“Marriage is the graduate school of service.” – Pastor David Chadwick
I’ve made no secret of my belief in marriage. Mrs. Booth and I have been married for nearly 32 years, with the struggles and joys that come with being married that long. It has been and is a great thing and I love being married to my wife.
And I admit that the climate for marriage in the west is hostile in many ways. From taxes that penalize marriage economically, to family courts that incentivize women to file for divorce from their husbands, to cultural Marxist feminism that seeks to destroy “the patriarchy” by destroying men, there is plenty of evidence to support a man’s decision not to marry. But let’s revisit one of my favorite axioms:
Abuse doesn’t invalidate use.
The occasions when men commit murder with hammers doesn’t justify banning hammers or outlawing carpentry. The widespread misuse of the institution of marriage — from cohabitation and out-of-wedlock births, through frivolous no-fault divorce — doesn’t mean that marriage has forfeited its divine purpose.
Back to the beginning
If we look to the creation narrative in the second chapter of the Old Testament book of Genesis, we see that God had created the universe, placing man, whom he had made in his own image, at the top of the created order. God pronounced it good. But when he saw that he had made suitable mates for all the other creatures except man, God said, “it is not good that man should be alone.”
After evaluating every other type of creature and not finding a mate, a companion, a wife for the man, Adam, God did something remarkable. He put Adam to sleep and took flesh and bone from his side, making from them a woman, whom Adam called Eve. Note that up to this point, Adam was the bearer of the full imago dei — the image of God. In this, Adam reflected masculinity and femininity as God does. But when God created Eve to be Adam’s helper, his (in Hebrew) ezer kenegdo — literally his “life saver” — God split into two parts the imago dei, investing maleness and masculine strength in the man and investing femaleness and feminine beauty and tenderness in the woman. This is important, because Genesis 2:24-25 says this:
Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.
This one-flesh union, this intimate knowing, free of guilt and shame is the heart of marriage.
Breaking it down
Note the lack of self-consciousness and self-regard in this first marriage. Their nakedness and vulnerability was not something to exploit for advantage, rather it was open and generous. It cannot have been otherwise, as the one-flesh union would not have existed if Adam had not given himself to Eve, and Eve had not given herself to her husband.
Now it’s broken down
Have you noticed in our culture’s stories how marital sex is nearly always portrayed as a chore to be avoided, while affairs and other forms of sexual behavior appear exciting? If I say the word monogamy, do you regard the concept as a positive or a negative one? Why? If you’re married, did your friends try to talk you out of it, citing the endless novelty of hookups compared to loving one woman for life? Part of this inversion is the distortion of our world through sin. So a loyal wife seems boring to her husband, compared to the women at his office, and an aloof cad is seemingly irresistible compared to a wife’s dependable husband. This is why King Solomon wrote in Proverbs 9:16, “Stolen water is sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.” But note this: Just because a forbidden thing is appealing doesn’t mean you shouldn’t avoid it. (See also poison mushrooms.)
Reacquiring the trail
If you dread the idea of marriage, in the present or the future, I want to encourage you to re-establish a biblical view of marriage. First, note that biblical marriage is a covenant rather than a contract. This is not a legal instrument between two consenting parties that can be broken at will. Among God’s people, a covenant is a binding, irrevocable joining between God and his people. There are obligations, but failure to perform doesn’t justify an exit.
It is true that you have the duty of spiritual headship, and the responsibility to shepherd, protect, and provide for your wife and children, and those obligations demand lifelong faithfulness. It is also true that you can expect to enjoy the marriage bed — sex — with your wife and the two of you have a responsibility to maintain this aspect of your marriage — especially when kiddos enter the picture. Check out Proverbs 5:15-19 for just one biblical encouragement in this area.
Before Mrs. Booth and I married, an older friend took me aside and said, “I know you think marriage is a 50/50 proposition. It isn’t. It’s 100/100. It takes both of you giving it 100% for it to work.” I have learned that friend was 100% correct. And this brings us to service.
A generous spirit requires bravery
An unpleasant aspect of our times is the wariness that leads to near-constant score-keeping. We are willing to give, as long as we get, but heaven help the one who takes and never gives. Does that sound familiar? In marriage, we have to overcome the fear and serve each other generously. Even if you’re afraid you won’t get anything out of it, serve.
In Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus, the apostle instructed wives to submit to their husbands, but he instructed husbands to love their wives the way Christ loved the church. In case you’re unfamiliar with the story, he died for her. Obviously, marriage is one of those things where you must be present to win, so what does this sacrificial service look like in the realm of mortals?
Here’s an example
In the fewest words, it means put others first. If you do this, God notices. And He is able to reward you. But I promised you an example.
If you haven’t seen the video for Andra Day’s song Rise Up, it’s a great portrayal of loving service in the context of marriage. Please watch this now. I’ll wait
This video, directed by M. Night Shyamalan, conveys so much truth, and Andra Day’s vocal performance drives it home. Note the wife pouring out her life for the husband who can no longer hold her. Though her reward would seem slight compared to what she — and he — expected when they first married, this is a shining example of loving and giving 100%.
And notice, also, how the husband doesn’t quit, either. He gives the strength he has, and she appreciates it. Good art with a true message!
Not just true in stories
You may argue that Shyamalan could tell the story any way he wants, and that the video is a made-up story. Fair enough, but I have a pastor friend whose wife has Multiple Sclerosis and he serves his wife in the same manner. He cares for her and loves her like Christ loves the church — the way he promised to when they wed. And he’s not the only man I know who has cared for his wife this way. I have written before about old-school wedding vows, and this is where they prove their worth.
I know there is great risk in getting married these days. The statistics, as we’ve noted, are grim. But it is also possible to find godly, virtuous women who want to be married to godly and masculine spiritual leaders. So for God’s sake (literally), lead, love, and serve. Your children need the stability that only a covenant marriage can provide them.
God would not have commanded this of husbands if men weren’t capable of doing it. If you aren’t that sort of man yet, stick around and learn how to be one. Or message me and let’s start a discussion.
It is not good for the man to be alone, but it also important to marry the kind of woman who will stick by you — and by whom you’ll stick — when the storms come. It can be done!