There is no question but that the Word of God is an excellent source of counsel for married life. The list is practically endless of marriages, spouses, families, and homes from which guidance could be taken, both positive and negative. That is, there are couples whose example is worth emulating, and others whose example we would certainly wish to avoid. Genesis reveals features of Adam and Eve, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob and Rachel, Joseph and Asenath, that can be instructive to married couples in the cultivation of their relationship with each other.
We see displays of love and loyalty, gentleness and grace, communion and consecration. But alas, there is craftiness and cunning, deceit and disrespect, and other aspects of attitude and behavior that diminish the bonds of respect and trust necessary for a happy marriage. Of course, the relationship of the Lord Jesus with His Church is the arch-type of how a husband and wife ought to be able to enjoy this most precious, most intimate, most desirable estate into which a man and woman enter upon committing themselves to each other on their wedding day
If any marriage ought to be "heaven on earth," it is that of two Christians. Sadly, that isnt always the case; the reasons may be many But such is truly possible, and furthermore, it is possible to recover the love, warmth, kindness, and intimacy that has waned, if there is a willingness and a readiness to bow to the will of God who desires it for you. The purpose of this article along with others in this series, is to present truths and principles from the Word of God, learned from the experiences of life, and enjoyed in marriages of the writers.
There are three stages in marriage:
1. The stage of mutual enjoyment-the honeymoon, and the early weeks or months that follow; "Oh, how wonderful."
2. The stage of mutual adjustment-that period of time when getting used to each others individuality and idiosyncrasies makes us realize that there is a very practical side to this living together as husband and wife.
3. The stage of mutual fulfillment-that lifelong journey of seeing ones hopes and expectations of wedded bliss progressively unfolding as the years pass through the various ages and stages of home and family life. It is particularly "stage 2" and "stage 3" to which we relate the word "Communion." It means a sharing, a partnership, a mutual participation in the joys of marriage, and a sharing and support in the trials and adversities that are sure to cross every couples pathway as well. The outcome of such communion is a greater respect for our spouse, and a devotion to the needs and interests of our spouse.
Communion implies a channel that flows in both directions, requiring participation by both partners. It involves give and take, speaking and listening, loving and being loved. It is based upon the principle that both members of a marriage have equal value and both give valid input. Subjection of the wife and headship of the husband relate to administration, order, and accountability before the Lord. It is never a matter of superiority and inferiority, and such issues ought never to quench the warmth of communion between the married couple.
The first necessity in the cultivation of communion between a husband and wife is the same as required for communion between us and the Lord - time. We allow the demands of life to encroach upon the time necessary to spend with our beloved, and wonder why we drift apart. Those demands can be both Christian and secular activity. The order of our obligations are first God, then wife/husband, next children, then assembly, and finally the world with its need of the gospel. We need time to communicate with each other, free from the distractions of business and even children, that we might cultivate our relationship, our life-long romance, this journey of love.
The basis for communion in marriage is communication. Couples need to have goals for their marriage, attainable ideals based on their recognition of what the union of a man and woman means. There should be a sharing of these with one another in openness, honesty, and consideration. Examples from the Word, and lives of believers who demonstrate these ideals should be subjects of discussion. Each member of the marriage should feel free to bare his or her deepest and most personal feelings, confident of acceptance by the spouse, free from fear that they are not important or worthwhile. Each of us brings strengths and weaknesses into marriage, but a caring spouse will help the other to cultivate those strengths, and avoid belittling weaknesses. How comforting for the believer, in coming to the Lord, to know that He accepts us with our frailties and weaknesses without accusation or condemnation. It should be the same between the husband and wife.
Communication regarding finances, money management and fiscal responsibility of each of the partners will save from discord and irresponsibility in spending practices. Most men think their wives overspend, and most wives think their husbands are miserly, and conflict in these areas rob many couples of the loving communion they ought to be enjoying. It is important that both are involved in the budgetary planning and are agreed about their expectations in these areas. And of course, they must agree about systematic giving with respect to the Lords portion, so they can rejoice together in the privilege of helping on the Lords interests.
Communication means the opportunity and confidence to be able to express things that may bother us about our spouse, honestly reported, free of recrimination, and to engage in meaningful dialogue to seek a change or correction of those offending habits. None of us likes to think that he is less than perfect, but we must have an empathetic ear and willingness to change what our wife or husband finds undesirable. This is often where communion falters, because it will require acknowledgment of the deficiency and positive measures to correct it. In instituting a plan of open, honest, loving communication, a couple must studiously avoid implying by their words any judgment of the other person. If a person feels "put down," there may be the felt need to justify self in order to preserve self-esteem.
Often the attitudes of a husband or a wife are shaped by early life experiences, personality traits, marriage problems in parents witnessed in childhood, but are not recognized or evident till after a couple have been married for some time. We can never know all about our spouse before we are married, but committal to one an-other in our vows means that it is to be our lifelong endeavor to cultivate a happy and bright home in spite of what may seem to be a handicap. There are no marriage partners who will not melt before a genuine demonstration of love and kindness. Unfortunately, some emotional handicaps and traits, like other problems, have no real solution. And while professional care may be required, through communication, an acceptable way of handling such can be negotiated, and thereby the difficulty is de-emphasized.
One wonders if a neglected channel of communication led Eve to move independent of Adams knowledge of what was right for the pair in their garden paradise, thereby bringing about their fall. Certainly, there was some grave deficiency in the communication between Isaac and Rebecca that led them each to treat their two sons so differently, thereby teaching the lads that there was advantage in deceit.
And so, Christian husband and wife, communion is the opposite to self-centeredness, and will cultivate a feeling of belonging, a sense of intrinsic worth, and an awareness of our ability. This will bring us the satisfaction we long for and is a reflection of these very things that God has given us in salvation, because of the union we have with His Son.