(This is something I wrote to read at my daughter's wedding back in May)
“And the two shall become one flesh.”
We often hear this quote from Genesis 2:24 in the Bible at weddings, in marriage counseling, in our readings about marriage. What exactly does this mean? Besides sexual union, what exactly does becoming one entail?
In our nearly thirty-eight year marriage, my husband and I have had the opportunity to live this out. It’s been wonderful and it’s been not so wonderful at times. Two people will never always agree on everything. Though it sounds nice, a relationship without challenges would probably be mighty boring, cookie cutter molded, and would certainly be unrealistic. Our creator knew that we needed to grow in our understanding of what intimacy is, grow in our comprehension of His great love and mercy, and gave us the institution of marriage as a means of discovery. Two people will have times where they dislike one another, keep secrets, feel unloved, misunderstood, or even just become tired of the relationship. They will also have many opportunities of giving and receiving grace, mercy, forgiveness, love. There will be many happy times, and there will be some times of sadness. There will be hard times where they have the opportunity to come through holding each other up. There will be times of close companionship, and times of loneliness. These are all normal cycles in a healthy marriage.
In becoming one, you not only learn about your spouse’s strengths, the things that drew you to them, but you also learn about their weaknesses. In discovering their strengths and weaknesses, you will also discover more about your own strengths and weaknesses. In the early years, I remember often being shocked at some of the things I learned about my husband, and I also remember feeling ashamed as my husband learned some of the realities of who I truly was. However, in a positive light, we have had so many opportunities to practice unconditional, accepting love. There have been the big life events, like having babies, moving to new duty stations, starting new jobs, buying homes and cars, having children start leaving the nest, becoming grandparents, that have given us ample opportunity to discover more about becoming one.
More often, it’s the little every day things that give us the most practice in oneness; things like choosing paint colors, picking up socks for the twenty thousandth time, endless laundry piles and dishes, getting up at 5 am every day to go to work when you’d rather sleep, taking kids back and forth to extracurricular activities, coming home to your stay at home wife who looks like she hasn’t showered in days because she’s been so busy caring for toddlers and a newborn and hasn’t really slept for months. This very natural ebb and flow of everyday life, like the tide coming in and going out again, are what truly test and shape the bonds of love.
I’d be lying, though, if I said we passed those tests with flying colors. More often than not, we struggled for our own way, our own opinions, our own understanding. In those early years, I think it’s fair to say that we were both pretty selfish, and most arguments were based on what we wanted, rather than considering what our spouse wanted or needed.
I can’t pinpoint an exact time when things changed. It was a slow process, the kind that happens over years… Little by little, the tests got easier. Little by little, we started overlooking one another’s faults, stopped trying to change each other, stopped getting angry about things that didn’t really matter, like the messy squished toothpaste tube versus the neatly rolled one. Little by little, when we saw one another’s struggles, we stopped taking them personally and started choosing to cover one another’s faults and love each other through them. Little by little, I found myself waking in the morning after a particularly difficult series of these “becoming one” struggles, and just staring at the man sleeping next to me. I wondered at how I could ever deserve to be so blessed. Little by little, that man lying next to me became my hero, the man who could do no wrong (in spite of the wrongs he did do), the man who I wanted so badly to please and to share my life with. I wondered what struggles he might be facing, and wondered how I could make them easier. Then it hit me, I truly loved this man even more than ever, more than I did on the day I said, “I do,” and I realized that I could not possibly live without him.
Becoming one teaches us to let go of control, to put another person first, to forgive, to embrace a person in spite of their faults. Becoming one is a lifelong journey of learning about grace and commitment. Becoming one is true love that never stops growing. The journey, while not always easy, is absolutely rewarding and so worth it!
The beautiful thing about this “becoming one” journey called marriage, is that the adventure of becoming one continues through our whole lives. As my husband and I grow older, we are still discovering new things about each other, still getting to know one another, and we are still growing and changing individually in ways we never thought possible. In truth, I think perhaps that our honeymoon is only now really just beginning!