The Journey of One Flesh

By Paul Koch

According to Genesis chapter 2, after man awakes from his slumber, he is greeted with a sight that changes everything. The creature that the Lord God presents to Adam is unlike any other creature God had made. Drawn from the very side of man, this is the perfect helpmate, the ultimate companion, the one thing that would complete the creation of humanity. He leaps to his feet and crafts the first poem, as the one given to name all the creatures says,

This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.

Immediately following this, we read, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” Bone of bone and flesh of flesh are united again. The two shall become one. They were meant for each other. They were destined for each other. They belonged together. All other relationships pale in comparison. Even that of a parent to their child is set aside for the union of a husband and a wife.

And there is not only life in this union with the command to be fruitful and multiply, but also hope about the future. There is not only the foundation of church, government, and community in this binding of a man to his bride, but also incredible strength for the journey ahead.

In our day of delayed marriages, long engagements, and no-fault divorce, it may seem that these words of Genesis are just a fairytale of the past. We have heard the horror stories and lived the pains of broken relationships, of “one flesh” that never acted like one flesh. Or perhaps they did once but soon began to drift apart, and what God had joined together man torn asunder. The corruption of sin in our Lord’s creation is perhaps felt more profoundly in this relationship of man and woman than in any other. The pain associated with it is matched only by our longing for it, and through it, we are reminded that God had declared that it is not good that man should be alone.

Marriage isn’t just a commodity used for a few tax breaks or to establish financial security of some sort. Marriage is a place where the external Word thrives, where one person needs the other as one speaks the Word into the life of the other. Marriage can be a place of incredible strength from which profound courage flows into the rest of our lives. But sometimes we must step away from all the distractions, all the important things that govern our time. Sometimes we need put down all the devices that would seek to tear apart the one flesh of our union and examine again the meaning behind the reason that a man would leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife.

I had the joy of such an experience last weekend as my bride and I headed off into the back country of the High Sierra for a three-day backpacking trip. There was no cell phone reception for days and no distractions outside of the beautiful vistas before us, just the slow plod of one foot in front of the other as we walked together into the wilderness.

At one point, as my wife took the lead for a while and as I watched her pack head down the trail before me, my thoughts shifted from my sore feet to the nature of the adventure we were on. In fact, I thought that our journey was a delightful metaphor for marriage itself, for understanding what it means to live as one flesh.

We carried everything we needed to live and thrive in the wilderness on our backs. A stove, food, tent, sleeping bags, warm clothes, first aid kit, and a water filtration system were carefully packed away for use once we made it to camp. I carried my sleeping bag, but Cindy had the tent. She carried the tent because I was carrying all our food. In fact, the food weighed so much that she carried the stove as well, but it’s okay, for I had the water filtration system in my pack. Although, now that I think of it, she had the first aid kit. It was simple and obvious, but it was a joy to see so clearly that as we walked out into the woods, away from our family, away from civilization. We walked as a team, each providing what the other needed. We would survive out there because we had each other. In fact, because we had each other, our burden was lighter. We didn’t need two stoves, two tents, or two filters.

As our journey continues, I think I’m beginning to learn just what power there is in this “one flesh” of our union. There is provision, care, and identity in our relationship. And there is freedom as well. There is freedom to speak the truth in love, to proclaim the mercies of God, and to correct, guide, and even rebuke when necessary. There is freedom to charge forward, to climb the mountains and explore the valleys—freedom that comes from knowing that we don’t have to go alone.