Most singles, particularly those who are single into their late 20s and 30s and beyond, have a pretty good concept of the leaving thing. They leave home to go to college or pursue a career. They start to realize just how much toilet paper and toothpaste and groceries really cost, and start filling their mental appreciation boxes for their parents’ long-standing provision.
Leaving is both exhilarating and scary!
My guess is that cleaving is also exhilarating and scary. I find it interesting that the word “cleave” in the English language has two opposite meanings.
- * To adhere to with strong attachment; to stick like glue; to unite closely in interest and devotion.
- * To divide by force; to part; to cut apart; to crack open; to separate.
The first meanings are what the Bible is talking about in leaving parents and cleaving to a spouse.♥ Unfortunately, we see too much of the second frame of mind in our society. I’m sure people do not walk down the wedding aisle with the mindset that their dreams will dim and end in divorce. But, for some, it just seems to happen when vows of love and fidelity are lowered in priority. The hard work of fostering and nourishing relationship on deeper levels becomes too steep for some and promises are broken along with bodies, hearts, souls, and spirits.
So, how in the world does the desire for that “two-becoming-one” idea stay alive? Because it is a God-given desire which has been buffeted and scarred in the fallen world. And when I see couples who have stayed the course beyond the honeymoon, finding newer depths of treasure in their spouses, I am moved to tears. These are the ones living out the profound mystery Paul talks about in Ephesians 5:30. God reveals through Paul that the purpose of marriage is to illustrate the ultimate relationship of Jesus Christ and His bride, the church. We need visual aids to understand the true significance of “leaving and cleaving.”
Very early on in the book of Genesis, we are introduced to the idea of a man leaving his father and mother and cleaving to his wife. (Genesis 2:24) Adam has spent some time with God in the interesting work of naming all the animals. God sees that Adam needs someone to relate to other than animals, though, and creates Eve. Then comes the leave/cleave idea. Now, neither Adam nor Eve had an earthly father and mother to leave, but it is not recorded that they asked God what that was all about. They did experience an instant bonding to one another – cleaving. This first intimate bonding is not recorded for us. It was a deeply private moment for the first couple and became a foundation principle – that a man and woman become one in marriage.
OK. So where does that leave the single who didn’t have singleness on their bucket list – most of us, I suspect. I’ve had a lot of time to ponder the “leaving and cleaving” idea, wondering if there is anything comparable for singles, particularly those who have never married, who end up making it on their own for most of their lives. Well, it’s no surprise that there really isn’t anything comparable in the physical realm for us when we choose to “abide in Christ” in faithfulness and obedience to instructions set out in Scripture. Simply “getting married” is not really the issue. Marrying someone who has compatible spiritual maturity – along with a host of other important things which enhance the attraction and mutual love and enjoyment – is the issue.
Meanwhile, what’s a single to do? We’ve already left. To whom can we cleave – hold fast to, walk with, live with, delight in, love, cherish, and enjoy? Of course, we know the bottom answer is GOD. But, even He has planted the desire in our hearts for a flesh and blood person with whom we can live out our days. It becomes a challenge which is designed to drive us to Him for our deepest needs for intimacy and relationship – while spending our days fully living and not just in interminable waiting.
Sigh! It is indeed a mystery!
♥ The King James Version of the Bible uses the leave and cleave terminology.