There is something very special about seeing an elderly couple who have been married for many years still walking hand in hand with each other.
For me, it is a beautiful and symbolic way of declaring they have taken the journey of life together and they still choose to do so.
At some point in a marriage ceremony, words along the lines of these will be made: “and they shall become one flesh.” It is an ancient way of describing the marriage relationship and it is filled with promise, potential and possibility.
Promise because when two people marry they begin a lifetime journey together toward ‘oneness’.
Potential because two people come together with different gifts, personalities, ideas, abilities and backgrounds that can be fused together to achieve what they could not do alone.
And possibility because of all the good that they may achieve together.
It is important to understand then, that oneness is not something that is immediately achieved once a couple has said “I do”.
Oneness is a lifelong journey, taken together and toward which couples progressively move.
I have been thinking about this for some time and recently I came across this description by US pastor Chuck Swindoll concerning the topic of oneness. (It’s always nice to find an author who agrees with you):
Becoming one flesh suggests a process, not an instant fact. Two people with different backgrounds, temperaments, habits, scars, feelings, parents, educational pursuits, gifts, and interests don’t immediately leave a wedding ceremony in perfect unity. It is a lifelong project requiring wisdom, understanding, and knowledge…The whole idea of mutual acceptance, giving, listening, forgiving, belonging, and direction was implied. It is two individuals willingly blending into each other’s lives, desiring to share with and thereby complete the other.
‘One flesh’ also has to do with the physical aspect of marriage. The sexual aspect of marriage is essential to the marriage as much as the leaving and cleaving. The success of the sexual relationship between husband and wife is directly proportionate to the success of the other areas of intimacy in marriage — emotional, spiritual, intellectual, and social.
What I am aware of though, is that many marriages do not experience this idea of oneness at all, even less are they moving towards it.
The question arises, in spite of the definition just given, what exactly is oneness in marriage?
It is certainly not some ‘mystical’ experience that a couple has and which lifts you to a higher plane in your marriage.
Oneness is essentially a strong bond of unity that is built between a man and a woman as they grow in their love, experience and support of each other through the many changing facets of life.
Interestingly, when Jesus said that He and His Father were “one” it was the same word used to describe a couple when they become one.
In other words, oneness flows directly out of a deep relationship of truly knowing one another.
If this is the ideal for marriage that is held up for us, then how do we get there?
It is tempting to think of oneness as the goal of marriage, but to me that reduces it to one more thing to do in life. Authentic and fulfilling marriage is not about ticking off a list of KPIs to ensure a successful relationship any more than it is about following the ’10 steps to a successful marriage’ kind of approach.
Oneness in marriage is best seen as a journey or trip that a couple makes together over a lifetime toward a destination of security, wholeness and freedom and it will be a journey that is never quite fully reached because the couple will always be discovering something new along the way.
I describe this journey as the pathways to oneness and I will share some of these with you over the next few months.
Rob Furlong has been a pastor for more than 33 years. He has been married to Karen for almost 36 years and they have four adult children and 13 grandchildren. Rob loves talking about relationships with each other, and with God and the way they’re both connected. He loves spending time with Karen, good coffee and cooking as well as supporting the mighty Perth Scorchers cricket team. robfurlong.net | Follow Rob on Facebook