There will only be one more marriage post after this I believe, so……
Let’s get even more controversial, shall we?
True intimacy in marriage requires a level of transparency that most of us aren’t ready for. When we juxtapose that need for radical honesty with the need to love each other completely,treat each other lovingly, and raise up our partner to be the best person they can be it can be a difficult trick. Particularly when combined with the fact that most of us are trained liars from birth; our culture demands it, our shame demands it. We even lie, frequently, to ourselves and yet we demand honesty from our mate.
Transparency and radical honesty are tricky even without the complication of matrimony. Until recently our church model, what we call the Seven Cylinder Engine, contained a point that called for transparency on every level of the church, which sounded really good in theory. I won’t teach something without trying to do it, however, and I discovered something about the nature of truth, something J.K. Rowling discovered before me:
“The truth. It is a beautiful and terrible thing, and should be treated with caution.”
In Ephesians 4:15, the Apostle Paul says we are to “speak the truth in love.” I think that Rowling’s quote above reflects this idea. Truth is important, very important, but in the Christian faith it is not the prime ethic, love is. So when we talk about truth it is always ‘in love’ that is, within the greater context of our prime ethic, to love God and to love others as much as we love ourselves.
Okay, quick disclaimer, I believe there are subtle differences between the terms ‘lie’ and ‘withhold’ and even ‘dishonesty.’ Take the idea of fiction for example: If all things that are not true are lies, then all fiction is a lie. Jesus’ parables were fictions, untrue stories that taught Truth. Jesus, for years during His ministry, told people not to announce He was the Messiah. He told them not to spread around how He had healed them. The very idea of the incarnation carries an element of ‘dishonesty’ with it. Sure, He was completely man, but He was also completely God. Shouldn’t you be required to warn people? I mean, no wonder the Pharisees never could win an argument, they thought they were matching wits and wisdom with an itinerant rabbi/carpenter from deep in the backwoods. God? That’s not fair!
The other end of that is also ludicrous. We are not supposed to be liars in the Kingdom. Don’t read my words above as a cop-out on lying and truth, nothing changes who we are supposed to be. Satan is the father of all lies according to Christ, and we are not to emulate him. That right there says that ‘lie’ means something different from simply ‘not true’ or ‘not fact.’ To lie is to sin. A lie is an intentional deception meant to cause harm, shift blame or inflate our image in our eyes or the eyes of others, things which are also sins. So we need to come to an understanding about what a lie is.
We also need to understand what it means to “tell the truth.” Many times what we call ‘telling the truth’ is just a cover up for something else, a lie disguised as a truth. “I want you to tell me the truth,” can be a lie that means, “I want to have control over the relationship.” “I’m going to tell you the truth,” can be a lie that means, “I need to assuage my guilt at your expense,” or “I’m going to tell you what I think even if it doesn’t matter and hurts you deeply.” You will note that, despite the lack of dishonesty that may follow, the heart of the action is still sin.
Even when I teach the Bible, I am careful how I handle the Word of Truth. Not everyone is ready for everything that God has for them. When Paul talks about not teaching the deep things, the ‘solid food’ of the truth because his audience was too immature, that’s what he meant. He withheld some teaching because they needed him to. Also the Bible can be twisted to manipulate truth just like in the previous paragraph.
So, transparency doesn’t work. It disallows the filter of love or any use of boundaries in our lives, and filters and boundaries are necessary. From a Christian standpoint, boundaries have one important use, to protect other people from ourselves. (I know it can be argued the other way as well, but as we are to think of others first, our self protection is not the goal of a Christian, so the protection that boundaries afford is an added blessing but cannot ever be our goal. That way lies sin.) The correct terms for a Christian would be authenticity and integrity. But I am supposed to be writing about marriage so let us return to our context.
I need to be as open and authentic and intimate and honest as I can be with my spouse, but that is always filtered by love. I cannot allow myself to just spout whatever is in my brain in an unloving way. Sometimes I do spout, despite my best efforts, then I need to apologize and seek reconciliation and healing, even if I think I was in the right and telling the truth. Let me approach this from the viewpoint of my own marriage.
My wife Karin is one of the Godliest women I have ever known. She loves and trusts God in some ways that border on crazy in my book. She’s right, of course, I’m just jealous of her faith. I can tell her anything; believe me, it’s the truth, she can handle it, because she believes that it’s God job to keep us together and she relies on Him rather than me. When she started praying for me years ago instead of just taking the easy route of complaining about my shortcomings to myself and all who would listen, it changed both of our lives. She actually chose truth over telling me off with truth.
I don’t choose to tell her everything I could. I tell her what is needed to keep my thought life in line and help her help me. I speak to my wife to love her and build up our relationship. Our goal is to make our marriage work as it’s supposed to. Remember the goals of marriage? Community, edification, children, sexual fulfillment, just to name the ones I’ve blogged about; and all of these are within the marriage which is aimed by God at some purpose that He reveals to us along the way. These are my goals and none of them is met by unnecessarily injuring my wife’s heart. That being said, I tell Karin almost everything that goes on in my head. I won’t divulge that here, boundaries remember? If you want more detail, you can contact me here
Always try to tell the truth, there are always consequences when you don’t. But always, always do your best to love each other and put the other persons needs before your own. If your spouse needs to know everything then tell them as much as you can, you are still responsible to God not your spouse. If they don’t want the truth and are hiding and it’s hurting them, tell the truth as much as you can, help them heal, but always put love first.