We drew the chairs up tight, as close as we could for a circle of seven couples. Three couples newly married, four married for more than a decade.
We were gathered that California summer evening to continue our work through a book about marriage. It was a group of people that knew each other well. When you start talking about marriage—with all the raw, real stuff that comes with it—you can go ever deeper, though, pretty darn fast.
And it can be uncomfortable—being pushed by close friends to choose vulnerability and truth, rather than stubbornness and hiding. Oh, the beautiful, entangled mess of community. We crave it (and fear it).
The conversation somehow wound around to identity, specifically how God sees each one of us . . . how he might think about each of us . . . what he might call each of us . . . his names for each of us. One of us connected the idea of his names with the idea of one flesh.
Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).
If God has names for each of us, we wondered aloud—his names, true names—and if a husband and wife truly become one flesh, might God have a name for married couples too, for each of these “one flesh units”? Enjoying the idea of that, we encouraged each other, each couple, to go away and ask God, in prayer, what He would call us, as a couple: What does He see? What’s the truest thing about us, this united, one flesh? What defines us?
What is our name?
The two of us, Jennifer and Justin, had asked these same questions of God, but only individually. We had asked Him what words He might use to describe Jennifer, what words He’d use for Justin. We’d done this before. We’d each sat before Him, expectant, trying to surrender the false words placed upon us by the enemy and by the world—false names, which we’d accepted and adopted too easily over the years. We’d each sat before Him, trying to hear His voice. It isn’t always easy to listen. It isn’t always easy to hear His voice.
But sitting before Him, waiting on Him, pursuing His company and expecting Him to show up, is the beginning of something. It’s the beginning of the kind of relationship He wants with us. It’s the beginning of a reciprocal relationship, one in which we talk (pray) and listen. It’s the beginning of becoming holy entangled.
You see, to be holy entangled, as a couple, we need to be fully entangled in our Father’s love.
We’ll confess, the idea that God might have names for us, different than our given names, was a bit of a stretch for us, at first, at least.
But it was too intriguing, too potentially cool, not to ask him. Once we did, and once we heard (for ourselves), it wasn’t that much of a jump to ask him about our name as a couple, as one flesh. And we relished the anticipation—the wonderful craziness of the whole idea. We had to ask Him. We couldn’t wait to hear what He might want to say.
It’s simple . . . asking. There is no prescribed prayer, no magical words. We just ask, in simple, plain language. What isn’t simple, we found, is dying to the names we’ve been chasing already, dying to the images of what we want our marriages to look like one day: well-dressed, no-mess, big-house, second-house, glamorous-vacations, kids-heading-off-to-Stanford-and-Harvard.
What is even more difficult is dying to the names we’d, along with the enemy and the world, given to our marriage, given to our spouse:
not-what-I-signed-up-for, less-than-I-expected, less-than-what-other-people-have, failure, too-difficult, too-messy. We can’t hear the truth of what God sees unless we lay down these old names, these old expectations, first.
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation,and uphold me with a willing spirit” (Psalm 51: 10-11).
So, we pray for a willing heart. We pray for the Spirit’s discernment. We pray to desire God’s will for us more than our own. We pray for no separation between ourselves and the Father. We pray to step down, surrender, die to our pride, die to the lies we’ve believed about ourselves and our spouse. We pray to hear God clearly, from a pure heart, from a heart fully aligned—entangled—with His. We want to hear Him.
If He wants to tell us what He calls us, He will. He’s God, afterall. If He wants to tell us what He calls us, we will know our name. And we will be surprised, amazed. We will receive a new picture, a new truth, a glimpse of who we truly are—spouses, united as one.
You, God’s son, God’s daughter, entangled in marriage, are one flesh now. You’re united in something—something that can actually bear its own name. Can you imagine asking what it is? Can you imagine what He might want to tell you both?
Oh, it’s going to be beautiful and awesome, friends. So join together, doing your best to be still, actively listening, actively waiting. And if you don’t hear anything . . . if you wait and you listen and you seek His voice but hear nothing, sense no whisper of what He calls you, don’t fear, don’t get frustrated. Continue trusting Him, continue praying together.
The very act of coming together before God, seeking His voice and wisdom before our own, encourages us and solidifies our commitment to live as one flesh.
If you do think you hear something, though, check if it aligns with scripture. If what you hear communicates God’s love to you, as a couple, and if it is supported by the character of God in scripture, trust it. Please trust it. Ask God to help you trust it. Ask Him to help you live it . . . live the name . . . live like you believe His name for you. Ask Him to help you believe that His love and good plans for you, as one flesh, are true.
We can’t wait to hear about your experience, listening and going deeper into what He has for you, as a couple. We can’t wait to hear your names!