A blog by Josh Humbert
“Michael loves his wife, Kamala. Michael also likes his 27-year-old girlfriend, Rachel. So six months ago, Kamala decided to do what most wives would never even consider: she invited Rachel to come live with them and their six year-old son.”
So began a recent news story from the Huffington Post by way of Nightline. The story documents a brief history of a “married couple” who have a very (very!) open marriage, wherein multiple lovers can be added to the mix.
It is clear that, for many in today’s world, the institution of Biblical marriage is out-dated and expired. What’s cool/hip/fashionable is trying to change it. “Two grooms, no bride? Now that is progressive! Two brides, one groom? SO MODERN!” And this is just the tip of the iceberg, really. The floodgates, if you will, have been opened. In a very short time, the different versions of acceptable marriage arrangements in the US will include many options. Increasingly, society may not even embrace marriage at all, instead the trend of just living together will continue to grow. (here’s a past blog I’ve written on that topic: https://joshhumbert.wordpress.com/2012/10/)
Freedom: The “must-have”
The article quotes Jenny Block, who is an author on the subject of polyamory, and who has had an open marriage for 10 years. She says: “We cannot control our own desires and we certainly cannot control the desires of others….you cannot control the other’s person’s heart and mind. The heart wants what it wants.” Sadly, Jenny’s thinking is the echo of many in today’s world.
“Follow your desires!”
“The heart wants what it wants!”
“You have to be free to do whatever you want!”
“Freedom is what you MUST have!”
Listen to the songs, the films, the TV shows, the books….they all echo this same call. If you want to be happy, you MUST be free!
But if that’s the philosophy that many embrace, the question that must be answered is this: is total freedom the answer? Does that type of freedom lead to lasting joy?
The answer is a resounding and emphatic “no!” In any area of life you consider, total freedom to just “do what the heart wants” is a recipe for disaster, not lasting joy.
As a pastor in one of the most “modern” cities in our country, New York City, Pastor Tim Keller deals with the bankruptcy of this idea often. I think he sums it best when he says, “Freedom is not so much the absence of restrictions as finding the right ones, the liberating restrictions. Those that fit with the reality of our nature and the world produce greater power and scope for our abilities and a deeper joy and fulfillment.”
Yes, that is the right answer. Not the absence of restrictions, but finding the LIBERATING restrictions. You know this to be true, don’t you? The next time you come to a busy traffic intersection and you want to escape with your life…tell me…do you want the other drivers to embrace total freedom? Should everyone just do what their heart wants? Or do you want them to follow the liberating restrictions in place: namely, the traffic lights and rules of the road.
See, the heart MUST have liberating restrictions in place in all areas of life and especially in marriage. It will not survive otherwise. That freedom to just follow your heart? That’s a destructive lie. It is only with adherence to liberating restrictions that your heart and life will truly flourish.
A Philosophy That Fails
Think for a moment about this Michael, Kamala, and Rachel, and whoever else they’ve added to their house. How will they raise their son with this philosophy being their overriding belief?
When, for example, they tell him he needs to eat some healthy oatmeal for breakfast…what will they be able to say when the son replies: “No thanks dad and mom and other persons….My heart wants ice cream. I was born loving ice cream and I simply MUST follow my heart. I will not eat oatmeal for breakfast. No, I will only eat ice cream. Actually, from here on out, for ALL my meals, I will eat ice cream. That is what my heart wants!”
How in the world can they try to place liberating restrictions on the son (eating a balanced diet) when they have made it clear that you “have to do what works for you,” is the main belief of their life? See the thing is, kids have a PhD in detecting hypocrisy and this son would see through their feeble attempts to add discipline and restrictions to his life, especially when they don’t put any on themselves.
Kamala, the mother, says, “Monogamy can be a really beautiful agreement between people when they’re deeply in love and they don’t have desire for another, but most people in our society are just monogamous because their vows said, ‘I will forsake all others.’”
What could possibly be her reply when her son tells her, “Mom, a balanced diet can be a beautiful thing when people don’t have a desire for ice cream. But that’s not very modern or progressive. I have desire for ice cream and I must be able to fulfill it.” What really can she say to that? Absolutely nothing. And that’s what is so heartbreaking.
It’s a belief about life that may sound good at first glance, but has so many gaping holes that will lead to pain for certain. There are so many inconsistencies they will encounter with this. It will fail them and when it does, it will hurt them (and others!) in deep ways.
What Gets God’s “YES!”
I’ve been married 10 and a half years. I realize that isn’t terribly long, and I certainly don’t claim any sort of expertise on the matter. My wife and close friends could easily tell you what things I can do better in marriage. However, what I can say is that marriage is one area in life in which it is essential to understand the design and to embrace the restrictions.
Politicians and interest groups don’t “define” marriage, God did that. Sure, they can change things to make certain agreements seen as marriages under the law, but that will only lead to hurt. Taking away the tracks for the train can be seen by some as modern, but eventually that thing is going off the rails and it will not be pretty. Trains are MEANT to have tracks. So it is with us as well.
Good news: There IS actually a great set of liberating restrictions for marriage that will lead to real joy. It is God’s plan for marriage.
Marriage is God’s design. It’s HIS idea and He implemented it. We see how important it is as God gifts it to humans right there in Genesis 2:24, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.”
This is the exact same passage Jesus refers to when He is questioned on marriage in Matthew 19. It’s the same passage Paul quotes in Ephesians 5. There is ONE single design for marriage that is given and endorsed from the beginning to the end of Scripture. One single design that God says “YES!” too and that is this: one man, one woman, for life, in a covenant relationship with God and each other. And make no mistake…God EMPHATICALLY says YES! to that plan. He is for good, no, I mean great marriages based on His Word!
God designed marriage and wants them to flourish. Anything outside of that simple restriction on marriage isn’t actually marriage at all. It’s a bad idea posing as marriage. It doesn’t meet His requirements and it’s a mockery of the beautiful gift He has given. But when the liberating restrictions He gives are embraced and when He is the foundation of the relationship, a great marriage is possible.
A marriage according to God’s plan and God’s Word is like a train resting and restrained by the tracks. Sure, it may lack the “options” that come with total freedom…..but I guarantee it’s safer and possible to flourish when it’s “on the right track.”
Marriage as Reflection
The meaning of marriage isn’t just to find a person you really love and agree to be with them. It isn’t just something where your “desires” or “what your heart wants” are to be fulfilled, at all costs. That’s not marriage; that’s being extremely selfish and foolish.
Marriage is a gift that points to The Gift. God gives marriage not just as a gift to enjoy but also as a means to mirror the beauty of the Gospel. Jesus, the sacrificial and loving Groom, will one day be united to His Bride, the church. He will never leave her nor forsake her and He will love His church forever and ever. So as husbands and wives stand before God and vow to forsake all others and love only this special one….it is a chance to reflect a reality that goes beyond our earthly lives and on to something eternally beautiful.
Christians pledge their lives and worship to One Savior, Jesus Christ. Likewise in marriage, we give ourselves to one spouse. No turning back and no others added on.
Marriage will not be easy. The Bible never makes that promise. There will be hardships and disagreements. When two humans are joining their lives together, naturally there WILL be issues and complications. There will be times when you don’t “feel” the feelings or when your heart may want something else…..
But a marriage isn’t meant to be lived on the basis of feelings or what it is you think “your heart wants.” It is meant to be lived in the depth of a covenant love between you, your spouse, and God. He will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory and He desires to see good marriages flourish by following His plan. When God is the centerpiece of a marriage, there is room for real repentance, real change, real love, and real freedom. And that is real good.
Bad 90’s Pop and Biblical Truth
Back when I was in high school, Donna Lewis released a song that became very popular. It was called “I Love You Always Forever.” It is a very catchy song with some very over-the-top lyrics. She wrote:
“I love you always forever
Near and far, close and together
Everywhere I will be with you
Everything I will do for you……”
She sang in practically a lover’s whisper until the climactic bridge of the song where she would belt these words out:
“Say you’ll love, love me forever
Never stop, never whatever!
Near and far and always
And everywhere and everything!”
Admittedly, it was a sugar-sweet pop song but you know what……THAT is what your heart wants! What your heart REALLY wants is a love like that. A love that “never stops, never whatever.” A love that really is forever. Forget having five wives or three husbands all that crazines…What does the human heart want? It wants a love that Donna describes. It wants THAT!
The truth is, even the best spouse cannot promise you that. Every spouse will be gone at some point. Our vows even include, “till death do us part.” There will be that parting. The marriage will end eventually.
But there is one Groom who can love His Bride in such a way and that is Jesus Christ. He alone can love you always forever. To those who pledge their hearts and lives to Him will, He promises “Everywhere, I will be with you.” As He dies on the Cross, we hear Him shout “It is Finished!” so we can rest in His claim that “everything, I will do for you.” He has conquered the grave so He will “never stop, never whatever” in His pursuit and love of you. He has the eternal and righteous love that you want more than anything else in this world.
In this life, we get the chance to reflect a small glimpse of that love in how we enter and live in the marriage covenant. I want my marriage and my love for my wife to honor Jesus and His love for me. I want my marriage to honor His design and His Word.
The so-called freedom that leads to failures and pain? No thanks. I want what lasts forever. I want to truly flourish and know the lasting joy of the deep love of Christ.
That is what my heart wants. And it is what my heart wants for you too.
As always, thanks for reading. Comments welcome.