One Flesh

Marriage Day
Marriage Day (Photo credit: Fikra)

I have been thinking about ‘the great mystery’… the idea that we become one flesh when we are married.

There was a time I thought that this meant we would be, in some way, stacked up and added together.  If I was able to life 200 pounds, and she could life 200 pounds, then together we would lift 400 pounds.  Similarly, if my IQ were 100, and her IQ were 100, then when we married it would be suddenly 200.

Of course, I knew that this wasn’t true.  And yet, I thought that this is what the metaphor meant.  I thought that the image was wrong.

There was no good outcome for this marriage thing.  I was nearly certain that the thing they claimed was just a lie.  But the possibility, that tiny little chance, that in some way it was right, this terrified me.

I was so afraid of losing myself as everything that I am was averaged out with everything that my wife is.  It was a cold comfort that our strengths are not evenly divided in all areas.  The idea that perhaps she would compensate for one of my weaknesses in a certain area, and that I would compensate for one of hers in a different area, this didn’t help.

The Marriage at Cana
The Marriage at Cana (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Like most expectations of sudden and effortless transformation, this thought turned out to be just wrong.  It’s not how it works at all.

But this is not to say that we do not become one flesh.

Couple married in a shinto ceremony in Takayam...
Couple married in a shinto ceremony in Takayama, Gifu prefecture (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The process is not instaneous.  Nor is it unconscious.  But most of all, it is not characterized by this sense of adding the two participants together.

Subtraction best characterizes the whole thing.

I have been married for about 15 years now.  I am sure some day I will look at this time and laugh at my niavetee.  But for now, this is the best I can do…

The thing about two people coming together is that there is all this redundancy.  If we were to physically wed two bodies, form them into some sort of post-birth siamese twins, then lots of decisions would have to get made.  Whose liver would be the one to clean the blood?  Whose heart would circulate the blood through both bodies?

To leave everything active and independent would be to miss the whole point of making these two bodies one body.  They would simply be sewn together.  If they are to truly become one flesh, then some of the best of the organs of each would have to step up and take control for the whole new system.

If two unmarried people were a vessels full of water, then in the marriage, their is another empty vessel waiting.  The thing is, this vessel does not hold any more than the individuals.  The whole of both of the people can not be poured in.  Half of each must come in.  The question might seem to be: which half?

A just married couple still in their wedding t...
A just married couple still in their wedding ta ovala (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I hope I’m not stretching that metaphor to far when I say that we get to decide, over the years, as we slowly come together to be one flesh.  We stand with our own old vessel.  And we pour that which we wish to become into the new vessel.  It’s a process that takes years.

And we might try to pour all of ourself into the new vessel.  We might leave hardly any room for our spouse at all.  The new thing that we might become would in fact, hardly be different than the person we were.

And I can only imagine my spouse.  She is looking at the new vessell.  It’s full, now.  And her old vessel, it’s almost full, too.  She has left behind so very much of herself.

This is the thing I’m trying to get at: marriage is this Christ-like choice of leaving so much of ourselves behind.  Accepting the new vessel which incorporates us both, trusting the other that they have brought along as much of their old self as they needed, trusting that they have left enough room in the relationship for us, too, to bring along at least something of ourselves.

We will someday lose our spouses.  All of us.  One member of every marriage will die first.  Perhaps the times of our deaths will be seperated by fractions of a second.  Perhaps it will be seperated by decades.

Español: Intercambio de anillos entre los novios
Español: Intercambio de anillos entre los novios (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In that time, we lose something of ourselves.  If it has been a long marriage, and a good one, I suspect it is mostly hard to tell what the husband brought to the vesell original, and it is hard to tell what the wife brought to the vesell originally.

I suspect we can and should keep something of our own individuality as the years go by.  But I don’t think we need to spend much energy ensuring this.  I think our human fears and selfishness will hold back more than we probably should.  I suspect at the end of my life, I will look at what is left, and I will think “I wish I had released this, and this, and this; I wish I had let go of that, and that, and that; I wish I had accepted this much more of her into me, and did not guard myself off from it.”

When we lose our spouse we will much of their remaining uniqueness.  And we will lose some of the mixed together parts of us, some of what we became through the surrender, through the subtraction, through the willingness to became something new not dicatated by who we were.

English: it's sundanese party of married
English: it’s sundanese party of married (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s a pretty terrible thing to comprehend.  I know that we get to keep some of the person who was.  I know that we will see them again.  But none of this alters the fact that we become one flesh, and then we are two again, at least in some way.

There is some hope in the idea that this process is a sanctification, a preperation.  This joining, the first letting go when we get married, and then the second letting go at a spouse’s death, these things purify us, they prepare us, they make us truer and refine us toward the people we are meant to be.

And yet still, it sucks.

Mariage du Duc de Bourgogne, Louis de France (...
Mariage du Duc de Bourgogne, Louis de France (1682-1712). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)



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The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

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