The Spiritual Unity of Marriage
by Gary R. Beauchamp
via The Sower, Vol. 53, No. 2, March/April, 2008.
The night I knew my wife and I were destined to a life together was when we sat alone in a car and solemnly vowed that the most important goal in our lives was first to to go Heaven, and secondly, to go there together. I cannot tell you many of the details of our courting days, (she can) but this is one night that stands out in my memory as a vivid moment. I can tell you the make of the car, what night of the week, and exactly where on the campus we were parked. Up to this time we had played the games people play; experienced the usual break-ups and consequential make-ups; generally handling our relationship as frivolously as a yo-yo. But something happened this night (it had been developing all along, only we were too immature and self-centered to notice) that took our one-on-one relationship, and changed it into a one-on-one commitment.
We were suddenly awed by the knowledge that God, Who placed the solar system into being and keeps it from flying apart, was also holding our lives in place at the core and if He would remain there, would keep us from flying apart. We didn't know then what a heavy impact this knowledge would have on our lives, on our life together. We had not learned the bedrock principle out of which the greatest degree of intimacy and love in marriage would evolve. Unfortunately, many couples in, and most out of the church never learn this key of keys to marriage at its best. I want to share it with you, although you are single at this moment, because if there ever is a time when that condition will be subject to change, I pray you will keep this principle as a prerequisite for marriage. A married couple must be held together at the center by a holy love which is stronger than their own. Charlie Shedd, noted marriage counselor, said it this way: "That couple who understands that their union is for Someone greater than the two of them has discovered the secret gate to marriage at its best."
At the human level, marriage is a uniting of two persons into a bond of oneness. They become one in purpose, in interest, in flesh, in economics, in a familiar group, in name. The intimacy which is enjoyed by this couple interlocks their beings into a bond which overcomes their separateness. The horizontal union is a beautiful thing. If you can make a visual picture of a man and woman joining hands, you see a horizontal, unbroken line. All the interaction, communication which flows back and forth along this line is necessary and essential for them to maintain a healthy marital situation. At any point, however, one or both of them could break this line by refusing to keep the harmonious giving and taking continuous. For example, when a husband and wife communicate fully about all activities of their day, they stay current and knowledgeable about the other. If, however, one partner decides to withhold a part of his experience, the line weakens at one link. If that is a volatile area, like perhaps finances, or sexual feelings (to name only a few), the consequences of that weak link could become a break in the line. A deep commitment between two lives will not stand long with a break in this line before the relationship suffers or fails.
If I could name the one factor that accounts for more marriage break-ups than any other; it would not be infidelity, sexual incompatibility, money problems, or religious differences. It would be because of a lack of communication. The horizontal line that binds a marriage together is the blending of thoughts and feelings which are openly expressed by each person in the relationship.
A couple who exist, however, solely for their own gratification even if it is based on an unselfish interest in the other; is not experiencing a full and complete life together. The horizontal line is vital and must be maintained; but in the fuller expression of their intimacy there is a vertical dimension that leads to the heavenly throne of God. No single factor does more to give a marriage joy or to keep it both a venture and an adventure in mutual fulfillment than a shared commitment to spiritual discovery. I believe that the single most important and necessary element of marriage is spiritual intimacy. I mean the sense of a vital relationship with that which transcends our brief, fragile existence. I mean a relationship with the realm of value and meaning and love at its ultimate best.
This need for spiritual intimacy includes a basic need for a sense of "at homeness" in the universe, with myself, with "us."
Every human being is born with a physical body and a spiritual soul. The body craves for food, moisture, air, the right balance of vitamins and chemicals to sustain life. The soul also has needs. When the soul exists without God, there is a void in that person, a place of emptiness that nothing can fill. This void may be expressed as a "a groping for more meaning to life," "insecurity," "exaggerated confident demeanor," "lack of moral values," "inability to sustain a meaningful relationship." The person may not even be aware of what is missing, but the soul of that person will grope and struggle as long as there is life within the body for the Eternal Being for which the soul was created in the first place (Romans 8:19,20; "For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of Him who subjected it in hope." God created us as independent agents, able to choose or reject God as a dweller in our soul. If He had chosen to create us as robots (as was His right), we would serve Him automatically and rigidly. But where is the love or satisfaction in that kind of service? Since we are created in the image of God we can readily realize how miserable would be that kind of relationship. Say you marry a robot: she kisses you when you push one button, cooks a gourmet meal with the turn of another switch, and at your bidding, recites words of love and affection. Would you really feel loved, accepted, needed? No person can exist with that sort of insensitive creature. So it is with God; He did not choose to create us with automatic responses to Him, but with the ability to choose Him at our own will. Therefore at the center of our being is an empty core waiting for the only Being worthy of existence therein.
"Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you?" (I Corinthians 3:16). When we invite God's Spirit into our life, He fills the void, sets our lives aright, and this fullness of the Spirit of God gives us a peace in our soul that enables us to be at peace with the Universe. That is the at homeness that we must experience if we can successfully interlock our life with another life. God is "at home" in our soul, I am "at home" with myself; I can then invite another to interdwell my "home' with me. A "help meet" that God has prepared for me.
If you will recall the visual image we mentioned at the start of this lesson, of two people with joined hands forming a continuous horizontal line; I now ask you to add to that picture a line extending from above which joins God's hands with the other hands of the couple. Now the couple is complete, the communication between the partners now adds a new vertical dimension which enhances their bond and completes the circle of love.
So deeply personal is the live of the spirit within us that when we are able to share this aspect of our life with another we are sharing the most tender and precious kinship we experience. So delicate is the life-line of union Khalil Gibran said in 1923: "Give your hearts, but not into each other's keeping. For only the hand of life can contain your hearts." When we can safely place our trust and hearts into the hands of God, then we have taken the necessary step that will bind us for eternity.
How do you maintain this vertical element in marriage? The same way you sustain the horizontal -- communication. Communication with God. It is an old cliche but more often than not -- true: "The family who prays together stays together." No more than a man and woman could consider themselves one and intimate creatures who never talked to one another; could a couple consider their relationship with the Father a healthy loving bond without communication with Him. The links that bind our Triad of Unity are all dependent on this one factor: I give of myself openly and fully to my mate, and to my God; I receive openly and fully God's presence and love, and that of my mate's. I like to recommend to couples who come to me for initial counseling that they make a contract or pact to set aside some time each day when they can look Godward together. I do not necessarily feel this needs to be time of praying out loud together, that is often awkward and embarrassing so that it is easy to give it up after a few attempts. Having a special time we can close out life's mundane, nagging problems; and regain our spiritual peace and unity, keeps the marriage on the Heavenly plane where it belongs.
I hear some sociologists asserting that one solution to the increasing marital breakdown of our times is to make divorce harder. That is not the answer. It is to make marriage what it should be. And what it should be is a sacred triad relationship between the Lord and you and your mate forever and ever.
When you find the person who makes you want to give up your singleness and become a couple, remember to look first for the spiritual unity of your souls, then God's richest blessings will flow on you and yours abundantly.