Seven days after our first date, I was convinced Cynthia was "the girl of
my dreams," so I asked her to marry me. Though only 16 and still in the
eleventh grade, Cynthia said yes. A little over 18 months later, on June
18, 1955, we said "I do." At just 18 and barely 20, we began our journey
together that is now in its seventh decade.
Looking back, Cynthia and I often sigh and sometimes smile. Contrary to
popular opinion, we've not been sheltered from life's harsh winds. To make
matters even more challenging, neither of us has been all that easy to live
with. Our marriage garden has spanned the extremes—from surviving to
thriving. But we've made it for two reasons: God's unfaltering grace and
our uncompromising commitment.
Keeping a marriage together is hard work. Making it thrive is even harder.
Thankfully, God has filled His Word with principles that breathe life into
our unions. Cynthia and I have taken the time to find those principles, and
we've applied them as often as possible.
Let's look at a few in Genesis 2:24-25:
This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his
wife, and the two are united into one. Now the man and his wife were both
naked, but they felt no shame.
Those two short verses contain four essential principles that hold a
marriage together. Every healthy marriage I've observed has all four, and
every struggling couple I've worked with has had at least one missing or
distorted. For simplicity's sake, I've boiled each principle down to one
This principle comes from the phrase, "a man leaves his father and mother"
(2:24). Severance means man and woman switch their primary allegiance from
their parents to each other. That doesn't mean the couple can't or
shouldn't accept help from their parents. And it certainly doesn't mean
parents are to be ignored or disrespected!
means that the new husband and wife no longer look to Mom and Dad to have
their needs met. They look to one another. They put each other first.
Unless both deliberately "leave" their old families, their marriage can't
. The Hebrew word for joined in verse 24 makes me think of
woodworking glue. Such glue fuses two pieces of wood together so
permanently that, when stressed, the wood splinters and snaps before
breaking the bond. Ruth used the same word when pledging her devotion to
describes absolute devotion and loyalty, uncompromising affection and love.
I'm not talking about codependency. I'm talking about two healthy,
emotionally strong people who choose to stick together no matter what.
Jesus took it a step further than Moses: "Let no one split apart what God
has joined together" (Mark 10:9).
What if you're beyond your first marriage? You might be thinking,
Chuck, I've already gone through one marriage (maybe several), and it
didn't work out. These words are too late for me!
To you, I say, "Stop. Wait. We're talking about now and where you
go from here. Not the past. Apply this to the marriage you have now. Determine that this marriage is permanent. God has joined
you; let no one and let nothing separate you."
. The word Moses used in verse 24 for "one" indicates a complex unity. Not
a melting of two personalities to form one, but two individuals living and
working in concert with common values and shared goals—partners. Unity is diversity brought into harmony. When this verse is
misapplied, one spouse controls the other. The controlling one doesn't give
the other room to be himself or herself.
This is something that almost ruined our marriage! I spent the first 10
years with Cynthia expecting her to be the female Chuck. Finally, she
called me on it, and we spent the next four years doing some of the hardest
work we have ever done. The result? I discovered a woman within Cynthia
whom I had never known, one who inspired respect in me and moved me to find
new ways to affirm and honor her. Oh, what I had been missing! Once I
learned to do that, we could truly be partners.
. When the marriage garden is in full bloom, husband and wife enjoy an
exclusive, privileged knowledge of each other. Ultimately, intimacy is the
grand prize—the reward—for all the effort we invest in marriage. The man
and woman in Genesis were naked and were not ashamed. Neither thought of
covering anything because they had no self-consciousness, no shame, no fear
of ridicule, no hang-ups, no embarrassment, no emotional hurts from former
abuse or poor choices.
Think of it! Each was entirely focused on the delight and pleasure of the
other. They enjoyed a free-flowing intimacy uninhibited by self-interest.
The sexual union must have been more pleasant and fulfilling than anything
we can imagine.
Now, let me warn you that Satan is well aware of the necessity of these
biblical principles. He will do everything to strip your marriage of them.
Inside this newsletter, we discuss one deadly poison that is killing
countless Christian marriages today: pornography. We're tackling
this issue because we believe there is healing and hope. Please read
thoughtfully, and, if necessary, reach out for help. Take measures to
safeguard you and your family, and take time to look carefully for other
ways the Enemy may be dividing you and your forever valentine.
God is the master gardener who intends all marriages to thrive. But we must be willing to dig out the weeds. Do the work. Cynthia and
I want for you what God has given us by His grace through our commitment—a
thriving marriage garden.