Genesis 3 Paradise Lost: Failed Marriages

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.

He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You1 shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise,2 she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.

And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the LordGod called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?”4 10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” 11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

14 The Lord God said to the serpent,

“Because you have done this,

cursed are you above all livestock

and above all beasts of the field;

on your belly you shall go,

and dust you shall eat

all the days of your life.

15  I will put enmity between you and the woman,

and between your offspring5 and her offspring;

he shall bruise your head,

and you shall bruise his heel.”

16 To the woman he said,

“I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing;

in pain you shall bring forth children.

Your desire shall be for6 your husband,

and he shall rule over you.”

17 And to Adam he said,

“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife

and have eaten of the tree

of which I commanded you,

‘You shall not eat of it,’

cursed is the ground because of you;

nin pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;

18  thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;

and you shall eat the plants of the field.

19  By the sweat of your face

you shall eat bread,

till you return to the ground,

for out of it you were taken;

for you are dust,

and to dust you shall return.”

20 The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living.7 21 And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.

22 Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” 23 therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. 24 He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.

Paradise Lost

I have sat with many people who try and explain why their marriage has failed.  The story is gut wrenching, no matter who tells it, because it is so close to all of us who are married.  If one person decides that the marriage is over it is over.  One person can decide it is over for many reasons.  One person experiences pain or alienation.  The husband lacks passion because he is depressed.  He had passion when they dated, but now his love-making seems disinterested or routine.  The isolation becomes unbearable and despite his efforts to show more passion, it is decided that it is too late in the game and she leaves him.  A husband might feel dominated, ordered around and that his love of life is slipping away.  The constant correction, humiliation, and anger of his wife whittles away at his reserves and he decides he is better off regaining his independence.  A woman pressured by life loses her grip on her faculties and her paranoia and pain take her to places that her husband can not follow.  Having decided that he can not reach her any more he cuts himself loose and creates a new life.  A couple seems to have a functioning and warm relationship, but then disaster strikes and they lose a child, or they can not have children, or they become bankrupt.  Unable to process the disappointment and grief together they walk away.

Each heart knows its own pain.  The shame and the guilt, the isolation and the inability to be love and be loved go way back.  The system is broken and we too are products of that system.  If we drift we tend to disconnect and destroy.  Some marriages dissolve but others create ‘divorce within marriage.’  In those cases the couple stays together but they live different lives or hidden lives.  In some cases a dominant spouse has a clear idea of the way that the marriage should be.  He or she decides the priority of the tasks and communicates the agenda with the compliant one.  One spouse is hidden behind control and the other spouse is hidden behind compliance.  If the controlling spouse relinquished control they would feel exposed or weak and so when their control is challenged they accuse the others around them of selfishness or being ‘pushy’.  If the pleasing spouse steps up and reveals their true heart they feel ashamed and vulnerable.  They often feel selfish because a controlling parent kept them in their place as a child.  There are so many ways to hide.  We either run off into a new relationship or we keep ourselves in poisonous patterns of behaviour to live out a toxic marriage.

In this day and age ‘irreconcilable differences’ is a common catch-all for reasons for divorce.  Psychiatrist Karl Lehman has an interesting take on how we get there.  It is our own inability to cope that leads us to leave another.  The emotions which we can’t deal with, which get triggered, he says, are our own.  We all bring forward unresolved trauma and we all have pain which is unprocessed.  The memory of that pain is triggered by those closest to us.  It comes rushing to the fore when similar events happen in the present or when sensitive questions are asked.  In our rage or despair we blame our present circumstances.  We want to hide it deep down and forget about it.  We can not see that our spouse has done us a favour by revealing areas in which we need to grow.  Because of the pain we believe they have caused us, we want to fight them, freeze in hopes that it will go away, or flee.  A difficult marriage can transform a person into something beautiful, but our culture does not teach that narrative.  Instead of listening to the redemptive voice of God, one member listens to their own heart trying to justify its desire for independence.  They want to blame their spouse, the serpent, the culture – but the consequences of taking on the responsibility of our own emotional turmoil is too much.  God calls us to love our enemies.  We do not become anything special by loving those who love us.  Every culture celebrates loving the lovely.  God loves us when we are unlovely.  We were created in the image of God.  God restores his image in the most self-sacrificial of people.  Not doormats who allow tyranny and sin, but people who know themselves and reveal themselves persistently regardless of the reception.  It takes courage to love first.  To turn the heart back toward the spouse who has wronged us, deserted us, lied to us, or hidden from us.  However, in this passage that is exactly the heart that God reveals.  He doesn’t feel great about Adam and Eve’s sin.  He knows the millennia of estrangement that they have just caused.  However, he clothes them with garments and cares for their needs.  It is beyond us to do the same.  We will not find the answers to our relationships by sitting alone and developing our case against others.  We need to leave our self to die and live the life of God.  Only then can we rediscover the good of the Garden.

Takedown: Broken Marriages are Meant to be Fixed | Persephone Magazine

Prayer

Let our relationships teach us to die to ourselves.  Let us embrace the new life that you have for us through enduring through difficult times.  May we press into pain and have the difficult conversations that are necessary in order to reveal ourselves.  Give us the courage to be both vulnerable and to endure.

Questions

  1. What marriages have you seen fail?
  2. How was hiddenness a part of that failure?
  3. How can couples have a healthy self-disclosure when dating?
  4. How do couples endure the pain of disappointment?
  5. How do you redeem a relationship that has lost all feeling?
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About Plymothian

I teach at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. My interests include education, biblical studies, and spiritual formation. I have been married to Kelli since 1998 and we have two children, Daryl and Amelia. For recreation I like to run, play soccer, play board games, read and travel.
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16 Responses to Genesis 3 Paradise Lost: Failed Marriages

  1. Michael McCardle says:

    What marriages have you seen fail?
    My grandfather on my mom’s side left my grandma. He has been married 4x’s since. My uncle just got divorced and he just got married on labor day weekend.
    How was hiddenness a part of that failure?
    The hurt and struggle of my uncle’s family was hidden. Pride got in the way and ruined everything.
    How can couples have a healthy self-disclosure when dating?
    By being honest and transparent.
    How do couples endure the pain of disappointment?
    By knowing that their significant other is not God. God is God. Don’t hold God like expectations over the head of your significant other.
    How do you redeem a relationship that has lost all feeling?
    By chosing to love and serve. Love is not just a feeling. Love is a commitment and choice. Jesus says that we have no greater love than to lay down your life for a friend. So, be sacrificial and lay down your life for your loved one. Then you will bee refreshed

  2. Emmy R says:

    Yesterday, my parents celebrated their 27th wedding anniversary, what a blessing! I’m so thankful for their positive role model in my life and for the way they have chosen to stick it out even when society tells them its okay to give up. These past 27 years have been anything but easy for them, but the Lord continues to show Himself powerful and has worked in incredible ways, and I am so thankful. Persevering through difficult times in a marriage, sadly tends to be going against the social norm. That is just one example for how far we have fallen from the truth.

  3. Olyn says:

    This post is an encouragement, because I have seen up close more marriages fail than succeed, and have been told by friends or relatives that its inevitable that you won’t like your spouse anymore once marriage has been in play for a while. But we serve an awesome God who can work in the hearts of people and give us love which we can show to others. He is the ultimate picture of self-sacrifice, and it is beautiful that we can learn that through marriage.

  4. Maria T. says:

    How do couples endure the pain of disappointment?
    I don’t have experience enduring the pain of disappointment with a significant other. In my own life, I have endured much disappointment through acknowledging that God doesn’t owe me anything and that His love is sufficient. Being thankful is the most healing postures in response to grief that I have experienced. I can’t imagine that if I were married I would need to find a different posture.

  5. Kimberly W. says:

    I have seen the ramifications of failed marriages constantly in my generation. I cannot even count how many friends I have who come from broken homes with divorced parents. I also have many friends whose parents are still married, but their marriage is very poor. My friends carry lifelong scars because of this. It affects the way my friends date, the way they think about marriage, how they interact with others, and every other aspect of their lives. It saddens me to see the fallout of divorce in the lives of so many friends. I know I am incredibly blessed to have parents who have a strong marriage and to also have many relatives who have strong marriages. I am grateful for the strong examples of marriage I have in my life.

  6. Jung Kim says:

    “Instead of listening to the redemptive voice of God, one member listens to their own heart trying to justify its desire for independence.” This reminds me of how people today are so often saying a prayer that comes from own desire and heart and claims to be God’s. It breaks my heart to see many friends from broken homes today due to the parents’ decision to ignore God’s redemptive voice. I am thankful for my parents for their perseverance and obedience before God despite the difficulties they might have had. Yay for my parents and God’s cooperation!

  7. Maelynn says:

    1. Well, most of the time, on of the spouses makes a selfish decision thay destroys the relationship.
    2. In the cases I know of, one spouse had a completely different life that was kept hidden from the other.

    Couples must put God first im their marriges and not look to their spouses to complete them. It is in Christ that they are complete.

  8. Andrew Moore says:

    In one instant where I saw a marriage fail, I was incredibly surprised. Oftentimes, I think, broken marriages can arise because people rush into it without thinking of the significance or the importance. In this instance, even after the marriage, the woman suddenly decided she didn’t want to be married anymore. She had simply not realized what a huge commitment she had made and wanted to get out of it.

  9. Megumi says:

    1. The one marriage I saw fail was not surprising at all. Both people were incredibly selfish, had had multiple previous marriages, no sense of responsibility and no fear of God.
    2. The wife had a secret boyfriend in another country.
    3. Commit to being truthful, be willing to ask and answer clarifying questions, give the benefit of the doubt and do not be suspicious, easily angered or easily hurt.
    4. Forgive, reconcile, readjust expectations, and make plans for improvement with accountability in the future.
    5. Do loving acts, pray, remember fond times, focus on the admirable qualities of the other person, and by so doing revive your feelings.

  10. Molly says:

    This phrase stuck out to me, “We can not see that our spouse has done us a favour by revealing areas in which we need to grow. Because of the pain we believe they have caused us, we want to fight them, freeze in hopes that it will go away, or flee.” There have been times in my own marriage where areas of growth have been revealed (if you want to know how selfish you are get married) and honestly it has hurt and it was painful to process and ugly to look at but I knew it was a good thing because it was all part of the process of sanctification.

    Marriage is the most exciting adventure, yet also most difficult. I am thankful for a God whose name is Emmanuel, who hears us in times of confusion, miscommunication, and arguing. A God who helps love each other better and whose strength we rely on.

  11. 1 and 2. Two of my dad’s brother divorced their wives and my dad’s other brother married my aunt who had previously been divorced. Especially with my aunt, she was right to leave her husband the first time. He was being really rather awful to her. Since marrying my dad’s brother who is obviously a fallen human being, I see in my aunt doubts and fears from her past husband because she has been hurt severely and she knows the pain that comes with divorce. It is an always present fear that is extremely present to her, more so than to someone who has not had the past experiences she has had.
    3. I think they need to factor in the amount of time they have been dating and the level of intentionality they have for each other in relation to their futures appropriately. They need to be comfortable with each other, trusting that when they ask as well as when they confide.
    4. Jesus and going through the process of sincere forgiveness.
    5. I think to revive that feeling, spouses need to be thoughtful and intentional in acting out their love towards each other. They need to consider ways they can do so that would best communicate their desire to deepen their love with their spouse at the front of their minds.

  12. Christa says:

    1 and 2. What marriages have you seen fail? I have seen the failure in the marriage of my grandparents and my uncle and his wife. In many ways, since I was only a small child when both of these divorces occurred, I do not know many of the specifics of how hiddenness played into the failure.
    3. How can couples have a healthy self-disclosure when dating? I think that it is important for dating couples to self-disclose slowly but truly in their relationship as they trust the one they are dating. Obviously there are some things that cannot be truly self-disclosed until marriage but I think that struggles, emotions, beliefs, and many other things can be truly shared the other person.
    4. How do couples endure the pain of disappointment? Only by clinging to our Lord and seeking peace in Him
    5. How do you redeem a relationship that has lost all feeling? I think that it is crucial to be selfless in relationship and to be willing to hear the other person’s side of the relationship with listening and caring ears.

  13. This passage reminded me of the chapel speaker we recently had who studies the effect divorce has on children throughout growing up and into adulthood. He talked about how divorce causes anger, mistrust, depression, guilt, insecurity, and so much more. Divorce has become such a common thing today, but growing up I was never affected directly by divorce. However, my parents marriage was not a great one and I often felt like they were on the brink of divorce. This was very difficult for me because I was constantly worried that they were going to tell me they are getting a divorce. I think they stuck it out for me and my brothers and today still don’t have a great marriage. I pray for their salvation everyday because I know that if they turn to God, He can mend their relationship.

  14. Christina W. says:

    How do you redeem a relationship that has lost all feeling?
    You can redeem a relationship by making the choice to love even when you don’t feel like it. The way that you feel is not always constant but you have to make a choice to love constantly.

  15. It is really upsetting for me to see a marriage that has failed. Unfortunately, I have seen several marriages in my church fail recently because of adultery. I have seen families broken, hearts shattered, and children suffering from the cheating relationship. It is quite upsetting, but I need to keep in mind that I am not above that. I keep telling myself that I would never cheat on my spouse or even get a divorce, but I doubt these marriages that failed thought it would ever happen to them. I think it is important to push through the droughts and the tough times that will inevitably come. We can never plan for though times, but when it comes, we can choose to love like Christ loves, wholly, selflessly, and even when it hurts.

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