About the Guest
Dennis Rainey tells what it means for a husband and wife to become one flesh.
Dennis RaineyDennis Rainey cofounded FamilyLife®, a ministry of Cru®. Since the organization began in 1976 through 2017, Dennis’ leadership enabled FamilyLife to grow into a dynamic and vital ministry in more than 109 countries around the world helping families discover the joy God intended for their relationships with God, spouse, and kids. Dennis has authored or co-authored more than 35 books, including best-selling Moments Together for Couples and Staying Close and has received two Golden Medallion...more
Dennis Rainey tells what it means for a husband and wife to become one flesh.
Bob: How can you maintain the passion and romance in a marriage? How can you keep the spark alive? Here is Dennis Rainey.
Dennis: One of the ways that we keep our romance alive is by protecting our fidelity to one another; preserving our own sexual union. People who have had affairs would tell you that this breach of trust can really damage a marriage relationship.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, August 31st. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. What are you doing to protect your marriage and to keep the romance and passion alive? Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Tuesday edition. You know, I'll never forget a couple on our program one time – this was a couple who had been married for about five years. They were active in their local church, they helped with the youth group, and yet they were going through a rocky time in their marriage – the early adjustment phase of a marriage. And they came to one of our Weekend to Remember conferences – the two-and-a-half-day getaway that we host for couples in cities all across the country. Someone had suggested that they ought to attend, and so they did. Afterwards, they told us that they had no idea that the Bible speaks directly to God's design for marriage.
They said, "You know, we've been going to church for years, and we're helping out, but we just didn't know that the Scriptures give us the pattern, the blueprints for how to make a marriage work. And, of course, they got it that weekend at the Weekend to Remember conference, and it was a real revelation point for them to have God's plan for marriage from the Scriptures laid out for them.
Dennis: Yes, and I want to get to that plan in just a moment. I ran across a couple of stories, a couple of jokes – I think our listeners need to laugh today, don't you? Huh?
Bob: All right, okay.
Dennis: I mean, we take ourselves too seriously.
Dennis: I heard about these two sisters who were unmarried and lived together for a number of years, both vowing they would never get married. And they had a beloved feline, a cat, that – well, they loved, and, like them, they wanted to keep the cat as far away from the tomcats as they possibly could. So they never let the cat out at night, they never let it go anywhere. They always stayed indoors. And something strange happened, though. One of the sisters fell in love and ended up getting married, and they went away on their honeymoon and while on their honeymoon, the sister who was back at the house received a postcard from her beloved sister. And it simply had the following phrase on it – "Dear Sis, Let the cat out."
Well, we're going to talk about letting the cat out today a little bit, but that's not the total focus of our broadcast. I did say I had two jokes.
Dennis: This next one is a joke, but it's also the truth. Did you know, Bob, that there is a funeral home in Chicago that has a drive-through service so that you can view the body on a closed-circuit television. The manager of the funeral home said this – "This way the girlfriend can go through the drive-through and pay her respects for the deceased in whatever name she chooses, while the wife is inside with the deceased." He said it happens all the time.
Bob: Oh, my.
Dennis: Well, you know, we live in an era today when the marriage relationship and the commitment to another person is being eroded at almost every turn, and that is what we're talking about on the broadcast – how we can make this thing called marriage work, and the way we're helping couples make that work is we're going back to the book of beginnings, the origins of marriage, the Book of Genesis. And we're taking a look at what God's blueprints are for establishing a fulfilling marriage relationship.
Bob: We talked last week on the broadcast about the cause of marriage – why God created it in the first place – it's purposes. We talked about what it means for a husband and wife to leave father and mother.
Dennis: Yes, we talked about a man and a woman assuming new responsibilities in a new relationship. And when a man and a woman come together, that relationship was not meant to be torn asunder. It was not meant to be separated once God had joined that couple together.
Bob: A key component to that is the whole idea of receiving our mate as God's perfect provision, His personal provision for us, and that's an act of faith for a husband or a wife to say, "God, I trust You, and I will receive my mate as Your provision for me." Now, what happens when a husband and wife leave and then cleave, Dennis?
Dennis: Well, in Genesis 2:24, the next aspect of this progression, and there is a clear progression here, and it says, "And they shall become one flesh." Here we find a picture of a new unity that is about to be birthed from this man and woman who have left their father and mother, they have made a covenant, a commitment, they have cleaved to one another. They have established a new loyalty to each other where they are to become one flesh.
Now, the interesting thing about this – all the men are listening to the broadcast say, "Man, I'm glad you finally got to this subject. We're going to talk about sex today." Well, the whole concept of one flesh really, in the Hebrew mind, was much more than sex. The whole concept of flesh was where the soul was, the spirit was. It was, really, the personality of the entire person. So we're talking about two whole people becoming a totally different, distinct union as a couple.
Bob: So it's not just a physical dimension that we're talking about when we talk about a couple becoming one flesh?
Dennis: No, it's an intimacy of the soul, and it really points out what we've been talking about in this entire series – that marriage has a spiritual foundation. If you're going to make a marriage work, you can't make it work apart from what God says about it and our relationship with Him. What we have decided to do when we get married is we have decided to identify ourselves with another person. And it's interesting, Bob, if you've ever seen someone who's been married for 40, 50, or 60 years, they actually begin to look like one another – they take on the identity of the other person. And I think that's a bit of a concept here – that as two people live out a lifetime of leaving and cleaving and becoming one, they do begin to absorb one another's identity – still having their own identity – but really beginning to look like one another.
Bob: Well, let me ask you – is becoming one flesh something that we have to do or is it something that just happens when we leave and cleave?
Dennis: It's both. You do become one flesh when you get married, and a marriage is consummated in the sexual union, but one flesh is also something of a process that occurs over a lifetime. I'd like to suggest three things that will really enhance this idea of one flesh, if a couple will pursue these.
First of all, I think a couple needs to protect their unity. That means you've got to stop and evaluate what is there that seeks to divide you as a couple? Children, for instance – it's interesting that although our kids want Barbara and I to be one, they want us to have a love relationship, yet those same children that want that will do everything within their power to keep us from going out on dates some night. And that would really lead us to another thing that can divide our unity as a couple, and that's conflict.
We've been talking throughout this entire series about imploring and encouraging couples to pray together and to read the Bible together. If you're really going to have a marriage, that means you've got to go to the Designer, the Architect of the marriage relationship. And the way you establish a relationship with Him is, first of all, obviously, through the person of Jesus Christ, but it's praying together as a couple and reading His Word together as a couple that will enable you to grow spiritually. And that growth spiritually will enable you to handle your conflicts. Why? Because as you go to the Bible, you'll find out that the way you resolve conflict is to speak the truth one to another, Ephesians, chapter 4. You'll learn that you have to listen to one another – that's found in the Book of James. You'll learn that you have to forgive one another – that's Ephesians, chapter 4. All these principles for building a relationship, maintaining a relationship and, importantly, resolving conflicts as they occur, which will erode our unity, our oneness, our one fleshness as a couple, if I can use that terminology, all of that is found in the Scripture. And as we grow spiritually closer to God, we'll find that we grow closer to one another in the marriage relationship. Why? Because intimacy with God will be translated into intimacy with another human being.
Let me just share some other things that can divide us as a couple – careers, our job demands, attention to civic activities, in-laws can come between us and our spouse. And there, again, Bob, you've got to go back to the Scripture. It says, "leave and cleave." You're to leave father and mother so you can cleave to your spouse. Our schedule can become a real deterrent to being one. Barbara and I find that this is probably one of the greatest battles we face, as a couple – getting over-committed, doing too many things, having too many things on the calendar, and we fight to preserve our oneness.
Bob: Let me make sure that I'm hearing you right – you're saying that if our schedule is interfering with our unity as a couple, our unity as a couple should win. You're saying that if our career is interfering with our unity as a couple …
Dennis: … absolutely …
Bob: … our unity as a couple should take precedence.
Bob: You're saying that the kids are interfering with our unity as a couple …
Dennis: … absolutely …
Bob: … then we need to put them on a train and send them out West to live with the grandparents, right?
Dennis: Well, maybe not that dramatic, but the point is we need to adjust what's happening in our family, in our lives, and in our schedules so that our marriage can win. I think there is a second way that we can enhance our oneness as a couple, and some of our listeners are going to – I think they're going to reach over and turn off the radio right now, if we're not careful, because they're going to say, "I don't want to do this," but they really need to do this, okay?
Dennis: The second thing is, cultivate and develop common interests and pursuits with your spouse. For me, that was gardening. For me, that was going to museums with Barbara, and that's why I know that some guys are going to reach over and turn off the …
Bob: … they're groaning a little bit.
Dennis: Yeah, they're groaning a little bit. I've got one guy – in fact, I'm going to mention his name – his name is Michael Easley. He's a pastor of a pretty good-sized church out of Washington, D.C. and do you know what he will not let me live down? One day on the broadcast I said I was going to take ballroom dancing to meet a need in my wife. Well, it didn't work out schedule-wise, but Michael overheard me saying that and promised that he would do it with his wife. And so he went off and scheduled ballroom dancing and you know what? Every time I talk to this rascal, he is rubbing it in that he is now much more smooth with his feet than I am.
Bob: Now, before this goes too far, though, I want to encourage those who go to Michael's church to ask him about his ballroom dancing experience.
Dennis: Absolutely, ask him about his ballroom dancing, because he doesn't know I'm talking about him on the radio today, and he needs a jab back. Somehow – I know Michael, and I just can't picture that he's a great ballroom dancer – but I'm trusting that he is.
You know, the point is, though, Michael has taken a step toward his wife Cindy to communicate that he loves her because he's willing to take up ballroom dancing to – well, to love her and to communicate that he cares about her, and that's what I've done when I've gone to work in the yard. I used to hate yardwork. Well, you know what? Barbara and I now enjoy walking around in our yard in our little garden area at the end of the day after work.
Bob: This goes both ways, too. Do you suggest that wives ought to go on fishing trips or on hunting trips with their husbands?
Dennis: I concur with wholeheartedly, Bob, and I think we need to move to the next point. Absolutely. The women are going to accuse us of being sexist at this point, so we're just going to make a very light point there, after we've really exhorted the men to love their wives.
Bob: Get out in the garden and to go museums.
Dennis: The third way that we enhance our oneness is to preserve your sexual union, and that means, first of all, I think, keeping romance alive and well in your marriage relationship. And one of the ways that we keep our romance alive is by protecting our fidelity to one another – preserving our own sexual union. People who have had affairs would tell you that this breach of trust can really damage a marriage relationship. Back a couple of springs ago, Bob, Barbara was wanting me to remove a couple of oak trees. She really hates oak trees. She likes pines, but doesn't like oak trees because oak trees leave leaves inside that have to be raked. And so I was cutting one of these oak trees down, and I looked – the distance looked like I could drop this oak tree without hitting our fence and damaging any other trees. So I notched the tree, and I got to looking at it, and I thought, you know, I better get a rope on this thing and help it fall in the right direction.
And so I put a rope on it, attached it to my bumper, and went on up the street so that it was far enough away from the tree that the tree wouldn't fall onto the car, and finally pulled the tree down as I was sawing, and that tree fell right onto the fence and only knocked one prong of the fence out. But do you know what it did? It completely split a major branch on my prized Japanese maple. Now, I happen to really like Japanese maples. They're a beautiful tree, they're kind of exotic, and we bought this one pretty inexpensively when it was little, and we've nursed it for 10 years. So it was getting to be rather large, and it had two main branches that went out, forming a beautiful symmetry. But, you know, when that oak tree fell, it split and took off one of those branches.
Well, Barbara and I got out there, and we took that branch, and we wrapped wire around it, and we tried to clean the wound, and we hoped that it would graft back in. But just this past year, I went out and clipped off that branch, because it never did ever grow back. It didn't take. And I think what happens when there is sexual immorality, where one person has betrayed the other, I think in some situations it can so damage the relationship that it never can return to where it was. And I think what we've got to realize is, to preserve our one flesh with our spouse, what we've got to do is preserve the sanctity of the sexual relationship by remaining pure to our spouses.
And I got a letter from a widow who had experienced more than 65 years of marriage with her husband before he died, and I've got to tell you, of all the letters I have received over the years here at FamilyLife Today, this letter may be one of the most tender letters I have ever, ever read, and I want to share it with our listeners.
"Dear FamilyLife, I have been listening to your program and would like to pass on my experience. My husband died in 1994 at the age of 88. We'd been married for over 65 years. We were both virgins when we married. In 1992, or the first of 1993, my husband was diagnosed with cancer of the prostate. The urologist did not suggest or advise surgery or radiation. He said he had tried all those treatments on other patients and found that none really were successful. He said three-fourths of all men over 80 had prostate cancer, anyway, and unless some progressive symptoms arose, he said to just leave it alone. It evidently was dormant, and my husband had no discomfort, but he became impotent. I insisted to him that it was all right. My own sexual desire had waned as well, and I told him we ought to be grateful for the years we had a good sex life, and we could be content with hugs, kisses, pats, and cuddles. He seemed to agree but, looking back, I can realize he was aware that he had lost something, and I'm sure I could not emphathize."
And, you know, Bob, as I read this letter, I couldn't help but think how this anonymous writer of this letter really became a mentor to some younger women to help them better understand how their husbands view sex. She goes on – "The sex drive is important to a man, and we had both enjoyed our relationship. We had grandchildren and great grandchildren who filled our lives with new interests and, to me, that was what was important at this stage of our lives. He was sick for seven weeks from a stroke and the complications of pneumonia. One day in the hospital, he wanted me to get in bed with him, which I could not do. I did not talk to him again about the fact we had so much else to share that we must not worry about sex. After he died, I realized I should have talked more about this with him, but I was distraught about his condition, and I didn't. Dennis, he was a good man and a Christian, a good father, a grandfather, and great grandfather, and we all concentrated on that. I was not empathetic with the loss of his sex performance. It was not as important to me. We had other ties and things to do. I am writing this to let you know how this can affect a man, even at the age of 88."
She concludes her letter with this – "Oh, how I miss him. He can’t come back, but I can go to him someday. I know God does not make mistakes, so He took him first. My younger daughter always says, 'Mother, you can't be sorry for yourself, for you had the love of a good man for more than 65 years.' And is she ever right." Then she added a P.S. – "Don't you dare laugh and say, 'Oh, my, I never knew I'd have a sex drive at 86. It isn't funny.'"
You know, when I read that letter, I didn't laugh at any part of it, because it was such a beautiful statement of the marital love and commitment of a couple whose marriage had truly gone the distance of 65 years but also that of an older woman who really had understood what it meant to her husband to become one with her physically. I think what we've talked about is something that every couple really ought to seek to protect and preserve in their marriage relationship, because as you look at the progression to leave, cleave, become one flesh, this is the basis for a marriage relationship. This is a part of the beauty of what is called "Christian marriage," and I pray for you, as a listener, that God will enable you to make the one flesh nature of your marriage a priority and also make it a process that occurs in abundance.
Bob: Mm-hm, I'm thinking about what you and Barbara have just written about in the new book that you've written called "Rekindling the Romance." In that book you try to help women understand better what this woman was talking about – her husband's need for and desire for physical intimacy, and you try to help men understand the concurrent powerful need that a wife has for a deeper relationship with her husband at ever level – spiritually, emotionally, why a woman needs conversation and affirmation and attention and affection and all of that that makes up the one-flesh relationship we've been talking about today.
We've got copies of your new book in our FamilyLife Resource Center along with a tool that we've designed to try to help couples strengthen their marriage. It's called "Simply Romantic Nights," and those couples who want to order both your new book and the "Simply Romantic Nights," collection, we're making available at no additional cost the CD audio or the cassette tapes of this series on becoming one. You can ask for more information about that when you contact us at 1-800-FLTODAY or you can go online at FamilyLife.com and the information is available there.
And then if you want to understand what is at the heart of God's plan for marriage, what I think you ought to do is take a weekend and get away as a couple and come to one of our FamilyLife Weekend to Remember conferences. We host these conferences in cities all across the country, and we'll have 35 or 40 of them this fall somewhere in a city near where you live, we'll be hosting one of our conferences. And I just want to challenge our listeners to be a part of one of these weekend getaways. You'll have fun, you will grow, you will enjoy yourself, it will be relaxing. You'll also walk away with the biblical blueprints for how to build a stronger marriage.
If you need more information, it's available from our website at FamilyLife.com or you can register online, if you'd like. Or give us a call – 1-800-FLTODAY, that's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY.
And, you know, we hope in the weeks ahead at your church you're going to be hearing more about God's plan for marriage. We're joining up with Chuck Colson and the Wilburforce Forum to encourage churches all across the country in September and October to speak out on God's design for the marriage relationship. We believe that God's people need to be reminded of what the Bible has to say about marriage as a relationship between one man and one woman in a lifetime covenant relationship, especially in the midst of a culture that is considering a redefinition of marriage.
So when you come to our website at FamilyLife.com, you'll find more information about the upcoming National Preaching Initiative, and you'll find resources that you can pass on to your pastor. Hopefully, this is something your church can be involved in, and we're also hoping that you can consider making a donation to FamilyLife Today in the process. Your donations are what enable us to continue the work of this radio program, our website, our events and conferences, our resources – all that we're trying to do to build stronger marriages and stronger families in this culture. You can donate online at FamilyLife.com, or you can call 1-800-FLTODAY to make a donation. Again, it's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY, and we do hope to hear from you.
Well, tomorrow we want to come back and revisit what biblical oneness looks like in a marriage relationship and how we can have the kind of marriage that God intends for us to have. I hope you can be with us for that.
On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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