FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Cleaving, Part 2

with Dennis Rainey | August 30, 2004
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The Scriptures mandate that a man leave his mother and father and cleave to his wife. Is that advice still applicable today? Find out when Dennis Rainey looks at the matter of leaving and cleaving in-depth.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • The Scriptures mandate that a man leave his mother and father and cleave to his wife. Is that advice still applicable today? Find out when Dennis Rainey looks at the matter of leaving and cleaving in-depth.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

The Scriptures mandate that a man leave his mother and father and cleave to his wife.

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Cleaving, Part 2

With Dennis Rainey
August 30, 2004
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Bob: Does your family embrace a cultural view of marriage or a biblical view?  Here is Dennis Rainey.

Dennis: We have got to understand that we must train our sons and our daughters to keep this covenant.  We can't fall prey to thinking with our hearts.  We must think biblically.  Marriage is a spiritual commitment.  It's not just two people making a promise to each other.  It really is a profoundly spiritual experience.

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, August 30th.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  We're going to look today at the Designer's intentions for the institution He ordained in the first place.  Stay with us.

 And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Monday edition.  We're going to see if we can do some adjusting, a little tweaking in people's thinking this week about marriage and …

Dennis: … yeah, but, just a minute, hold it.  I just ran across a bit of news that I thought is real – well, it's a mirror of what our culture is becoming.

Bob: Yes?

Dennis: Did you hear about the rental store in Boston that is now renting wedding rings?

Bob: Renting wedding rings?

Dennis: Actually, it's an engagement ring that you can rent, and the reason, according to the store manager, is that the men who are coming into the store, he says, "We do get some people with cold feet."  And what I guess he's saying there is that a lot of men are not quite sure whether they are willing to make this commitment called marriage, and so they want to rent an engagement ring just to hedge their bets a bit.  And, you know, that really is a picture of our culture and what it's come down to.  We really have lost the meaning of commitment in a marriage relationship and, as a result, we're afraid to step out and buy the engagement ring because we're afraid we're going to make the wrong choice.

Bob: We talked all last week about God's plan for marriage.  In Genesis, God tells us that His design for marriage is for a man to leave his father and mother, to cleave to his wife and for the two to become one flesh.

Dennis: Yes, what we've been doing – well, all last week – is going back to the biblical blueprints and back to the origins of marriage and looking at what God has given us as a mandate for how to establish a marriage relationship.  Psalm 127:1 is a verse that I frequently quote, but it says, "Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it."  And it's clear, from looking at the divorce statistics, both outside the church and inside the church, inside the Christian community, that there is a lot of vain building going on, and God has given us the plans, the blueprints, for establishing this thing called marriage.  He has laid it out.  And what we've been doing is going back to the Book of Genesis – Genesis, chapter 2, verses 24 and 25, and looking at a progression that those verses spell out.

 First of all, it says for this cause a man shall leave his father and his mother and shall cleave to his wife.  And we've been building upon that cause called marriage.  We've talked about what it means to leave father and mother and doing that honorably towards them, and now we've been talking about the whole idea of cleaving.  And cleaving means commitment, it means covenant, it means vow, and it's a pledge to God and to another person to love and care for your spouse, and marriage is a spiritual commitment.  It's not just two people making a promise to each other.  It really is a profoundly spiritual experience.

And I'm concerned today.  I was with a few men the other day in a meeting, and we went around and had prayer requests from each of those men, and I was astounded as men started weeping and crying about their sons and daughters who had gotten married, and they were in their second year of marriage, their fifth year of marriage, their first year of marriage, and all around the circle, these men were sharing about marriages that were near collapse and near breakup at the very start.  And they're talking about Christian marriages, they weren't talking about pagan marriages.  They were talking about people who bear the name of Jesus Christ.

And as I sat there listening to that, I just couldn't help but think, you know, we've got to keep going back to the biblical basics and training our young people, our children in our own homes, to understand that marriage is a sacred trust.  It's a holy vow and a covenant made, first of all, to our God who watches and sees all and who wants us to fulfill that covenant.  And then, secondly, it's a covenant to another person.

Bob: So you're saying that the foundation for cleaving is a covenant, is that right?

Dennis: It is, and we have got to understand that we must train our sons and our daughters to keep this covenant.  We can't fall prey to thinking with our hearts.  We must think biblically; we must think scripturally; we must think from God's perspective; we cannot think as the world thinks.

 Let me illustrate with something that Catherine Paxton wrote in "Leadership" magazine.  She wrote, "A braid appears to contain only two strands of hair but it is impossible to create a braid with only two strands.  If the two could be put together at all, they would quickly unravel.  Herein lies the mystery – what looks like two strands really requires a third.  The third strand, though not immediately evident, keeps the strands tightly woven."  Paxton goes on to conclude, "In a Christian marriage, it is God's presence, like the third strand in a braid, that holds husband and wife together."  And that's what we've got to return to – back to the presence of God in every marriage relationship.

Bob: You know, as we talk about this idea of leaving and cleaving at the FamilyLife Marriage Conference, we talk about the foundation of a commitment, but built on that foundation of a commitment is a concept that really sets the tone for the entire marriage conference weekend.  It's a question that Adam faced in the Garden.  In fact, as you spoke on this at a recent FamilyLife Marriage Conference, you laid out that key question with which Adam had to grapple.  Let's listen together as we play a clip from that message at a FamilyLife Marriage Conference.


Dennis: Let Adam receive Eve.  At this point, when God came walking up with Eve to Adam, the angels in the heaven kind of moved forward on the edges of their seats and peered down into the Garden to see what would Adam's response be?  Is he going to name her another name and then move on to the next thing?  Really.  And so you could almost picture – they move on the edge of their seats – what's his response going to be? 

 Now, a lot of us when we come to this passage right here – here is the way we read this.  The man said, "This is now bone of my bones, flesh of my flesh, she should be called 'woman' because she was taken out of man."  Next.  I want to tell you, the Hebrew language in this passage is not like that at all.  It is dripping with excitement.  It's Technicolor, three-dimensional, I mean, if you'd named a few hundred thousand animals – insects, birds, et cetera – and God came walking up with Eve, you wouldn't say, "Hello."  No, indeed, what you would say, "Whoa, man, whoa, man."  I mean, you would say, "Eve, you are the only girl in the world for me."


 You might say that Adam was so excited he was literally beside himself. 


 That's all of those I'll do for the rest of the time.  Adam was excited.  Number one, in this passage, God illustrates the cornerstone principle for marriage.  The basis of one's reception of his mate is faith in God's integrity, the trustworthiness of God's character.  Even did nothing to earn Adam's response.  Eve came with the credibility and the character of God.

 Number two, Adam's focus was on God's flawless character, not on Eve's performance or on how well he knew her.  Who did Adam know?  God.  Could God be trusted?  Yes.  That was the basis on which Adam received Eve. 

[end tape]

Bob: Well, from a recent FamilyLife Marriage Conference, that's our host, Dennis Rainey, talking about the whole idea of receiving our mate, which is really key to how we cleave together as a couple, isn't it?

Dennis: When you made a covenant to your spouse, it wasn't just to stay married.  It was a covenant to care for and to nourish them and meet their needs and to receive them, accept them, embrace them as God's personal provision for your needs.  We were created by God to be alone.  But out of that aloneness, God said it wasn't good, and he gave Adam an assignment of naming the animals and of convincing Adam that he was alone, and that he needed a counterpart.  And what we just heard here is the story of how Adam ultimately ended up receiving Eve as God's provision for his needs.

 And what we've got to do today is not reject our spouse.  We have to receive them.  We've got to receive them in their personality, their habits, the mistakes they make, even their selfishness and how they hurt us.  We somehow, in the middle of a real relationship with a real person, must embrace that person, because that is God's assignment for us.

Bob: That's a tough assignment for a lot of folks who have a lot of baggage that they've brought with them into the marriage relationship or a lot of issues that have developed since they got married, where they've been wounded.

Dennis: Yes, and what makes it even more difficult is some Christians end up feeling like they married the wrong person, and this will really undermine your commitment.  And I believe the devil really uses seeds of doubt in Christians' lives early in their marriage to perhaps convince them that they made a mistake.

 I ran across a little piece written by Zig Ziglar, and you don't think of him as being a marriage counselor, but this is worth repeating here on the broadcast.  He said this – "I have no way of knowing whether or not you married the wrong person, but I do know that many people have a lot of wrong ideas about marriage and what it takes to make that marriage happy and successful.  If you treat the wrong person like the right person, you could well end up having married the right person after all."  You know, I like that.

 But he goes on to say this – "On the other hand, if you've married the right person and treat that person wrong, you certainly will have ended up marrying the wrong person.  I also know that it is far more important to be the right kind of person than it is to marry the right person."  The bottom line is, we need to accept and receive our spouse.  If we're married today to them, we need to accept them as God's personal provision for us because, you know what?  You don't have an option at this point.

 Now, I know at this point, Bob, there are a lot of our listeners, far too many of our listeners, who are thinking about no longer cleaving.  They're talking about uprooting their commitment and leaving this person that they have made a covenant with.  And I just, for a moment, want to ask you some questions.  First of all, have you ever really been committed to this person?  You may say, "Well, you don't know how hard I've tried."  And I say to you – I'm not saying if you've tried hard – have you really sought to build your home upon the rock – the rock of Jesus Christ and the hope of the Scriptures?

 Secondly, have you really sought to apply God's blueprints?  Have you prayed together?  Have you read the Bible together?  And throughout this entire series, I have been imploring couples to open their Bibles together, at the minimum, and perhaps pick up the phone and call our 800 number and get the book, "Moments Together," and just start reading something that's spiritually oriented to point you back towards God.  But you can make that marriage work if you apply God's blueprints even in the most dire circumstances.

 Third, have you prayed about leaving?  I mean, really prayed about it?  Have you asked God what His opinion of that would be?  Fourth, what does God's Word say about you leaving?  Do you have freedom to leave?  Is it right?  Does it matter what God thinks about it?  It should matter, and it better matter, because to leave in a situation where you're ignoring what God says and what He thinks about it – well, I want to tell you, I would not be a good friend here on this radio broadcast if I didn't warn you, you're headed for the spiritual woodshed.  And at that point you may say, "I'd rather have the spiritual woodshed than be married to this imperfect person.  And I say to you, "Be careful, be very careful."

 And, finally, one last question – have you sought forgiveness for where you have failed?  In other words, have you really sought to take what is your responsibility and assume, before God, that responsibility and obey Him in that relationship?  You know, Bob, in these situations, you better make sure you're on God's side and the middle of God's favor, because he is the one who was present when we made that covenant to one another and got married.

Bob: There are a lot of people who look at the events or the circumstances in their marriage, they look at their mate, and the pain is too great.  The price seems too high, and they think to themselves, "I don't know if I can make it.  I don't know if I can stick it out in this marriage."

Dennis: Yes, and it's in those circumstances that God delights in meeting us.  At that point of suffering, He calls us to be God's arms of love to our spouse.  I ran across an article written by Robertson McQuilkin, and Dr. McQuilkin used to be the president of Columbia Bible College in Columbia, South Carolina, and actually resigned and stepped down from his post to take for his wife, who became stricken with Alzheimer's disease.  And, Bob, I've got to tell you, as I was reading this article, nearing the conclusion I began to weep as he shared about – well, the bittersweet memories that he was still holding onto as his wife had lost her ability to talk.  And he just said simply that it was those memories that kept their relationship alive and kept him serving her at a very needy point in her life.

 Let me just read from this article – "It's just as well that I have these memories of past conversations, for Muriel hasn't spoken a coherent word in months, years, if you mean a sentence, a conversation though, on occasion, she tries mumbling non-words.  Would I ever hear that voice again?  Then came February 14, 1995, Valentine's Day was always a special day at our house because that was the day, in 1948, when Muriel accepted my marriage proposal.  On the eve of Valentine's Day in 1995, I read a statement by some specialist that Alzheimer's is the most cruel disease of all, but that the real victim is actually the caregiver.  I wondered why I never felt like a victim?

 That night I wrote in my journal, "The reason I don't feel like a victim is I'm not.  When others urged me to call it quits, I responded, 'Do you realize how lonely I would be without her?'  After I bathed Muriel on her bed that Valentine's Eve and kissed her goodnight – you see, she still enjoys two things, good food and kissing – I whispered a prayer over her, 'Dear Jesus, you love sweet Muriel more than I, so please keep my beloved through the night that she may hear the angel choirs.'  The next morning, I was pedaling on my exercycle at the foot of her bed and reminiscing about some of our happy lovers' days long gone, while Muriel was slowly emerging from her sleep.  Finally, she popped awake and, as she often does, smiled at me.  Then, for the first time in months, she spoke, calling out to me in a voice clear as a crystal chime – 'Love, love, love,' she said.  I jumped from my cycle and ran to embrace her.  'Honey, do you love me?  You love me, don't you?'  Holding me with her eyes and patting my back, she responded with the only words she could find to say yes with – I'm nice, she said.  Those may prove to be the last words she ever spoke."

 You know, Bob, as I read that entire article, I couldn't help but marvel at a Christian man's commitment to his wife as he is walking into the valley of the shadow of death with his beloved, and what a remarkable illustration is it of the love of Christ.  May his tribe increase because today we need men like him who will love their spouses in spite of.

Bob: You know, you have to think that Dr. McQuilkin had a treasure chest of memories, because for years that had been a foundation of receiving.  For years there had been times together in prayers, times together in the word – a heritage built up that sustains him in the midst of these present circumstances.

Dennis: Yes, I think it would be important to say that I'll bet this commitment did not come about at the end of his relationship with her, but that this commitment had been built over a lifetime.  And I think that's what our listeners need to hear us talking about today.  Today is the time when you need to make your commitment work with your spouse.  Now is the time to receive them as God's provision for you and love them and care for them and meet their needs and seek to be God's arms of love to your spouse.

Bob: You know, just recently, after Muriel went on to be with the Lord, we featured, in our online magazine, "The Family Room," an article that Dr. McQuilkin wrote about the loss of his wife, and some people would look at the loss, after years of caring for a wife who was unresponsive, and they would think that must be the great release of a burden.  But for Robertson McQuilkin, it was a time of mourning and melancholy because of the depth of the relationship that had been established throughout the years of their marriage.  He talked about that in his book, "A Lasting Promise," which is a book that we have in our FamilyLife Resource Center.  And we did an interview with him prior to Muriel's death, and we have that interview available in our FamilyLife Resource Center as well, if any of our listeners would like to hear Dr. McQuilkin reflect on his relationship with Muriel they can contact us at 1-800-FLTODAY or go online at, and we can pass those resources on to you.

 And we can also recommend other resources about how we cleave to one another biblically.  You can ask about those when you contact us or, again, go to our website at  And then let me encourage you, when you get in touch with us, get information about our upcoming Weekend to Remember conferences that we're going to be hosting in cities all across the country this fall.  This two-and-a-half-day conference has been designed to equip couples to grow together in a marriage relationship, and a lot of the couples who come, Dennis, are in a good marriage, and they want their marriage to deepen.

 We also have some couples who come who are in a difficult spot.  We had a couple who came recently – the husband wrote to us and said, "My wife and I were having difficulties.  We had started counseling, and we decided to attend the Weekend to Remember conference, and we believe now that working together on oneness in our marriage, with the help and the guidance of the Holy Spirit and continued prayer, we can accomplish the goal of being one."  And that's what our conferences are all about – helping husbands and wives move closer together – to leave, to cleave, and to become one flesh, to understand what that means and to have a more fulfilling marriage relationship that honors God.

 If you'd like more information about how you can be a part of one of these conferences, again, the information is on our website at or you can call 1-800-FLTODAY and someone on our team can pass the information along to you.  FamilyLife Weekend to Remember conferences going on this fall.  Call us at 1-800-FLTODAY or go online at

 Well, let me give you a quick update, if I can.  We've been encouraged recently by the number of individuals who have been coming to our website for more information about the upcoming National Preaching Initiative in September and October.  Together with Chuck Colson and the Wilburforce Forum, we are encouraging pastors to speak out on God's plan for marriage, especially now in a culture where that plan is under attack.  We're hoping that the church can speak authoritatively and biblically on God's design for the marriage relationship. 

 If you'd like more information on how your church can be a part of that, come to our website at, and when you do stop by, if you can help us with a donation for the ministry of FamilyLife Today, you will help us be able to move this initiative and other initiatives forward in the days ahead during this critical time in our history.  So you can donate online if you'd like, or you can call 1-800-FLTODAY, but I want you to know those donations are needed, and they are appreciated.  They really do make a difference.

 Well, tomorrow we're going to continue looking at what the Bible has to say about our need to leave, to cleave, and to become one flesh.  That is God's plan for our marriage, and we'll talk more about it tomorrow.  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.

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


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