love and marriage
January 29, 2012
For a single guy with a divine background, Jesus sure had a lot to say about our most intimate relationships - and most of us need every bit of profound insight we can get. Don't miss this weekend in worship as we explore the vast potential of relationships done God's way.
I. The Original Design for Marriage
- Matthew 19:3-6
- consequence of sin ~ Matthew 19:8
II. Male and Female
- helper ~ Genesis 2:18
- a visible expression of God’s image ~ Genesis 1:27
- mutual respect and trust ~ Genesis 2:21-23
III. Spiritual Bonding and Union
- Matthew 19:5-6
- divorce is not God’s design
IV. Why Marry? ~ Matthew 19:10-12
- equally yoked
- 2 Corinthians 6:14
- What were/are your expectations about marriage that were/are probably too lofty?
- What did you learn about marriage both good and bad from your parents? Which of these have you actually put into practice even without realizing where it originated?
- How balanced is your relationship with your spouse? What do you think is throwing off that perfect balance on your part?
- Can you name a couple whose marriage truly has shown you the image of God? In what ways have you seen God through them?
- How has your marriage partner helped you in the areas of your life where you are the weakest in gifts, personality, parenting and passion?
- Describe the ways you are different from your spouse. In what ways are you really complimentary?
- Do you more often bring out the best or worst in your spouse? How can you be a real blessing this week? Be specific.
Carolyn and I have been married forty years this year. She is my best friend, my partner in ministry and life. Together, we live God’s dream for us, and our relationship has been my best journey.
The Book of Genesis is about relationships, and is divided into eleven sections. Each section begins with a genealogy—it is about family. For the next two weeks, Carolyn and I will talk about intimacy, marriage, love and divorce. As we focus on what the Bible says about this subject, listen as Carolyn shares her story.
From Carolyn Slaughter: To share the story of our relationship, we first need to look back over my life to determine how I ended up where I am.
I was raised in a steady, faith-based home and asked Jesus to come into my life when I was six-years-old. Our family was in church 2 to 3 times each week with my parents serving in almost every area of the church, from youth ministry to the church board. For my sister and I, church was home.
Committed to raising her two girls to follow and serve Jesus, my mother established a bedtime Bible-reading routine which lasted well into high school. Jesus was definitely in my life. I lived with a constant awareness of the need to obey both God’s word and my parents.
In my little girl mind, I made every effort to be the “good” little girl. My goal was to please God and other people—especially as I witnessed my parents’ reaction to my sister when she tested the waters.
This pattern of earning love and acceptance continued. On the outside, it looked as though my effort was succeeding, but on the inside, I was a mess. I hadn’t yet connected that following Jesus wasn’t about performance and effort, rather surrender—allowing Jesus to fully live his life through us. During my four years at Miami University, my spiritual growth was nominal—seeking nothing beyond Sunday attendance in worship. I had drifted away from living out my parents’ expectations, and by my senior year, I had dug myself into a hole—physically, emotionally and spiritually. I turned my unhappiness inward, trying to anesthetize myself through binge eating and relying on ego boosts from other people.
By Christmas of my senior year at Miami, I was totally worn out, frustrated and disillusioned—I had thrown in the towel, daring God to prove himself, or I was going to walk. Life was just too exhausting to continue on that same path.
I moved home to Cincinnati to student teach winter quarter, making an agreement with my mom to go to church for the annual Christmas concert. That night, I saw this guy across the room, and asked my mom who it was. In disbelief, my mother answered, “That’s Mike Slaughter.” The same Mike Slaughter that had been in my youth group all those years ago, but I didn’t even recognize him. Mike had experienced such a dynamic change in his life through this experience with Christ, that he physically looked different. As a result of that evening, Mike has become a part of my life in a most significant way.
Even though Mike admits he was scared to call me, we started dating and many of those dates were to a Bible study through Campus Crusade for Christ at the University of Cincinnati. I was introduced to the person of the Holy Spirit through those studies.
I wasn’t sure how I could have missed the Holy Spirit, since I grew up studying the Bible every evening with my mom. No one had taught me that the Holy Spirit is God’s provision for us to live a full, abundant and purposeful life. Meeting the Holy Spirit is when hope returned to my life.
How I truly wish I could tell you that Mike’s and my relationship was just wonderful from that point forward. We were two Christian kids who loved Jesus, and were committed to serving him whole heartedly—to the point of storming the gates of hell together in gasoline suits. Unfortunately, it’s just not that easy. We all know that we bring our own brokenness into our walk with Christ, and our journey is one of God’s healing.
We had the perfect storm brewing—each having vastly different temperaments, parenting experiences and individual life experiences. We should have been able to communicate, negotiate, compromise and ultimately accept one another. Unfortunately, following Jesus and having a vital marriage doesn’t just happen. It takes discipline and work. So naïve as we were, we assumed that because we loved Jesus so much, if we just waited long enough, it would all work out.
We had no premarital counseling, and that is why I’m so passionate about our premarital process ministry here at Ginghamsburg. Mike and I had no one to give us perspective on our relationship. We didn’t even realize we needed help—loving Jesus was enough. We were not mature enough to deal with each other in a healthy way. We hid behind our call to ministry and buried ourselves in our work for Jesus. We defaulted into the relationship patterns each of us had developed over the years.
Although this is my story of our relationship, I can tell you, we both shared a deep sense of disappointment. We had unmet expectations, even after we argued about them. My default position was to be passive, and assume the familiar role of the good girl not disturbing the waters, adapting and generally bucking up to go on. By not speaking out and dealing with my issues, I became dishonest with myself, inwardly distant, resentful, and increasingly angry.
With no authenticity at home, Michael gravitated to work—a natural place for him because the church is where he felt success and received affirmation, whereas I developed ministries, and we walked a parallel path—separately.
Even though I have a Master’s degree in marriage and family relationships, for twenty years, I grieved my marriage, not knowing what a marriage could be—that’s called being able to translate to yourself. I saw healthy relationships in our friends’ marriages, but I didn’t know how to get there.
Add to the disillusionment and frustration two little kids to parent and a terminally ill father, and there was one explosive situation. Although I was crying out to God daily to get me out of this situation, I also sought comfort in food. In fact, a friend and I used to gauge how hard a day was by the number of Hostess Ho Ho’s we would consume. We would call each other and compare, “Today was a six Ho Ho day, but we’ll get through it.”
In the fall of 1991, we came to a crossroad, reaching a point that could not be denied—the pain was so deep—I began looking at my options of whether to stay in the marriage or not. God is vocal about divorce, so I had to work through the meaning of God’s Word for me.
As Jesus talks about hard-heartedness, I had to discern whether our hearts were so hard toward one another that we could not allow God to do anything for us, or if there was even a glimmer of hope.
In my daily devotional time, I asked God, “Since you brought Jesus out of the grave, can’t you resurrect our marriage?”
Finally, in January of 1992, I told Michael I could no longer live this lie—I drew a line in the sand for us to come to a decision about our future by June 1, 1992—a looming day of infamy for us.
I had six months to figure out a plan should we choose to end our marriage—how to support the kids and myself. I also had six months to do some serious inner work and evaluation. Michael and I had so much invested in our children and this church. So many people relied on us to be who we said we were—and most of those people had no idea what was going on in our personal life, neither did our families—only our cell group had an inkling of the depths of our trouble . Our cell group stood behind us, beside us and around us with unbelievable strength. It came as quite a shock to our church family when we came out and shared our story through a video in worship on Easter.
At the very last moments of that June 1st day, we made the hard decision to stay together and to invest in one another and our relationship in new and deeper ways.
On the morning of June 2nd, although nothing felt different, we resigned ourselves to act on our decision to seek healing and a fresh start. We could no longer rely on our own feelings or rather, lack of feelings for one another. We didn’t like each other very much, but we stepped out in faith, believing in partnership with God, he could renew us.
We intentionally set aside time to listen to each other, identifying the broken parts of our relationship, and asking God for healing. Long hours and late nights together brought us to a place where we could finally be real with one another. We went to counseling, choosing to be honest and vulnerable, responding to each other in healthy ways.
We committed to valuing and prioritizing each other—above the church and our ministries. We started looking at the verse about denying yourself a little differently—it doesn’t mean you have to let your marriage die.
I was learning that with Michael, I was in a safe space to be myself. It took longer for me to admit my part in our problems. I could only do so after I confessed to God my own self-righteousness—the result of a lifetime of being the good little girl. I got to the point where I could say, “God, you’ve got to just do something with me because I’m so prideful.” That’s when the healing began.
This is hard work, and it continues to be hard work. This is the most difficult work I know, but it is all worthwhile. I have to work God’s Word into my life every single day, and that means I have to be in his Word every single day. I pray for the Spirit to fill me, empower me and transform me every day, so I can be the healthy wife Michael needs.
Journaling is my lifeline. By reflecting on the previous day every morning, and reviewing my monthly journal, I can identify growth areas and additional areas to work on with God.
My daily regimen now includes strenuous exercise as a stress reliever, as needed counseling and reassessing priorities and boundaries. I never, ever underestimate the need for authentic community to hold me accountable while loving and encouraging me.
We have adopted the weekly practice of sharing a complete day together, finding time to do fun things as a couple. We work like crazy and then we go on retreat together about every other month. Some of our deepest bonding is based in sharing our kids, Kristen & Brendan, Jonathan & Stacy, and our precious granddaughters, Elly, Addison, and Anna.
It’s not easy, but it’s 100% better. We continually meet new challenges requiring communication, negotiation and acceptance. It’s about embracing marriage as the hard work God has given us to refine us and recreate us in Christ’s image. God uses both of us in the life of the other as a transformation tool.
I’m so grateful I chose the narrow road twenty years ago. We are further along on the road of personal growth and ministry than I could have dreamed. I am continually proud of and inspired by our children and their spouses, who may have ended up in a totally different place had we divorced. I truly see myself as a blessed woman, eternally grateful for this man with whom God has matched me.
From Pastor Mike Slaughter: In the next few weeks, as we look at God’s design and intention for families, there will be a lot of pain. We know that divorce is not God’s design, yet many of us in this room have been or gone through divorces. We’re going to see that our God is a God of grace and mercy, and we’ll see the underlying importance of true repentance. True repentance is very different from simply saying you’re sorry. He gives us healing and hope, and we are a demonstration of Jesus’ resurrecting power.
Some of you may feel hopeless, that’s where we were. Carolyn shared that we were at a point where we didn’t even like each other—there were no feelings of love left. Relationships are based on commitment and it is out of that commitment that the miracle of love occurs.
For those of you in this room who are single, guess what? Eventually, you will come to a place in your life where you will be faced with the decision of whether or not to make a lifetime commitment. It’s important to understand the investment required before you make the commitment to get married. The Bible teaches us not to make this commitment too quickly.
In Genesis, we learn about relationships, and Jesus has the best commentary on this book. Let’s open our Bibles to Mathew 19, and consider Jesus’ examination of the book of Genesis and God’s design for marriage. For the next two weeks, we will focus on allowing Jesus to do the work he needs to do in our relationships.
In the third verse the Bible states, “Some Pharisees …” (which means very religious people), “…came to Jesus to test him. They asked is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?” Now the Pharisees were just stating a fact, “Hey, we’re very religious people, but divorce is a reality amongst very religious people.” The Pharisees were referring to Deuteronomy 24:1. “If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce…then he is able to send her away with a certificate of divorce.” Many times, we are guilty of taking a verse from the Bible and using it to justify any kind of behavior—that’s called proof-texting.
Jesus doesn’t stop at Deuteronomy. He goes all the way past Deuteronomy to Genesis, stating God’s original intent for marriage. In Matthew 19:8, Jesus states, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard but it was not this way from the beginning.”
The Bible is descriptive. It reveals the consequence—the brokenness of sin. We must all deal with the brokenness or consequences of sin, but it is only a description, not a prescription for God’s purpose for our lives. What Jesus shares is powerful; he doesn’t leave us in the brokenness of divorce. Jesus doesn’t simply deal with the Pharisees question, he goes back to remind them that he’s not here to leave us in broken places, but to restore and redeem. Do you understand Jesus’ purpose—to restore what has been broken? He will bring back, tie and retie together what has been lost.
When Jesus says in Matthew 19:4, “Haven’t you read…,” he’s quoting right out of Genesis, “…that at the beginning, God made them male and female…”
Have you ever heard the expression, “Opposites attract?” There’s a good reason for that saying—it is God’s design for us. He created counter-balance. A lot of what frustrates us in marriage is the other person’s counter to what we need in our lives, creating the tension for God to make us holy. Right? We are only Holy (whole) in the image of Christ.
What we see in marriage between males and females, is that as males, we don’t try to be females, and as females, we don’t try to be males. God made us unique and different. There is to be a creative, collaborative counterbalance to one another making us the people God wants us to be.
For Carolyn and me, God’s design for our marriage is not to make me happy; rather, it is to make me holy. Isn’t that amazing? Why would we resist that? Why do we fight it when we understand that he made us male and female?
In Genesis 2:18 we’re told that it’s not good for man to be alone, so God created a helper. When I really looked at the Hebrew meaning of the word, helper, what it does not mean is subservient—that she’s in my life to do my laundry and cook my food. Listen up men, this is going to get you because it got me...it means, “A stronger one coming along to help the weaker one.”
Are you getting this? It literally means the stronger helping the weaker. Now, go back men and think about this for a minute. Go back to elementary school. Do girls do better than boys in elementary school? If you were really struggling with a problem, you didn’t go to your guy friend for help; you went to your girl friend for help. I always wondered why, for the most part, girls’ handwriting was so much neater than guys. You noticed?
There was a great article in the December/January issue of Fast Company, a business magazine, entitled, “Born to Rule.” The article addressed the problem of the world seeking out and valuing men over women—similar to the One-Child rule in China, resulting in female babies being aborted in favor of male babies. The article revealed how this thinking upsets the counter-balance which allows success in business. Listen to this guys, the article says women are more likely to have a balanced, empathetic leadership style, better communication skills and a knack for fostering innovation through collaboration. Isn’t that amazing?
God has created a balance so there are 105 boys born for every 100 girls. It balances out because men die sooner because we do stupid stuff.
As we examine this plan trying to embrace it, we should ask certain questions. “What are the strengths? What are the differences? What do you bring to the relationship and what do I bring to the relationship?”
From Carolyn: Mike and I are vastly different. If any of you are familiar with Ministry by Strengths, my number one life strength is empathy. Empathy is ranked number 39 on Mike’s life strengths.
From Mike: I’m a bad marriage counselor. #### it up and get over it! (laughter)
From Carolyn: God puts two people together in a relationship, so we can help each other. Mike is really into the warrior, provider, kick-butt, kind of thing.
From Mike: You never have to worry about food, future or provision.
From Carolyn: No. And I don’t have to worry about you kicking our kids’ butts if needed.
From Mike: Yes. That was my job. (laughter) Our kids are 33 and 30, and our son-in-law is 35 and our daughter-in-law is 27. I was called to give leadership direction especially to our son and son-in-law. As men, we were created to be hunters, warriors, protectors and providers. Our families should never have to fear for their well-being. That includes providing a path for our children to be successful in the world.
From Carolyn: Without creating gender stereotypes, and considering differences among individuals, we must recognize the differences between men and women. Understanding that with our wiring, he tends to be the hunter/provider, and I tend to be the nurturer. Our children come to each of us for different things—to him for leadership things, and me for sympathy. So, that’s the way we’ve worked it out, but we don’t want to make it sound like every situation is similar to ours either.
From Mike: This is kind of interesting, while I was on a ten-day road trip, my son didn’t call me the whole time. He did however, call Carolyn.
From Carolyn: He called to share a piece of his day. He’s doing vascular surgery right now, and he called to tell me about a procedure he got to do.
From Mike: When I returned from the trip, he called to tell me about a meeting with his financial counselor. He shared about future investments and insurance. He was calling me for wisdom as a hunter/provider for his family. So together, Carolyn and I create healthy children.
From Carolyn: This is true of any couple.
From Mike: Now let’s talk about the adventure part.
From Carolyn: From my testimony, you can understand that one of my huge life themes is fear. Without Mike, I wouldn’t have done half of what I’ve experienced in our married life. He’s always pushing the envelope and taking me with him. Even though I’m uncomfortable a lot, I have had much enjoyment.
From Mike: Our household would be chaos without Carolyn.
This morning I read Proverbs 31, The Wife of Noble Character. “She is worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good not harm all the days of her life. She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands. She’s like a merchant ship bringing her food from afar. She gets up while it’s still night. She provides food for her family and portions for her women servants. She considers a field and buys it.”
As I consider Proverbs 31, I realize women’s brains are wired different from men’s. It’s as if women have numerous conduits going every which way allowing them to do a hundred things at once, whereas we men have just four conduits in our brains.
My life would be chaos if it weren’t for this woman. Carolyn seems to be able to do so many more things than I because I have more of a laser focus, and she has this amazing multi-tasking ability.
Men, can some of you relate to this kind of experience?
Helper does not mean someone that is subservient, rather someone who is stronger—not in physical strength, but as someone who helps us to be stronger than we would be alone.
As we recall Jesus teaching the Pharisees, in Genesis 1:27, it says, “So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them. Male and Female he created them.”
Together, this is what marriage is supposed to be. Together, we are a visible expression of God’s love. Without Carolyn, I’m only half a picture of God’s love. She brings the other half of the picture and together we represent a visible expression of his love.
Now, I’ve done a lot of “stuff” in my life. So it’s hard for me to understand Grace or mercy. Mercy is not getting what I deserve. So Carolyn becomes the visible expression or experience for me of what the Bible calls “God’s steadfast love that endures forever.” Carolyn knows my “stuff.”
To Carolyn: See, aren’t you glad I said “stuff” and not the other thing? (laughter)
From Mike: So as she loves me, she becomes an expression of God’s love for me, and it’s the same with me for her. She is fearfully and wonderfully made, and I’m the only person in the world that sees her as God made her. I can tell her that she is uniquely made and just beautiful—she’s 62-years-old and hotter than any woman.
In marriage, we can see how we are supposed to be a creative counter balance in each other’s lives. Wives were never intended to make us happy, rather to make us holy. Together, we are the demonstration of God’s visible love. How do I know God’s grace?—through Carolyn. How does she know that she is fearfully and wonderfully made and created?—through me.
So this is a relationship. Marriage is this relationship that’s based on a deep, mutual respect and trust.
Going back to the Pharisees’ question about divorce, Jesus explains he’s not about divorce. He’s about bringing marriage back together.
When God created Eve, he created her from Adam’s side—not from his feet beneath him, not from his head above him. Man was created from dirt, but woman was created from living marrow.
Men, we must understand that women are our equal, not subservient to us. In Genesis 3:16 when God said, “To the woman, man will rule over you.” It was the consequence of sin, not God’s created purpose.
So, how I treat Carolyn is really an expression of my own self-worth. That’s what Adam meant when he said, “This is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.” When we’re in abusive relationships, it’s really a reflection of our own esteem. People who abuse are people who have been abused.
Realizing that woman is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh, my treatment of her is an expression or reflection of me.
That’s as far as we’re going to go this week. Next week we will get into divorce. I’m going to tell you there is a time to kick his or her butt to the curb. We’re going to look at that.
We’re also going to see God as a God of restoration. We’ll look deeper into what marriage is. It’s more than a social contract.
Next week, couples are invited to come forward to reaffirm your relationships with Carolyn and I. We’ll also have opportunities to pray for single people.
Carolyn, will you close us in prayer?
From Carolyn: Father, we give you thanks that you have put this plan together. What a wonderful blessing, Lord, that you have given us each other. I pray right now, Lord, for the people here who are feeling pain in their relationships. That they would turn to you first and foremost. That they would get honest. And that they would listen to what you have to say and then apply it.
Father, I pray your blessing on all of our relationships. I pray that you would be Lord of all and that we would be willing to surrender ourselves and not try and do this on our own. Thank you, Lord and I ask that this be a great week for everyone.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.
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