Quite possibly my favorite line in our marriage prep program is when we describe the fall of Adam and Eve and how sin damaged the partnership that God wanted from them. Well, not exactly the part where they sin, but what comes next: We are not stuck in sin! Jesus saves us and restores us in God’s original plan through the Sacraments.
That’s the hope of marriage, and the beauty of man and woman becoming one in the Sacrament of Matrimony. It’s restoring the broken relationship of Adam and Eve and returning it to the partnership it was meant to be. By redeeming marriage through Christ, it can actually be better than what Adam and Eve had in the garden!
So what exactly did they have in the garden before sin? They had no shame. This doesn’t mean “no embarrassment,” it means they were in perfect communion with each other because their bodies revealed their souls. Created in God’s image, they saw God in each other; God who is perfect and God who is love.
It was only when sin was introduced that they felt the need to cover themselves up, because now God’s image was distorted. There was now a break between the physical and the spiritual, and instead of seeing more, Adam and Eve saw less of each other. They saw how they could use each other for personal gain or enjoyment, and it became a struggle to love instead of use. After sin, their communion was broken and the partnership was damaged.
In marriage, your spouse is supposed to be your partner, not your property. For a long time, this was misunderstood as men dominated over women. Women couldn’t vote or get a higher education and were only seen as property. And sometimes the relationship would get violent and women were expected to submit. Pornography, rape, domestic violence are still effects of this.
Nowadays, women sometimes dominate the relationship and boss their husbands around, trying to get out from the traditional stereotype of unquestioned compliance. Women now like to assert their independence in their fertility (it’s my body, I’ll decide what happens), in being the one to propose, in making big decisions without their husband (why do I have to? I don’t belong to him).
But in the beginning, it was not so. One does not dominate the other. These are all effects of sin and a broken partnership. Woman was made from the rib of man – side by side with him as equals. Man and woman were meant to help each other fulfill their missions as partners. In the beginning, they were to help each other be holy in the image of God.
“Like everything in human life, marriage was wounded by sin, but in Christ it has been healed and given a new significance. Marriage in Christ overcomes the disorder sin causes in us.”– Mary Healy, Men and Women are from Ede
Now that the relationship between man and woman can be restored in the Sacrament, what should that look like? Not that my husband and I have a perfect marriage by any means, but we do have grace. Here are some things that we do in our partnership:
-We consult each other before making plans with friends. Not because we have to ask permission per say, but because as partners, we need to be united on our schedule (and now that we have kids, someone has to be home to watch them!)
-We discuss big purchases first, to be on the same page with our finances. We help each other come to reasonable decisions for the good of our family.
– We take turns going out with friends. We do bedtime together. We pick up the slack when the other is sick or work is overwhelming. We don’t keep score. We help each other form good habits. We pray together. We try to be reasonable when we disagree.
-We acknowledge our areas of strength and weakness. (And you know what? They happen to be gender stereotypical, which I’m okay with.
I love to bake and cook and I spend a lot of time in the kitchen. I’m home more with the kids, so I do dishes and do day-to-day cleaning. But my husband is a really good cleaner too so on the weekends we work on it together. I read our kids stories and take care of their doctor’s appointments and schedules and I pay all our bills on time. My husband would be lost without me
On the flip side, it helps that I’m allergic to grass, but my husband is passionate about taking care of our lawn. He mows and water and fertilizes. He is also a contractor, and knows about houses and building and plumbing and electricity. He fixes what breaks, so I would be living in a broken hole if it wasn’t for him. He is more assertive in dealing with salesmen and bankers and when it comes to making decisions, so I let him take the lead because I get all flustered. I am more confident when he is with me.
We have our strengths and weaknesses but we see each other as partners and we work as a team as much as possible. Of course we feel the effects of sin. But like Matrimony, the Eucharist and Reconciliation are also endless sources of grace that help to purify and strengthen our love.
We can look all around us (or even inside us) and see broken relationships, hurt, mistrust, or use.But in the beginning, it was not so. The Sacrament of Matrimony is our hope to restore the partnership God had in mind for us from the beginning.