This is a follow-up to the post Facing our greatest weakness, together (link).
When my wife and I were married following our year-long Seattle to Chicago courtship, one or the other of us had to relocate. Since she loved teaching more than I loved my career in aerospace, I resigned my position of 20+ years and moved. My hope of finding employment in the rural Midwest was naive at best and after a year of job hunting without so much as an interview, we began to clash, often. Tension was fueled by our old fashioned expectation that a husband should be the principle bread-winner, despite the fact there was no employment in ‘Cornville’ for a former aerospace employee. Consequently, we were forced to make a number of adjustments for the reality of where we chose to make our marriage home.
I could write an entire article on how the experience affected my sense of manhood, pride, accomplishment and self worth, going from a highly paid professional position with excellent benefits to earning a few hundred dollars here and there for performing odd jobs while my wife supported me. Yet God’s hand was apparent in our situation, as He taught us to trust and rely on Him and replaced our system of valuation with His own standard of worth. Still it was a rough go at times that ultimately saw us swap typical gender roles. Karen worked hard and long, as most teachers do and I took over the cooking, cleaning, shopping, etc., while continuing to remodel and landscape our house and yard. For two people so in love, brought together by God’s own hand, the clashing was painful and frightening, but completely necessary to teach us a valuable spiritual lesson in marriage.
Previously I’ve written about my life-long struggle with insecurity (link) which was never more apparent than when I recorded my first CD. Though I am a skilled musician, recording thrust me into an entirely new aspect of music production. Learning my way around a slew of new music gear while striving for that unattainable ‘perfect’ musical performance often frustrated me to the point of walking away from the project, sometimes for days. Every Friday my wife would ask what progress I made during the week and often I had to admit that I’d made none, because frustration and my insecurity got the best of me. We would clash, again and again, and then withdraw from one another; my wife to her office and I to my studio where I would lick my wounds while she dealt with her disappointment in me. Our behavior toward one another would be tentative for several hours, until finally one or the other of us would break the ice with an embrace and reassure the other with an “I love you.”
During a time of devotion and singing one Sunday morning, the Holy Spirit gave me a word of knowledge about a tormentor (Matthew 18:34) that was trying to drive a wedge between us by pointing out our failures to meet each other’s expectations.
And being angry, his lord delivered him up to the tormentors until he pay back all that debt to him. (Matthew 18:34 LITV)
As I shared the word with my wife, the Spirit impressed me that we needed to confess our failure to “cleave” to each other as husband and wife as scripture commands.
For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and they two shall be in one flesh. (Matthew 19:5 DRB)
The Spirit also prompted us to read Galatians 5:13-26 as a benchmark to examine our relationship. We were really convicted, and asked the Lord and each other for forgiveness.
For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another. But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. (Galatians 5:13-26 ESV)
The moment we confessed the sin of not cleaving and forgave each other, I saw the brief vision of an evil spirit standing near us – a tormentor. Suddenly the ground beneath it gave way whereupon it fell into the pit and disappeared. Since that time, we have not had a recurrence of such storms in our marriage relationship. In fact, the years since have been marked by the same wonderful peace we knew when we were first together. Whenever we do clash, we make it a point to cleave in the midst of it, which let me tell you, isn’t always easy.
Cleaving to defeat a common enemy
In our twenties, both my wife and I began to struggle with weight gain in response to thyroid disease and poor eating habits the most serious of which was using food for comfort and reward. By the time we met and married in our 40’s, we were both obese. For many years we maintained our wedding weight, but as we aged and slowed down with an eye toward retirement, we began taking our meals to opposite ends of the sofa where we ate in silence while doing our own thing. Rarely did we eat at the dining room table like we did at first, where prayer, conversation and laughter were as much a part of our meals as the food. In turning us from taking our meals in face to face fellowship, to taking them in solitude, the enemy had succeeded in dividing us in the battle for our health and we began to put on even more weight.
Cleaving isn’t just for surviving the occasional marital clash; husband and wife are intended to cleave to each other in all things, especially in battle with a common enemy. When in brokenness I asked the Lord to show me how to defeat our common weight problem, the Lord’s answer was to “share a single plate of food” between us. The benefits are many: it forces us to cleave together while eating, where we learn to share, take turns, sacrifice, slow down, and simply enjoy each other. There is another important lesson the Lord had for us in this battle: our bodies are not our own.
The wife does not have authority of her own body, but the husband; and likewise also the husband does not have authority of his own body, but the wife. (1 Corinthians 7:4 JUB)
In as much as we are joined in marriage where we cleave to one another and become “one flesh”, my wife has a vested interest in the health and welfare of my body, in the same way I have for her body. While the passage by Paul above concerns those crazy Corinthians who had taken to depriving each other of marital rights, the principle of spousal authority also applies to taking care of our bodies in such a way as to honor and respect our spouse’s interest. If I do that which harms my own body, does it not also adversely affect my wife who loves me and wants to take pleasure in my body? Where it comes to eating, there is a sense in which I am not so much feeding my own body, but my wife’s body, or at least the body over which she has authority and hopes to enjoy in marriage relationship.
In the same way, husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it—just as Messiah also does His community, because we are members of His body. (Ephesians 5:28-30 TLV)
Where the point of body authority was really driven home by the Lord, was His instruction for us to “trade plates and feed each other”. Wow! Did that open my eyes! With charge over what my wife was eating, did I not seek out the choicest cut of meat on the plate and feed it to her? Did I not cut off the fat and push it to the side of the plate to discard after our meal? Did I not make sure she took her time and chewed each bite thoroughly to enjoy it and help with her digestive issues?
The Spirit has also shown us how to share a meal at the restaurant, where the expectation is everyone seated orders a meal. We simply order a 2nd meal “to go” and ask for a second plate to share the first. We eat the “to go” meal at home for supper the next day. Not only does that effectively cut our restaurant bill in half, it means a single night out at the restaurant becomes 2 days of rest from cooking supper.
These simple instructions from the Lord have given us a new perspective of what it means to cleave to one another, even while eating and taking care of the other’s body over which we have authority. It is a far different approach to weight loss and health than any we’ve undertaken before and following the Lord’s instructions have us feeling spiritually and emotionally stronger than we have in years. Unlike deprivation diets such as low carbohydrate or calorie counting plans, we do not feel deprived at all. By taking our time to eat, where the focus is fellowship with the Lord and each other, we’re satisfied even while leaving food on the plate. It’s paying off at the weigh scale, too.
No longer are we cleaving to food or to our own selfish interests.
We are cleaving to each other and to the Lord, and we are overcoming our common enemy of 40 years.