We always look forward to the blessed chaos that descends upon our home—rosy cheeked kids playing in the snow, late nights together by the fire, copious amounts of food, and clutter everywhere. And when everyone leaves and all is quiet again, I am reminded why God made parents young [smile].
It’s always hard saying good-bye because we only get to be together two or three times a year. I can’t imagine how heart wrenching the farewells must have been for my European ancestors when adult children set sail for America knowing they may never see their parents again.
But the idea of leaving parents and cleaving to one’s spouse was God’s good design for marriage and it is so vital that Genesis 2:24 is repeated three times in the New Testament: Matthew 19:5, Mark 10:7-8, and Ephesians 5:31. Christian parents need to teach and model these principles so that their children will be prepared to transfer their deepest affections and allegiance to their spouse when they marry.
The Hebrew word for “cleave” used in Genesis is dabaq, meaning to cling or adhere to like glue. There is a divine purpose in this exclusively intimate relationship that Ephesians speaks of as a profound mystery illustrating the relationship between Christ and His beloved Bride the church.
"Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church." Ephesians 5:31-32
Problems can arise though when parents overstep their boundaries and meddle in their married children's business, or married children continue to be emotionally dependent on their parents. Therefore, it’s important that everyone has this sorted out before adult children decide to marry.
“The leaving of the father and mother in reality means this, that he must not allow his father and mother to control him as they have always done hitherto. This is the point at which difficulties arise. …And, of course, when you look at it from the standpoint of the father and mother the situation should be equally clear. They must readjust themselves even as their son does. They have to realize that their son’s first loyalty now is to his wife, and that he is a very poor specimen of manhood, a very poor husband, and ultimately, a very poor son if he fails to show that loyalty. They must not interfere in his new married life. … they must not think of their son any longer as simply their son. He is now married, a new unity has been created, and whatever they do to him they do to his wife at the same time.
It is really the essence of the Apostles teaching about marriage that all parties involved have to realize that a new unity has come into being. It was not there before but it is there now.” 1
In former times young adults typically stayed at home until they married but now it’s common for them to move away before marriage. That transitional adjustment as a young adult can be every bit as trying for both parent and child, and in some ways perhaps even more so.
As a mother of three married children I know that the doing is not always as easy as the saying, and I confess that I have not always succeeded in keeping my thoughts to myself. It’s hard letting go when you love your child and have devoted your life to nurturing them to adulthood. It is only natural to want to continue helping and protecting them because no matter how old they are, you never stop being concerned for their wellbeing. My mom was still reminding me to wear a sweater when she was in her 80's. Nevertheless, once our children reach adulthood, and especially when they take a spouse, they have embarked upon their own life journey and our job is done. Unless of course, they actually ask for our two cents.
1. Life in the Spirit, in Marriage, Home & Work; An Exposition of Ephesians 5:18-6:9, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Baker Book House 1975, pg 224-225