As one of our Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways drew to a close, one husband slipped me a letter. It summed up the despair of isolation and the hope of oneness so clearly:
We have both been "born again" Christians for many years. We plan to celebrate our twentieth wedding anniversary next February 14. But despite this "seniority" and an unbelievable amount of knowledge about the subject of marriage, we arrived at the conference with lots of scar tissue from emotional and spiritual warfare that had resulted in DESPAIR in capital letters.
The Lord has blessed both of us as individuals, but we have never grown as a couple spiritually. We have read books about marriage, attended other types of marriage conferences, and had numerous Christian marriage counselors without making any lasting or meaningful progress. My wife has even worked as an administrative assistant for two different Christian counselors.
What is my point in telling you all this? Very simply, your presentation (presented with practical examples and humor) has been the most penetrating personal experience with God that I have ever had. ... We are leaving with the hope of Christ renewed in our relationship. Personally, I have this hope because you have helped me to identify the need for a written plan of application.
That husband made a profound discovery: God has a plan that offers hope in marriage. He found the hope that comes when husband and wife commit to build their marriage from the same set of divine blueprints. No matter how far a couple has traveled down the road to isolation in their relationship, they can still start on a road that leads to a "oneness marriage."
A tender merger
A oneness marriage is formed by a husband and wife who are grafting intimacy, trust, and understanding with one another. It's a couple chiseling out a common direction, purpose, and plan. A oneness marriage demands a lifetime process of relying on God and forging an enduring relationship according to His design. It's more than a mere mingling of two humans—it's a tender merger of body, soul, and spirit.
Oneness in marriage has been compared to a pair of scissors: two components joined, never to be separated. Scissor blades frequently go in different directions, but they are most powerful when coming together.
King Solomon spoke of the mortar of the marriage merger: "By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; and by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches" (Proverbs 24:3-4, emphasis added).
Note the results when a marriage is built, established, and filled according to God's plan: There's no room in this house for isolation—it's been renovated and firmly fixed. The richness of its value and the pleasure of its enjoyment fills every room. This is a portrait of what it means to be one with your spouse.
Here are three foundational components of a oneness marriage:
1. A oneness marriage needs wisdom. Wisdom is skill in everyday living. It means that we respond to circumstances according to God's design. A wise homebuilder recognizes God as the Architect and Builder of marriages. As we ask God for wisdom and search the Scriptures, He supplies the skill to build our home.
One of the most critical issues a husband and wife must settle in their life together is: Who will be the Builder of our marriage?
King David warned, "Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain" (Psalm 127:1). For many, the architect and builder of the marriage is "self." It's no wonder so many marriages fail.
I remember meeting a husband and wife who had been married for 14 years, but because they hadn't grown in their relationship over the years, one might say they had been married for one year, 14 times! The builder of their home was clearly "self."
Their lives were outwardly successful, but privately their home was riddled with conflict; they harbored resentment and withheld affection. They attended a Weekend to Remember and fought the whole time. But later at home, they committed their lives to Christ and asked Him to be the Architect and Builder of their marriage and family.
A year later they came back to one of our getaways and shared their story with me. The signs of the master Builder in their marriage were evident as they told how they had led their 7-year-old and 10-year-old children to Christ. During the last year they had been building their home with wisdom; in fact, they had changed the day they celebrated their wedding anniversary to the date of the previous year's Weekend to Remember! God does renovate and rebuild homes.
2. A oneness marriage needs understanding. Understanding means responding to life's circumstances with insight—a perspective that looks at life through God's eyes. Understanding your mate from God's perspective results in acceptance of his or her differences and beginning to learn how God made that person to complement you. Understanding produces compassion for your spouse. It will give you insight to lead wisely or to follow prudently.
A handsome husband and wife in their thirties told me how they finally understood the way their differences complemented one another. The husband explained, "My wife is a prosecuting attorney. I felt like she prosecuted from 8:00 to 5:00 and persecuted from 5:00 to 8:00!
"In the year and a half we have been married I found out she is a strong woman. I had hoped I could pressure her to change—if I persevered, I might be able to beat her down. But I have finally understood that I don't have to compete with her. I can let her be who she is, and not feel insecure about who I am."
What that husband found was an understanding of how he and his wife balanced each other. He realized he could lead her even though she might challenge him at times, but that it was good for him.
Understanding builds oneness by establishing the relationship on a foundation of common insight.
3. A oneness marriage needs knowledge. Ours is an information culture. We worship information. But information without application is an empty deity.
Every Sunday morning there are thousands of preachers who present polished gems—sermons filled with outstanding biblical knowledge. But what do we, the parishioners, usually do? At 11:55 the preacher finishes, we dutifully sing a song, there's a prayer, and we promptly leave at noon.
Where's the time to assimilate into our lives what we've heard? Do we take even five minutes to look back over the biblical text and decide what we're going to do? No, instead we gather up the kids and the Sunday school papers, grab a bite to eat, and begin our Sunday afternoon routine.
The point here is that Solomon was talking about a knowledge that fills homes with "precious and pleasant riches." It's more than mere information—it's a knowledge that results in convictions and applications. It's a truly teachable spirit that applies God's blueprints amidst the raw reality of life.
Many of us need accountability in order to apply what we've learned to our marriage. We need someone who will break through our self-built fences and our crowded loneliness and ask us if we are applying what we're learning in our marriages.
At FamilyLife's marriage getaways we encourage people to use both their spouse and their friends for that accountability. Many people have found that our small group studies—formerly called the HomeBuilders Couples Series and now called The Art of Marriage Connect® series—help them apply biblical truth to their lives. It is in these small groups that they find the accountability they need.
You can have a oneness marriage
Like most of those who will read this article, you may have already started your journey of marriage. You started by wanting the best, and thoughts of becoming isolated and lonely never entered your mind. You were probably quite sure that your marriage would not be affected by disillusionment or mediocrity.
Now, perhaps, symptoms of isolation are becoming apparent, or you may realize you have been living with it for years. The good news is that isolation can be defeated. Its disease can be cured if you are willing to make the right choices and then put the necessary effort into building oneness.
Excerpted from Staying Close by Dennis Rainey. Copyright 1989 by Dennis Rainey. Published by Thomas Nelson Publishing. Used by permission.
FamilyLife is a donor-supported ministry offering practical and biblical resources and events to help you build a godly marriage and family.
1. Read “The Secret to a Lasting Marriage” and other articles about marriage.
2. Listen as Dennis Rainey reflects on four decades of marriage to his wife, Barbara, on a recent FamilyLife Today® broadcast.
3. FamilyLife offers dozens of fun, romantic getaways across the country. Attend a Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway and learn how to build intimacy, improve communication, and take your marriage to the next level!