Monday, February 15, 2010

Gleanings from the Pastor's Perspective: The Myths of Marriage (4): Personal Space

The Pastor’s Perspective
Vol. 32 Num. 2
“The Myths of Marriage (4)”
First Published: January 14, 1999

In December, we started a series of very helpful articles on marriage by Dr. Glen Knecht (of Fourth Presbyterian Church in Washington, DC). This may be the most provocative one yet. So often, we come into a marriage relationship, with a vision for continuing our separate personal agendas on parallel tracks. Soon, however, we discover the impossibility of such an approach.

The Myths of Marriage (4): In good marriages each spouse deserves his or her own space
In this little corner of your favorite publication, we are examining some of the muddled thinking about marriage that keeps us from taking advantage of this most exciting and wonderful gift which God has given us. I have called them “The myths of marriage.”

The fourth fallacy about our married lives might be put this way: “Each of the mates deserves her/his own space.” And we may be thinking that we need “room” in our marriages to be apart a little and to have a breather from this one who is so close to us.

But that is to miss the agenda of marriage which is to draw us out of our aloneness our separateness into community with another person. Our desire for “space” is a retreat from that process back into separateness and solitude. That is the great temptation in married life: to renege on our decision and commitment to be one flesh with another person back toward being an individual again.

Mike Mason has likened the presence of our mate in the home to a great tree around which a house has been built. It is there in the center of the living room now. It is a beautiful thing and adds charm and beauty to the living room and a loveliness to the whole house. But it is also a problem to us. When we want to walk through the room, we must go around it. It affects the way we can arrange things in that room and how we must clean that area. It requires adjustments and it will not go away.

In something of the same way, our husband/wife is always there. Sometimes it seems they are right where we want to be — and in the way, as it were. And they do not go away. This is their place: their home with us, and they are always there. We must learn how to live with the reality of their presence always present. We gave up our right to “space” when we married. Now we are in a new condition and we must build our lives around the “tree” that is always there.

The constant and ubiquitous presence of our mate in the home is a reminder of God to us and of His purpose in our lives. He too is always there. And we must live our lives in the light of that fact. This is what the Bible calls living in “the fear of the Lord.”

And we cannot forget what He is doing in us through our mates. He is coaxing us out of the shadows of our selfish and private lives into the light and joy of fellowship and community. He is relentless in this and arranges it so that our mate is “always there.”

When you begin to think this way, you realize how deleterious to a marriage is the idea of “personal space.”

We shouldn’t miss the central point of this challenging piece. The point is not that we must be perpetually joined at the hip, but rather that we cannot grow in a marriage, if we continue to try conduct some aspects of our lives as if we were single! May God help us all here.

Your friend,
Ligon Duncan

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