Unite or Untie? I Get to Choose.
January 12, 2023
The Two Shall Become One Flesh
My daughter got married last month. Leading up to the wedding there was a lot of thought, talk and prayer about marriage. At one point in my prayer, I was fixed on the word “Unite”.
“’For this reason, a man will leave his father and his mother and unite with his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ Quoting these words ‘in extenso’ or as a whole, Christ gives them an even more explicit normative meaning …because Christ does not limit himself only to the quote itself, but adds, ‘So it is that they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined let man not separate.’ That phrase, ‘let man not separate,’ is decisive. In the light of this word of Christ, Gen 2:24 states the principle of the unity and indissolubility of marriage as the very content of the word of God expressed in the most ancient revelation”(TOB 1:3).
One Letter — Big Difference
As I sat and looked at the word “Unite”, I realized that although the spelling is very similar to the word “Untie,” the difference in meaning is worlds apart.
The letters are all the same, just two are transposed. As I looked more closely, I realized that the letter “i” and the letter “t” were the ones that were transposed. The letter “t” looks much like a cross. What happens when we get ourselves (i) and the cross (t) in the wrong order? Well, instead of uniting, we untie ourselves from others.
My husband and I have been married for 28 years. Marriage is beautiful and it’s HARD. It requires humility and sacrifice and gift. It requires these things even when you don’t feel like giving them. It is so easy to put yourself first. It is so easy to ignore the needs or desires of your spouse and just worry about yourself. But, if “I” am in the wrong place, through selfishness or other sins, especially if I put myself (i) where the cross (t) is supposed to be, I am choosing to “untie” myself from God and others instead of “unite” with them.
“When the cross is embraced it becomes a sign of love and of total self-giving. To carry it behind Christ means to be united with him in offering the greatest proof of love.”— Pope St. John Paul II, 16th Annual World Youth Day, 14 Feb 2001 (Also in our Theology of the Body Rosary Meditations Book)
When we “unite” in marriage, we “become one flesh.” In reading this, most of the time we think of the conjugal union. But, in my meditating on this verse, with the quote from JPII above, what I see is two people, yes, united in the marital embrace at times, but perpetually united in mission, in carrying each other’s crosses and even in helping others, their children, their neighbors, their family, carry their crosses as well. I have had a life full of experiencing this on both sides, the giving, and the receiving. I am blessed to have watched my own parents help each other and outsiders carry their crosses. I am blessed to have a husband who willingly does the same. And now, I am blessed to watch my children choose to sacrifice for others as well. This is beauty that many never get to behold, and I treasure it.
I Get to Choose
This unity can only happen if we remain fixed on Jesus, if we bring ourselves to Him for the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, where we truly unite with Him in the flesh. God gives me the freedom to choose. Am I able to put myself in the right place, and the cross in the right place? Am I my own master, or do I choose to accept the cross where God has placed it? Am I able to sacrifice my own needs/desires/will to fulfill the needs and desires of others, especially my spouse?
I cannot have unity without sacrifice. I must carry my own cross, and if I am united in marriage to another one in flesh, I help carry their cross, and allow them to help carry mine, or, in effect, I will choose to untie our bond, the choice is mine.
Regional Curriculum Consultant (South) for Ruah Woods Institute