This week is my and Nathan’s 8th anniversary! That may not sound like much to you lifers, but to us, it’s a celebration of God’s faithfulness. We met late in life and, after a whirlwind courtship, got married before we figured out how bull-headed we both are. For a while, our marriage felt more like the Clash of the Titans than Romeo and Juliet, but we are starting to get the hang of it. In fact, we are more joined at the hip now than when we first met. We tell folks we are in the process of cleaving.
The Bible says, “For this reason shall a man leave his father and his mother and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” If you haven’t figured it out, in this verse, cleave means “to unite.” I’ve always thought cleave was a funny word. It reminds me of the word cleaver, as in meat cleaver, which makes the cleaving process sound decidedly unpleasant.
Ironically, my idea that the word cleaves sounded like a cleaver ended up having more truth than expected. I have discovered that to properly cleave, you need to have parts of yourself removed. I must allow God to remove my pride, temper, selfishness, and my tendency to think my way is the right way. But there are a lot of areas that need cut away in all of us. That’s why, as unpleasant as that cutting away can be, it’s good for us.
One of the things I like about marriage is that my annoying internal junk has nowhere to hide. Before being married, I thought I was Suzy Super-Christian; patient, meek, and selfless. Ha! Those erroneous beliefs came crashing down quickly after I said, “I do.” I discovered that I can be prideful, defensive, passive-aggressive, selfish, and impatient. When seriously provoked, I can also lose my crap and cuss like a sailor.
I was completely unaware I still had all that self-stuff lurking about inside me when single. Since marriage, I can’t delude myself any longer. If I want a proper union with my spouse, I must allow God to remove those parts of me. Thus far, it’s been an 8-year process, and I still have a long way to go. But God is using it to make me look more like Jesus, and as I become more lovable, I also become more “cleavable.”
Every day I talk to people who are weary in their marriage. They are tired of the fighting and the hurt. Many of them tell me they believe God wants them to be happy, so they should probably divorce. I’m sympathetic because marriage can be brutally tough, but I question if the marriage should go or if they need to adjust their thinking. As the Bible says, “There’s a way that seems right to a man, but in the end, it leads to destruction.” I think divorce is a perfect summation of that verse.
If you are in that boat, I pray you get with God and allow Him to show you things about yourself that may need to be cut away. And trust the Lord to work a miracle in your marriage. It probably won’t happen overnight, but things will change if you allow Him to get to all your hidden self-stuff. God wants us to be happy, but happiness apart from Him and His ways isn’t happiness; it’s selfish, hedonistic hell. For me and my household, we will continue the process of allowing God to unite us into one flesh. We are the cleaving McCloskeys!