This is part two of a three part series where Ed Sanderlin shares a letter to his daughter on marriage. Read part one here.
When one is redeemed, even then, the principle of sewing and reaping of sin and its consequences are still an abiding rule; however, the consequences are no longer there to reprimand us, but to remind us. They remind us from what we were saved and they generate in us a remarkable response of praise to God.
Remember, we are speaking in principle. So, let us proceed. One may say that this guy on whom I have my eye is a new Christian. God has forgiven him and he stands before God on the same ground that you stand. He was washed with the same blood of Christ that you were washed. He is just as endeared to God as you. How could you hold his past sins against him when God does not? But, this is not the issue of which I speak. This is another whole topic. It has nothing to do with whom you will seek partnership for the rest of your life in ministry. I am not speaking of the general love that we have for people or the fellowship we have with believers in the body.
I am speaking of joining yourself with someone forever – “until death do you part”. I am speaking of a relationship with someone who plows the same ground with you through all of life. When you consider a life partner, you consider him with a fine-toothed comb.
The fact that he may be a Christian is only the beginning criteria for discerning a mate for life. There are many Christians, but not all will be your husband.
What are some other discerning factors to “narrow the field?” There are both negative and positive considerations for “narrowing the field”.
FIRST, THE NEGATIVE CONSIDERATIONS:
Imagine a guy who is newly saved but has had sex with 1, 2, 3, 4, or more girls. Each one of these girls with whom he has had sex has had multiple partners themselves. How many times can he divide himself? God designed us to be intimate with ONE person all our lives. You cannot perform the most intimate physical act with someone and then go undamaged, even if he is subsequently saved. There are emotional and physical laws that have been broken. Sin has consequences (we hit that issue earlier). Yes, wounds heal, but scars remain and are for life – saved or not, these consequences matter now. One cannot sin with impunity. There are principles with sin – there are indelible rules: 1. There are always consequences, 2. The consequences usually fall on us later, and 3. They are always more than for what we bargained.
Do not be surprised if in the future you are confronted with one or more of these women with whom he has been sexually active. He may now be a Christian, but these women may not be.
Are you prepared to deal with the re-entrance of these women from his past into your marriage? They have an “axe to grind”. How will this affect your life – your ministry – the glory and greatness of God’s hand in your union with this man?
Hos 8:7 For they sow the wind, And they reap the whirlwind.
Additionally, we live in an age where if a guy has sex with a girl and she becomes pregnant, she simply has an abortion. Even though he may now be a Christian, “it will always be there”. It will be a complexity throughout life and he will always carry that horrendous event deep down in his heart. And, if he doesn’t regret his act, then his heart is sick and his future is dark. Are you willing to become one with a guy who placed a girl in this position? He executed an act that launched an eternal and devastating effect. The events were set into motion that will have reverberations for generations to come. What if the girl with whom he fathered a child did not have an abortion, as a woman who has married this man, one day you may have to come face to face with this woman and her child. He has a bond with another woman that will not go away.
Not only does this man face the threat of emotional scars and difficulties with past relationships, he may bring to your marriage a sexually contracted disease. You know that is very likely. It doesn’t matter how Christ-like one may become after salvation, if he has a disease, it cannot be washed away as were his sins. Ask your mom about someone we knew who couldn’t even wear her underwear when her sores were present. It was too painful. If you marry a guy who has an STD, you will get it, too.
Imagine a man who grew up in a godless family. When I say “godless”, I do not mean “ungodly”. A godless home just means a home where the true God is not present or circumferential at best. Little to no consideration is given to God in any conduct of life. But note – something always takes the place of God, even in a godless home. There is superstition, weird religious notions, humanism, half-breeds and “morphisms” of multiple religions, and man-made concoctions. We are “hard-wired” for religion. No one escapes the vacuum in the heart that God created for Him alone to fill. And now, imagine in all the glories of heaven, this man comes to Christ.
Praise God, but all those twisted fancies must be undone. Truth must be consumed and digested with the greatest intensity. He must now think in straight lines. When a mind escapes the tyranny of lies, it must unravel with time. The Holy Spirit must wash with the Word all that his family has imparted throughout his most susceptible years. The washing is like the washing of water against oil (Eph 5.26). Cutting through grease with water takes time. Jesus knew that the time for godly training is when an individual is a child. Great headwinds await an adult who comes to Christ.
Pr 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it.
And, not only are there godless homes as aforementioned, but there are ungodly homes. Need we go into that?
Imagine that there is a guy who comes to Christ from whether a godless or ungodly home; you are marrying that whole family, too. There WILL be contention and animosity. There will be war, maybe not at first, but it will come as sure as the day.
Your new husband will have to break ties. He must “leave” them and “cleave” to you. Such is a biblical mandate.
Lu 14:26 “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.
You will be the intruder to them and the fool who is sustaining this foolishness in their son. You will be minimalized. Yes, they are a mission field, but more a minefield. They may come to Christ, but most likely not. You don’t marry a man to witness to his family. You can do that without joining yourself to a league against God.
Imagine again, that there is a guy who comes to Christ from a godless home where his parents are divorced. You will face times in your marriage where it will be easier to separate than to work through your troubles.
What advice will his divorced parents give their son? Do they expect his marriage to last? Can he truly abandon his parents and disregard their example? It is possible, but it weighs against him. He will bring his experiences from his home into your new home.
He will watch and listen for signs to take place in his marriage that took place in his parents. He may expect the same infidelity or cruelty in you that he saw in his parents.
He will be more predisposed to divorce than he will be to pushing through. It is all he knows. He is a Christian but has no experience or history of a Christ-like home. (The stats today are that there are as many Christians divorcing as those in the world). Every day of working through issues with you will be brand new to him. He has never seen forgiveness in his home. He has never seen enduring love between his parents. Nothing of godly heritage was ever modeled for him to see. A Christian marriage is a new horizon for him and a Christian marriage is not the same as being a Christian alone. Marriage demands everything that you are and tests you to every breaking point. Getting married doesn’t fix anything. It is not a dream world. Few remain married today and even fewer have ever witnessed a marriage founded in Christ. In fact, a vibrant Christian marriage that has lasted for years may be as rare as a unicorn in the park.
Imagine that there is a man who is a new Christian, whose past is questionable and even a mystery, who carries with him the scars from a land of unknown iniquities, whose parents have provided a godless, broken home, in which he has dwelt most of his life. Imagine. Are you ready to enter into a life-long, forever bond with this man? Will this union glorify God to the fullest? Will you live and breath maximally for the glory of God in this union? Marriage is not about you – marriage is about God.
Now, I said I’d address the issue of carrying the burdens of the guy you fancy. I mentioned above that most of those problems would not come to light until the vows are exchanged and the pronouncement is made. You can nearly see it coming when you consider all of the “imagines” that I wrote about above. Read the following carefully.
The demonstration of God’s love to mankind is a demonstration of His sacrifice. This demonstration is His masculine trait. Don’t misunderstand; God is not male or female. He has portrayed Himself as masculine. This translates into our marriage relationship. But, prior to marriage, we sense an initial draw to protect and to provide. As husbands, masculinity is demonstrated in this love and sacrifice for their wives.
Eph 5.23,25-27 “For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body…Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her; that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she should be holy and blameless.”
There is just something in a man that draws him to a woman that “needs” him. It seems the more she hurts, the more he wants to protect and provide for her. He wants to fix it. It is the masculine trait in men. He can’t help but to want to “fill her gap”. It is built into a man to want to LOVE a woman. You know this LOVE. It is a God sized love – giving, sacrificial, enduring and life-spilling.
My question to you as a young woman entering into a union with a man who is mandated by God to love YOU, what history is built into this individual who is now supposed to be like Christ to you? Is his life free of circumstantial sins that he can now be fully obedient to this command from God on your behalf?
Can he wash you with the Word and present you spotless when his past life is bogged down with a sinful history that rolls over into his Christian life? He may have been forgiven the eternal judgment of his sins, but he carries into your marriage the battered effects of what he has done. God does not undo the consequences of our past as though all of life has been a “freebie”.
It is nearly inevitable that the wife will supplant the husband at his role. For one thing, there is an unpleasant aspect from the original fall in the Garden of Eden when God cursed Eve.
Genesis 3:16 says, “… Yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”
This “desire” means to “run over”, or to “rule over”. It is a curse. Without strong, godly leadership from the husband, the wife will struggle with insubordination. She will rule.
In addition to this curse of insubordination, the woman has an innate desire to nurture and to mother. Attention is unduly spent nurturing and carrying her husband than is naturally expected in a healthy marriage. She will face a conflict of sorts to nurture him from his battered past, yet fight from taking leadership from him due to his inadequate headship over her. What a complicated situation.
Imagine such an inverted relationship in the body of Christ where the church instead of Christ is the strength in the union. Imagine a perverse role where Christ was in need of believers and would fail were it not for the church to support their “Lord”. Since when does the body lead the head?
A word of dire warning, do not confuse this innate drawing of your feminine traits with the leading of the Holy Spirit to determine Gods mind in the matter of choosing a spouse. Emotions and nature have a near irresistible pull to unite with a man who carries the consequences of sin’s former tyranny. Your sense of nurture will inspire you to carry him. It need not be.
If God gives him to you to carry, then He will give you the capacity, but do not think of it as a badge of honor to weigh down your saddle with more than God intended. Remember how it is supposed to be.
As a godly wife, enwrap your life around him and unite into his ministry for God; BUT, how can you do this, when his life is fouled by multiple spinouts and start-overs. Your dreams for an exciting life in the Lords work will be gnarled in the downward spiraling effects of a man who needs to be tugged along life’s way.
Our culture has done a great disservice to us. The biblical model has the parents in great assist with the choice of the sons and daughters mate. It is an entire family process based on the history and knowledge of all the families known to each side. It is a combination of family units that have a fear of God and who can trace the history of each family back many generations. Such a process and familiarity of heritage leave few surprises after the alter.
(Part III we will address positive considerations for “narrowing the field”)