God’s Ideal of “Leaving” & “Cleaving”

Getting married is one of the most exciting milestones of your life—second only to committing your life to Christ. Your spouse will have a major effect on everything that happens to you for the rest of your life—where you live, your financial stability, how you raise your children, and your spiritual wellbeing. Let us be honest: it is a scary decision to make when you think about the ramifications. When you take seriously God’s commandment in Matthew 19:4-6 to “leave” your parents and “cleave” to your spouse, you know that getting married means you will have to give up some pretty comforting things.

I am very close to my parents. They love God and want nothing more than to go to heaven one day and bring their children with them. While I knew I would remain close to them after I married, I also knew I would be giving up some of my favorite things about my relationship with them, including:

  • The security of living in the same house with a protective father and a nurturing mother. Anytime I needed advice or reassurance, I could easily run to my parents’ room. Sleeping at night was easy, because pretty much everything we adults stress about were things I did not have to think about, because I knew my parents were taking care of me.
  • The constant financial security. I never feared going broke or hungry or homeless while living with my parents. I never had to think about paying for things like food, or soap, or laundry detergent… In fact, I never had to think much about laundry, period, because my mother did it for me.
  • The constant attention to and concern for my spiritual and emotional wellbeing. The most important thing to my parents was making sure my brother and I went to heaven. I always knew that they were paying attention to my feelings, my thoughts, my actions, and my walk with God. If they saw me going down a dangerous path spiritually or emotionally, they loved me enough to stop me and encourage me to make better choices.

So why would any woman want to give up that kind of security by marrying?

Here is the answer: If you choose your spouse wisely, you will not have to give up those things. If you choose someone who loves God more than anything else, he will fill every one of those roles your parents once filled (except for maybe the laundry part!).

As women, we are commanded to honor and reverence our husbands (Ephesians 5:22-33). If you follow God’s pattern for marriage, you will remove yourself from the constant watch and care of your parents and give yourself completely to your spouse. Your husband is not your boyfriend. He is your provider—caretaker—spiritual and emotional guide. He is, as the Bible phrases it, your “head” (Ephesians 5:23). Our command as women is to submit to our husbands “in everything.” Your trust and dependency lies in your husband instead of your parents. This shows him honor, reverence, and love—just as God intended.

How do we demonstrate submission to that kind of loving, God-ordained reign over us as wives? Here are some practical ways:

  • Make sure you stay within your husband’s family budget plan. If you are constantly pushing the limits and overspending, he may feel that you doubt his ability to provide for your family, and that you were happier under your parents’ roof.
  • When you are worried about something, honor your husband by going to him for advice first. It is fine to call your mom for advice, but your primary emotional care provider needs to be your husband. Give him your trust when you give him your heart. Do not call your mama every time your husband hurts your feelings. Talk to him about it and pray about it. If he loves you, he will want to resolve it with you.
  • Let your parents know that you and your husband must rely fully on one another. It is so important that your parents know that you and your husband must depend on each other more than any others on earth. Do not run to your parents every time you struggle financially or have an argument with your spouse. Learn to lean on your husband.
  • Allow your husband to fully embrace his role as the spiritual leader of your home. Your husband has the responsibility of making the final decisions that affect the family. Show him that you believe in him and trust his judgment. Encourage him, support him, and pray for him, as his position in your home is a grave responsibility.

It is possible that you are thinking: “But none of this works with my husband because my husband is not a Christian.” Of course, if your husband is an unbeliever, you will not be able to submit to him if he asks you to transgress God’s law. Still, the goal is to honor him in as many of the above ways as possible. God tells us in 1 Peter 3:1-4:

Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear. Do not let your adornment be merely outward…—rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.

This passage gives us God’s plan of behavior toward an unbelieving husband. While we, as women, may not think this meek and quiet spirit will work in reaching our husbands for God, we must remember that 1 Peter 3 is not human wisdom; it is God’s plan for such a divided home. Faith, after all, is not doing what seems best to me; it is surrendering to God’s plan even if His plan does not seem to me to be the best one. Remember, this may not make sense to you, but God says that if anything will bring an unbelieving husband to the Lord, it will be the godly manner of living and the meek and quiet spirit of his wife. That word “meek,” in a practical sense, means to have a cause that is bigger than yourself. It means that you will be willing to set aside your own feelings to strive toward a goal that is bigger than yourself—in this case, helping your husband find salvation.

So, a wife is commanded to honor and submit to her husband in everything, unless he demands that she violate God’s Word. (Of course, it does violate the Word of God to place yourself or your children in danger. If there is a threat of physical harm, a godly woman will, with a heart of hope and many prayers for marital harmony and with the spirit of meekness, seek for help and intervention.)

Being fully dependent on one another as a couple can be rewarding in so many ways. There is a reason God designed it that way. Marital happiness is directly proportional to the willingness of both husband and wife to submit to God’s ideal of “leaving” and “cleaving.”