Step 1: We admit that we are powerless over our strife — that our marriage has become unmanageable and that we not only need help, but desire help.
What we know of relationships is that they fill and promise to fill the deep longing inside each and every human being. We were created by God for relationship, and when we find a relationship that is as life-giving as a romantic love, we find things out about ourselves (and others) and we never knew possible.
As a romantic love progresses, it deepens in it’s commitment and dependency. And this is where many of our problems begin. We naively think that these feelings of love will hold us together, as though love is this inexhaustible being that exists inside of us without us having to do any work to take care of that love. To grow that love. To make sure that love, which was spontaneous in the beginning, will continue to exist in each one of us.
When we don’t take care of this love, we try harder and harder to get back to the feeling of love. Trying to “wipe the slate clean” and recover that glorious feeling we once shared together.
God also placed angels outside the garden because it was not good for Adam and Eve to get back into the garden. There they would have found the tree of life to let them live forever on this earth without any chance of being delivered to the ultimate marriage: Heaven. Stuck in the earthly bodies, their souls would forever be attached to the earthly body. Perhaps even the earthly body would die, decay, and they would forever be married to the body.
So if that is the case, the God’s allowance of a tree of knowledge actually is what ultimately saved Adam & Eve (and all their descendants). Their eating of this fruit allowed them to die, thus allowing for a resurrection at a later time.
I guess it’s the same thing as me allowing my children to have something that I know they are not yet able to understand or to use wisely. I let them fail so that they will understand their ultimate position on this earth — they are dependent. They do not have the ability to sustain themselves. They cannot go on about life believing that they do not need help from anyone.
Maybe that is why God put the trees in the garden. He knew Adam and Eve would not have the ability to resist that temptation forever, and that they would have to taste the bitterness of life in order to believe that they were not created to be on this earth in a self-sustaining way.
So Marriage is not something that is attainable. It’s impossible. If it were possible, it would be the tree of life that would allow us to have no need for anything in our lives other than the love and our spouse.
A better marriage is still an incomplete marriage. It still won’t get you to the ultimate destination. It might keep you company along the way, but it’s not ultimately the goal. God will never allow anything on earth to be a replacement for relationship with himself. That includes the most sacred of human relationships: Marriage.
In step 1, we admit that we have attempted to overcome our strife and tried to attain a perfect relationship that is a replacement for God. Both are true, and interrelated. We tend to measure success in things based on the removal of imperfections.
Cars are sold without visual blemish. We buy nice shiny things because they promise us that there is a life to be lived without blemish. We err in believing that to be true on earth, but don’t blame the objects themselves … they’re there pointing the way to heaven just like the trees point to the sun.
Success in life is not about what works. It’s about what we do with things that don’t work. How do we respond. What happens in our souls. What happens in our relationships? Do we rage. Do we weep. Do we attempt to ignore the problem. Do we try to overcome the problem with vain attempts at super-gluing the problems together? Regardless of the effort, the call is the same for all of us. What is your orientation to eden? Are you trying to get back into it? Are you trying to sneak, steal, lie, cheat, kill, or some other violent act to go get that other fruit?
Step 1 is the acceptance that regardless of our attempts, we will always (if we’re honest) attempt to beat the system. We’ll always rely on our mental acuity, brute strength, arrogant decisions, or emotional intelligence to try and sneak our way back in. The strife in our marriage is a loud finger pointing back at Eden — What are you doing in my way? I’m trying to get to that same place, and something you’re doing is preventing me from getting that fruit that I’m desperate for.
The second part of step 1 is that needing help and wanting help are vastly different things. All of us need help (whether we like it or not), not all of us want help. I’ve spent far too many hours meeting with people over the past 20 years attempting to move people from needing help, to wanting help.
Before any change is going to happen in your life, or in your marriage, you’re going to have to make the long trek between acknowledging the need for help, and the want for help. Most people don’t even make it to the humble place of admitting they need help, and most people who get there don’t make it to the humbling place of wanting help.
I’m powerless to control my life, to control my marriage, and I both need and want help. No further movement can be made until this reality is both a true reflection of one’s heart, and a picture of how someone begins to act.
Action step: Admit to self, spouse, and to at least one other non-family member about your awareness that you have attempted to control yourself and your marriage. Start with admission, the how, why, and what will come in later steps.
Journal reflection questions:
- What areas of resistance in admitting your powerless are you noticing?
- Resistance shows up in many ways: Escape, distraction from task at hand, renewed sense of vigor of fixing the problems in your marriage, or some substance/object use to numb the pain (technology, drugs, food).
Previous posts in this series:
Intro to Marriage Recovery