Today on Redoing Your Mind… I'd like to welcome you again to this session of our study on Christian marriage.
In this segment, we're going to look at the question of knowing one another in marriage. I've always been impressed by the fact that when the Old Testament speaks of intimacy and of sexual intimacy, it frequently uses the verb to know. For example, the Bible might say that Abraham knew his wife and she conceived, or Adam knew his wife and she conceived. And we hear that expression, and I wonder why is it?
Is it because the biblical writers are embarrassed to say the word, that they go to euphemisms, circumlocution ways of getting around, being graphic or sexually explicit? They just said, Abraham knew his wife and she conceived. Well, does that mean that Abraham walked down the street and he met this lady on the street, says, hello, my name's Abraham. And she said, my name's Sarah. They were introduced and all of a sudden Sarah's pregnant.
That's not what the Bible means. It's using that verb to know to communicate the deepest level of human intimacy. And that's because for intimacy to happen, whether it's physical or emotional or spiritual, knowledge has to take place.
You cannot really experience intimacy with a stranger. Now before our program opened in this segment, I was talking with some of the people here who are present in the studio audience. And we were singing and dancing and playing around and I was going back into the former ages and remember the song, getting to know you, getting to know all about you.
And we did a little soft shoe. And I thought that sort of captures the American way in which dating is developed into a marriage relationship. There's a process by which we get to know each other. And it's almost like a mating dance that takes place.
Think back to the initial dates that maybe you had with the person that you eventually married. We look at a college campus, for example, and we see how people prepare for dates. The guys take a shower. They use their deodorant. They take the coolest shirt that they can think of. And they want to look nice.
They run their combs through their hair. Meanwhile, back in the women's dorm, the women are still spending three hours putting their hair in curlers and using all this makeup and cosmetics because everybody wants to make a good first impression on that date. And so on the first date, we do everything in our power to make sure that that person we're trying to impress doesn't know who we are, right? Trying to avoid being known in that situation.
We want to put our best step forward. But then what happens? The girl starts to respond or the guy starts to respond to the girl. And the relationship begins to develop. And then a new dimension takes over in the relationship. Now we begin to let little glimpses of ourself out to the person we're dating because we go home and I say, hey, she really responded to me, but was it to me or to my cologne?
Was it to me or was it to this macho image that I put forth that I fooled her with? Will she really like me when she really knows me? And so now we'll begin to play true confessions where we start to say, well, you know, I have to tell you something that I did long ago and far away. That is, we begin to confess our sins that are safe.
We don't say about what we're doing now. And so little by little, the mask comes off as we test the waters to see as they continue to know us, will they continue to like us? Now, that's a natural thing to have happen in a dating relationship. But what creates the kind of love that builds permanent marriage is when that process of knowing one another deepens and continues and continues and continues because that is absolutely necessary for intimacy to take place. Unfortunately, what happens is in the dating relationship, we open up, we begin to reveal ourselves more and more, and as we get secure and comfortable, we continue to do that. And then marriage happens, and then suddenly it begins to reverse, and we start hiding things from our partner, and we begin to build another barrier to intimacy. So the principle is this, that if we are to experience intimacy, we have to get to know our partners.
It's that simple. Knowledge is a requirement. Marriage cannot be continued and sustained on feelings alone. Knowledge has to happen. I must know my wife. She must get to know me. But for us to learn anything, to know anything in depth, we have to study.
We have to study. I remember when my father died, when I was 17 years old, and I went to the funeral, and the minister gave a brief little eulogy, and he said nice things about my dad. And then at one point in that meditation, he said, you know, I could always know when Bob Sproul was coming into my office in the church, because I could hear the sound of his feet as he walked down the hall, because he had a distinctive footfall, and I knew it was he before he even popped his head around the door. Now, when the minister said that, my mother just dissolved. I mean, she broke up. She fell apart. And so when the funeral was all finished, I said to her, I said, Mom, what was it that the minister said that broke you up like that? And she said, well, when he mentioned your dad's footfall. She said, because I could always tell when he was coming.
And I thought, what is she talking about? I lived for 17 years in the house with my dad. I mean, it wasn't my dad limped. He didn't have some funny kind of way of walking. But there was something distinctive about his gait that was distinctive about him. And it was one of those little nuances of personality that only someone close and intimate picks up.
It said something for our minister, because he had over 3,000 members in his congregation, and a good shepherd knows his sheep. But in order to know somebody like that, we have to work at it. It never ceases to amaze me that when I talk to men who go through crises, the two biggest crises that they tend to experience apart from death and so on are divorce and the loss of a job.
For a man to be fired is devastating to him, but it's not as devastating for most men as to have their wives lead them. And so we're concerned, and women are concerned too, about marriage and about career. Now how do we set about getting ready for our career?
We don't think anything of going to high school for 12 years, and then many of us go beyond high school for another four years or five years spending multiple thousands of dollars to learn how to be proficient in a certain field so that we can go out and have a job. And then casually we meet somebody. Three, six months later we marry them and make no concerted effort to master the material of marriage. We will study history and philosophy and psychiatry and engineering and biology and all of that so that we can make more money. But we won't invest any time or any labor into knowing our wives.
One of the biggest complaints I hear, and you've heard it, he never talks to me. And then all of a sudden the marriage dissolves and the person discovers more pain there than as they would have lost their job or had to change their vocation. Ladies and gentlemen, we have bought into a myth that tells us that happy marriages come from doing what comes naturally, that somehow we will learn to know our mate through osmosis. Now there are certain things that we can learn about people just from being around them. We may begin to notice their little habits of how they walk and how they dress and how they react. I can learn an awful lot about a person just by studying that person outwardly. If you want to know something about me, you can hire a private investigator and they can go back and they can look at my track record. They can tell you where I went to school. They can tell you what grades I made in school. They can go to the IRS and tell you how much money I make and what I spend my money on.
You can go to the bank. You can get all kinds of external data and information about R.C. Sproul. But no matter how much you study that, you cannot know who I am inside. Because if you ask me where do I live, I'm going to tell you I live in Orlando, okay? But that's not really where I live. That's where my house is. I'm away from that house a whole lot more than I'm there.
But do you know where I live? I live inside of me, the same place where you live. I mean, we could get mystical or metaphysical here about where the ego is, where personality is found, where the substance of individuality can be detected.
But we'll cut through all of that for a minute and just say, you live inside there. And all I can know about you is what I can observe outwardly unless or until you choose to tell me what's going on inside. That's why we're so concerned about the Bible. We can know a lot about God from looking at creation.
Creation gives us clues as to the identity of God and the character of God. But we don't really know God intimately until God speaks, until God chooses to reveal Himself and tell us what's inside. And so if you want to know your husband and you want your husband to know you, you have to talk. And you have to talk about stuff besides the weather. You've got to talk about what's going on down there. We have to get to what I call the second level of communication, not just commonplace reactions but down into how we feel about things.
That's when intimacy starts to take place. One of the great benefits that my wife and I have is having to spend so much time on the road. But a lot of it is just plain traveling this country. And most of the time we drive, and I find driving very, very boring. And so we play games while we're driving.
We'll play games like this. Okay, honey, I'll say, if I could be anything in the world without fear of failure besides being a teacher, what would I be? She says, a golfer, a professional golfer or a baseball player.
And I say, no, I would like to be a concert violinist. She says, I've just revealed to her something of the secret life of Walter Mitty. It isn't all that dangerous of a personal revelation, but she's getting to know me. And then the conversation becomes deeper.
One game that we play that I commend the couples, but you have to be careful about it, is what I call my mail order partner game. You know, when you go into a car lot, you want to buy a new car. You walk into the dealership, and the first thing they tell you is that they have like seven or eight different models, and you have to figure that out. And then each model comes with 150 possible factory options, and so that the combinations that you can order for a car just boggle the mind, all the different things.
You can have tilt wheel, air conditioning, automatic windows, rear window defogger, and all of that. And so we play this game of special order bride, or special order groom, where we'll say, okay honey, here are 20 options for the ideal husband. You get to order your own. What options are you looking for in a husband? What options are you looking for in a wife? This is important to do for people who are contemplating marriage, but it's also helpful for people who are already married.
And I said, okay, let's be honest. If you could be married to the ideal person, what would you order? Would he be handsome? Would he be tall? Would he be short? Would he be thin? Would he be fat? Would he be rich? Would he be poor? Would he be bright? Would he be dumb? Would he be aggressive?
Would he be passive? And we put all these things together. And then I said, okay, after we've gone through all 20 of these, now let's get serious. You come into the showroom for your mail order bride or your mail order husband, and the salesman says, here are the 20 options, but you can only have five of them. What five would you choose? Now when I asked my wife that question, what five would you choose if you could have the perfect husband? What five options would you want?
What are you looking for? What she is doing when she answers that question is expresses to me her felt needs. I heard a minister once say that marriage is an action where people are involved in selfless love. The true marriage, Christian marriage, is built on selfless love.
Doesn't it sound neat? Ladies and gentlemen, that is baloney. There is no such thing as selfless love. For me to love, myself has to be involved in it.
Now obviously God does not want us to be involved in selfish love where we just use our partner for our own gratification, for our own ends, exploiting them and denigrating them and destroying them. But when I was looking for a wife, I didn't set out looking for, I've got to find somebody that I can give myself away totally for the rest of my life and get nothing back. Now I married my wife because I figured she was going to make me happy because she was going to meet my needs. And the wonderful thing was that she felt that I was the one who could meet her needs, but that can be vicious, can't it? If all I care about is having her meet my needs and all she cares about is my having to meet her needs, we've got trouble right here in River City.
But there's nothing wrong with wanting certain needs met in marriage. But my wife, if she loves me, needs to know what my priority needs are. And if I love her, I need to know what her priority needs are. So we begin to express myself, okay honey, you can only pick five things, what are they going to be? And she says, if you could only get five things from me, what would they be? And I tell her, she said, what are the other four?
Okay. So we go through that, and I find all kinds of surprises. She'll tell me, here's the five most important things that I want out of this marriage.
And I'll say, wait a minute, three of those I would have figured out, but I never would have guessed the other two had you not told me. I make assumptions about what my wife needs and about what my wife wants, and so often those assumptions are wrong. And she does the same thing to me.
Now here's the tragedy. What happens where I have the top five needs in my marriage that I know what they are, and I say to my wife, I'm not going to do this with her because this can be really, really destructive, but I'll say in my own mind, privacy, I'll hide this one. I'll say, okay, now I'm going to rate her. How's she doing? And I look at need number one and I say, she is a ten.
It's terrific. Number two, the second most important need in my life, she's a nine. The third most important need in my life that I feel, she's a two. Number four, ten. Number five, ten. I don't think there are very many marriages that would get that high of a total, but even that marriage where four out of the five top felt needs are being met is a powder keg ready to explode.
Why? Because if one of your top five felt needs is not being met, that is your point of vulnerability. What happens if a man has four out of his top five needs being met and he goes to work and every day he's spending time with his secretary who at this level is a ten? We tend to take for granted the things that are going fine in our marriage. It's where we're longing and our longings are not being fulfilled, and if somebody else comes along and fulfills them, our head starts playing games. We're willing to trade these four in for this one, and it happens every day. And you ask a man who has just left his wife for his secretary, I'll say, what made you do it?
And it's the same answer. She made me feel like a man again. What's he saying? He's saying, I had a burning felt need in my life that my wife was not meeting and my secretary met, and I went for it. We need to know what those felt needs are. And as much as is within us, we have to endeavor to meet the needs of our partners.
And that's where communication is absolutely vital. I joke about this and laugh about this, but if you want to test how well you're communicating your feelings and your needs to your partner, look at your Christmas presents. Are you happy with the presents your wife gives you or your husband gives you for Christmas or for your birthday? I remember the first years that Vesta and I were married, she's very practical. She's not inclined to extravagant manifestations of romance.
I'm the incurable romantic. At Christmas or on her birthday, I want to get her some pizzazzy romantic gift, a fur coat, some jewelry, lacy nightgown, something like that, that is romantic. She wants a washing machine.
That's practical. And what do I want? I want something that says, you're my man, you're my hero, you know, win Rocky, and she buys me brand new golf clubs. That's what I want.
I sit there and think, I'm going to get a new driver or a new wedge for Christmas from my wife. What do I get? White shirts. Now white shirts are what I need.
They're not what I want. I can buy white shirts anytime. I don't need a special occasion to justify spending money on white shirts.
They're a necessity. And so my wife gives me white shirts, and what do I do? I say, honey, just what I needed. I love them.
Thank you so much. And I do such a good job of convincing her how happy I am with a white shirt that next year I get four white shirts and I still don't have my golf club. Then my secretary wraps up a new driver and gives it to me on my birthday because she picks up what I want. We tend to give the cheapest gifts. We give the gifts that we want to receive rather than what the person wants to receive. We give the gifts that we think they ought to want rather than the gifts that they really want. And when that happens, we are not communicating. We are missing each other.
We are not learning the deepest feelings of our partners. Now there's one last thing I want to say before we go on to the next subject, which the next time will be considering sexual knowledge and relationship in marriage. But what I want to say before we do that is I am a person who has spent his whole life studying one thing or another, mostly theology, and I have discovered that one of the greatest experiences there is in this world is to learn something new. I'm fascinated by it. I can't wait to get to heaven so that the first 15,000 years I can study music, and the second 15,000 years I can study art, and the next 15,000 years I can study, well maybe I'll get down to biology one of these days. You know, I'm in chemistry.
I've avoided that all my life. But I love to learn new things. The variety of the created order is just wonderful.
It's wondrous. And to learn something new is exciting. But there's no more variety, nothing more provocative, nothing more fascinating than a human soul. We can say that people look like each other, but every single person has a unique personality.
And there is no such thing under God's heaven as a dull person once we get beneath the surface. Anybody in this room's life story has sufficient drama and interest to produce a best-selling novel. And so it's fun to learn to know another person intimately.
It enriches their life and it enriches our life. We're glad you've joined us on this Wednesday edition of Renewing Your Mind. This week we're making our way through Dr. R.C. Sproul's series, The Intimate Marriage. And whether you've been married for a few months or a few decades, let me commend this series to you. It's six messages on two DVDs, and we'll send it to you today for your donation of any amount. We'll also provide you with a digital download of the series along with a PDF of the study guide with an outline of each lesson along with questions for discussion.
Again, our phone number is 800-435-4343, and our web address is renewingyourmind.org. Joining me here in the studio is Dr. Stephen Nichols, who is the author of the biography R.C. Sproul, A Life. Dr. Nichols, as we hear R.C. provide us with a biblical perspective on marriage, I think it's important to point out that he lived what he taught through his 57-year marriage to his beloved Vesta. Oh, absolutely, Lee. You know, as I was working on the biography, I of course knew this, that the story of R.C. is really the story of R.C.
and Vesta. This was truly a love story. You talk about 57 years of faithful marriage, but as you look at this, you begin to see a few things. First of all, there was love. They truly loved each other. They lit up when they were in each other's presence. There was a mutual respect. They truly respected each other and honored each other, and you even see a mutual commitment to their calling. It was not something that just R.C.
did, but it was R.C. and Vesta, and it's just a beautiful story of a faithful marriage. Thank you, Dr. Nichols, for sharing that with us, and thank you for this wonderful biography of Dr. Sproul. You might think that discussing sexual problems in marriage would get awkward very quickly, but R.C. does not dodge this vital aspect of the marriage relationship, and tomorrow he will help us understand the emotional issues lurking beneath the surface that lead to these difficulties. So we hope you'll join us Thursday for Renewing Your Mind.
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