Published in 1998, I wish I had read it that long ago. Not that I would have appreciated, or even accepted, its message back then, but if I had been teachable I might have avoided a lot of dualistic confusion and battled for a lot better things. My point here is, don’t let my mistake be yours. Get a copy, read it soon. See how the medieval weltanschauung (not that they called it that) has much for our Kuyperian (not that they called it that) living and joy. Without agreeing with every jot and tittle, this book points toward a love of truth and feasting and poetry, of submission and sphere sovereignty and the silliness of so much so-called science, of earth and work and relationships teeming with beauty and breath and blessing.
It’s been almost two weeks(!) since the wedding, but here are some of the things I said.
This is different for me than any other wedding I’ve officiated. Here I function pastorally and as involved patriarchy. While it won’t always be the case, it is the first wedding I’ve officiated where I’ve known either the bride or the groom since birth. In fact many of you, and not just family, have held them. Due somewhat to my public position, Maggie was a sort of community kid. It’s the first time I’ve said the “I do” as a father at the beginning of the ceremony while then asking the couple to say “I do” as a pastor. It’s also even more personal because, even out of my kids, Maggie is the most like me, and our faces were virtually indistinguishable when we were both five.
She is much better than me at picking up on some things, which she gets from her mother. That includes how she picked up on Taylor’s appropriate yet apparent increase of attention towards her starting at a church youth car wash a couple years ago. And even though it wasn’t the right time to move toward marriage then, it was a great time for conversations…about tattoos, and the like. It was actually tough for a while for Maggie to be heard over Calvin talking to Taylor about guns and buffalo check.
I’ve known Taylor, and his family, for almost twenty years. And over the last couple years, his name has come up a lot among many of the men at church, because they loved how much and how obviously Taylor was growing in Christ. Even in the last ten months since he first spoke to me about his desire to pursue Maggie, I couldn’t be more impressed and thankful for how he’s handled himself at every stage. He won me first. He has submitted to me, but led her, and at a perfect pace.
I knew that Taylor could be a good fit for Maggie, and I told her so. But the moment that I wasn’t looking for, the moment with the most conflicting fatherly feelings, was when we realized that Taylor is the man to take care of Maggie better than I can. The two of you together will have it better. That is God’s idea.
Marriage is GOOD.
From the very beginning almost every creative act of God the first six days of the universe, God looked at His work and saw that it was “good.”
On the first day, He said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. The next day He gathered the waters together and caused dry land to appear and He saw that it was good. Three more times God created and He saw that His work was good.
Then, partway through day six, God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. But before man could catch his breath, before man made any personal comments about his condition, the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone.” The emphasis wasn’t as if the man was simply missing out on something nice. The emphasis was that there was something identifiably wrong. Something was not good.
Not good? What else could man possibly want? Adam had a spectacular home, with beauty and variety and resources of every kind at his disposal. Not only that, he was assigned a global enterprise: to exercise dominion and subdue every square inch of the planet. He had a place to be and a purpose for being. Yet still something was not good: Adam was alone.
Because God made man in His own image, man was not made for isolation, but for intimacy. From the beginning, “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him,” and then a third and final line follows in 1:27: “male and female He created them.”
God Himself, in the Trinity, is a relational being. The three Persons–Father, Son, and Holy Spirit–had already been enjoying an eternity of perfect, happy intimacy and fellowship with each other. When God said, “Let us make man in our image,” for whatever else that “image” includes, He meant to make us social, familial, personal beings like Himself.
The first relationship on earth, and the one logically necessary for future generations, the one that God uses to illustrate His own Son’s relationship with the Church-Bride, is the husband and wife relationship. A man and a woman, in the “one flesh” commitment, know and enjoy and model the most Trinitarian-like relationship in the universe.
That’s not to say that single people are second-class citizens (God’s own Son who took on flesh, Jesus, never married), but rather to emphasize that the love of a husband and wife is meant as a way to share, to taste, a bit of God-like gladness. Image-bearing is done in marriage, with one man and one woman, in a loyal and pleasurable relationship with each other. God made us this way to reflect Himself.
By the end of day six, with all creation finished and the first wedding ceremony complete, God saw everything that He had made, and behold it was very good. So today, as Taylor and Maggie enter this covenant, and become one flesh and bear God’s joyful image, He sees that it is very good.
Marriage Needs the Gospel.
There is, however, one setback in the story. In the very next chapter of Adam and Eve’s marriage, they disobeyed God. As a consequence of their disobedience, not only did the man and woman lose spiritual fellowship with their Maker, they also began to experience the effects of sin in their relationship. Sin separates. It has from the beginning. Sin is the enemy of marriage, destroying intimacy and communion and joy.
The biggest problem you will ever face in marriage is not money–too little or too much. The greatest obstacle to joy in marriage will not arise from personality or gender differences (God made those to be enjoyed). Personal weaknesses and little idiosyncrasies, in and of themselves, will not hinder love and submission.
This is good news. On one hand, if your issues were personality based, the best you could do would be awareness of the differences, but there would be no solution. On the other hand, if your problem is sin, there is a solution for that. Jesus is the solution.
Through His work on the cross we have salvation, not only from the penalty of sin, but also from the stronghold of sin each day. Confess sin as sin to Christ and to one another and you will clear the way to the deepest levels of intimacy. The Lord Jesus Christ is in the business of transforming sinners, and that includes sinners who are married to each other. Don’t try to cover your sin or call it by some other name. You won’t fool the other person, and you certainly won’t fool God. The health and happiness of your marriage depend on believing and living the gospel by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Your marriage will be a partial but true, pleasurable yet with great purpose, embodied reflection of the Trinity. May He bless your vows and your love with great fruitfulness and joy.
I’ve heard it described before that marriage is like a triangle with God at the summit. As the husband and wife get closer to God they necessarily get closer to each other. I like the illustration well enough. It is true that the man and the woman have their own, personal relationship to God, a relationship that in many cases existed before the wedding and one that provides spiritual support during marriage.
But most of the Christians I fellowship with on a regular basis do not usually struggle to remember or attend to our individual access to God. “I have a relationship with Jesus Christ regardless of what happens around me.” That is true, and there is a proper way to emphasize that. It becomes a problem, though, when we value our individual access to God in such a way as to consider our spouse (or children) as an obstacle, or even just insignificant to our movement toward God.
There is a sense in which every man by himself and every woman by herself bears the image of God. But a married couple bear God’s image together. That means that your spouse–even your sinning, selfish, stand-offish, criticizing, fussy spouse–is less of a hindrance to Your fellowship with God and more of a reason for it. Christian couples should think correctly about their connection. In other words, it is not a time to congratulate yourself when you’ve inched closer to God on your side of the triangle but your spouse stays further back.
Husbands, if your wife is falling back, then your individual Christian growth (which you should pursue) will result in your loving sacrifice that may, by grace, win/woo your wife to come along. Likewise, wives, if your husband is falling back, then your individual Christian growth (which you should pursue) will result in joyful respect that may, by grace, push your husband further. Individual Christian growth that does not look to unite, even if that unity doesn’t happen overnight, is not growth in godlikeness. God unites us to Himself, He doesn’t just celebrate that He is better than us.