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  • Writer's pictureJoseph Greenberg

Finding Sacred Space Together in Marriage

According to the Bible, I am the best “well-matched” helper for my husband. That is a profound truth to grasp. Do you mean I was created in the mind of God to be the best possible person for Mark Greenberg? Frankly, I know me and there must have been a better choice! I wonder if there are any other wives out there that feel like that?

I had no expert role model for “how to be a wife” from my childhood. But, I have been examining wives all my life, including the stories of the famous wives in the Bible. Adam and Eve started with no shame, at perfect peace, then lost Paradise. Noah and his wife survived a catastrophic tragedy but were shamed by their own children. Abraham and Sarah received the greatest promises of God, even after being ashamed to let people know of their own marriage! Moses and Zipporah went through a great deliverance after she shamed him before God by refusing to let him keep running from his calling. David and Bathsheba gave birth to the lineage of Messiah, but endured the shame of adultery and murder and the death of their firstborn.

Shame is an ugly part of life, but even that can be worked through together with God.

I am convinced that the sacred space – the presence of the Living God – can be found by us in prayer together. I am convinced that we can choose to be unashamed in that sacred space and ask God to help us through any difficulty. The challenge is to know when, and how, to get outside help from others without compromising the sanctity of our relationship.

Early in our marriage, I would run to my mother to help when Mark and I had conflicts. I eventually learned that – as a newly married, former divorced widow herself – she was not helpful after all. So, I started asking our new Rabbi’s wife about how to “manage things” with my husband. Thankfully, she taught me my first best “wife” lesson. When I wanted to take her to lunch, she told me that she was spending time with her husband, she said, “He’s my best friend and I love being with him.” I gagged! Is that what husbands are supposed to be? Wow. What did that even look like?

So, I asked God. “How do I start treating Mark like my best friend?” God reminded me that the first person I would call, ALWAYS, be it good news or bad, was my mom. I decided, then and there, that I would always call Mark first to report what was happening throughout the day. Now I am sure this amount of attention seemed odd to him. I started calling him about once an hour! Eventually, I toned it down and we check in about twice a day now, before five. What I learned was that if I make him first, I will respect him first.

About ten years into our marriage, we hit another critical juncture. We were leading a small community in New York, and when relational issues arose, I usually got tagged as the problem. How did that keep happening? Mark and I would agree about what direction we wanted to go, and then, when it was time to have a conversation to work through it, we both felt totally misunderstood. Trying to get help, I reached out to get counsel from other rabbi’s wives I knew and loved. They were so loving and concerned. But, what Mark and I learned over the next few painful years, is that you can’t get counsel from people that don’t see the full picture. And, the only one who truly sees everything, including the intentions of the heart, is God.

About nine years ago, Mark had a quadruple heart bypass. I never felt so alone. I couldn’t call anyone, not my kids, or our congregation, or my own brothers. I just sat there wondering if I was still breathing. Thankfully, I finally made one call. Mark’s one best friend flew into town, and we all made it through with God’s help. But, the defining moment for me was when Mark got out of surgery and I climbed into bed with him and snuggled up beside him. Somehow, I knew he would be alright – that WE would be alright.

I love Mark. I have never, ever, feared that Mark doesn’t love me. He always has simply, unashamedly loved me, despite all my flaws and personality quirks. We have never had a disagreement about our faith or our family that we could not resolve peacefully. And, we have faithfully worked through many critical storms in our life together as – besar echad – one flesh.

I have often wondered why there are not more stories in the Bible about the “pillow talk” between spouses in the Bible. Wouldn’t that be helpful? Then, I could learn what it really means to be “two, but one flesh.” I think I have concluded that the “being” of every marriage is unique and hidden. Therefore, I live to glorify my Father in heaven by “being” the best wife I can be to Mark Greenberg. I have come to understand that our mutual “well-being” is a mystery only God’s presence can illuminate.

In conclusion, we try to remember that we are not one another’s problem to solve. Our desires do not compete against one another. We have agreed that nothing is allowed in our sacred space without God’s permission. And, if God has allowed it, He will help us face it, together. •

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