Listen: Dr Allan Meyer chats to Sheridan Voysey about “counting the cost” before getting married.
Part 5 of 7 in ‘The Search For Intimacy’ Series
It’s spring, and romance is in the air. Perfect time for a marriage proposal, right?
Or is it?
Before you jump the gun, it’s wise to consider the true meaning of marriage first, and whether you’ve really counted the cost.
Dr Allan Meyer, author of the Christian-based sexuality course, The Search For Intimacy, says that in Bible terms, marriage is a “covenant”. In other words, it’s a very solemn form of agreement.
“The old word in Hebrew for covenant is the word berit”, said Dr Meyer in an interview with Hope 103.2’s Sheridan Voysey. “It had three concepts attached to it: a “cutting”, a “binding”, and an “eating”.
The Ancient Covenant: A Death, An Agreement And A Meal
In ancient Bible times, the “cutting” part of a covenant agreement often involved the death of a sacrificial animal; a pretty gruesome affair.
“The way they would symbolise [the death], was to take animals and cut them in half,” Dr Meyer said. “Then they would pull parts of the animal apart, and form a bloody aisleway [with] blood all over the ground.
“The partners to an agreement would walk their way between the divided animals. They would be saying: “I realise that if we’re going to have a binding agreement, it begins with both of us laying down our rights.”
When two single people choose to marry, they must be prepared to “confront the issue of things dying”
After the messy sacrifice came verbal commitments, and the sharing of a meal of bread and wine. The ancient ritual represented the sacrifice that’s required to reach agreement.
Dr Meyer explained that a marriage is the same kind of covenant.
“One of the things people can find fairly confronting in the Bible is the idea of sacrifice,” he said.“Without a death, life is not possible. [For example], you cannot grow a crop if you don’t plant a seed. It’s also true in human relationships.”
Counting The Cost Of Marriage
When two single people with individual wills and desires choose to marry, they must be prepared to sacrifice, and “confront the issue of things dying”, according to Dr Meyer.
“All covenants begin in an agreement where both sides are prepared to say “some of my rights are about to die”, he said. “In marriage, you confront that right up front.”
Weddings would be far less romantic if they involved a bloody sacrifice. That’s why most young couples in ancient times represented the blood with a drink of wine. But the symbolism remains.
- The Search For Intimacy Part 1 – The Origins And Power Of Sex
- The Search For Intimacy Part 2 – Six Key Principles Of Human Sexuality
- The Search For Intimacy Part 3 – Virginity, Dating And Courtship: A Love Story
Dr Meyer believes this idea of sacrifice needs to be revived in modern times.
“As a young man and a young woman are going to make a commitment to live life together,” he explained, “they’re saying to each other: “Up to this point in my life, I’ve had my own choices, my own money, my own will, my own way, I go out when I want, I come home when I want and I do what I want. But I’m laying that on the altar today.”
The Marriage Covenant: Sealing The Deal
According to Dr Meyer, while sex may be the fun part of a marriage, it won’t last without a proper commitment.
That’s why the saying of vows and the signing of the registry come first.
“You want to have a great relationship? Find a person who’s prepared to say “I’d lay my life down for you”. And you look them back in the eye and you say “I’d lay my life down for you too”,” he said.
“That’s essentially what marriage is, it’s a covenant in which there’s the laying aside of rights, secondly a commitment, and then out of that comes the joy of life, relationship, sex and all of the stuff that a great relationship or a great marriage is built on.
“The joy of being able to enjoy each other in bed, wake up together, raise children together, pay bills together, face the world together —began with both of us laying our lives down and making commitments that we will never break,” he said of his own marriage.
“And out of that we’ve built something fantastic.”
What’s Wrong With “Try Before You Buy”?
Western society’s preference for sex with no commitment , is akin to “eating” the covenant meal without first making the sacrifice, says Dr Meyer.
“People just go straight to the “eating”,” he says. “They think, “we don’t want to do marriage, we just like each other, so we’re going to set up a home, start having sex together and doing life together. We’re going to avoid the “cutting” and we’re not going to do the “binding” part. We’re not going to make agreements.”
Dr Meyer, who is a counsellor, believes many de facto relationships lead to painful breakups because they lack the sacrifice and commitment to counting the cost.
Is Sex OK If We’re Intending To Get Married Anyway?
In an era when sex outside marriage is commonplace, many couples of faith enter sexual relationships during their engagement, or simply based on an understanding that they’ll marry in the future.
Dr Meyer believes this kind of relationship is not a true commitment.
He describes sex before marriage as “eating the fruit without paying the pricetag”, and says he’s met many couples who have failed to follow through on their plan to “get married one day”.
- The Search For Intimacy Part 4 – Young Love And The Role Of Parents
- The Search For Intimacy Part 6 – The 5 Tests Of A Match Made In Heaven
- The Search For Intimacy Part 7 – Healing From Sexual Brokenness: Six Steps
“You have no idea at this point whether you will honour that,” he said. “You say you will, but you may not even live long enough to fulfil it.
“If you feel you’re ready for sexual intimacy, then make the commitment. What are you waiting for? A certain amount of money in the bank?”
“I think that is saying “I can’t make a commitment until I’ve got all my ducks in a row”,” he said. “If so, then take your hand off that woman.
Having had only $40 between them when they married, Dr Meyer and his wife Helen believe society overemphasises the need for material wealth when it comes to marriage.
What If We Messed Up? What Now?
For Christian couples who are considering marrying one another based solely on the fact that they’ve slept together and now feel guilty, Dr Meyer gives the following advice: “That is not enough to build a marriage on”.
He says a sense of guilt over premarital sex is not an adequate foundation to make a marriage last a lifetime, and believes couples in this scenario should seek counselling.
“If you have made a mistake, acknowledge the mistake, but don’t make a second one – a more permanent one – on the basis of the first one,” he said.
“Deal with the mistake you’ve made, and then begin to act with more integrity.”
Do You Have What It Takes To Be Married?
Part of “counting the cost” of marriage is considering your own character, and asking yourself whether you’ve got the goods to be a husband or a wife, says Dr Meyer.
“It does take a certain kind of character to get married,” he said.
“Modern society spends more time preparing for a wedding, than they do for a marriage. And that’s where you’ve got to focus. There are elements of preparation.”
“When I’m counselling young men and women, my real challenge is not, “have you found the right person to get married to”, it’s, “are you fit to be married? Do you have the character to be married?”
He said anyone considering marriage should first develop character traits such as:
- The ability to honour other people
- The capacity to express selflessness
- The skill of gratitude
- The quality of integrity
- An inner strength to deal with challenges without running away
He said people choosing their life partner should also look for these qualities in the opposite sex.
“Even at the age of 16 or 17 you can see, in the maturing teenager, these capacities for life developing.”
More On ‘The Search For Intimacy’
- Part 1 – The Origins And Power Of Sex
- Part 2 – Six Key Principles Of Human Sexuality
- Part 3 – Virginity, Dating And Courtship: A Love Story
- Part 4 – Young Love: Should Parents Have A Say?
- Part 5 – Marriage: Have You Got What It Takes?
- Part 6 – The 5 Tests Of A Match Made In Heaven
- Part 7 – Healing From Sexual Brokenness: Six Steps
- More about Dr Allan Meyerand Careforce Lifekeys