Friendship first We weren’t in love at first: no love at first sight, there were no sparks, no romantic background music, we weren’t even attracted to each other in THAT way – at first. We were working together; planning the worship for 220 island-bound kids; praying and thinking together. It took a while (like months) for it to sink in that anything “special” was going on here – and even then we moved with caution. Now, 39 years later, we would say that friendship (or companionship) was an important and enduring aspect of our relationship – it brings security into our marriage, in which each feels safe with and for the other.
Not meant to be alone For the next four weeks we’re going to look at what’s distinctive and special about Christian marriage; and we’re basing our teaching on God’s plan inherent in creating human beings. For now we’re going to look at God’s plan for the basic form of human community in the God-given coming together of man and woman in Divinely called companionship. In his excellent commentary on Genesis, Walter Brueggemann, writes that God, having created a brilliant world of many delightful and varied creatures, pinnacled with surprising, image-bearing, Adam (the Hebrew word for human), he then sets out to create the perfect partner for Adam. It can’t be God, because it must be part of Creation as Adam is, and the story reinforces that it can’t be any of the other creatures because only Adam has the unique responsive relationship with God that is requisite. So God makes something completely new, something stunning which couldn’t have been predicted from the story thus far; this a free work of God, a surprise – a joyous surprise for Adam. As he addresses this new wonder, in an already wonderful world, Adam affirms that this is who he was made to be with, his natural fit; bone of my bones, flesh of my flesh, this one shall be called Woman (ishah), for out of Man (ish) this one was taken. God had placed three things before Adam; a vocation, to till and keep [the garden], an incredible freedom, where everything is possible; and finally a prohibition, requiring a relationship of trust and obedience. For this he needed a helper of his own kind as his perfect partner and friend throughout the adventure that was to unfold; a being of equal wonder, as loved by the same Creator that fashioned the ish to her ishah. In this new reality of male and female the image of God is finally fully revealed as the poet-prophet says – So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. The fullness of human community is realised in the coming together of man and woman, of men and women.
Marriage is about companionship at the most intimate level, about the fullness of human relationships. When people are surprised at the idea that a husband and wife should be each other’s best friends, I would argue that they are missing one of the most important and blessed dynamics of the marital relationship that God intended. As I often say to young people getting married, they should be each other’s strongest defender and their toughest critic, because the nature of marital love has an aspect of fierce loyalty that can weather all that life and fallen humankind can do to undermine it. It is also reassuring to one’s children and dependants to see that the mother and father are seriously, resiliently committed to each other. Issues like role definition, and priority would suddenly become less important if a commitment to self-effacing companionship was a dominant and pre-existing reality. If people had learned early in the process to forgive and accept this emerging person with whom one had decided to spend one’s life, in short to love them, obstacles of frightening substance and terrifying consequence would be able to be conquered and reduced to their true size and significance. My girls tell me that my relationship with their mum is the model they look for in guys as they get to know them and contemplate life-time relationship. What have I done?! Realise first that I’m an very ordinary human being, and that much of what I’ve achieved with what God has called me to, has come from the faithful and encouraging partnership that Bernie and I enjoyed these 38 years.
Bible references Genesis 2:4b-25