It’s easy to note that every marriage has its challenges. Some of our marriages are especially challenged when the husband or wife – or both – are prejudiced against the opposite gender. These prejudices often reveal themselves in inappropriate humor that degrades the opposite gender, in over-generalizations about “all men” or “all women,” and in the bedroom where the differences can be easily misunderstood.
While the differences between men and women are real and substantial, and believed to be the source of many marital conflicts, the larger issue is our failure to understand God’s design for the family.
God created various parts of creation by simply stating, “Let there be….” When He created humanity, He fashioned a man and named him, Adam. Up until this act of creation, everything had received God’s “It is good” blessing. But with Adam, God indicated that it wasn’t good for man to be alone. There was a profound need for a helper that was different.
Christian financial advisor, Larry Burkett, use to say if both spouses were the same, one would be unnecessary. Whether it’s balancing the budget, wallpapering the bathroom, or making new friends, our different strengths can meld into a life-conquering team – if we have the grace to cooperate with His plan.
Sadly, in a fallen world we have taken the differences between male and female and exploited them with our lust and rage. Sexual abuse, domestic abuse, incest, misogyny, history, culture, and media have all worked against us in powerful ways.
As Christian men and women, when we look to our own histories, cultures, and personal experiences, we must agree that we remain effected by the fall (original sin), by sins of abuse and neglect created by other people, and by our own moral failures. Wherever we have been injured by sin in a way that exploits our gender or highlights the gender of those who have sinned against us, our understanding of what it means to be male and female is challenged.
And yet there is a paradox. The Bible teaches that God not only created us “male and female,”1 but that in Christ, “there is neither male nor female.”2 Right here, God answers our dilemma with a delightful mystery. Within this paradox, God not only affirms the differences between men and women, assigning complementary roles for each, but He also points to the equality existing between the sexes.
How we learn to honor this paradox, and each other, is the key to overcoming our issues with the opposite gender.
Some of our marriages are especially challenged around the idea of gender. Some husbands were abandoned or smothered or (fill in the abuse of your choice) by their mothers or aunts (or fill in the female of your choice) and now vent hostility toward women in general. Maybe the wife was molested by her friend’s father – or her own father – and now she recoils every time her husband reaches for her in bed. What about these couples?
The good news for you goes past “there’s a way to get over your conflicts and save your marriage.” What if I told you that Christ specializes in giving meaning to life’s pain? Your hurts can actually become a path to greater intimacy in Christ than you can imagine.
Every day in my office I am confronted with the conflicts described above, and every time I am thrilled to offer a picture of intimate recovery that only God could have dreamed up. He wants to use the very conflict and differences that got my clients’ attention in the first place to heal them.
One of the most delightful ways God does this job of restoration is by utilizing each spouse as a “type” or model of what the other one was hurt by and now needs. For example, the Christian husband can be a picture of God: Father, Brother, Husband, and be used to restore the wounds others (and, perhaps, he himself) have inflicted upon his wife. The godly wife, reaching out to her hurting husband, can help him to plumb the depths of his pain that have locked him up.
Only God could have thought of using marriage as a healing agent for male and female. Only God could design two that become one and yet are better than one.