In every wedding that I have performed, at some point a verse from Genesis is included. Genesis 2:24 is the first word on marriage; It is the first word and the defining word also.
“That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.”
I have for over 30 years used the teaching of Walter Trobisch on this point. I love it because it is clear, memorable and biblical at the same time. The keys to remember are the verbs: Leave, Unite and Become.
We are born into families that, we hope, raise us to be healthy, disciplined, energetic and prepared for the world. We depend on our families for love. We depend on them for food and safety. They give us our first and usually our strongest sense of belonging.
But at marriage we leave. The man leaves his father and mother, but so does the wife. They leave behind the arrangement of their youth and start a new family unity. Many marriage issues happen when we do not leave what was before – be that running home to mom and dad, or being childishly dependent.
We Unite. The old word for this is “cleave.” It is to be joined together in love. A husband and a wife ought to be friends who love each other. They should delight in each other’s company. They should share their hearts and desires with total confidence that what they say will be received and honored. A Marriage is a unity of two persons with all our hearts, thoughts, feelings and dreams.
We become one physically. That which is of the most concern in our culture, sex, is the last in order in the Bible. Our culture starts with sex and ends with commitment, sometimes. The Bible sees marriage as a promise – literally a covenant – first and the rest comes after. The covenant promise of mutual lifelong love is that makes a marriage flourish through all the issues two people could face over years and decades.