Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Importance of Marriage: Cleave Unto Her and None Else - Including, Ultimately, God

In the movie, "What Dreams May Come", a man comes to realize that he would rather live in Hell with his wife than live in Heaven without her.  This post is about that idea - that we are meant to be with someone other than God eternally - that we must accept Him, His grace and the atonement, but that part of such an acceptance is a willingness to place our spouse ahead of Him ultimately.  

Please bear with me as I explain why I believe this. 

Genesis 3:12 says:

"And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat."

I believe the straightforward meaning of this verse, strictly parsed into modern terms, would be something like:
"You made this woman and commanded that she should remain with me. She gave me the fruit, and I ate it."

Personally, to add a bit of the background story, I would fill it out thus - knowing that it is going beyond simple parsing, but confident that it is not wildly speculative or off-the-wall:
"You made this woman and commanded that she should remain with me. That was the first and greatest commandment you gave me. Therefore, when she gave me the fruit to eat, and I realized we would be separated as a result, I ate it also in order to remain with her - and fulfill the first and highest law you gave me. I had a choice to stay with you alone forever or be with her outside your presence, and I chose to remain with her rather than to remain alone with you."

I have read quite a few varying interpretations of this verse, but each of them requires that the interpreter make some core assumptions about the relationship between Adam and Eve - and, in almost all cases, those assumptions are a direct reflection of either our modern conception of relationships, an obvious argument for a particular political or gender-specific issue or a view that simply is not supported by the text itself. As someone who sees the story figuratively rather than literally, I understand differing interpretations, but the one I have outlined is the only one that makes sense to me - given the totality of the account and the initial command to "cleave unto her and none else". 

Consider carefully the following point: "None else" includes the Lord, Himself - so, in a very real way, Adam was making the choice we teach that all will have to make in the eternities (to "leave home" and the presence of the Father and Son and embark on our own eternal journey as a united couple - "God" to our own spirit children). Thus, I see figurative meaning in the Garden for both our mortal and immortal existences - and I see Adam's statement in Genesis 3:12 as his straightforward explanation of his choice to accept the Father's full plan, by placing life with his wife ahead of life alone with God.


SilverRain said...

Except one thing . . . Adam chose to stay with Eve because God commanded it. That isn't the same thing as putting Eve before God.

Papa D said...

I agree, SR - which is why I focused on the contrast between being with a spouse eternally and being alone with God.

Btw, just to be crystal clear for anyone who reads this, I am NOT saying divorce always is wrong or that someone should remain in a miserable or abusive marriage. Please, nobody take that message from this post.

SilverRain said...

To be honest, I wasn't thinking that (about the abuse or divorce) at all with this post, Ray!

I do have more than one side. ;)

Your wording sounds like you are saying that ultimately your spouse should be more important than God. I'm not sure I agree with that, not when it was God's commandment for Adam to stay with Eve in the first place.

I don't think the choice of God/alone vs. with spouse and not God exists as a choice at all, really.

Papa D said...

The choice I'm highlighting here is between our eternal destiny as a couple as opposed to being alone with God - and that is a classic divide between Mormon theology and the foundation of Protestant theology.

Maybe I should have been more explicit in the post, but I wanted to try to hint at it without coming right out and saying it.

FelixAndAva said...

I see your point as that eventually, kids grow up and marry and leave home in our mortal lives, God expects His children to do likewise in the eternities.

ji said...

PapaD, Your perspective would be stronger if marriage was the ultimate goal -- better married in hell than single in heaven (?) -- but marriage is not the ultimate goal; rather, it is only a step on the way -- the man and the woman marry, and become one flesh, and then they come to God together -- coming to God is always the ultimate goal, married if possible or single otherwise.

Papa D said...

I agree for this life, ji - but, ultimately, those who live righteously will have an eternal companion and not live directly with God. At least, that is one important aspect of the hope of our faith.

In that light, righteous marriage (truly becoming one) really is the ultimate goal.

ji said...

I don't understand your statement, "...those who live righteously will have an eternal companion and not live directly with God. At least, that is one important aspect of the hope of our faith." My eternal destiny, or at least the hope of my faith, is to be a king and a priest unto God (Rev. 5:10), with my wife at my side, becoming a joint heir with Christ in all that the Father has (Rom. 8:17). I don't see a separation from God in the eternities.

Papa D said...

We have the same hope, ji. I'm just saying two things about that hope - about my faith:

1) We can't have that hope (to realize the fullness of the Gospel) without a spouse. Therefore, we can't have all that the Father wants to give us as an individual. Marriage is so important because it takes an individual "one" and, hopefully, creates a new, unified two-as-one. Thus, I as an individual one living in the presence of God is not ideal - is not perfect (meaning "whole, complete, fully developed"). That perfect oneness occurs only as a couple.

2) I have a hope that I will be able to abide the presence of the Father eternally - but I don't envision eternity as in constant proximity to the Father. I don't see my wife and I "living at home", if you will. I see us off living our own lives - not separated spiritually from God, but separated physically from his direct, constant presence.

I'm not saying that separation is total by any stretch, since I believe we can return for counsel and various levels of family reunion - but I see my ultimate focus being on my wife and our own family. Thus, my actual, practical "eternal life" ultimately will center on my wife and not my Father - even if that life was made possible by my Father.

I'm saying that, at some far distant point, we are going to have to "cut the apron strings" once more and function as a united "one" outside the direct, physical presence of God.

Patty said...

I've never even thought anything close to this so your post is giving me something to ponder. I think I understand what you're saying, and the idea that we are children who get married and move out makes sense. Thanks for the food for thought!