Men and women are like puzzle pieces. “They are like two pieces of a puzzle that fit together because they are not exactly alike nor randomly different, but they are differentiated such that together they can create a complete whole” (Kathy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage).
In the beginning, husbands and wives lived together in perfect harmony. There was no shame, no guilt. They worked the garden together and enjoyed their differences. Then after sin entered the world, blame shifting, finger pointing, accusing, and wanting to win and be right took center stage and conflict was born. Sin ruins relationships between husbands and wives. Sin makes things painful. Genesis 3:7 says, “Their eyes were opened and they knew they were naked.” In their shame they sewed fig leaves together and covered themselves.
That is where we live today. Our hearts and minds are sullied with sin and so it is really hard to let our spouses know the real “me.” We continue to hide behind fig leaves, which of course doesn’t really work in making marriages better. The thing most needed is to seek forgiveness and to grant it.
Struggle was born after sin and the curse that follows where women were told that we would desire to control their husbands (Genesis 3:16). I have counseled long enough and know my own heart to know the desire to control is still very much alive. We can live it out in many different ways, but the heart beneath it all is still the same. This causes much struggle in any marriage. We were created to be helpers and after the curse we demand to be in control instead. This curse was placed on us by God. And yet they brought on the curse. By eating of the tree they were told death would follow, separation and hardship would be part of their existence. Men on the other hand often will push back and so cause great conflict in the home or they will pull back and retreat.
The curse God put on man was even greater. The work they would do will be wearisome, life sapping, tiring, and consuming. And because of that curse he has little energy to give to his wife and family. Women often feel neglected because of either his work or his after-hour enjoyments.
“God’s curse on the man draws him unwholesomely away from the woman, even as God’s curse on the woman draws her unwholesomely toward the man. This is why most marital counseling sessions are some variation on this theme. Wife: ‘You don’t pay any attention to me.’ Husband: ‘You are too demanding and nag too much.’ God has cursed the marriage relationship with a poisonous desire for control by the woman and a self-absorbed focus outside the relationship by the man” (Richard D. Phillips, The Masculine Mandate: God’s Calling to Men).
Who Do I Value?
Why would God place these curses on us? It seems almost cruel to do that to anyone. However, God always had redemption in mind! He longs for us to want Him above all so when Adam ate the fruit given by his wife he was saying, “I value what the Gift (Eve) gives to me rather than what the Giver (God) has given to me.”
In essence what God was saying still stands today. God calls for submission to Him; He wants us to find our joy alone first in Him. He wants to capture our hearts (Ezekiel 14); He wants undivided hearts fixed on Him and then our marriages will and can become what He set out for them to be from the beginning.
So then, we can conclude that our struggles in our marriages are intended by a loving heavenly Father to drive us in humility to Him.
Last week Jamie and I celebrated our 30th anniversary. I mentioned in my blog that we didn’t get here unscathed or without struggle and hardship. Those hardships were there because I wanted control, and he got busy and preoccupied without me. For both of us, God had lost center stage.
Our hearts were busy with other things and yet God in His mercy brought us to a place of repentance where we sought forgiveness from God and one another (this isn’t a one time thing).
But that desire is still alive in me and regularly I need to put it to death. So occasionally I will ask Jamie how I am doing in the control department. Anniversaries are a good opportunity to do that, but I would suggest more often than that.
The Curse is Broken
I love Genesis 3:21. God had said that with sin there would be death in the garden and there was. God provided the first substitute to pay for the sin that Adam and Eve committed, and from the innocent animal substitutes God clothed and covered them. What a beautiful foreshadowing of the atoning work that we have received from Jesus, our innocent Lamb.
The curse is now broken through the blood and we are able to receive the blessing of God, to have marriages that honor Him, put Him first, and help us humbly and graciously love one another. We can be kind and patient with one another, “bearing with one another… forgiving one another” (Colossians 3:13). Blessing comes when we live in obedience to God, the Giver.
Women we have a wonderful privilege of helping our husbands and we can do that in a thousand different ways, but it for certain includes enjoying fellowship and relational fulfillment with the companion that God has given to us.
Men you were created to bear the image of Christ to your wife, to cherish her as Christ cherishes the church. God desires you to love your wife even though you don’t understand her or “get” her emotional moments. Love is costly and requires sacrifice, but is to God very valuable because He designed it this way.
Yes God made us very different so we could learn to give and serve and love the way that He does with us. Marriage is a great school to learn how to develop those attributes.
“As the chief end of a man’s life is to glorify God and enjoy knowing Him forever, the chief end of marriage is that a man and a woman should know and glorify God together through their lives, and most particularly through their godly love for one another” (Richard D. Phillips, The Masculine Mandate).
We are puzzle pieces who can fit together perfectly (we are similar) and at the same time realize we are very different.
Because I am forgiven by God I can forgive my spouse.
Because God has richly blessed me I can bless my spouse.
Because God has shown me much grace again and again I can extend grace to my spouse.
Because God loves me even and especially when I mess up (sin or just inconvenience) I can love my spouse.
As you and I grow in our relationship with the Lord our marriages will also grow and as they grow our love for one another will be strengthened. I love God’s way! Focus on Him and I end up becoming more of who I want to be in Him!
Join the Conversation
In your marriage counseling ministry, how do you help couples to love each other with Christlike love?
In your marriage, how do fit the puzzle pieces of your relationship together in Christ?