam and Eve we learn God’s plan:
Marlene: One man and one woman joined in marriage for life.
Ray: We need to teach these things to our children and to encourage them to look forward to the day when they too will be married.
Marlene: A little boy sat through a Sunday School class and learned about the time Jesus went to a wedding and turned water into wine. “And what did you learn from that story?” asked his father. The boy thought for a moment and answered, “If you’re having a wedding, make sure Jesus is there.” That’s good advice for all of us.Ray: So where does that leave us at the end of this session?
1) We need to recommit ourselves to the high value of marriage.
Marlene: 2) Let no one here speak a disparaging word about marriage. Do not slander the Lord who has given us the gift of marriage. This is especially important for those who have been divorced or are in a bad marriage now or have loved ones in a bad marriage. A friend whose marriage collapsed because of his infidelity sent this note:
Ray: “Thank you for telling me never to badmouth marriage just because it was a disaster for me. She was (and is) a wonderful woman, and a wonderful Christian mom. She was not the reason our marriage didn’t work.”
Marlene: God bless that man—and he will because he has the right attitude about his past.
Ray: A healthy marriage is the work of a lifetime. God has ordered the universe so that it is simply impossible for newlyweds to fully enter into a transparent relationship. That comes after years of hard work.
Marlene: Being newly married does have its own rewards, most notably the joy of taking the first few steps on a journey that will take a lifetime to complete.
Ray: But God has seen fit to ordain that a good marriage gets better with age. That one fact ought to give hope to every struggling couple.
Together: God intends that your marriage be better next year than it is this year.
Ray: Before you give up on your marriage, why not give God a chance to see what he can do?Marlene: Since marriage is all about God, let’s end by going to him as we start this weekend together. We would like every couple here to join hands as we pray together.
Ray: Heavenly Father, we thank you that marriage is about you. It’s not about us.
Marlene: Open the eyes our hearts that we might know you better.
Ray: We pray for hurting marriages that by your grace they might be healed.
Marlene: Give us strong marriages that will glorify you and be testimony to the world.
Ray: We pray for much joy this weekend as we celebrate your good gifts. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Marlene: Don’t forget to do your homework—laugh a lot!
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Couples Conference 2007
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