FamilyLife Today®

Cleaving, Part 1

with Dennis Rainey | August 27, 2004
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Today on the broadcast, Dennis Rainey explains what it means to cleave to your spouse.

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  • Today on the broadcast, Dennis Rainey explains what it means to cleave to your spouse.

Dennis Rainey explains what it means to cleave to your spouse.

Cleaving, Part 1

With Dennis Rainey
August 27, 2004
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Bob: Next to your relationship with God, is your relationship with your mate your top priority?  And, if so, is it affecting the decisions you're making?  Here is Dennis Rainey.

Dennis: I think today too many couples make decisions about career, they make decisions perhaps about church work, about activities outside the home, without evaluating their impact upon the marriage relationship.  In other words, how will this career move, my job change, impact my relationship with my spouse?

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, August 27th.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  If your marriage really is your top priority, it's going to affect a whole lot of your life's choices.  Stay with us.

 And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Friday edition.  What have you got there?  Oh, you've got an update, huh?

Dennis: It's actually a list by a five-year-old, and this five-year-old named Jordan Smith dictated this to his mother.

Bob: Okay.

Dennis: This is entitled "Jory's Instructions for Married People to Love Each Other."

Bob: All right, I'm waiting.

Dennis: The first thing Jordan says is, "Say I love you."

Bob: That's good advice.

Dennis: Say, "Do you want to be my best friend?"

Bob: I like that, too.

Dennis: "Don't kick, hit, yell, or do karate moves on each other.  Don't do anything bad to each other, but if they do something bad to you, you just have to get away from them.

Bob: That's 1 Peter 3:8.

Dennis: There you go, he's got good theology behind this, that's right.  "You should bring the plate back to the kitchen and pick up dirty socks and underwear."

Bob: I've heard that more than once.

Dennis: "Don't smoke cigarettes, don't have a food fight, or fight about food."  "Ask him, 'Do you want to play with me?'  "Hug and kiss every day."  "Help each other do things."  "Say nice things to each other.  Don't say something that will make somebody feel bad inside and cry."

Bob: That's right.

Dennis: All right.  "If they make you happy, you just have to let them know it.  You can just clap your hands, stomp your feet, or yell 'Hooray.'"  "If somebody is bad to you and then they tell you, 'Sorry,' just say 'Okay,' and then be friends."  And then it's signed down here, Jordan Smith, five years old, and it's really got his handwriting at the bottom of this page.

 You know, there is some good material in here, Bob.

Bob: Some good rules.

Dennis: It looks like he's been reading what we've been talking about all the way back in Genesis, chapter 2, verse 24 and 25.  We've been talking about God's plan for marriage, and it really is the basics for how a marriage starts.  Moses writes in the Book of Genesis, "For this cause a man shall leave his father and his mother and shall cleave to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.  And the man and his wife were both naked, and they were not ashamed."  And if you've been listening to the broadcast over the past few days, you know we're working our way through this passage, kind of, word by word, and you've counted the words, and you figure we'll be through in about a year-and-a-half.

Bob: That's right.  We've spent two days talking about leaving.  So we figure that we probably have several months to go before we're all done with this.

Dennis: Well, we're talking about cleaving today, and if you really look at this passage, it builds toward the process of what it means to really have a marriage relationship.  There is the cause that we are to leave mother and father for, and then the third aspect of this is we are to cleave to one another.  And this word, "cleave," here in the Hebrew language means to literally "stick like glue."  It means to cling.  Perhaps a modern-day illustration would be to take two metals or two objects and super-glue them together to become inseparable – bonded together.  That's what God wants us to do in the marriage relationship.  He wants us to leave our father and mother, He wants us to forsake dependence upon them, and He wants us to turn to another person, our spouse, and be committed to one another for a lifetime.

Bob: So when you talk about us cleaving to one another, I guess some people have the idea of becoming dependent upon one another?  That's not exactly what the meaning is?

Dennis: No, I think a more popular term would be commitment.  We're talking about a pledge of remaining loyal, faithful, and committed to the other person, no matter what, until death do us part.  I think what God is really trying to do in our lives here is He's trying to help young men and young women grow up and become men and become women, and that means that we've got to face some tough issues in our marriage that may challenge our cleaving.  It means that we're going to face circumstances where we may be tempted to be pulled apart from our spouse and be isolated from one another.

You've seen it at our FamilyLife Marriage Conferences.  We went to one last spring in Seattle, where we spoke to nearly 2,400 people.  Person after person came forward to share how their marriage was ending up in isolation.  But the conference gave them the biblical blueprints to help them be committed to each other and achieve oneness.  That's why we get married – we get married for intimacy.  But you can't have intimacy without first being committed to one another and the marriage relationship.

Bob: You know, I was talking one time with a young husband who was going through some of the pulling apart that you're talking about.  He was very frustrated with his marriage relationship, and they were going through a lot of stress, a lot of tension.  He said to me, "I want you to know I'm committed to our marriage."  And I said, "That's good.  My question is, are you committed to your mate?"  Because there's a difference, don't you think, between being committed to the institution of marriage and sticking it out and being committed to the other person?  It's cleaving to a person that God has called us to – not cleaving to an institution.

Dennis: That's right, and it's the person that you value, and it's their needs that you value, and it's how you set that other person apart by showing that you value them that really proves your committee.  In other words, your decisions that you make in life, for instance, around a career.  You can make a decision that takes you away from your marriage and your family.  At that point, have you really been cleaving to your mate, or are you cleaving to your job?  I think today too many couples make decisions about career; they make decisions, perhaps, about church work; about activities outside the home, without evaluating their impact upon the marriage relationship.  In other words, how will this career move, my job change, impact my relationship with my spouse?

Bob: So you're saying that a part of cleaving is putting your marriage relationship in the place of priority that it deserves.

Dennis: Right, and maybe moving something else to second, third, or fourth place, like golf, like hunting, like the kids, like church work.  And there may be some Christian women who raise their hand and say, "Wait a second, did you just stutter?  Did you say church work?"  And I'm saying, to some women who may be married to unbelievers, they may need to be very, very careful that they do not substitute the church for their husband and leave him in the spiritual dust, running off to do this and that in the name of God, and not be really taking care of him and their relationship by valuing him as a man.

Bob: Well, I would imagine there are some listeners who think, "Well, we did that, I mean, we're committed.  I said the words at the altar, I meant them, we're going to stay together."  Are there hindrances to the ongoing aspect of cleaving to your mate?

Dennis: There really are, and the first hindrance to cleaving is an inadequate understanding of love, or an immature understanding of love.  Most people today equate love with being a feeling.  And yet, if you look at 1 Corinthians, chapter 13, verses 4 through 7, you don't really find feelings anywhere in the list.  It reads "Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous, love does not brag and is not arrogant, love does not act unbecomingly, it does not seek its own, it is not provoked, it does not take into account a wrong suffered.  Love does not rejoice in unrighteousness but rejoices with the truth, love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

In a word, love equals commitment, and the commitment that we must have for another person is to seek God's best for them.  And what some couples have to realize is, when they finally feel like they have fallen out of love, they finally can replace it with real love.  If I had been dependent upon always feeling in love with Barbara, our marriage would have been in trouble a long, long time ago.  We had six kids in 10 years, and I'm going to tell you something, there is not room for a lot of romance and a lot of feelings in the process of having six kids in 10 years.  There's a lot of years there that form a season that's just a season of challenge, of young children and having needs met of kids, and yet love is a commitment, and we remain committed to one another.

One of the little habits that I practiced with Barbara that I think means a great deal to her, is I'll occasionally take her in my arms, and I'll look her in the eyes, and I'll say to her, "You know, if I could marry you all over again, I would."  And do you know what her response is usually?  Her response is "Really?  You'd do that?  You mean you'd really marry me again?"  What's she saying in that?  She is saying, "Are you sure you really like me?"  And love, at its core, is a commitment that says, "I'd marry you all over again if I had the opportunity."

Bob: You know, when Barbara hears you say that today, after more than 20 years of marriage, she knows that you're saying it with more wisdom today than you said it when you were first married years ago.

Dennis: Yes, because I know her now, and it even means more now than when I said it to her some 24 years ago.  There's a second hindrance, though, that keeps us from cleaving to our spouse and, boy, I wish I could get rid of this one.  This one plagues me all the time – it's selfishness. 

 And, you know, I had the opportunity to speak on the same team with you, Bob, at the FamilyLife Marriage Conference back last spring, and you quoted this verse to the audience, and I just want to read it again.  It's Philippians, chapter 2, verse 3 and 4, and, I'll tell you, it would almost be good if a married couple read this verse to one another every day before they left the breakfast table.  Let me just read it here – "Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself.  Do not merely look out for your own personal interests but also for the interest of others."  And who is the closest "other" in your life – your spouse.

 If you are married, the person that you ought to practice this with the most is your spouse.  If you're single, then you want to practice this with someone that perhaps you're dating.  The issue is to meet another person's needs and to deny your own needs.

Bob: I've often said to couples that I think 95 percent of the issues we deal with in marriage would be resolved if we would practice Philippians 2:3 and regard the other person as more important than ourselves.  It was the Puritan writer, John Owen, who talked about the idea of mortifying the flesh – putting to death our selfish impulses.  And I've found that I have selfish impulses not only in marriage but also outside of marriage, and I can't feed them in one place and hope that they will die somewhere else.  I can't feed my flesh in relationships at work and hope that I will be selfless when I head home.  It's a constant part of our spiritual struggle to put to death the flesh.

 I think oftentimes we are – we kind of try and shoo the flesh away, and rather than killing it, we just ask it to leave politely.

Dennis: We do, and we do feed it.  Let's face it, we are of the fabric of being totally selfish to the core.  A great action point out of today's broadcast – get your Bibles tonight before you go to bed and read Philippians, chapter 2, verses 3 and 4, together as a couple, and then memorize it.

Bob: Do that at your own risk, I might add.

Dennis: Yes, because …

Bob: … the Holy Spirit is going to bring it back.

Dennis: You know you're going to get a test, you know you're going to get a test.  Well, there's a third hindrance to really cleaving to your spouse, and that's circumstances.  Someone has said, "We are worn down less by the mountain we climb than by the grain of sand in our shoe."  And, you know, Bob, back in Seattle last spring, you shared a story with those guests at our FamilyLife Marriage Conference that illustrated how circumstances can chip away at the marriage commitment.  In fact, let's queue that up and share that with our listeners.


Bob: I want to tell you tonight about the darkest time in our marriage – the worst time in the 17 years that we've been married, and I asked Mary Ann if I could tell this, and she said, "Just make sure you tell them everything."  I said, "Okay."

 Let me set the stage – I feel a little embarrassed even telling you this, and here is the reason why – because the darkest time in our marriage was not as bad as some of you have gone through.  But, for us, this was a challenge like nothing we'd ever faced before, and let me set the scene for you.

 Mary Ann and I had been married for five years.  We were living in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  Amy was three, she was our only child at that point.  I was working as a salesman, and I was doing pretty well.  We were active in our church, had good friends, our health was good, everything was smooth.  I remember walking around the neighborhood one night with Mary Ann.  We had Amy there with us, and we were holding hands, the sun was going down, and I remember saying to Mary Ann, "You know what?  Things have been too good too long."

 Now, I'm a naturally optimistic person.  I expect things to go well.  But I am also enough of a realist to know that you don't glide through life in this kind of a perfect, ideal setting.  And it didn't.  A couple of months later my boss called me in on a Monday morning, and he said, "We've decided it's in your best interest and in the best interest of the company to let you go."  I said, "I don't get it."  He said, "That's it."  I cleaned out my desk and went home.  I was dumbfounded.  I couldn't figure it out.

 Well, I started looking around for work, trying to decide what am I going to do now at this point?  I started looking, and it appeared that the best opportunity available to me was in Phoenix, Arizona.  Now, Mary Ann had grown up in Tulsa. She'd lived there all her life.  Her mom was there, her brothers were there, her sister was there, her whole family.  Tulsa was her home.  So I moved out to Phoenix while she stayed home to try and finish selling the house, and I lived for two months in a hotel while I looked around for a house for us to buy in Phoenix while she tried to sell the house and ran things with Amy back home.  Oh, by the way, the week I got let go, she called me and said, "Honey, we're going to have a baby."  Pregnant now with her second one.

 Well, I found a house for us in Phoenix, called her and said, "Honey, I found a house.  It's perfect.  You'll love it."  So two months after living there, her mom drove her out to Phoenix to her new home that she'd never seen in her fourth month of pregnancy in July in Phoenix.  I want to tell you about August in Phoenix.  August in Phoenix in 1984 was the worst month of our marriage.  Mary Ann had no friends.  How could she?  I mean, new town, right?  She didn't know anybody.  She's in her fourth month of pregnancy, it's 100 degrees all day, she's got a three-year-old running around, she's living apart from her family for the first time in her life.

 I'd come home from work, I'm trying hard to make this new job work out well, right?  I'd come home and try to lend whatever support I could, and she was majorly depressed.  "Hi, Honey."  "Hi."  We ate out a lot, because she didn't feel like cooking.  I did a lot of the grocery shopping, because she didn't feel like doing that.  And I remember one night walking out in the backyard with my fist clenched, just angry and thinking for the first time in my life, "I now understand how some people get to a point in marriage where they think, 'I don't know what to do.  I don't know how to make this thing work.'"

(tape ends)

 That was a challenging time for us in our marriage.

Dennis: And, you know, every marriage has those seasons.  They go through a time where there are difficult circumstances that come against the marriage commitment.  But what I want our listeners not to miss here, it's our covenant.  It's our cleaving to that other person in the presence of God.  It's the fulfilling of our vows that gives us the capability of moving through these difficult periods without rejecting our spouse, without opening the door to divorce, without moving towards isolation in the marriage relationship and leaving ourselves open and vulnerable to temptation.

Bob: You know, as I listen back to that clip from the Weekend to Remember conference, I think of the number of people who have said to me over the years that one of the things they most appreciate when they attend one of those conferences is just how transparent the speakers are – the fact that all of us are going through challenges and struggles in our marriage.  All of us have those times when we're not sure exactly how to make the relationship work.  And the speakers at the conference are no different.  The only difference is we know how to apply the Scriptures, we know how to take the principles that we're talking about and put them to work in the midst of those difficult moments in a marriage relationship.

 We've got 30 or 40 FamilyLife Weekend to Remember conferences about to kick off this fall in cities all across the country, and I want to encourage our listeners to set aside a weekend and get away as a couple to renew your marriage.  And if your marriage is already in a difficult place, to restore it to what God intends for a marriage to be.

 We heard from one woman who attended a conference recently who said, "My husband and I hated each other when we arrived at the conference.  We are now in a strong love relationship again with Christ at the head of our marriage.  We have experienced an unbelievable miracle, and we plan on attending this conference at least once a year and encouraging others to do the same.  Thank you." 

 In the course of that weekend, this couple saw a complete realignment in their marriage, and that has happened for many of the couples who have attended one of these Weekend to Remember conferences. 

 There is a complete list on our website of where the conference is being held this fall.  I'd encourage you to go there, circle the date that the conference is coming to a city near where you live and start to make plans to attend a Weekend to Remember conference this fall.  Or you can register online, if you'd like.  If you have any questions, give us a call at 1-800-FLTODAY and plan to be a part of a Weekend to Remember conference this fall.

 And when you get in touch with us, let me suggest a couple of resources that we have selected that I think reinforce what we've talked about today, Dennis – this whole idea of cleaving to one another.  One is the book, "Staying Close," that you and Barbara wrote, which is really the FamilyLife Weekend to Remember conference in book form.  And then another book called "Rocking the Rolls" that deals with our core responsibilities as a husband and as a wife; how we blend those responsibilities together and how we cleave in a marriage relationship.

 We have both of those books in our FamilyLife Resource Center, and if you'd like to request both of them, we can send you, at no additional cost, this audio series on God's blueprints for marriage either on CD or on cassette.  Get the information on how to receive all of these resources either on our website at or give us a call, again, at the toll-free number, 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY.

 Let me remind our regular listeners, Dennis, about what we're hoping many of them will encourage their pastors to be doing in the next few weeks, as we've been talking here this week about God's blueprints for marriage, we're hoping that churches all across the country in September and October will talk about God's design for marriage, especially in the midst of this cultural dialog that we're having over what the definition of marriage ought to look like.

 We have teamed up with Chuck Colson and the Wilberforce Forum to help provide resources for churches to participate in a national preaching event where this subject would be addressed from pulpits all across the country.  You can go to our website at, and there is information there, resources there available for pastors who want to engage on this subject, and let me again thank those folks who help make FamilyLife Today possible.  You're helping us reach out to address this issue at this critical time in the history of our nation.  Your donations make our ministry possible.  You enable us to be able to provide these kinds of resources and to provide a biblical challenge in the midst of the cultural debate.  And if there has ever been a time when that challenge has been needed, this is the time.

 So let me again encourage you to engage your pastor.  Go to our website and see if you guys can participate.  And when you do get in touch with us, if you are able to help with a donation, it's your financial support that is helping to keep this initiative moving forward, and we do need to hear from you.  You can donate online at or you can give us a call to make a donation at 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY, and we appreciate you getting in touch with us and donating, if you are able to.

 Well, I hope you have a great weekend.  I hope you and your family are able to worship together in church this weekend, and we hope you can be back on Monday.  We're going to continue looking at God's purposes and plan for marriage, and we'll talk more about what it means to cleave to one another, and I hope you can be with us for that.

 On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.  We'll see you next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

 FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.


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Episodes in this Series

Building Transparency
with Dennis Rainey September 1, 2004
Dennis Rainey talks about building intimacy in your marriage through honesty and transparency.
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One Flesh
with Dennis Rainey August 31, 2004
Dennis Rainey tells what it means for a husband and wife to become one flesh.
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Cleaving, Part 2
with Dennis Rainey August 30, 2004
The Scriptures mandate that a man leave his mother and father and cleave to his wife.
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