God's Design for Marriage is Countercultural

In 1976, a woman named Janeane Swift of Los Angeles married a 50-pound rock! The ceremony was witnessed by around 20 people.

A woman who calls herself "Erika La Tour Eiffel" married the Eiffel Tower in a ceremony in 2008 in Paris. In the ceremony, she promised to love, honor, and obey the iron monument. (In Erika's case, she has a psychological disorder. Objects, unlike people, won't let them down.) Erika admitted, "There is a huge problem with being in love with a public object. The issue of intimacy ~ or rather lack of it ~ is forever present."

Janet Downes from Omaha, Nebraska, said she found the secret for a happy marriage ~ being happy with herself regardless of the men in her life. On June 27, 1998, she married herself on her 40th birthday, exchanging vows with herself in the mirror ~ "I, Janet Downes, take myself with all my strengths and faults...." She wore a wedding gown. She had flowers, a traditional cake, and even a "choir." Some 200 friends and relatives attended. The wedding ceremony celebrated the fact that she is "happy with herself," though she didn't rule out a legal wedding with her fiance at a future date.

Another woman, Chen Wei-yih, posed for a set of photos in her wedding dress. She enlisted a wedding planner and rented a banquet hall for a marriage celebration with 30 friends. She, too, married herself in October, 2010. She said, "I was just hoping that more people would love themselves." But she added, "If I had a steady boyfriend, I wouldn't do this."

As I read about these different situations, I had mixed reactions. I laughed, wondered, considered, and grieved.

On the one hand, I'm glad that a woman can be content within herself and "not need a man" to feel complete. As a Christian, I know that all I need as a woman is my relationship with Christ. Having a husband, within the will of God, is an added blessing.

On the other hand, some women are arrogant regarding their attitudes toward men. The phrase "I don't need a man," for them, means, "Men ~ who needs them!" It's sad, but the biblical pattern for male/female relationships ~ especially in marriage ~ is often mocked. Men and women are fallen creatures, and they tend to abuse and twist the biblical model to their own ends.

In a godly-yet-imperfect marriage, man and woman are united in a covenant commitment for a lifetime (Genesis 2:24) ~ in a relationship that is designed and blessed by God. There are wonderful opportunities for companionship (Genesis 2:18-20, 22-24), holy sexual expression (Hebrews 13:4), and founding a home with children (Genesis 1:27-28a; 9:1; Psalm 127:3).

Husband and wife, each created in the image of God and equal before Him, have special roles in their relationship that complement each other in the plan of God (Ephesians 5:22-33; Colossians 3:18-19; 1 Peter 3:1-7). The roles, properly understood, are liberating and good for both parties.

There are plenty of books, and magazine and Internet articles with tips for how to have a happy marriage; but I believe if we get the foundations of a marriage wrong, then no matter how we build on the "I do," true happiness will be elusive. True happiness in marriage is not found in getting ones needs met, but rather in following the design of God, working through areas that do not align with that design, and centering individual lives and the marriage in Him.

I acknowledge that there are times when marriages bring suffering, and these marriages ~ whenever possible ~ need counseling and support in the family of God. But I question, sometimes, whether we completely understand what the picture of marriage looks like ~ the picture of Christ and His Bride.

The husband, like Christ, is to love to the extent of dying for his beloved. A man who is willing to die for his wife would find living for her easy (even if living with her gets difficult at times). There is a spirit of sacrifice and love. A magnet on my refrigerator says, "Women are made to be loved, not understood." It's funny, but not entirely the truth. Husbands are to live with their wives "with understanding" (1 Peter 3:7). They are to be considerate and respectful.

In the second part of the picture of marriage, the church is to submit to the leadership of Christ... to be a congregation of Christ-followers. This exemplifies the wife, following the leadership of her husband with purity, reverence, modesty, and a proper spirit (1 Peter 3:1-6).

These points are not new ... they are the traditional interpretation of Ephesians 5:22-33. But I think that men and women today, unschooled in the power of God's design, would find them new and even distasteful, perhaps. God's design runs counter to most of the culture's agenda. But it's still a design that works. God doesn't speak without purpose; He doesn't make mistakes.

I signed the True Woman Manifesto last year, because I believe in its truth statements about men, women, marriage, and so much more ~ as embodied in the True Woman movement. I encourage my readers to check it out.

We're likely to hear many strange and distorted stories about marriage in the days to come; but the pattern of God in the Word of God has never changed, in spite of the attempts of man (or woman) to re-write His book.


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