THIS IS US: Picture Perfect   Genesis 2:18-25

If you’re new with us this morning, you’re jumping into a series we’ve been in for the last two weeks.  We’re exploring the question “What does it mean to be human?”  There’s a lot attached to that thread when you start to pull it.  The first week we said, on a fundamental level, there’s four things:  1) It means we are created beings. 2) We’re created in the image of God.  3) We’re a composite of both breath and dust, that we are spirit and flesh, body and soul.  4) We were created to commune with our Creator.  That was fundamentally what it meant to be human.  Last week we built off of that and said we have to do something when we get up in the morning.  We can’t just “BE.”  That’s the most important thing about us, but it’s not the ONLY thing about us.  We said that as human beings we carry the image of God and that meant three things:  1) We are created to create.  2) We are wired to work.  3) We were formed for friendship.  Today we’re going to dive a little bit deeper into this idea that we are formed for friendship.  We have relationships and marriage, that’s all a part of that piece of the pie that we’re going to explore today.

Kelly and I, like you, have a number of friends who send out Christmas cards.  One of our favorite things to do is to hang those cards up when they come in over the Christmas season, so we can catch up with old friends or at least see what they’re up to and pray for them.  My favorite thing when looking at those pictures is to try to imagine what’s behind the picture.  If you did any of those photo shoots like our family did, we got a number of good ones (thanks to our good photographer), but there was also a number of really bad ones, too.  For every good one you get…..I don’t know what the ratio is, but I’m going to say it’s about 50 to 1.  And it all depends….it’s a complicated equation… depends on how young your kids are and how good of a smile you want them to have…..  There’s 49 pictures that didn’t look quite as good as that one that was on your Christmas card.  We have this ability, don’t we, especially in our social media world to be able to put out the best pictures of us.  If you pick up a fashion magazine….did you know that 100% of the pictures in a fashion magazine are touched up or airbrushed, in some way, shape, or form?  That nobody looks like that!  Not even them!

I have first-hand experience in my modeling career of this happening to me.  A number of years ago, I woke up to friends sending me text messages and forwards of an email.  The deal was “Special Deal on Teeth Whitening San Diego.”  It was an Amazon-Local ad (sort of like Groupon).  It was a special they were running on teeth whitening.  I was like, “Listen, I know my teeth aren’t perfect, but this is a little bit strong of an intervention, you guys.”  I opened up the email.  The top picture was my dentist’s Amazon-Local ad that went out to tens of thousands of people around North San Diego County.  Here’s the thing:  He poached this (picture) off of my Facebook account!!!  Didn’t ask me!  {It’s a picture of Ryan and family.}  Not only that!  The bottom (picture) is the original; the top is his attempt at photoshopping our teeth whiter!  It’s a poor attempt at photoshop.  This is my launch into a modeling career…  I feel the pain.

This morning, the conversation we’re going to have is going to feel like an airbrushing.  It’s going to feel like a picture that you’re going to look at and go, “There’s no way.”  There’s no way that relationships can work like that.  There’s no way marriages can function like that.  That is too high of a bar.  We are all going to fall short. What I want to say at the onset is yep, we are.   We are.  BUT, unless we know the goal, unless we know what the perfect picture looks like, we will never fully chase after all that God has put in the hearts of us as being human beings.  Unless we know what God’s design is, we won’t chase after it wholeheartedly and ferociously like we were designed to do.  So, if you’re married this morning, my hope is that you take notes and that you walk away from this going, “That’s a high calling and I don’t think we’re there.”  Just so you know, we’re ALL going to have that same conversation on the way home.  None of us is going to look at each other in the car on the way home and go, “Well, I think we’ve nailed that; I think we’ve arrived.”  None of us are.  So my hope is that you take these pictures that we’re going to look at this morning……four pictures of the picture-perfect marriage….and you use them as a conversation starter to start to wrestle with God’s design for your marriage.

I always hesitate in speaking about a subject that I know is difficult for roughly half of the people in the congregation.  There’s people here who have walked through divorce and the pain and the hurt of that is very present.  Anytime we talk about marriage, those feelings rise to the surface.  I hear you.  There’s people in this room who have lost spouses recently.  To be reminded of the life that you had and that you no longer have is a really difficult thing.  There’s people in this room that are single, not by choice; you would love to find somebody to share your life with in this type of way.  To that whole group of people, I say:  1) I hear you and I planned this message with you in mind also. 2) My hope would be, as we jump into the Scriptures together and see God’s ideal design for not only marriages, but also in friendships and relationships, that we would have this picture held up, that our hearts would be captivated, and that it would, in the end, cause us to turn back to God and say thank you, regardless of whether we’re married, single, divorced, or widowed.

Genesis 2:18.  As we continue the series that we’re calling “This is Us,” an exploration of what it means to be human.  After God has created the heavens and the earth, he’s placed man in the garden to work it, to keep it, to have dominion over it, to tend it, the Scriptures say, we come across verse 18 in chapter 2.  Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone.    If you’re fresh and new to the Scriptures and you had just read chapter 1 of Genesis and starting chapter 2, this statement would be shocking to you.  All that you know about the story of God up until this point is that God has created, He’s stepped back from his creation, and the Trinity has given each other a high five and said, “We did really good work here.”  “Very good” it says at the end of Genesis 1.  Nothing has changed in between the declaration from God, “It’s very good,” and where we find ourselves in chapter 2.  Sin hasn’t entered the world.  There’s no Fall yet; it’s that God observes and looks and sees it’s not good that man (humanity) should be alone.  That that’s not God’s design.  If you were writing a story, we would call this the “inciting incident.”  That something happens to turn the story a little bit, some drama is added.  The drama is God looking at his own creation and going, “Well, that’s incomplete.  That’s not the way that I designed this to work.”  Here’s the question: Is God caught off guard?  Is he looking at this going, “You know what, I never thought of that—that it should be man AND woman.  That never crossed my….”  No, no, no.  This is written in THIS way for OUR benefit.  The story is set.  The story is told to draw out a piece of what it means to be human that if we miss it, we miss the entire picture.  God is not surprised.  God is not caught off guard.  The passage communicates something deep about what it means to be human and here’s what it communicates:  Shared life is God’s design for abundant living.  You may have noticed that the series is entitled “This is US” not “This is ME.”  That’s intentional.  I love the way that Tim Keller, the great pastor and author, states it: “The Genesis narrative is implying that our intense relational capacity, created and given to us by God, was not fulfilled completely by our ‘vertical’ relationship with him.  {That God created you with the capacity that’s more than just what HE can fill.  Let that sink in on you for just a moment.  He created you with a capacity, a desire, that other people should be a part of your life also.  Listen to the way Keller continues.} God designed us to need ‘horizontal’ relationships with other human beings.”

Shared life is God’s design for abundant living.  Being human is not an individual sport, it’s a team sport.  You cannot be all that God has designed you to be alone.  In fact, I would say that isolation, according to the Genesis narrative, and loneliness is inhumane, it’s anti-design, it goes against the threads that God has wired into the fiber of our DNA.  McGill University did a study in 1951, where they wanted to try to identify the effects of solitary confinement on people.  They had a number of volunteers to be in solitary confinement. They had things that inhibited their ability to hear.  They had goggles they put on their eyes.  The experiment was set to last six weeks.  None of the people involved in the study lasted more than one week!  After one week, what they identified was that everybody involved was having psychiatric breaks, they were starting to go a little bit crazy and they were starting to hallucinate.  Why?  Because shared life is God’s design for abundant living. We actually NEED each other.  We can’t exist without one another.

In this passage of Scripture, the foundation is it is not good to be alone.  I want to give you four pictures of what life together is intended to be by the goodness and the grace of God.  Each one of these pictures is going to progress to a new and deeper level of intimacy that you and I were designed to experience under his good grace.  Here’s the way it starts.  It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.  You have to know the problem God is solving in the creation of both male and female.  The problem that God is solving is not an issue of procreation.  It’s an issue of relationship.  It’s an issue of loneliness.  Before God ever says to Adam and Eve, “It would be a good idea for you guys to make babies,”……the problem he’s solving is you need other people on this journey of life and this journey of faith with you.  Here’s the first picture…the first picture of marriage, the first picture of relationship, the first picture of friendship……is side by side —-> shared friendship.  Don’t you love that God is a God who cares about us so holistically?  It’s not just this ethereal, spiritual relationship—that’s good, that’s necessary, that’s important.  But that’s incomplete.  That God cares about us in a holistic manner and, in so doing, creates us with a capacity for friendship then fills that void with the “other.”  I love the way that C.S. Lewis so poignantly writes about friendship: “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: What! You too? I thought I was the only one.”  Where there’s struggle that’s shared and instead of casting stones there’s this declaration: Me too!  I wrestle with that too!

Did you know that, if you’re married, in your marriage you were created, you were designed, your marriage was forged in order that your friendship would be deepened?  Friendship is not a nice addition to a marriage.  It’s an essential element.  It’s part of the way God’s wired you.  It’s part of the way that God has designed you.  The question then becomes: What does it look like to really, truly be friends?  Are we talking about some trite sentimentality?  No, the Scriptures actually talk about that and I’ll give you two things that are really cursory level about being friends.  The author of Proverbs, Solomon, writes about this:  A friend loves at all time, and a brother is born for adversity. (Prov. 17:17)   So biblical friendship has this steadfastness associated with it. This last week I read a book called Same Kind of Different as Me.  It’s this great story of this African-American man who grew up poor and homeless and this wealthy, white art dealer.  It’s their story of coming together and becoming friends.  At the very beginning of their friendship, Denver, the African-American man, looks at Ron, this white Anglo art dealer, and says to him, “You white people, when you fish you do catch-and-release fishing. You catch something and then you let it go.  I don’t want to do friendship that way.  If we’re going to be friends, it’s going to be until the end.”  That’s not unique.  That’s the way any honest, true, biblical friendship is.  When things get hard, we hold on tighter.  We don’t tap out and let go.  That’s the picture Solomon’s painting.

The second characteristic is from Proverbs 27:5-6:  Better is open rebuke than hidden love.  Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.  Have you ever had a friend who told you something in honesty that really hurt and really stung?  This is a factor in being a friend with another person–speaking the truth in love, even when you know it’s going to sting and even when you know it’s going to hurt.  One of the things I love most about my wife is if I ask her, “Hey, am I being crazy?  Am I off my rocker?  Have I lost it?” she will say to me, “Yes!  You are.  You have.”  This is a part of biblical, genuine friendship that we speak into each other’s lives and it’s the way that God’s wired us, not just for friendships and relationships in general, but for marriage.  That’s a great part of a marriage.  Wounds of a friend who you know isn’t letting go.  I love the way Tim Keller puts it: “Christian friendship is not simply about going to concerts together or enjoying the same sporting event.  It is the deep oneness that develops as two people journey together toward the same destination.”  It’s not just shared interest, it’s deeper than that.  It’s friendship–I’m going to speak love and I’m not letting go.  So picture #1:  Side by side —-> Shared friendship.

Here’s picture #2 from Genesis 2:18-20 — It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make a helper fit for him.  Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them.  And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name.  The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field.  But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him.   I want all the guys, in unison, to let out an Amen for that!  Aren’t we glad that there was no helper found fit for Adam amongst the animals?!  We read the story and we glaze over it, but think of what’s behind the story.  What if there’s this negotiation going on between God and Adam and God’s like, “Listen, the rhino could work.  We could make…it’s not originally what I had in mind, but we could make this work with a few minor adj…..”  No, praise the Lord, that there was not a “helper” fit for him.  Now, we have done massive damage because we haven’t done due diligence in asking the question “What does this word ‘helper’ mean?”  In Hebrew it’s the word ‘ezer.’  Ezer is used 21 different times in the Old Testament.  Two of the times are in this passage alone.  Sixteen of those other times are used in reference to, not a female, not a woman….they are used in reference to God.  Exodus 18:4 — The God of my father was my (ezer) help, and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh.  Deuteronomy 33:7 — And this he said of Judah: Hear, O Lord, the voice of Judah, and bring him in to his people.  With your hands contend for him, and be a help against his adversaries.  Sixteen out of twenty-one times the word ‘helper’ is used in reference to God.  We’ve often viewed helper as somebody who comes alongside of Adam to make him coffee and do his laundry.  Which isn’t at all the way this picture in Genesis is being painted!  The picture in Genesis is of a co-equal coming alongside of another to fortify and to add strength.  When the Scriptures talk about a helper, they will sometimes use it as God being a helper and a shield or a protector.  Helper is also used in reference to military reinforcements.

So, you have ‘helper,’ which means somebody who comes alongside of and strengthens.  Then you have ‘suitable,’ a suitable helper.  Suitable is a little more difficult in the Hebrew.  It has this dynamic….a good direct translation would be “like opposite.”  So, you’re like me, you’re made of the same material, you’re made of the same stuff, but you’re not the exact same, you’re not a mirror image.  If you are to look back in chapters 1 and 2 of the Genesis narrative, you’d find that they’re looking for something specific when they’re looking for a helper.  It’s somebody who’s going to work alongside of Adam to subdue and have dominion over the sacred space that God has created.  They’re looking for somebody who’s going to help and keep, to tend the garden. Finally, they are looking for someone who would help procreate, that they would be fruitful and multiply together.  But before they ever procreate, they have a mission.  They are linking arms to do something with God, for God’s purposes, by God’s design.  So marriage, first, is side by side–>shared friendship.  Second, it’s arm in arm —-> a shared mission.

Now, as a point of clarification, please don’t hear me say that men and women have the exact same role and function.  That’s not what I’m saying at all.  In fact, I’m not even touching on role and function, we’re talking about essence.  We’re talking about who they are in God’s created design.  Are there different roles and different functions?  Absolutely!!  But the most important thing is that before there are different roles there’s a shared mission.  They have different things that they’re executing in regards to that mission, different ways that they’re ministering.  Certainly.  Sure.  And those vary based on couple.  But the mission is in front of them.  The mission is paramount.  You show me a marriage that’s lost its love, and I’ll show you, first, a marriage that lost its mission.  Because that always starts to erode first; before we ever fall out of love, we fall out of mission.

Here’s two brief reasons why shared mission is so good.  One, have you ever noticed you get more done together than you do alone?  Simple math, although it’s actually more than just math, it’s actually multiplication.  You get exponentially more done together than you get done alone.  So it’s part of God’s design in saying I want you to have a mission that’s worth chasing after with some veracity in your life.  Two, there’s more joy in doing it together, isn’t there?  Have you ever watched a comedy alone and thought, “Man, that was funny, but it sure would have been funnier to hear somebody else laughing with me?”  Or have you ever watched a sunset over the Pacific Ocean—just the sun dive into the edge of the sea?  Without somebody to share it with it’s not quite as enjoyable, it’s not quite as fun.  Whether it’s in marriage, relationships, or friendship, God’s design for togetherness is for our joy, it’s for our life. And we need a mission.  Let me speak to those who are married — Your marriage needs a mission.  Oftentimes what happens is our kids are our mission while they’re in our house (if we have them).  Then what happens to many couples as they’re empty-nesters is their kids leave the house and they’re left wondering, “What’s our mission now? This was the mission.”  So we have this new sociological phenomenon that they call “empty-nest divorce syndrome.”  Where many empty-nesters are saying, “The thing that held us together, the mission that we had because we need one, was our kids and now that’s gone.”  So, I’d encourage you—kids are a great mission—they can’t be the only one though.  If you’re married, how do you and your spouse serve together?  That’s part of God’s design for you.  That’s part of the way that he wired you in the fabric of your being, that you would link arms together to make a difference in God’s good world.  If you’re not married, one of the things that creates community most strongly is a shared mission.  You show me a strong church and I will show a church that has a strong mission.  You show me a church that’s fracturing, where community is difficult and where people are at odds with each other, I will show you a church that probably lost sight at some point in time of their mission, the reason God brought them together in the first place.  Mission has this way of creating community and unity and deepening friendships, relationships, and marriage.  It’s part of God’s design.

So, we have side by side, arm in arm.  Two pictures of relationships.  Let me give you a third one.  Gen. 2:21-22.   So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh.  And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.   Just a quick note on this word ‘rib.’  In the Hebrew Scriptures, this word ‘rib’ is never used in our Old Testament anatomically.  It’s never used to describe an actual, physical rib.  It’s used to picture the ‘side’ of something.  It could be a rib of a house.  It could be a rib of a hill.  The picture that we have is God creating Eve out of Adam, or cutting him in half and making female, or making woman, out of him. Here’s the picture God is painting:  That men alone are not enough to embody and picture the image of God. It’s man plus woman that is the image of God.  Not man plus woman in marriage; man plus woman in general is the picture of what God has designed.  It’s what God has created. So in order to have a complete picture of humanity, you can’t just look at one gender—it’s incomplete and it’s insufficient.  Commenting on this section of Scripture, Saint Thomas Aquinas, in the 13th century, says this: “For since the woman should have ‘authority over the man’ (1 Tim. 2:12), it would not have been fitting for her to have been formed from his head, not since she is not to be despised by the man, as if she were his servile subject, would it have been fitting for her to be formed from his feet.”  This is a side-by-side shared mission creation from God.

{If this were a movie, at the end of verse 22 you would here the music slowing down and slow motion.  And as it says that she was brought to the man, it’s slow motion, wind blowing through Eve’s hair and Adam just going, “Thank you, God! I know you could have made the elephant work, but that would have been awkward!  She’s beautiful!!”}

And then you have verse 23.  Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”   It’s this word play in the Hebrew—she shall be called Woman (or ishshah), because she was taken out of Man.  It’s this beautiful poetic rendering.  Did you know that the first human words ever recorded in the Scriptures are a love poem?  That’s what this is.  It’s Adam seeing his soon-to-be wife Eve and going, “God, you’re amazing!  She’s like me, but she’s different than me, thank you.  She’s bone of my bone, she’s flesh of my flesh.  Jesus, thank you for not pairing me together with one of those animals.  I love you for that!”  He breaks into poetry, he breaks into song.  I mean, Adam in the garden turns into Casanova!  Which is ironic because he doesn’t have to woo her, right?  She’s presumably the only one…..and so is he!  He’s got a captive audience here!  And yet, he expresses something deep within us. We prefaced the offertory this morning by saying it’s a secular song, this is a love song and yet each love song you here on the radio should shout to you that there is a design deep within us as human beings to connect with other people.  That shared life is God’s design for abundant living, whether it’s in a relationship, in a friendship, or in a marriage.

Verse 24:  Therefore {In light of the fact that there is a helper suitable, a like-opposite…} a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.   They shall come together in way that’s unique.  This word ‘one’ in the Hebrew is the word ‘echad.’   When you combine (one) with flesh, it literally could mean that they are ‘glued together.’   There’s something that’s happening beneath just the mingling of bodies in this one flesh.  Certainly what they’re talking about here is sexual intimacy between a man and a woman, a husband and a wife, but there’s so much more going on than the just the physical coming together.  There’s this union.  So when we look at marriage specifically, we have this side-by-side picture, we have the arm-in-arm picture, then we have this body-to-body picture of what it means to live in unison, in union, with another person in the confines of marriage.  This word ‘echad’ is this graphic, weighty word.  It means glued together or fused together at the deepest levels.  When the Hebrew people would say the Shema in Deuteronomy 6, they would say, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one (echad).”   He’s fused together at the deepest levels.

Anecdotally, this is the only picture that we’re talking about today that’s reserved only for marriage.  This is God’s design is that it would be used only for marriage, that in this passage, implicitly, there’s this vast power, this vast energy, that’s attached to sexual union between a husband and a wife.  There’s a creation that happens when people come together physically, and it goes deeper than just the physical.  We live in a world where sexuality has come to be used in a number of different ways and we’ve lost God’s intent for it.  Unfortunately as a church, we haven’t done a great job of speaking to that either.  We’ve said things like, “Well, sex is sort of dirty, sex is sort of nasty, so you have to just save that for your husband or wife.”  Which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, right?  No, this is God’s beautiful, good design.  This is not a symptom of the fall.  This is gracious invitation from God…..that there’s a mingling of souls that happens when two people come together in physical intimacy that cannot be fabricated in any other way.  It happens every time people come together.  There’s no such thing as casual sex.  Our culture would love to teach that there is.  There’s no such thing.  It is a God-given unique that allows two people to become one.  Which is why Paul has such strong words for the church at Corinth, about the way that they shepherd and steward and use this gift of physical sexuality.  Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her?  For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” (1 Corin. 6:16)   It’s a gift He’s given to us for oneness, for unity.  It’s a gift He’s given to us for not only physical oneness, but spiritual unity and an emotional oneness, too.  It’s something He’s given us to enjoy.  The church has gone through phases where they would say, “Listen, sexual intimacy is specifically, or only, for the purpose of procreation.”  You know where you CAN’T find that?  In the Bible!  There’s an entire book devoted to the goodness and pleasure of sexual intimacy in a marriage.  It’s called “Song of Songs.”  Read it.  Check it out.  Try not to blush.

Look at how this intimacy in this union forms.  There’s three requirements for us to step into this union. Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother…  So there’s a severing of ties with what was, in order to step into a new life that is on the horizon.  When I do premarital/marriage counseling, when of the main things we see happening in our culture, in our day, and our time, is men or women who are unwilling to leave their family of origin in order to create something new.  That’s not an excuse to not call your parents, or not talk to them anymore, but the relationship with them needs to continue but it needs to change.  That’s what the Scriptures are saying.  There’s this leaving that’s involved in forming this new union.  The second thing is that the husband and wife hold fast to each other.  They are intentionally together.  Some translations say “cling.” They leave and then they cling to one another.  It’s this deepening process that each marriage needs to go through.  They hold fast.  3) Then there’s this covenant.  They become one flesh.  Something that can’t be un-done that happens.  Sex without commitment is anti-design.  It’s anti they way that God has wired the very fibers of our being.  God’s design is one man plus one woman for life.  Let’s clarify for a second before we get on our high horse and try to stand on our holy ground.  That goes pretty bad, pretty quick if you’ve read into a little bit further into Genesis…..that gets a little bit off track, right?   There’s polygamy and a number of other things.  But that is God’s original, good, gracious design—that we suck the most joy out of life as we live in his design.  That’s our conviction.

So, this invitation is to leaving, to forming and then to committing to one another.  I love the way GK Chesterton put it: “When we fall in love, we have the natural inclination not just to express it to each other, but to make promises to one another.”  For better or worse, in sickness and in health, till death do us part.  That’s the natural promise associated with intimacy in marriage.  If you’re married, maybe just maybe, one of your application points from this message is we need to be more active in having sex with each other.  Maybe on the way home you go, “Hey, I’d love to apply this message with you.  Usually I don’t care what Ryan says, but this time I’m really feeling the spirit move.”  You’re welcome!

Genesis 2:25 — And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.  They were both naked and not ashamed because you don’t have a few things introduced into the picture yet.  There’s no guilt.  There’s nothing that they want to hide from each other.  There’s nothing in the back of their mind going, “I wish I wouldn’t have….” or “If she only knew or if he only knew.”  There’s nothing that would inhibit a complete and total oneness.  They are vulnerable with each other, not just in their bodies but in their souls.  They are naked and unashamed.  The other reason they’re naked and unashamed is because there’s no chocolate yet, there’s no french fries yet.  They live in this vegan paradise where everything’s good, right?   Here’s the picture:  The passage is far less about physical intimacy and it’s far more about an emotional vulnerability and openness. There’s nothing to hide from you; I am fully known and you are fully loved.  That’s the picture.  So it’s side by side, arm in arm, body to body….heart to heart.  That’s the picture of God’s design in marriage.  There’s no greater gift that you can give to somebody when they open their soul to you, when they’re vulnerable and they lay it all out on the table, than to respond with love, to respond with care, to respond by actually hearing them, entering in and saying, “You are fully known and fully accepted exactly as you are.”  You may want to work on your union, but more than that can I encourage you, regardless of whether you’re married or unmarried, that we would be people who cultivate lives of vulnerability, who cultivate lives of openness, who invite other safe people in so that we’re fully known and also fully loved.

I would say, anecdotally, that this passage works like a funnel—you go deeper and deeper into intimacy and that actually being fully known is a more intimate position than actually physical connection or union.  You really know me; I’ve invited you in… the pinnacle of human connection.  That can happen whether you’re single, whether you’re married….anyone….you’re human and this is what you’re designed for.  It’s interesting because the Apostle Paul is writing to the church at Ephesus about marriage.  He’s writing about roles—different things that men and women are called to do inside of a marriage.  At the very end, he sort of Jesus-jukes us.  Ephesians 5:31-32 — Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. {Everyone of his original readers is going yeah, we expected that to follow an instruction about marriage.  As they’re nodding he goes….}  This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.   They’re going WHAT??   He’s saying yeah, yeah, yeah, this is the picture of what you’re suppose to be as a church—-side by side, arm in arm, one body together declaring the goodness of our great God, and knowing each other.  Friends, we have a shared friendship, a shared mission, a shared union–His name is Jesus, and we want to have a shared intimacy because God’s design for abundant living is found in sharing life with one another.  Let’s pray.

My guess is, if you’re married, that that picture looks a little bit airbrushed, a little bit too perfect, maybe.  This is the picture before sin enters the world of what it looks like to walk with one another.  Unless we know what the goal is, unless we know what the trajectory is, we’ll never step into the fullness of God’s design.  Jesus, this morning, I want to pray specifically over the marriages in this room as we look at the way you created us and the deficiencies that we have within us.  May we be more inspired than we are discouraged to really push into you and each other and to really work on the areas that we’re lacking in.  Father, for each one of us I pray—for the single people, for the widowed, for the divorced, and for the married people—would you teach us more and more what it looks like to live with our lives open to each other.  That we would embrace a shared friendship, a shared mission, and a shared intimacy that would be to your glory and for our joy.  We pray this in the name of Jesus.  Amen.