Here is an excerpt from the final chapter of my first book: Husbands, Wives, God: Introducing the Marriages of the Bible to Your Marriage. In this chapter I am following up on the message of Chapter 6 about the power of leaving and cleaving – continuously throughout your marriage. Look for the conclusion of this chapter in the next few days…
DAVID AND MICHAL: MORE LEAVING
Marriage Principles in This Chapter:
• Physical Separation
• Emotional Separation
• Consequences of Failing to Leave
• How to leave
AS THE LAST CHAPTER EXPLAINED while exploring the marriage of Adam and Eve, a couple’s inability to leave, whether tangible or intangible relationships, in order to be joined is the dominant root of marital stresses. Since the Bible is conspicuously silent about Adam and Eve’s marriage beyond its beginning, in this last chapter will dig deeper into the healing virtue of leaving and cleaving continuously throughout your marriage by exploring the marriage of David and Michal. This marriage provides a more complete picture of the ongoing burden that a marriage is forced to bear when the couple fails to leave and cleave.
The failure of David and Michal to embrace this principle causes them to experience two common consequences of not learning to leave consistently throughout their marriage. These consequences carry with them progressively toxic effects that can devour, or at least deeply strain, even the best of relationships.
I want to emphasize, again, that leave and cleave should not be thought of as something occurring only in the beginning of a marriage. Nor should it be thought of as only leaving tangible relationships with people close to you, such as parents and friends. Rather, it is a way of life that applies to every relationship across the board, even intangible relationships such as perspectives, thoughts, and behaviors. Thus, to get the most out of this chapter, as the points of separation in David and Michal’s marriage are highlighted, make a note of where you feel that you are separated from your spouse in any way. Identifying potential areas of separation or distance in your marriage throughout this chapter will prove essential toward its end in allowing God to chart a new direction for you and your spouse.
David and the King’s Daughter
David is one of the most recognizable characters in the Bible, and is one of the two “star attractions” in the well-known account of David and Goliath the Giant. Immediately after David killed Goliath, Israel’s King Saul began to resent him because of the attention and accolades he received for saving the nation. As David’s popularity steadily grew, so did the King’s animosity toward him. Out of his growing fear and hostility, Saul extended a rather disingenuous offer to his young nemesis: his oldest daughter Merab’s hand in marriage (1 Sam. 18:17). David rejected this offer, citing that he was not worthy of marrying the king’s daughter, a wise decision that, however, further intensified Saul’s bitterness toward him. Then in v. 20, Saul’s servants learn that his younger daughter Michal loved David (cf. 1 Sam. 18:20, 28). Saul then offers his younger daughter to David, with motives just as dubious, saying, “I will give her to him that she may become a snare to him, and that the hand of the Philistines may be against him.” (1 Sam. 18:21). Curiously, this time David accepts Saul’s offer, and takes Michal as his wife.
Consequence #1: Physical Separation
Although David and Michal were now married, their relationship immediately experienced pressure fro, Michal’s father, King Saul. Look at this account:
Saul sent men to David’s house to watch it and to kill him in the morning. But Michal, David’s wife, warned him, “If you don’t run for your life tonight, tomorrow you’ll be killed.” So Michal let David down through a window, and he fled and escaped. Then Michal took an idol and laid it on the bed, covering it with a garment and putting some goats’ hair at the head. When Saul sent the men to capture David, Michal said, “He is ill.” Then Saul sent the men back to see David and told them, “Bring him up to me in his bed so that I may kill him.” But when the men entered, there was the idol in the bed, and at the head was some goats’ hair. Saul said to Michal, “Why did you deceive me like this and send my enemy away so that he escaped?” Michal told him, “He said to me, ‘Let me get away. Why should I kill you?’” (1 Sam. 19:11-17, NASB)
That’s a pretty intense scene, to say the least. I think that you’d agree that having your father-in-law send guards to your house to kill you would put a damper on most honeymoons. Yet even in the face of Saul and his soldiers trying to kill David, this husband and wife have to choose how they will respond: (a) Leave Saul’s pressure and be together as husband and wife; or (b) Don’t leave and experience the consequences. Regrettably, they chose the second option.
When Michal learned of her father’s plan to kill David, she warned him and provided a way for her new husband to escape. David then chose to run. Saul’s pressure on the relationship, particularly the threat to David’s life, forced him to flee the scene and his new bride, thus causing the couple to be married but physically separated. While Saul’s pressure on the relationship and the resulting distance is problematic, it is the reaction of David and Michal that will get most of our attention. For the reality is that whatever the source of pressure, a couple can’t stop the events and stresses of life from occurring. However, when inevitable tensions arise, the question becomes, “Will a couple be able to leave that source of tension and be joined together?” It is in a husband and wife’s chosen response to external pressures that a relationship thrives or dies. It was David and Michal’s failure to respond appropriately and leave Saul’s influence that prevented their marriage from being sealed by God’s words in Genesis 2:24, “For this reason a man and woman shall leave… and be joined… and they shall become one flesh.”
Theirs were individual decisions that didn’t seem to consider God’s promises for husbands and wives. Rather they considered their individual welfare above God’s promises. Michal could have left her father’s influence and fled with her husband so that they could have been together. Likewise, David could have looked beyond his father-in-law’s threats and taken his wife with him when he left. While no one can ever say what this marriage might have become, it was robbed of any chance to be what God declared marriage should be in Genesis, chapter 2, because they failed to leave, or separate themselves from, the outside pressures of Saul.
It is unclear how many years they were physically separated. However, what is crystal clear is that the distance begins to tear at their marriage. During their apparently lengthy separation, which extends from 1 Samuel 19 to 2 Samuel 6, Michal is given in marriage to a man named Palti, and David marries two other women, Ahinoam and Abigail (1 Sam. 25:42-44). Obviously there are cultural differences and realities influencing David, Michal, and this entire story that sharply contrast what we face today. But what remains relevant, regardless of culture, is that it was the failure of David and Michal to leave behind their external ties that created the space which allowed other influences to enter into the marriage.
The physical separation in your own marriage may look different than it did in David and Michal’s marriage. In our present dual-income, fast-paced, highly-stressed, never-enough-hours-in-a-day society, a couple can live in the same house and still be physically separated. A mountain of obligations and commitments outside of the home, all of which seem to be of utmost importance at the moment, makes it difficult for couples to find time to have a meal, share an activity, be intimate, or simply talk to each other. How about your marriage? Are there areas where you and your spouse are separated because of a failure to leave an outside pressure or perspective?
Modern Day Leaving
A friend called me and asked me to meet with him and his wife, as they were experiencing distance in their relationship. In their own words, she expressed, “He never listens to me,” and his perspective was, “We just don’t talk like we used to.” To both of them, their problems were a matter of learning to communicate better. What they were in search of was a set of proven techniques to improve communication. However, the actual source of the pressure on this relationship was that they were so tied to their jobs that they became disconnected from each other.
After listening to their concerns, I opened my mouth to speak. Before I could finish my first sentence, the husband’s cell phone rang. As I sat, expecting him to turn the phone off, he proceeded to answer the call and enter into a conversation with his boss. Before I even had the chance to accept his apology, his wife’s phone rang. She, too, accepted the call and proceeded to hold a conversation. Instantly, I had a crystal clear picture of their communication problem. The way that the phone was interrupting our conversation was the same way that their communication with each other was relentlessly being interrupted. Their occupations kept them at their respective offices and apart from each other for most of the day—which is pretty typical. However, even when they were together, they were really still at work. Their conversation was subject at any moment to being interrupted by a phone call from the office. The crux of their problem was that they never had, or made, time to talk to each other.
It was a challenging few months, but they were able to identify how the external pressures of their jobs were keeping them from being joined. Eventually, they were able to establish boundaries in regard to areas of pressure outside of the marriage that enabled them to disconnect from, or leave, what separated them and be joined together in fruitful conversation. They now sit down and talk uninterruptedly for a minimum of fifteen minutes a day. In actuality, their inability to talk was really a failure to leave in one area that masked itself as a communication issue, but impacted every area of their marriage, and strangled the possibility of any intimacy in the marriage.
In 1 Corinthians 7:3-5, Paul makes it clear that when a couple allows physical separation to occur, they allow Satan to enter in and pressure the relationship. And as David and Michal illustrate, the longer a couple allows themselves to be separated, the more difficult it is to bring balance back into the relationship.
EYM family, in what ways have you had to leave past perspectives to strengthen your marriage?