Keeper of His Home

by Chelsea McCafferty

Where Did “Holy Matrimony” Originate?

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Kamal Zharif via photopin cc

Holy Matrimony. Where did the concept originate? What does it mean to be joined together in holy matrimony and how has the concept evolved? How does it affect marrying couples of today? These are the questions I had in mind as I read about the history of marriage in and outwith the church. The first issue we need to explore is the idea of being “joined together” and who has the right to do this “joining” of a man and a woman.

You may be surprised to discover that marriage was not always a matter of state or government. The government didn’t always have a say in whether or not a couple was joined together in marriage. Couples didn’t always require a state license to wed, nor be married by a person who was government-certified to do so. It wasn’t until the middle ages that marriage contracts permitted by the church or the state came into being. In fact, it may surprise you even more to learn that the church really had little to do with the contractual joining of a couple in matrimony for nearly 6,000 years.

Prior to the middle ages, a man and a woman were joined in marriage by vows that they took and pledged before God and private contracts between families. There need by no officiate present. No one did the “joining” except for the One who actually created marriage in the first place – God. A marriage declared by a couple and their family was considered valid and recognized up through the 1700’s.

 

“So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” Matthew 19:6

 

God is the Author of marriage and He joins a man and a woman in matrimony. He brings them together. He hears and receives the vows they present to one another and to Him. He blesses their union and gives them instruction through His Word as to how their marriages should work. This is how both the early church and early government saw the marriage covenant. Then, between the 17th and 18th centuries it all started to change.

As we have watched and experienced, various governments have grown in their roles and scope of authority over the years. In the history of America, and other countries as well, mankind has fought against unjust and bad governments. We have submitted to governments that seem to be more just and right. We have allowed them to take control of some aspects of our lives, and have pushed back against them when they have tried to go too far. We apply for driver’s licenses thereby asking the government for permission to drive and recognizing their authority. We offer up our taxes and fees. We pay for licenses to run businesses, keep dogs and to hold yard sales on our property. We ask their permission to enter into marriage by applying for a license, and we are “joined together” by a person who has asked for permission to do so by applying for a license himself. It wasn’t always like this, but that’s the way it is today. The government has seized control of God’s beautiful creation of marriage and therefore now assumes the authority to determine and change the very concept of marriage….one man and one woman.

We can expect nothing less. When we let the world in, it will twist and turn and re-invent what God did perfectly the first time. He formed the man and the woman to be perfect counterparts for each other, physically, spiritually and emotionally. He brought the woman to the man and joined them together in a truly holy matrimony. He declared that none should separate them. He desired that their covenant would be kept sacred and unbreakable. There were no officiates or state contracts involved. It was pure and it was exquisite.

As I write this, I find myself a little saddened by the way the secular world has worked its way into this sacred covenant. On the other hand, a marriage is still a very beautiful occasion, and there is nothing wrong with a couple submitting to government ordinances in purchasing a marriage license, throwing a big celebration and allowing someone to officiate by leading them through their vows and wedding traditions. As long as a couple understands that it truly is God who is “joining” them in marriage, the rest is just fun and romantic. We just need to remember to keep Jesus at the center of our wedding ceremonies and to make it very clear that it is God who does the joining.

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When a Loved One Struggles with Infertility

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There’s nothing easy about being a woman who struggles with infertility, whether it be primary or secondary. Only those who have experienced the pain of this struggle can fully understand the depth of hurt and longing that a barren woman experiences day by day, for years and years. It is impossible to comprehend her pain without having to experience it yourself, and yet so many woman have dear friends or family that are going through this struggle, and I know you want to be there for her. You should be there for her. She needs you.

The problem is, without understanding the pain, there is a chance you could say or do the wrong thing in an effort to bring comfort. As a woman who struggled with primary infertility and now secondary, I could share many stories of times when friends made careless comments or had advice to give that was anything but what I needed to hear at the moment. It wasn’t their fault. They were trying to help. They didn’t know the pain they were causing or tears I fought back. They had all the right intentions, but without having experienced infertility, one just doesn’t comprehend which comments/actions would be comforting and which would only add to the pain. As a help, here are a few ways you can minister to a loved one who struggles with infertility:

1. Pray. Pray for your friend as often as you can and with a fervent spirit. Prayer is powerful. We acknowledge that it is the Lord who opens and closes wombs. Pray for your friend’s womb to be opened. Pray boldly. Pray also for her aching heart and for her to be filled with comfort and peace. Pray that she will be able to accept God’s will, whatever it may be. Pray often and feel free to tell your friend that you are praying for her to conceive and praying for her comfort.

Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.” James 5:13-14

2. Don’t pretend it isn’t an issue. Infertility is a big deal. If you have a friend who wants a child but hasn’t been able to conceive, you can bet that this is something that she thinks about pretty much every day of her life. It is a very big deal to her. Minimizing it or pretending it doesn’t exist does not help her. While it isn’t something you want to bring up all the time, when in private it’s good to ask her how she is doing in coping with infertility. She may be needing to talk about it but feeling too rotten to bring it up herself. Women with infertility sometimes feel ashamed, especially in the Christian community. It makes her feel that she is somehow failing as a woman. This might keep her from opening up to a friend even though she really needs to talk it through. Give her that opportunity and remind her that you are thinking of her and that you care.

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2

3. Censor your tongue from flippant comments. Oh, the flippant comments that I’ve heard! You know, we all put our foot in our mouths sometimes. We are human. We are going to make mistakes. I would just encourage you to be especially cautious around your infertile friend. Try not to make comments like, “You just don’t get what a pain it is to be pregnant,” or “When are you going to get pregnant already?” or “Maybe you’re just not ready to be a mom.” These are only a few common ones. During my primary infertility phase, I had friends and family members tell me that maybe I should take advice on how to get pregnant from this young, unmarried girl who kept having babies. I was told that I was “lucky” I didn’t have to be pregnant. When I was sharing about the idea of adoption, I had a friend tell me “but there’s nothing in the world like carrying a baby in your womb.” Ouch. She’ll never know the tears I cried over that one comment. As Christians, we are to put the feelings and concerns of others ahead of our own liberty. You have the freedom to say flippant and thoughtless comments all day long if you want, but I urge you to put on compassion and be sensitive and thoughtful when it comes to speaking with a woman with fertility issues.

There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Proverbs 12:18

4. Don’t treat her like less of a wife, woman or sister in the Lord. You may not even recognize that you do it, but I can tell you from experience that woman without children are often treated differently in the church. I was a married woman, not young by any means, and yet people talked to me as if I was a teenager a lot of the time. Women who were younger than me, but who had babies, were treated as mature woman, whereas I felt they treated me differently. The focus was forever on the women having babies. They were building “families” but me and my husband were viewed as a “couple” – not a “family.” Sometimes I felt that people were judging me, or thought that I wasn’t conceiving because I had done something wrong. Some Christians view infertility that way, and perhaps sometimes it is a judgment from the Lord, but we know that it isn’t always that way. I believe God uses infertility to bring about His plans and also to bring Himself glory. Sometimes I believe He closes wombs so that people will look after the orphans of this world. He knows the plans He has for us. Don’t make your friend feel like less of a woman because she cannot conceive. Don’t make her family and less of a family. She and her husband are their family.

The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” Proverbs 16:9

5. Try not to talk about your pregnancy/children constantly when she’s around. Now this is a tricky one. When I was going through primary infertility, it was so incredibly difficult for me to be around pregnant women or women with babies. It just hurt me inside to see them and hear about the joys of pregnancy that I couldn’t experience. I worked hard to fight against my pain and hold it back so that I could rejoice with my friends who were having babies. I fought back tears at baby showers and, with the power of the Holy Spirit, was able to celebrate with my loved ones. The truth is, I was happy for them. I was excited for them. I wanted to be there for them. I was just so overcome with pain that it was very difficult. While you should talk about your pregnancy and children, just be mindful about how much you talk about it with your friend who struggles in this area. Be discerning about when you need to change the subject. Limit your own liberty for the sake of your hurting friend. Don’t minimize the joy and wonder of carrying and birthing babies, but be sensitive to the heart of your friend who is longing so desperately to experience it too. Be wise and be kind.

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another…” Colossians 3:12

6. Walk through the journey with her and be supportive. Infertility is a journey. It starts with a couple who want a child, but for some reason cannot conceive. It starts with years of waiting and wondering and worrying. It usually ends up in a doctor’s office with either an explanation or sometimes no answers at all. From there the couple must make decisions about how to go forward…will it be infertility treatment, adoption or the end of the road? Infertility is a journey, and each step can be painful and difficult. Be there for your friend who is going through it. Pray for her. Hold her hand. Encourage her. Help any way you can. Try not to judge her decisions if you don’t agree with them. Try not to minimize the weight of the choices before her and her husband. At the end of the journey, they may end up with a child, or they may not. Either way, be a supportive and loving friend throughout the journey.

A friend loves at all times..” Proverbs 17:17a

7. Give her hope from the Bible. I believe fully that the Lord God of the Bible is the only opener and closer of wombs. He makes that decision. A woman can use birth control and still conceive if God wills, or a young, healthy woman can be stopped from conceiving by the hand of God. He is sovereign. If the God of the Bible is the opener of wombs, then it is from His Word that our hope and comfort comes. When your friend needs hope, give her the Word. When she needs comfort, encourage her with scripture. When she is angry, sooth her with God’s Word. God does not promise that all Christian women will bear children naturally, but He does promise that a woman will be able to mother children….sometimes that is through adoption, working with kids, etc. Here is a great verse for bringing encouragement to sisters who struggle with infertility:

“He (God) will make the barren woman keep house and be the joyful mother of children; praise ye the Lord!” Psalm 113:9

I hope this was a help to you in how to minister to your loved ones who have fertility issues. Please feel free to share this article so that others can glean from it as well. There is nothing easy about infertility, but the care and love of a good friend goes a long way in bringing comfort in those difficult times. God bless!

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Five Marriage Killers Part 4

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photo credit: Raleene via photopin cc

4. Manipulation & Spiritual Domination

When we look at scripture, we see a long list of women who manipulated their husbands in order to get their own way. Let’s start with Eve in the Garden of Eden, feeding her husband bad fruit (Genesis 3). Adam should have been leading, but Eve took the reins and led them both into temptation and the first sin. Should Adam have refused to follow her into sin? The answer is clearly yes, which is why both were disciplined by the Lord. However, would Adam have ever considered eating the fruit if not for his wife’s encouragement? Perhaps not. How about Sarah and Abraham (Genesis 16)? Sarah’s deep desire to give an heir to her husband prompted her to convince her husband to commit adultery with her own handmaid, Hagar, and to produce the son of the flesh, Ishmael. Once the son of promise, Isaac, came along, there was tremendous friction and subsequent pain. We certainly cannot forget Delilah (Judges 16) and how she manipulated Samson, causing him to lose his hair, his strength, his connection with the Holy Spirit (for a time) and eventually his life.

These are just a few examples of women manipulating their men, but manipulation may not always be leading our husbands into sin. Sometimes it is simply leading them in a different direction than they feel God has called them. A man and woman get married and the woman wants to have a child right away, while the man feels they should wait for a few years so that they can spend time together as a married couple first. The woman seduces her husband and conveniently forgets to take her birth control pills. Whoops! Now certainly there is no sin when it comes to sex in marriage, nor is having children a sin, but the refusal of the wife to follow her husband and her clear manipulation is far from fitting behavior for a daughter of the King. Perhaps you want to move to the beach but your husband feels called to buy a home in the mountains. Circling the ads for lovely beach homes for sale and leaving them sitting on his favorite chair when he comes home is not the way to do it. Neither is crying and complaining all day and night until you get your way. These are tactics of manipulation and are not in line with God’s Word.

The same principle holds true when it comes to spiritual issues. Women are far too swift to take up the role as spiritual leader when they think their husbands are doing the job incorrectly. Spiritual domination by a wife can be a marriage killer. I know a young woman who was the daughter of a pastor, and she married a nice, young Christian man when she was about 19 years old. This young woman and I would chat about married life, and I was always taken back by her attitude of spiritual superiority over her husband. Her husband was raised in a different type of church than she was, and so there were small differences in doctrine. She would complain that after hours and hours of trying to convince her husband that his church was wrong and hers was right they would get nowhere. She called him stubborn, but I think the more problematic of the two was this woman who thought it was her job to teach her husband in spiritual matters. If I, as a friend and outsider, picked up so quickly and with such clarity that this woman considered herself far above her husband in spiritual wisdom and maturity, than there is no doubt her husband felt the weight of her spiritual domination on a daily basis. No doubt he felt disrespected and deflated at home instead of built up and edified.

Don’t get me wrong. It is fine for a wife to share with her husband in a respectful and humble way. Most godly husbands cherish their wife’s opinions and are more than happy to hear her feelings on various topics of faith, the Word and spiritual growth. However when a bossy, dominating woman sits across the table from her man and lectures him for hours about praying longer, throwing out any PG-13 rated movies they have, or his faulty views on the issue of whether or not the Bible speaks against tattoos, I have to question her spiritual discernment. God never intended wives to lead their husbands in spiritual matters, or to instruct them. Yes, she may be right sometimes, but her disobedience to the Lord is far worse a sin than her husband’s occasional bad decision. The correct response would have been to lift her husband up in prayer and to speak with the law of kindness on her tongue. God is the head of her husband, and He will complete the work He has started. A pushy woman is merely a hindrance to the handiwork God wants to do in her husband’s heart, and she ought to spend more time focusing on her own spiritual growth than worrying about that of her husband’s.

Now we look for a moment back to Eve. People love to debate which of the two was more to blame for the fall in the Garden of Eden. Eve was the first to fall into sin, being deceived and tricked by that cunning serpent, and she gave to her husband of the tree as well, who was not deceived but willingly disobeyed God’s instruction. Men love to talk about how women lead men into trouble, just as Eve led her husband into temptation and sin. On the flip side, where was Adam’s leadership or discernment? We don’t see him struggling against doing what he knows is wrong, or rebuking his wife. When it comes down to it and their sin is exposed, both man and women tried to pass the blame and both were punished and therefore both guilty. While figuring out who was more to blame is not necessarily an important quest, we do learn something quite fascinating and significant from this passage about our strengths and weaknesses as women and the roles we are intended to have. We will take a right turn in the Bible to 1 Timothy 2:11-15.

 

“Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.”

 

Feminists hate this verse. They love to label our brother Paul as being sexist and the Bible as being outdated and oppressive. Others will attempt to explain away this verse by saying that it was only for the early church and does not apply today or that perhaps it is acceptable for women to teach as long as they are under the authority of male elders. After all we’ve come so far in our mission to create equality between men and women, and to prove to the world that there is no difference between us, right? Wrong. The Bible doesn’t change because God doesn’t change. He created us for a beautiful role and purpose. As women we are precious jewels to our Heavenly Father and to our husbands, should we choose to follow God’s plan for us as wives. There is nothing belittling or insulting about this passage of scripture. Nor does it say it is for a time or a generation, and therefore we must accept that it is for all generations and still applicable today.

Let’s move on to the second part of the passage from 1 Timothy about Adam and Eve. Paul is explaining why women are to learn in silence at church and not to teach or have authority over men. Notice he doesn’t say it’s because women are not educated well enough in the Bible or that it is because at the present time woman were not treated as equals in society. Paul gives two reasons for creating these role boundaries. 1. Adam was created before Eve, and 2. Adam was not deceived in the Garden but Eve was.

Indeed, as we read back in Genesis 2 we see that Adam was created first. This does not mean he was more important than Eve or that he has priority over Eve. It is simply the order in which the Lord God willed for mankind. He has appointed the man to be the leader, going forth first with his wife following right by his side. Men are given a huge responsibility here. Teachers of the Word of God are always bearers of great responsibility as they must pray and study diligently not to lead anyone astray or misinterpret the Word. Secondly we see that Eve was deceived by the serpent. In Genesis, Eve makes the mistake of having conversation with the serpent, misquoting God’s actual words and then allowing the enemy to fill her heart with lies. She was caught up with the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. As a result, she was deceived. She certainly wasn’t the only one in sin. Adam sinned willfully. The Word does not mention him being deceived, but he did sin. Perhaps in God’s deep knowledge of the character heart of women, He knows that we are often times more easily deceived and led away by emotions than our other halves. There is no shame in this, but the verse in 1 Timothy makes it clear that this commandment not to allow women to teach or usurp authority spiritually over men is not cultural or for Paul’s generation alone, but based on the will and wisdom of our Lord God.

As women we are to refrain from taking control of situations and decisions, even if we think we will handle them better. If you are a controlling woman, this will really be a challenge for you. If you are set in your ways and are married or planning to be married, pray for God to change your heart as I did before I was married. If you are one of those ladies who must have everything “just so”, pray that the Lord will give you a spirit of flexibility, patience and submission. God finds these characteristics so lovely in his children.

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