Recently Sundie and I were discussing Johnny and June Cash after watching the movie, “Walk the Line.” I guess I knew Sundie was a big Johnny Cash fan… but I had no idea… ANYHOW…. As I read through a Rob Bell book, he had a chapter on Johnny and June Cash as well, … It is interesting how Johnny Cash revitalized his career in his last years… he gained a whole new audience of people in their 20s and 30s when he was in his 70s…
But what strikes me most about Johnny Cash in reading blogs, wikiapedia, and the like on line is what other musicians have to say about Johnny… can I call him Johnny?
…what they consistently mentioned was the love between Johnny Cash and his wife June Carter Cash. What I’ve come across in everything I’ve ever read about him or by him is that their lover GREW over the years… they were more in love in their 60s and 70s than ever…
Their Marriage got better and better
They were more in love as the years went by
Tom Petty…”Tom”… said “You just could not help but love her…John was so dependent on June, and he so bounced everything off June. It was just such a deep love that it was great to see how the two of them were such a team, really involved in everything together, including music.
According to Benmont Tench, “She was such a delight… He was kind of “the man in black” and she was this entirely different light, and it was wonderful the way that they fit together.
Here are people in their 70s who have been married for well over 30 years, and the thing that everybody who spent time with them mentions is the love between the two of them.
Whatever it is they had… it spread!
It spilled over
It could not be contained by just the two of them.
It affected those around them…
It inspired those around them…
Maybe when we meet older couples who obviously still love each other and love being married to each other, we’re inspired because so many things around us are in the endless process of falling apart. When something isn’t dying but its going the other way, its growing… its not losing life, its gaining life…
What is it about their marriage that inspires us? Is there something that a couple can do now so that people will talk about them someday like the way they talk about Johnny and June Cash?
First let me set some framework out here… As I always say… I stumbled into the gig … open mic Sunday at RAF Mildenhall Chapel ….and as is all things I have preached on, I have messed this one up big time… Sundie and I were is some marital dark times about gosh…12 years ago… that in and of itself is an entire series of messages for another time… suffice to say, I was very wrong in many decisions I made at the time, but thanks to God, the love, mercy, and spiritual strength of my beautiful bride and time in couples and individual counseling we are a much stronger couple today. BUT MAN! It should have never come to that… so I have spent a great deal of time studying, learning, and trying to be a better husband and Christian. Here are some DeMarco thoughts combined with some deep Rob Bell concepts from his book SEX. GOD. How many have read SEX GOD????… yeah, walk into Barnes and Nobel and ask the girl behind the counter for that book…
There is a theologian, that I deeply respect….his work has very much influenced me over the years, since like 1982. And he…has done some work on this idea of “ONE” and the hurting and deeper concepts of this ONE love…. It is not all a bowl of cherries… sometimes what he does is…. His theological work he puts into poetry… as it is sometimes more accessible to us… and sometimes he will even have music accompaniment behind the poems in a way to help us connect with the poetry. Recently while I was preparing for this message, I was pointed to this work, although it is about 20 years old now….he sort of performs the poem and then walks through the theology of it…and many folks have stopped by the DeMarco Government housing and I have been like…. You have got to hear this…it is so powerful. So I was thinking we will play it for everyone at the end, during communion , that way I can leave people alone when they come by the house. …
To find deeper answers, we need to go back to the Garden of Eden, to God declaring everything “good.” In Genesis 2: 18-25
The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”
Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field.
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 closed up the place with flesh. Then the LORD God made a woman from the ribhe 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.”
For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.
The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.
Okay… so let’s talk a little about being one flesh and being naked…but first we need to break a few things down…
Notice the only thing God declares not “good” is Adam’s being alone. None of the animals fit with Adam. None of them are adequate to be his partner… After naming all of them, he is still lonely. It’s in this context that we see God announce the need for a woman.
There’s a mission here. Adam has been commanded to watch over the earth and manage it and creatively order it. Adam has something to do, and its not good for him to do it alone.
So God says in Gen 2:18, “I will make a helper suitable for him…”
Now… the word helper is the word ezer in the Hebrew language. We can find it also in Psalm 121: I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help [ezer] come from? My help comes from the Lord.”
Here we see it again in Psalm 89, where the words of God are recorded: “ I have bestowed strength [ezer] on a warrior.”
In Psalm 121, the word refers to help that comes from God. In Psalm 89, ezer means strength…
To give more depth to the phrase, notice what Adam says about this woman: “This is now bone of my bones and flesh or my flesh… Bones is a way of talking about strength and flesh is a way of talking about weakness. Adam is essentially saying…:”where I am weak…she is strong, and where she is weak, I am strong.”
Eve…therefore… is a corresponding strength for Adam.
They fit together
They fill each other in
They cover for each other
They’re better off together than apart
As my friend the great theologian says in his piece… we’re one… but we’re not the same…we get to carry each other…carry each other..
The Genesis passage continues: “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united with his wife.”
The leaving involves his whole life. This leaving involves her whole life. They can not go about this halfheartedly. They have to commit all the way. They have to give everything to it. His place of residence and his primary ties to his parents and family now take second place to his commitment to her.
A new family has formed.
Think of how many marriages suffer because one or both of the people maintain all sorts of ties and connections with their family of origin that get in the way of the new marriage bond…again… I have to look no further than myself… Sundie should have the say in issues… not Jim and Robina DeMarco… this can be true with certain friends …as well… that need to have ties cut once the marriage vows are exchanged. Our first loyalty is NOW to each other, not to their families. Obviously this is not about cutting off contact with your parents…… or having nothing to do with them, at least in most cases. Its about realizing just how profound this uniting is.
So the man leaves his parents, unities with the woman, “and they will become one flesh.”
Now…you knew I was going to get to this… the one flesh seems to be about their having sex….which of course it is….But there is SO much more going on here. Even having sex in this story is really about “Something Else.”
In the Jewish consciousness, words are extremely meaningful. While an English dictionary has somewhere between one and two hundred thousand words, the Hebrew language has around seven thousand words.
So in Hebrew, words have to cover a lot of ground. A single word can have tremendous depth and significance. When it is said that the man and woman will become “one flesh,” the word for one in Hebrew is the word echad.
Echad is oneness made up of several parts or members.
The word echad actually is quite complex, implying a unity with multiple parts. We speak of a team playing as “one,” a group of people discussing something as being “one mind.” “One nation”….which can be made up of thousand or even millions of people.
So the man and woman are two people, two separate, independent beings, and yet when they come together….they’re “one.” The word is significant because it occurs in one of the most well known passages of scripture in Jewish history. It’s a prayer from the book of Deuteronomy (6:4) that begins…”Hear oh Israel; The Lord our God, the Lord is one…”
This prayer, called Shema, from the word “to hear,” is the central declaration of the Jewish faith, a way of reaffirming all that life is about. It’s said by Jews when they wake up, when they go to sleep, when they gather on the Sabbath, when they study, when someone dies—there are numerous legends of great Jews having it on their lips as they were martyred
The Lord is one
The Lord is echad
God is echad
It’s the same word as “one flesh” in Genesis: “And the man and woman shall be echad flesh.”
Central to the Bible is the affirmation that there is one God. Not many, one. And sex between the man and woman has something to do with God.
Who God is.
What God is like.
Adam and Eve are one as God is one.
This marriage between a man and a woman—their having sex—is about something much Bigger than the relationship itself. It points beyond them to somebody else—to God.
The point of marriage isn’t marriage
It’s a picture
A window that you look through to something else.
A marriage has a mission.
Our world is not echad. It isn’t one. It’s broken, shattered, fractured, with pieces lying all over the floor.
We all have friends… or we may be from…”broken homes.”
A couple “split up.”
A spouse is “shattered” by his lover’s infidelity.
Somebody’s marriage fell apart… and she’s “picking up the pieces.”
When our trust has been betrayed and those who were supposed to stand by us don’t, this naturally has consequences for how we think about God. It becomes hard to trust that God is good when our significant relationships simply are not that good.
A marriage is designed to counter all of this. Not to add to the brokenness of the world but to add to the “oneness” of the world. This man and this woman who have given themselves to each other are supposed to give the world a glimpse of hope, a display of what God is like, a bit of echad on earth.
Is that where the phrase “making love” comes from? An awareness that something mystical happens in sex, that something good and needed is created?
Let me stop there for a minute and talk on this…
Christians traditionally break the Ten Commandments into two categories… commandments that deal with our relationship to God (the 1st 4), and commandments that deal without relationship to God (the remaining 6) Christians generally put the 5th commandment (anyone remember that one?) honoring your parents, in the second category.
The ancient rabbis, however, don’t divide it that way. They put honoring your parents in the first set, making the division five and five. They saw that in creating new life, parents play a godlike role in the world. Their having sex has the potential to bring another human being, another soul, into existence. This is something only God can do—creation of life—and God has given this ability to man and woman.
A man and a woman had sex and gave the world Mother Teresa and Martin Luther King Jr. and Albert Einstein.
An a man and a woman had sex and gave us Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin and Pol Pot and thousands and millions of others who have affected the course of human history.
Sex is loaded with potential. With possibility. In some deeply mysterious way, the encounter between a man and a woman is loaded with the weight of the world. Who knows what this act of sex could create? Who knows who it could create.
Sex carries with it the power of life itself. It is not an isolated act with no consequences. There is always the possibility that human history will be significantly altered by what this man and this woman are about to do.
Something given by the creator of the universe. Something divine.
It isn’t just that they are “making love.” Its that they may end up making something else…somebody else…
Okay… back on track…maybe…
Something is added to the world…given to the world. The world is blessed with something that it desperately needs. This man and this woman together are in some profoundly mysterious way good for the well-being of the whole world.
When we go to a wedding, maybe we’re so moved because we want this new couple to succeed. We intuitively know that their “Success” is somehow tied to our. Their “making of love” makes the world a better place to live, a place where there is more love for all of us. Maybe this is why we always notice great marriages. When their love is growing, it inspires us. Their life together gives us life.
A wedding reminds us that it’s all connected.
We’re all connected and its not just about Facebook….
So when it’s written that Adam and Eve were one flesh, their “echad flesh” is actually a celebration of a million other things. Things that ought to be celebrated: God, life, creativity, potential, shared partnership in caring for the world. Strength for weakness, weakness for strength. A new family. The ongoing creation of the world.
And finally, after all of this leaving and cleaving and bones and flesh, the passage ends with the line “the man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.” (Genesis 2:25)
No shame or embarrassment
No apologizing for who they are.
No covering up or pretending
No masks or secrets
Total acceptance of each other
That’s what we all want, isn’t it?
We want someone to see us exactly as we are and still love us.
It’s terrifying to let people see who we are. To see the darkness in our hearts, our bad habits, all of the things we’ve done in the past that we regret. Our biases, our shortcomings, the things we aren’t good at.
Being naked is terrifying
What would it be like to be with someone who loves you exactly as you are?
If you see me for who I really am… the me that no one else has ever seen, the me that I wouldn’t dare to show anybody else on the planet, the parts of me I’m not sure I want anybody ever to see, if I give you that kind of a glimpse into the seat of my being, into my soul, will you still love me like you do now?
It’s our question for each other, and it’s our question for God.
Unconditional, absolute acceptance.
From a lover, from God…. Its what we crave
This is why a marriage is always about something bigger than itself. It’s two people, in their unconditionally loving embrace of each other, showing each other in flesh and blood what God is like. These two are naked, and they feel no shame.
There’s a progression here, a pattern in this passage for how we’re made to connect with another. It’s built into the fabric of creation. There’s a way for souls to mingle.
And it’s possible to get this progression out of order. We have to understand that we were created by God to live as integrated beings. Whole, One, Not splintered and fractured but one.
In the Psalms, it’s written that “fools say in their hearts…” It’s written in another psalm, “My spirit asked…” In another, “My heart and my flesh cry out…” (14:1, 77:6, 84:2)
Hearts speak and spirits ask and flesh cries out. The body and the soul and the brain and the heart and thoughts and feelings are all merged into one being we call a person.
The passage in Genesis about Adam and Eve is about whole persons coming together. All of him being given to all of her. All of her being given to all of him.
If he wants her just for her body, that splits her…. It means that she is good to him only for a part of her. That’s why when she’s slept with him, she wants to know where the relationship is headed. She wants to be integrated. She craves it. She wants to know that he will be there in the morning, and the next morning, and the next morning. She wants to know that beyond the sex, he loves her, he wants her—all of her.
The “naked and they felt no shame” part comes last in the story of Adam and Eve. It’s a celebration of all of the ways they’ve bonded. All of the ways their souls have mingled.
Its easy to take off your clothes and have sex. People do it all the time. (Amsterdam) But opening up your soul to someone, letting them into your spirit…
That is being naked…(naked vs nick-ed)
This is why when people sleep together after they have just met, they’re raising the chances significantly that the relationship will not survive. Racing ahead of the progression always costs something.
When there is no common mission, no shared task, no sense of bone of bone and flesh of flesh, no bonds that take years to develop, many end up moving from relationship to relationship, having sex but never really being naked.
Too much too fast rarely endures….(too fast, too furious)
As it says in the Song of Songs, “Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires.” (2:7)
I have some friends…some mentors… I’ve known since I was a teen, so yes… they have been married for a LONG time… I would say it is one of those Johnny and June marriages. I have noticed time and time again…where the dinner, the meeting, the gathering may be over…folks are leaving the room… and they are still seated, deep in conversation about something…. He is usually smiling, she is leaning close to him…. You know, this couple goes on vacation all the time… TOGETHER… and I would bet… the highlight of many of those vacations for them, for him… are the conversations he has with his wife. IT strikes me… they’re still getting to know each other. Still talking, still telling stories, still exploring just who this person is. They understand that people are highly complex beings and that the soul is infinitely deep. If you’re mingling your soul with another soul, and there’s no end to the depth of both of your souls, this could take a while.
Okay… back on track… I am almost done… I think… Thursday night is date night… Sundie usually head to the Walnut Tree… we started talking about how you can notice couples that and sit in silence yet you can tell they are connected (the silence part is usually not a problem for Sundie, I usually fill that) and others… that…well… just sit there. I assume you have seen this before. Couples who don’t talk. I’m fully aware you can have an off night and that sometime sitting in silence together can be very peaceful. But some couples, though they’re together, they’re a million miles apart.
To pursue being naked, you have to believe that this person is worth getting to know for the rest of you lives. Being naked is peeling back the layers, conversation after conversation, experience after experience, year after year. It’s rooted in a belief that the soul has indefinite depth and you’ll never get to the bottom of it.
Another thought here…have you observed people who have to have a radio on, the television on, or their ipod nearby…I struggle with this… are you one of these people? One, and I stress one…reason some have to always have noise and external stimulus s because they are terrified of silence. The stillness. The present… If you stop and rest in the quiet, you will have to listen to what is going on inside of you. And this can be frightening.
Imagine a person who never listens to their soul, who never sits in the sinlence with themselves, who is never naked with themselves. Imagine this person trying to become echad with another, How can a person mingle with another soul when they are out of touch with their own?
Okay… our understanding of what it means to be naked reflects what we believe about the human soul. Is it infinite? Or can you get to the end of a person?
The failure to understand the infinite depth of the human soul is often why people you are married have affairs…. They stop exploring the person they married. They find somebody who appears more interesting… but if there is truly an end to the soul….they will more than likely find the end of that soul as well… and move on….
Sundie has been bugging me for years to take dancing lessons…we have been married 20 years next month… we have taken up several hobbies together…but we need to take this one on… it’s new to both of us, you know it is so simple taking up a hobby together but we so seldom do it…. Yet it’s so profound
Ever watch a couple dance? An older couple… and they are just good together… you know… we need them to keep dancing… don’t we? Because we intuitively know that if they keep dancing, the world will be better for all of us…We see God in their echad. We desperately need more Johnny and Junes…
Let’s get ready for communion….and let…Dustin
. Let me play this song for you… U2 wrote and sang this, but it is interesting to note that Johnny Cash had a version of it as well
But BEFORE we do any of that….Let’s Pray:
God, create within us a hunger and a desire for each other and to
surrender all that we are and all that we have to one another. Help us achieve echad… the ONE you speak of in Genesis 2…one flesh… and help us to be truly naked with our spouses…. h those singles here today Lord, I ask that you guide them and help them find that true companion…that person that they can be forever naked with… Give us a heart to seek only after You and serve You all the days of our lives, that our marriages will be a window onto you. I ask that we would love and obey Your Word, building our lives, marriage, and family on its truth forever.