In a culture that values filial piety, how do Christian couples live out the Biblical teaching that “a man shall leave his father and his mother.” Does it simply refer to geographical leaving, or does it also encompass emotional and psychological leaving? It is a common and difficult question that many Christians face. In the following translated article, originally published on the public WeChat account of Green Olive Books, the authors put forth their understanding of what this means in a Chinese context, arguing that “leaving” is a prerequisite to a happy marriage.
Liu Zhixiong | If People Do Not Leave Their Parents, It's Difficult for Them to Have a Happy Marriage
Summary: When the Bible speaks about marriage, it first says, "a man shall leave his father and mother." This is the first prerequisite for a happy marriage. It is also a very important issue in a husband’s and wife's relationship, and it is even the most important wedding gift that parents give their children. If a person does not leave their father and mother, it is very difficult to have a happy marriage. Leaving our parents does not mean we do not love them; leaving our parents does not mean we do not honor them; leaving our parents does not mean we do not want our parents. Whether we are the parents or the child, we all should learn how to "leave father and mother."
The first requirement of a happy marriage is “to leave father and mother;" this is a very difficult lesson for us Chinese to learn.
In a church wedding, the one who officiates will quote this passage to the wedding couple. If the parents of the newly-weds are not Christians, and especially if they are from Taiwan, Hong Kong, or mainland China, they may not believe what they are hearing. "Who in the world has bewitched my child?" they might ask. But, who is this requirement for? Is it for the wedding couple or for their parents? Let's go back to this phrase in the Bible.
When God said to Adam and Eve, "Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh," Adam and Eve had no parents; God was their creator! Was God indicating that he would not hold on to Adam and Eve? Was he hinting to Adam and Even that they did not need to closely rely on God? Of course not!
God created marriage. He told Adam and Eve that when people marry, they need to leave their parents and prepare for a day when they as parents themselves will need to let go of their own children. Parents do not wait until after their children have grown up and gotten married to think about this. When children are still young parents should be clearly understand it. Even if they haven't had children yet they should have this in their minds: one day, their most treasured person must leave them. This Scripture passage was originally given to teach parents!
As parents, there's always a tinge of regret when their daughter is to be married. A few years ago, when I went to visit my daughter at university, I felt very uncomfortable when I saw her with a guy. But, I reminded myself, "a person must leave their parents." We want to encourage her and let her know that she needs to live independently. The more you let them go, the more they will honor [xiao fu] you. The more you stubbornly try to keep them attached to your side, keep them from any independence, and prevent them from making their own decisions, they more they want to escape.
What does it mean to "leave father and mother"? As parents today, how should we help our children get to this point after they are married? Some people might say it means the children are married in the United States and they are back home in China. Maybe both parents and child live in the U.S., but in different states so it is difficult for them to get together. In these cases, haven’t they already left their parents?
Is this really what is means to leave? Not really.
To "leave" means that the newlywed children are no longer psychologically and emotionally dependent on their parents. Their parents no longer make decisions for them. They must independently take responsibility for themselves directly before God. This is what it means to "leave." This independence is emotional, psychological, and economic. In Chinese the word for “get married” means “to build a family” (chengjia 成家). After our children get married, they have their own family.
How many parents, although they no longer live with their married children, still try to foster dependence? Parents may be thousands of miles away and still control their children! When children get married and separate from their parents it's not the same as "leaving" them. That kind of leaving is only a formality. Some parents live very near their married children and are in close contact. But, they clearly distinguish the limits between care, consideration, interference, and impediment. Some parents live with their married children, but they know that in that home they are kind and gentle elders, not the ones who make the decisions. This is fundamentally what "leaving" means.
Today there are many problems between couples precisely because they have not left their parents. In essence, many marital problems stem from the couple's parents. There was one couple married for seven years and still without children. We discovered later that the husband's mother would go into their room every night to tuck in her son. How awful that the parents still hadn’t "left"!
We need to understand that to have a happy marriage people must abandon dependence on their parents; they must leave their parents' excessive flood of affection. Sometimes, children learn from childhood to count on their parents to make decisions for them. The first time they run into trouble they search out their parents for their ideas. This is a big problem: if they can't make a decision, they can't grow up. If they can never make a decision, they will never grow up. So, leaving their parents is an important matter for the married couple's relationship. It is also the most important wedding gift parents can give their children.
People in China often say, "A mother is irreplaceable." There is a second half to this phrase: "A wife can be replaced." The Chinese have another saying: "To marry a woman is to forget your mother." These are all misconceptions. Many sad marriages are the result of these misconceptions. The love between parent and child and between husband and wife is not a love that fights with and excludes one another; it's a continuous mutual love. The Bible teaches us that before getting married our parents are our most intimate earthly relationships. After getting married, our most intimate relationships are with our spouses; our parents take second place.
The Chinese think that it is disgraceful and not filial for a child once they no longer need their parents to leave the nest after the parents have raised them for so many years. But, for you parents who refuse to let go, who refuse to leave your son or daughter, you'll end up with only one son or only one daughter who honors you. When the Bible is your standard, give your son or daughter independence and allow them to leave so that they can form the most important relationship in their life with their spouse. At that point, you'll have two people to honor you, not only a son or daughter, but a son-in-law or daughter-in-law as well.
Too many children are emotionally dependent on their parents. They mix up their love for their parents with their love for their spouse. They connect the two and mistakenly pit their love against each other. They are so blinded by their sense of filial piety that they believe their love for their parents is much greater than their love for their spouse. This kind of thinking has led to so many tragic marriages. It's not that Chinese are unaware of this. Since ancient times there have had poets testified with tears and blood about this folly tragedies.
If we want to have a happy marriage and pleasing relationships, we will need to correct this mistaken idea of parent-child relationships. If people don't leave their parents they can't have a happy marriage. God requires that people must first leave their parents before they can take the second step, being joined with their spouse.
Leaving parents is process. This process allows us to grow up and mature so that we can completely join with our spouse. And it allows us to honor and love both sets of parents together. If there is no leaving process, it's impossible for two people to unite together to honor both sets of parents. They will never reach this point.
Leaving our parents does not call us to not love our parents. Leaving our parents does not call us to not honor our parents. Leaving our parents does not call us to not want our parents. It's difficult to accept this teaching of "leaving one's parents." Parents dismiss it, children dismiss it because they are not cognizant of it.
They think, "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land” [Ephesians 6:1-3].
Think again about Jesus' final work on the cross. In such a scene, he entrusted his human mother to John. Was Jesus teaching his disciples to not love their parents, to dishonor their parents, and to not want their parents? Was he teaching his disciples to not support their parents when they lack something, to not help them when they are weak? Of course not! Of course Christians honor their parents.
With this in mind, whether you are Christian parents or Christian children, you should not have the absurd doubts about what it means to "leave father and mother."
This article is taken from the married couple Liu Zhixiong and Wang Aijun's "Holding Hands for a Lifetime," produced by Green Olive Books. Welcome to reprint, but please indicate the source, and the picture book information.
Original article: 刘志雄| 人不离开父母，就难有幸福的婚姻 (Green Olive Books WeChat)
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