Today I am blessed to officiate the wedding of a wonderful couple. As part of the service, I speak about God’s gift of marriage. I am sharing these reflections – part of my theology of marriage – in this post.
In Genesis 2, God forms humanity from the dust of the ground and the breath of life. And it is good – but it is not good for the human to be alone.
Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the human should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.” – Genesis 2:18 (CEB)
The helper God created was also made in God’s image and likeness. God’s creative power is not used to make a personal assistant, but rather someone to save the human in his alone-ness. As we reflect on God’s help to us in Psalm 121, it is the help of presence, strength and refuge.
I lift up my eyes to the [hills]—where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. – Psalm 121:1-2 (NIV)
God demonstrates the strength and vulnerability of humanity: at one time, we both strengthen and depend on one another.
Marriage between two people* is one manifestation of God’s saving action of grace in our lives. Marriage represents mutuality and the abundance of life (as it is often expressed in children). But God’s intent is not just procreation – being created in God’s image, receiving the breath of life, formed to help one another – God desires abundant life. Marriage assumes a nakedness before one another and God that most people struggle with their entire life.
In the same way that Adam and Eve were naked without shame, our intimate relationships allow us to bare our true selves and be willing to be seen by another without the costumes and masks we wear in our daily interactions. This is life-giving. Marriage combines intentional, long-term commitment with being known, and therefore differs from friendships or even most familial relationships. Marriage becomes a covenantal relationship.
The truth is that this type of relationship is difficult because it involves two people made in the image of God, but yet imperfect. In marriage, we are challenged in our relationship with God and our relationship with one another. As a result, the role of either partner as “helper” can be distorted to put the burden of fixing our alone-ness onto another person rather than directing us towards God. Our primary relationship is always with God, and is the wellspring of every other relationship. Said another way, the first covenant is between God and humanity. It is because of God’s faithfulness in this covenant that we enter into covenantal relationships with others.
Today, we are here to celebrate the creation of a new covenantal relationship in response to God’s faithfulness.
* Between two people does not mean between a man and woman. All people are created in the fullness of God’s image. God’s hope for marriage as a covenantal relationship is based on love and not gender.