Updated: Feb 15, 2019
My older brother, Frank, is one of my dearest friends. But when we were young, he was a torment. He was wild. By age 21, he had totaled 3 cars and gotten expelled from college. I hated him for what he did to our family. So much heartache. The day he came home from school, my parents kicked him out of the house. He said, “What will I do? Where will I go?” My parents said, “ That’s up to you. You can no longer live here in our home because you won’t abide by our rules. We love you but you have to leave. This will be hard but you will have to make your own way.”
At weddings, my sister-in-law used to cover her daughter‘s ears when the bride vowed, “I take thee to be my wedded Husband; to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health; to love, cherish, and to OBEY, till death us do part, according to God’s holy ordinance; and thereto I give thee my troth.” She bristled at the idea that a wife was to be submissive to her husband; that a man should be head of his wife.
In the beginning of the Bible, God-the Trinity, the Holy Family-creates the last piece of the puzzle of the creation. God, the Father, desires a large family- more children- and His Son, Christ, desires a bride. The perfect family plan:
Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness. So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them...
God saw all that he had made, and it was very good... Gen. 1:26-31
Of course, the phrase, “in our image” is a mystery that we can’t fully understand until we stand in God’s presence. We can’t know what the image of the Trinity looks like until we get to meet Them face to face. We do know that the Hebrew word used here is Elohim which is plural for god. Strong argument for a triune God as the Holy creator before the spirituality inspired author, Moses, even understood there was a Father, a Son, and a Holy Spirit. The second chapter of Genesis adds detail to the story:
The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame. Gen. 2:18-25
The first children and also the first marriage. But listen carefully to the story. It is clear that in the beginning there were three persons in this first marriage: Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” Yes, three - man, woman, and God-the first perfect holy marriage. But it is also clear that God, the Father knows that His new creation will fall: "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a suitable helper for him."...That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.
We all know the next chapter to the story. Man and woman, Adam and Eve, eat the apple, hide from God, and receive their curse:
To the woman he said, “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” To Adam he said, “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. And the LORD God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” Gen. 3:16-22
So the first man and woman, the first husband and wife, must leave the Father and the Holy Family. The first children must leave their family home. The first divorce in the story of the perfect holy marriage. The first broken family. Why would a loving God curse his children?
When my parents kicked my brother out of the family home, they were not cursing him, their first born son; they were trying to help him understand the consequences of his actions and his choices.
“You can come home for Wednesday and Sunday dinners.” In so offering, my parents were keeping the door to our family home open so that my brother could still be part of the family but we understood that there was a brokenness, a disappointment, and a sadness there.
The Old Testament is full of stories about couples that are broken because they forgot that God was absolutely integral to their marriage. They either failed to understand or they ceased to remember that it is God who made their union into a true Holy marriage.
Job and his wife are blessed by God with wealth. Their marriage bed brings ten beautiful children. But Job, one of our most righteous men, has every cause to doubt God. Satan, with God’s permission, has destroyed everything he has except his wife. Job’s nameless wife has but one line in her husband’s story, which, let us not forget, is also her story, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!” Job 2:9 ... And... ”After this, Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth.” Job 3:1
Abraham and Sarah, in their old age, doubt God and his promise, and take the servant girl, Hagar, into their marriage bed. Isaac and Rebecca’s marriage bed brings twins but Isaac loves one son over the other. His wife, Rebecca, raises her favored son, Jacob, to lie and cheat his father. Jacob brings two wives, two sisters, into his marriage bed but favors one over the other. David commits every sin outlined in the Ten Commandments in his bedding Bathsheba, another man’s wife.
But there is a huge shift in the New Testament. The curse is lifted with Joseph, the carpenter, and his betrothed, the virgin, Mary. Through the angel, Gabriel, God asks permission to return to the union of man and wife, to remain the first person in a Holy marriage:
This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”... When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus. Matt. 1:18-25
God sent the angel Gabriel... to a virgin...Mary... “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” Mary was greatly troubled at his words. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High...The Holy Spirit will come on you, ...the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God."... “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.”...
Paul was a hard man and a confirmed bachelor. But, inspired by God, as was Abraham, he gives us our most touching glimpse into how to establish the righteous and holy union between the three person marriage- a man and a woman joined together by God, and with God, - in holy matrimony.
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. ... “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. Eph. 5:21-33
This is a profound mystery... and good news: there is order in our chaotic broken world. There is a plan, a perfect plan, God’s Perfect Plan. Every marriage on the earth, every family on the earth is but a poor reflection of The Holy Marriage and the Holy Family that is our God, The Holy Trinity. We are all created to be part of that divine union. We are all invited to that divine feast:
Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns...for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”—And the angel said to me, “...Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.”... Rev. 19:6-9
Every 29:11 Story has beads that represent the couples, the marriages, the families, that make up humanity’s story throughout the Bible. This is God’s Word and we are a critical part of it. Every shade of brown, cream, pink, every possible skin tone we as God’s children on this earth possess, is represented in our 29:11 Stories. Adam and Eve are, of course, the first. They follow the purple-God, blue-Heaven, green-Earth, and white-Holy Spirit beads. They begin the downward fall of God’s Story that is the Old Testament.
But the fall is arrested by the Angel Gabriel’s visits to the new couple, Joseph and Mary. In the fullness of time, the upswing of the Story will bring the creation home to the Father when, with his birth, Christ, the Son of God, submits to become the Son of Man.
On the shorter, more concise versions of The 29:11 Story, the Stories with 13 or 14 beads, Adam and Eve, and all humanity, are represented by a single brown bead on the downfall that is echoed by a single brown bead on the upward journey home to the Father. The longer detailed Story that contain 91 beads representing 91 persons and events in God’s Story, is visibly stunning. The Adam and Eve on the downfall in Genesis are two beads of brown and pink. They follow the Holy Spirit, in white, who is hovering over the new creation like a dove. But on the return home, on the upward side, the Book of Revelation, at the very end of time, at the very beginning of our new beginning outside of time, the two beads of the first children and the first marriage are now one bead. It is a beautiful bead, white and radiant, and it follows the Holy Spirit, also white -like a dove- as the new couple, humanity, the bride, and the Holy Spirit, are reunited to the Son, the bridegroom, in the perfect, holy redeemed Marriage, as they join the Father and the Holy Family.
The things that make us heartbreakingly beautiful are the things that have broken God’s heart.
We, God’s wayward children, God’s failed marriages and broken families are promised a holy union through the church. We are waiting with the Holy Spirit for a new Heaven and new Earth. The Kingdom of God will be restored. This is a profound mystery, the imperfect body of Christ will in the fullness of time become the Bride of Christ. We will be washed clean, radiant white with light and purity. The Holy Spirit will bring us home. And we with our bridegroom will be reunited with the Father. Again, the Perfect Family dwelling together in perfect unity.
My brother’s life has not been easy but it has been full. Frank, the wayward, heartbreaking son of my parents, has lived a productive life. He has been happily married for almost 40 years. He and his wife, Beth, have raised two bright dear children who grew up closely connected with both sets of grandparents. In time, the things that break our hearts may be the things that can become heartbreakingly beautiful.