Is Your Marriage Defined By Your Baggage?

Baggage

How does your own “marriage baggage” influence your thinking on roles in marriage?

I try to approach the topic of gender roles in marriage with a great deal of grace. Admittedly, I’ve not always been successful, because, like many, I feel strongly about the topic.

I have to remind myself that we are all striving for the same goal: strong, intimate, passionate, and enduring marriages. We are all just seeking what is best for marriages. That is a good thing!

Marriage Baggage

When discussing marriage roles and gender, many speak from their own personal experiences:

  • A wife whose first husband was an abusive authoritarian dictator will often argue strongly for equality and against a husband’s leadership authority. 
  • A couple whose marriage was transformed from a constant battle to peace and harmony through the path of submission and headship will sing the praises of such an arrangement. 
  • A couple whose sexless, passionless marriage was saved when they decided to no longer refuse sex, will swear that “never say no again” is the only way to go. 
  • A wife whose husband was “checked out” before embracing his role as a loving leader will champion the cause of strong leadership by husbands.

The same goes for what we observe first-hand in the marriages around us. The marriages of parents, family and friends will strongly influence our marriage paradigms.

  • Those whose parents are happily married for 30-40-50 years in a “traditional” marriage, will often lean in that direction. 
  • If your father was heavy-handed and uncaring in the exercise of his authority, chances are you’ll swear that any form of authority (and therefore submission) is dangerous. 
  • Have some friends whose marriage fell apart due to a husband who abused his wife or a wife who openly disrespected her husband? Those failed marriages will no doubt weigh into your marriage paradigm.

The bottom line is that most of us will form our opinions by what we have experienced as working (or not) in our own marriage(s) or what we’ve seen work (or not) in the marriages around us. Like it or not, our past baggage often defines our marriage theology.

The Bible is Our Best Marriage Guide?

As difficult as it might be, we have to set aside our baggage and consider what the Bible says about marriage.

  • What did God have in mind when he created the first marriage back in Eden? Does it matter today?
  • What does it mean that he created us male and female and declared it “very good.”
  • What are the marital implications of the new covenant and grace?
  • What do words like “head” and “submit” and “respect” and “love” mean in the Apostle Paul’s instructions on marriage?

Ultimately we need to come to terms with the only biblical metaphor for marriage: Christ and the church. Paul describes it as a “great mystery,” and we would all do well to seek to solve this mystery and explore its many implications.

Marriage is a huge deal to God – big enough that he framed our time-bound existence with marriages as described in Genesis and in Revelation. Long before he sent Jesus to be our bridegroom, even before the dawn of time, he knew he would win for himself an eternal bride. So he set up marriage to be a picture of his loving pursuit of a bride of his own.

I hope this post will serve as a reminder for us all to be aware of how your own marriage “baggage” influences our perspectives. We should be aware that to more or less of a degree we are all the product of our own experiences, good and bad. But our experiences don’t necessarily dictate truth.

Regardless of your past, take a fresh look at what the Bible says about marriage, to wrestle again with the difficult questions about gender and marriage. You might be surprised by what you find.

Explore more about the “bridal paradigm” of Christ and the church and it’s many implications for marriage in these posts:

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