Marriage and the Bible

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with feelings of compassion and with kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with one another; if anyone has a complaint against someone else, forgive him. Indeed, just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must forgive. 14 Above all these, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together perfectly; 15 and let the shalom which comes from haMashiach be your heart’s decision-maker, for this is why you were called to be part of a single Body.  Colossians 3

Whenever I think of how good a marriage can be I have to think about the downside, the days when things don’t go right. It is in those times that I am saddened by how far believers are from being a Single Body in Mashiach. And as evidence suggests – Christian divorce rates equal or exceed the pagan world in divorce.

Glenn Stanton writing for the Gospel Coalition remarked that.

People who seriously practice a traditional religious faith—whether Christian or other—have a divorce rate markedly lower than the general population. The factor making the most difference is religious commitment and practice.

The common factor seems to be those who seriously devote their time to faith, and I might surmise, the time spent with a spouse. Yet one may question the oft quoted divorce statics, does  Christian divorce equal/exceed pagan divorce? Yes and No. For those who are nominal faith or for whom being a Christian is a title with no deeper meaning the answer is not only yes, but more so. Professor Bradley Wright found that people who self identify as Christian and rarely go to church have a divorce rate of 60% compared to 38% for those who regularly attend church.

The Past

Statistics like these hit close to home, but in a way that is hard to explain (though I can try). My former spouse and I attended church every Sunday, but our prayer life at home was lacking.

“I only go to church because you do and besides, it’s free babysitting.”

That statement by my ex as she ran from our marriage haunted me in the years after the divorce (I didn’t want the divorce). First, I never realized she went to church with me to please me (and wanted adult time with someone to watch our children); second, now more than ever as I realize I had a chance to witness with my lifestyle to the person I should have been the closest to and failed. And that failure hurt.

Finding My Soulmate

It seems small, but to me the magnitude of a soul-mate, someone I’d longed for all my life began when I first held hands with my beloved. Our hands fit together in a way that meshed my soul with hers.  Our hearts and minds fell into sync as we walked holding hands. Time slowed down. I could feel the each pulse of my heart as if from a distance, slow and loud in unison with the subtle telegraphing of her bio-rhythms into mine. I didn’t understand it then, and maybe even not now, but the spiritual and eventual physical connection grew from that simple act. And when we married we tried to go to church together to grow the spiritual, but the “modern” church we chose played music so loud it hurt my ears (severe tinnitus and hearing deficiency from years in the Navy in a high noise environment). So we looked for and found a Messianic fellowship.

Something Missing

The Messianic fellowship was wonderful. The music was just right, soul stirring and smooth, songs sung with love for Mashiach touched our hearts. The scripture reading, sharing passages with fellow messianic believers helped us to grow in faith. We planned on and looked forward to the meetings each week. I looked forward to the drive out of town across rolling green meadows bereft of houses for miles. As the seasons progressed, for reasons we don’t understand that fellowship faded away like grass gone dormant. We stopped receiving emails from the group and began Sabbath worship at home.

Worship with my wife on the Sabbath was amazing and soul stirring and I often found myself crying tears of joy. We began praying together nightly (both Hebrew prayers and free prayers) and writing in a gratitude journal. Holding her in my arms and seeing her hands as she held the prayer sheet touched me in a way I cannot compare to any other event in my life. As her small delicate hands held the prayer sheet they were also holding my heart.

And yet, though Sabbath worship at home, as good as it was, lacked an element necessary for healthy worship and a healthy life as it turns out. We were missing fellowship with like minded people and my wife was missing out on fellowship with female believers, with friends.

Changes

Over time I’d gained weight and with the weight gain came snoring. My wife tried to sleep and found that she was unable to drown out the buzz saw snoring. I tried sleeping on a mat on the floor and we continued prayer and reading from there alternating to the main bed. The snoring became worse over time and I moved to my office and slept on the mat on the floor there. Yet, I felt that my snoring had excluded me from time with my wife and I keenly felt the loss of quiet time together. Life events continued to unfold (some happy and many tragic,  such as deaths in the family) the Sabbath worship stopped as well.

My dear wife in wanting to please me went along with me, so when  I neglected to remind her about worship we didn’t worship.  In all this I find no fault in my wife, I do not blame her, rather I blame myself for not changing direction to find the fellowship we desperately needed.

Present Time

Where are we now? I really do not know. All I really know, from the small dark pit in my stomach was that I failed to realize things about my wife I should have learned. I failed to realize that the days she seemed angry were not about anger, not at me, but about fear and hurt. And even if she was angry with me, the genesis to that was the same, fear and hurt, much of it caused by my male blindness. I had failed to realize the immense value of fellowship and friends, but most of all I failed to give comfort to my dear wife.

Our son suggested going to Life Group and we did. This was a huge event, first because I had gained a reputation in my family for not going to these religious events (a mistake I believe based on not wanting to go to a church with music so loud it hurt my ears) and secondly, because it opened my eyes to worship with others. I was amazed and happy to be in the home of a Christian couple who genuinely demonstrated love.  But like so many other parts of our spiritual life, this faded as life’s events (health scares and legal issues) interfered.

I find myself thinking of what life could be like with a deliberate faith life, even if this meant church on Sunday and weekday evening home meetings with other believers. I would enjoy such a life.

The Commands

There are two commands I dwell on in my life. The first is the fourth, and this is partially cause for the predicament I find myself in now. I was unwilling to depart from Sabbath, and even when the Messianic fellowship faded, even when the home Sabbath worship faded. For me Sabbath meant stay at home, rest, recharge body and soul with worship with my wife, but  not everyone feels this way.  Some feel they need to be engaged to be happy to be satisfied with life and Sabbath is a rest from work, a rest from activity.

People are different in how they accept or experience Sabbath. What I failed to realize is that some choose to be engaged in work as a way of self-medicating. In this case from pain and the anxiety caused by pain. Work could be a salve and the mind ignores pain when engaged. Sabbath allows the mind to open and the pain rushes in.

This will change.

The second command that is on my heart is found through out the Torah and the Brit Chadashah.

For I hate divorce, says the LORD, the God of Israel, and covering one’s garment with violence, says the LORD of hosts. So take heed to yourselves and do not be faithless. Malachi 2:16

To those who are married I have a command, and it is not from me but from the Lord: a woman is not to separate herself from her husband. But if she does separate herself, she is to remain single or be reconciled with her husband. Also a husband must not leave his wife. 1 Corinthians 7:10, 11

That the perfect, powerful L0rd of all Creation HATES divorce should have us on our knees. The modern generation of easy divorce has done what G0d hates. But G0d, knowing we would sin so horribly also provided forgiveness through faith in His perfect son, Yeshua haMachiach.

It is easy to see these are not unrelated verses taken out of context, the theme of G0d hating divorce, commanding us to seek His face in unity – as believers individually, collectively and in marriage. Which leads back to the beginning.

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with feelings of compassion and with kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with one another; if anyone has a complaint against someone else, forgive him. Indeed, just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must forgive. 14 Above all these, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together perfectly; 15 and let the shalom which comes from haMashiach be your heart’s decision-maker, for this is why you were called to be part of a single Body.  Colossians 3

It is clear to see that “our heart’s decision-maker” (our emotions) need to be channeled through faith, through peace in Mashiach. When we do this we find that “compassion and with kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” become the rule instead of the exception. Running, as my ex did, is understandable, but letting forgiveness guide us when we run out of options, when we are out of peace and patience leads us to love. And in the end, the love of G0d.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only and unique Son, so that everyone who trusts in him may have eternal life, instead of being utterly destroyed. John 3:16 (CJB)

Dr. Ramón Argila de Torres y Sandoval

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