Anyone who has brought marriage issues to me as a pastor knows that I refer to these verses a lot. Premarriage counseling, marriage troubles, my own issues around marriage, all of these draw me back into Genesis 2:24-25. I haven't gotten anywhere near the bottom of this well yet.
Genesis 2:24 lists three things we must do if marriages are to be strong. (It says the man does these things, but it has been my experience that both husband and wife need to do these three things to build a strong marriage.) First is to leave father and mother. Second is to cleave to each other. Third is to become one flesh.
Leaving home is difficult. For some of us it's tough to physically leave. I've been teaching a group of 19-and-20 year old students this week and I'm vividly reminded of leaving home at 17, getting on the Greyhound in Grand Forks, North Dakota, and getting off in Seattle. For a kid who had never been out of the upper Midwest before (does a trip to Kansas in 7th grade count?) it was a terrible shock to my system. I tried to find a home in college that fall, but the homesickness nearly killed me. It was so bad that when my RA planned a weekend trip back to Minneapolis for his sister's wedding, driving 1800 miles in a Ford Courier pickup, I jumped at the chance to ride along as far as Fargo and spend a day and a half at home. We left school Thursday evening, drove straight through 27 hours, I was home about 36 hours, and I got back in that Ford Courier and rode all the way to Seattle where we pulled in late Monday night. It was bad.
For some people, leaving home physically is a relief. Home has not been a good place for them. Maybe it's abuse issues, maybe personality conflicts, maybe there's just no love. They run from home at the first sign of an open door. But it is especially hard for these people to let go of home emotionally. "Home" is surrounded in their hearts with all sorts of vows that start out "I will NEVER ..." So they hold home in their hearts with bonds of judgment and condemnation.
No matter why we hold onto home, we have to leave before we can cleave. We have to let go of the way Mom & Dad always did things. We have to undo the bonds that hold us to the home where we grew up or we cannot enter into a successful marriage.
If we are not willing to set aside what we learned at home and recognize that we might have to learn new habits, new methods, new expressions, we cannot love effectively. Fact is, the things I learned watching my parents don't often work in my marriage. My parents were good people and I deeply respect them. But I had to leave home -- especially emotionally -- before I could learn to love my wife. The ways my Dad showed affection to my Mom just don't cut it in my marriage.
It's the same with every area of marriage. Financial management, child-rearing, home maintenance, household chores, Christmas traditions, vacation plans -- all need to be renegotiated. Just because Mom & Dad did things that way doesn't mean it will work in your marriage. You have to leave home.
What this does is create space for a relationship that is safe for both man and woman. It keeps the inlaws, the grandparents, and everybody else out of the bubble the two of you create.
What goes on in that bubble? We'll talk about that next time.