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Clarkes Talk "God's Big Idea": Marriage

By Amanda Morad | February 14, 2013

Marcia and Dr. Clifton Clarke share five phases of marriage.

Dr. Clifton Clarke is a notable scholar in Regent University's School of Divinity, but on Wednesday, Feb. 13, he and his wife, Marcia, opened up about something a little more personal—their marriage.

The Clarkes sat before Regent's weekly chapel audience to discuss the phases of marriage and principles that have helped guide them over the last 25 years.

"Marriage has taken a real beating in our secular society," said Clifton. "We're here as advocates of God's big idea. It's not up for edits. God is not asking for any suggestions for improvement."

Marcia cited Matthew 19:4, in which Jesus tells the Pharisees that God designed marriage from the beginning. But marriage being God's idea doesn't mean people automatically know how to do it successfully, the Clarkes explained. Marriages grow through many phases; the Clarkes described five.

First is preparation. "Relationship is for people ready for marriage," Clifton said. "Ask God to establish you. Not everything has to be perfect, but if you can't afford a toothpick, you're not ready for marriage."

To the women, Marcia explained being a "complete woman." Reading Genesis 1:26 in which God commands Adam and Eve to "rule over" the earth, she encouraged both women and men to practice this kind of responsibility: "What do you have dominion over? Your job? Your bedroom? Your car? Or [ladies], are you waiting to share someone else's dominion?"

The second phase is marriage before children. "I thought the one flesh thing came when the pastor pronounced us man and wife," said Clifton, shaking his head. "Ideologically, we began to clash. I wanted to be single, and I wanted to be married. The wedding is a day, but becoming one flesh is a process."

Marcia encouraged young couples to consider their confrontations carefully. "Will it matter next week?" she asked. Also, "Running home to mom is not a solution," she said. "That's why God designed it so that we leave, and we cleave."

The third phase is marriage with young children. "It's another seismic paradigm shift," Clifton said. "I felt unneeded." Marcia explained: "Women, when we have our babies, we think we're the only ones who've ever done it. You have to allow your husband to be a father." The tendency of young moms is to do everything themselves and push their husbands to the fringe of involvement with their little ones. But this common mistake doesn't help anyone.

"There will be a time when it's just the two of you again," she continued. "It's the two of you that are preeminent in the family relationship."

"The blessing of the father is so important," Clifton added. "I was preaching and teaching and blessing people around the world, but I also had to bring the blessing home."

The fourth phase occurs as children grow and the marriage operates in ministry—or in the Clarkes' case, overseas missions. "Ministry can be hazardous to marriage," Clifton explained, citing statistics that 80 percent of pastors say they have insufficient time with their spouses. Not encouraging, but the Clarkes impressed the need for intentionality toward the marriage during this phase.

The fifth phase is reached when children are grown and husband and wife enjoy their shared life. "I can still talk about things that happened 25 years ago with Marcia and bond over them all over again," Clifton said. "That's a precious gift."

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