The Question of Identity: Who Are You?
Can you imagine the trouble people can get into when they don’t know who they are and whose they are? Spiritually speaking, this is the fundamental reason why marriages end in failure.
The first thing any of us needs to understand is that we belong to the Lord Jesus. In the case of a married woman, her second commitment must be to her husband — if she is to function in the role that the Lord has given her. Therefore, if you are a wife who desires to fulfill the purpose that was intricately designed for you, you first have to embrace your identity and conduct yourself in view of the role God has given you.
Recall the passage in Genesis 2:18 – 24 that depicts the account of God when He determined to create the woman. Let me give you a brief recap: After He caused a deep sleep to come over Adam, God took one of the man’s ribs, closed up his flesh, and put the brother back together. Then God used that part of the man and formed the woman. But something very intricate and deeply probing occurred through this creative process. You may be surprised to find that the woman’s identity becomes lost in who God made the man to be.
If you don’t believe me, then let the Bible speak for itself. Scripture says that God brought her to the man and Adam called her “woman” (Genesis 2:23). But in Genesis 5:2, God called the two of them by one name: “He created them male and female, and He blessed them and named them Man in the day when they were created.” Notice the word “Man” is singular. God gave them one name and the name that He chose belonged to Adam. Clearly, when a man and woman join together in wedlock, it is God’s intention for the two people to share the man’s identity. That’s why the woman takes the man’s last name.
The Word of God expresses what has taken place in this way, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24)
Consequently, when God knitted the woman’s identity to the man, He sealed her commitment to her husband. In spiritual terms, what does that mean in regard to the wife? There are five aspects of what transpires when a woman makes her marriage vows. They are:
1. Her old identity as a single woman is dead, and she is reborn with the man’s identity. Isn’t that what we say about the new birth? When we are in Christ, our former identity no longer exists (2 Corinthians 5:17). Through the baptizing work of the Holy Spirit, we are dead to our old nature, buried with Christ, and raised in the newness of life. This is the process that takes us out of the old, sinful Adam and places us in the new resurrected Adam; that is, Christ Jesus.
Jesus took the picture of our relationship with Him, duplicated it, and gave that picture to the wedded couple as a special gift. This symbolism is captured when a wife takes her husband’s last name. Through their marriage union, the woman is now dead to her old life and old name. She has been raised in the newness of a married life with her husband.
For instance, if I were to present my wife and myself to you on some occasion, I would say we are Mr. and Mrs. James Ford Jr. It would be inappropriate to introduce the two of us as Mr. and Mrs. James and Leslie Ford. According to God’s law concerning the union of marriage, when my wife assumed my name, her previous identity became lost in who I am.
2. Whether a woman realizes it or not, taking the name of her husband is a pledge of allegiance to him. By this gesture, she is now declaring that her father no longer comes first in her life. She is signaling to her husband that, from now on, he is the number one man in her life. I want to caution those of you who are having trouble with this idea because you haven’t made daddy number two yet. It’s a violation of God’s plan if you’re still putting your father before your mate. This is a sure sign of not fully connecting with your God-given role as a wife. Now, here’s a newsflash for you. In order for a marriage to work as God intended, a man must cut the apron strings of his mama and a woman must cut the purse strings of her daddy. And please don’t say, “I can’t get another daddy, but I can always get another husband.” Well, not if you honor God’s Word because God never approved of divorce; He only allowed it. This was our Lord’s explanation when Jesus was questioned about divorce in Matthew 19:8: “Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way.” Clearly, it was not God’s intention for people to sever their marriages. Making your husband your number one priority is God’s way. Wives who think it’s all right to com- promise their vows just might end up back at home with daddy.
3. Authority and submission go hand in hand. Assuming the husband’s identity is the first act of a woman’s submission. In biblical times, whenever someone was given a name, the person who did the naming held the authority. For example, God gave Adam the authority to designate the names of the animals; it was an outward sign that Adam had dominion over God’s creation. When Eve arrived, God also allowed Adam to name her. This too was a sign of the man’s authority over the woman. Subsequently, when a wife accepts her husband’s name, it is a symbol of her submission to him.
4. A change in the woman’s identity highlights the perpetual nature of submission. It becomes a matter of duration. How long should my wife submit to me? As long as her last name is Ford. The length of time is verbally proclaimed as the couple making their marriage vows declares, “Until death do us part.”
5. A change in identity is the symbol of a total commitment to the spiritual principles of marriage. When a wife takes the husband’s last name at the altar, it signifies the first fruits of her pledge to him. In other words, it is the commencement of the spiritual principles that the couple will follow in their marriage union. Unfortunately, here’s what we see too often. Christians have allowed the world to pull us into its secular concept of marriage and, as a result, God’s Word has been denigrated. The order that God established from the beginning has been compromised. We live in a day now where women have “come a long way, baby.” Now the woman’s role has evolved to the point that she has to make the bacon, fry it up, and too often she has to eat it all by herself. This is not the total package God had in mind. And it’s a sad thing when the principles of Scripture are violated because someone has to pay the price.
God didn’t give these principles for His benefit. He gave them for our benefit. He made the two genders the way He did for a reason. But the reality is that there’s a lot of pressure on women today because they’re doing things God never called them to do. We Christians need to do our homework and take the time to understand God’s standards. If we want to be successful, we must be careful to follow the natural order that He predetermined. I always say that God gave the man broad shoulders to bear burdens and the woman broad hips to bear babies. We’re different because God designed us that way. And the way He designed things to work is still the best way.
Adapted from When a Woman Loves a Man, by James Ford Jr. Copyright © 2011 by James Ford, Jr., Published by Moody Publishers, used with permission.