Married for Life Part 1a

When I Met Amy…
I met Amy in January of 1994. We were both involved in student ministry, she in her home church in Catonsville, MD, and me in my home church in Philadelphia. It was the annual winter retreat, held at Summit Lake Camp located in Emmitsburg, MD, just south of Gettysburg. But it was a weird sort of thing because Amy was my sisters counselor the summer just prior and she insisted that needed to meet her.

That weekend at Summit Lake was a weekend that changed my life. I met Amy for the first time. I still remember the first time I saw her. Three things I will never forget, her remember her long, curly hair, her long legs and how great she looked jeans.

That weekend was filled with awkward flirting and doing everything possible to be in her presence. I was, smitten. And by the end of the retreat, I knew I needed to get to know her more.

In the weeks that followed I struck up an old school relationship with Amy via letter reading. For those of you who are young enough not to know, there was a time, before texting, instant messaging, facebooking, and even email when people would write to each other, and mail those letters back and forth to each other. A number of letters went back and forth between us, as we asked probing questions, getting to know each other. I shared that I had accepted a call to be in full time ministry, that I was taking classes at seminary, and that one day I hoped to serve in a church. She shared that she desired to be a stay at home mom feeling called to raise children, care for the home, and live a life that glorified God.

With each letter, I was falling more and more in love with this woman. Even though she was in Catonsville and I was in Philadelphia and we weren’t able to see each other, I was falling in love with someone who I felt was exactly the kind of woman I wanted to have as a wife and a mother.

That summer, by God’s provision, we spent 3 weeks together on a mission trip to Puerto Rico. Just days into the trip I knew that I wanted to marry Amy. Amy, not so much, at least not yet. On the 4th of July, we kissed for the first time. By the end of the trip, we were a couple. And the rest is, the wonderful story of the last, almost 16 years of marriage. We have five amazing children. We have lived in seven different homes. Our lives have been dedicated to serving God as ministers to students and young adults, and raising our family. We have sacrificed a lot over these 16 years, but we have never gone without something we needed.

I love being married. I was 21 when I said I do. And never have I ever looked back with regret or wonder. In fact, I couldn’t imagine a life without Amy, nor do I want to. Through the ups and down, travels, relocations, mistakes, ministry, and obstacles, I can say that Amy is truly my best friend, my biggest cheerleader, and the most amazing woman I have ever met.

Married for Life…
Tonight we are kicking off a series called, Married for Life. Aside from talking about Jesus’ death and resurrection and what that means for us, Marriage is one of my most favorite topics to teach on. The Bible presents marriage as a holy and sacred estate, a gift given from God the Creator, to a man and a woman for mutual love, support, companionship, intimacy, and procreation. It’s an example of the intimate relationship between God and his church lived out through the roles of both husband and wife. It’s meant to be holy, pure, and filled with a sacrificial love.

But in light of all that is happening in our culture; the ever increasing rate of divorce, the question of what marriage is and how it’s defined, and the growing acceptance of dating couples living together has damaged what God intended to be so special.

But I believe marriage is something worthy fighting for. I believe that marriage, properly presented, taught from the Biblical perspective, and entered into with the reverence and humility, is something that we as the church will see God redeem and return to the honorable status that it deserves.

So over these next four weeks, I want to ask you to join with me as I look at what God in his Bible says about marriage. What is it and what was it intended to look like? What are the Biblical roles and expectations of the husband and the wife? And, how we can fortify our marriages with the Biblical building blocks that a healthy marriage needs to thrive in this life we live?
The Disclaimer…
Now no one has a perfect marriage. We may say we have a good marriage, and that may be true. Certainly I would say that Amy and I have a good marriage. But even as I say that, I know there are things that would make our marriage better, stronger, healthier, more passionate, and filled with grace.

But Jay, I’m not married, gosh darn it, I’m only a teenager, why should I listen to this series. Great question. And my answer is, I think knowledge is power. I think that by knowing what God wants, intended, and calls us to with regards to marriage, is good for you to know and understand what God says about marriage, especially if you hope to one day be married.

But Jay, my marriage isn’t great, it’s not even good, I’m not sure I want to listen to someone talk about the rosey-ideal of what marriage should be. Why should I stick around and listen to stories of how good someone else’s marriage is? Well, because, your marriage is too important for you not to listen and see what God says about marriage. God is the ultimate healer, able to restore any marriage; bringing healing, a deepening of the love between a man and woman, even a rekindling of the passion that a marriage needs to spark honesty, commitment, intimacy, and forgiveness.

But here’s what I expect. Satan would love for nothing more than to destroy the very marriages we seek to know, experience, and enjoy. This series will cause each of us to stop and evaluate our marriages and ourselves. I expect to have my hand slapped a time or two and for my heart to be convicted as I explore God’s word. I expect to fall on my face in repentance before God, and perhaps Amy, as I see that I am not living up to the expectations that God has place on me as a husband.

Friends, this could be a difficult road for us to travel as we seek and discover the weightiness of what it means for us to be married, to be husband and wife. But I am convinced that when all is said and done, when we have explored all that God says, and we have humbled ourselves and looked at God’s Word with eyes wide open; when we see how we have failed, where we have forgotten, where we have allowed our own selfishness to dictate what we think marriage should be, then, and only then we will see just how big and loving our God is and how he desires to bless us by making our marriages stronger than ever before.

At the Beginning…
The best place for us to start our journey is at the beginning. If we want to know God’s intend for marriage, we have to go to the first wedding ever recorded in history. And that is going to take us to Genesis. Genesis is the starting point for all things God. Whether it the gospel message, sin, heaven, faith, theology, even doctrine, everything starts in Genesis.

For us tonight, we want to look at Genesis 2. In Genesis 2 we find God creating man. He places the man in a garden to care for and tend. And in this garden we see God’s love for the man in that he creates for the man a suitable helper. Let me read a few verses to you.

Genesis 2:18-20
18 The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”

19 Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. 20 So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field.

But for Adam no suitable helper was found.

But for the man, no suitable helper was found. God sets out to provide a helper for the man. This was to be someone who would meet the needs of the man, physically and emotionally. Someone to be a companion, a helper. Someone to complete the man. In other words, God sees a need within the man and resolves for meet that need.

But it’s good for us to notice that it’s God who evaluates the state of man’s condition and determines that the man is in need of something more. God, as creator, maker, provider, is the one who sees fit to create a helper suitable for the man. This isn’t the mans doing. He doesn’t go to God an file an complaint.

I mean, could you see that happening? Adam goes into God creation room. Because God has a creation room, it’s where he keeps the blueprints and clay sculptures of all he creates.

But Adam comes in, “Hey God, I was wondering if we could talk?”

And God would say, “Sure Adam, pull up a cloud. What’s on you mind?”

“Well God, first, hey, thanks for creating me and all. That was really cool. And thanks for the garden, too. It’s pretty awesome, you know, the trees and plants and the bushes. Oh and thanks for the fruit and vegetables, their pretty good to. Well, except for brussel sprouts, I mean, their a little weird, but…

“That’s not why I’m here. Hey I was wondering… You know gets a little, um.. lonely there in the garden… and um… Hey do you think you could… um… make something for me… um… maybe someone… You know I was thinking something with… (Make an image of a curvy woman with hands.) Just a thought God, just a thought.”

But it didn’t happen that way. It was God who saw the man and it was God who initiated the solution.

So God brings before the man all the animals and creatures created for the man to name. As they parade before Adam, he names them, but when it is finished, we see that no suitable helper was found. In all of creation, nothing created was able to complete the man.

So, verse 21…
21 So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.
 
Not finding a suitable helper, God goes one step further and causes the man to fall into a deep sleep. And as he sleeps, he takes a rib from the man and creates a woman.

Suddenly now, there’s a match. What God initially said in verse 18, “I will make a helper suitable for him.” has now become reality. He has created the only thing that will complete the man, a woman.

God brings the woman to the man, and immediately the man knows what this means.

23 The man said,
   “This is now bone of my bones 
   and flesh of my flesh; 
she shall be called ‘woman,’ 
   for she was taken out of man.”

Adam sees and understands what God has done. God has created the perfect counterpart for him. She is the opposite of him, yet, she completes who he is as a man. That is why she is called woman. In the Hebrew, the word for man is, ‘ish or is.” The word for woman is, ‘ishshah or issa’. The idea being conveyed here is that they are the same, equal in creation, made one from out of the one another.

God created the woman to fulfill the man. And with this creation we see the first marriage take place.

The man said,
   “This is now bone of my bones 
   and flesh of my flesh; 
she shall be called ‘woman,’ 
   for she was taken out of man.”

The wording here is more than a statement of body parts, ‘Hey, you’re just like me. Look, skin, bones, hair, hands, feet.’ This was a covenantal statement, a form of a promise or pledge. It’s a statement that expresses the relationship between the weaker and the stronger, and how they work together. Essentially, the man is pledging his commitment and loyalty to the woman. He’s statement says, “I take you to be my wedded wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish…”

This is why… verse 24, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and they shall become one flesh.

Marriage is a commitment, a commitment made between a man and woman to experience life together as one. Two lives fused together for the benefit and blessing of the other. And once you become one, it’s meant to be permanent. This is God’s mathematics, 1 + 1 = 1.

To Be Continued…

– jay

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