Aug 11, 2015

When "Leaving and Cleaving" Hurts

By Rebekah Theilen

Something painfully beautiful happened the day of my wedding.

My father gave me away. In an outdoor chapel to the sound of “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” I cried all the way down the hill, the grassy aisle, holding tightly to his arm through the final processional moment. When we reached the altar, his arm loosened, we hugged, kissed each other’s cheeks, and then he let me go. He released me—his firstborn child and oldest daughter--into the care of another man.

I went ready and willingly into the bridegroom’s arms. This was, after all, the man who would be my husband and (hopefully) the future father of my children. Although we’d had our share of disagreements, I was confident that after four years of growing friendship--and all those late night romantic walks--we knew each other well enough to make a smooth transition into marriage.

I had all the high hopes of a young bride in love. Yet walking away from the aisle and into married life came with far more tears and hardship than I imagined (how many times in life will we say that?). There was an aspect of leaving and cleaving--a kind of grief--I couldn’t anticipate. After the lights had gone out on our wedding night and my new husband was fast asleep, I cried again.  

I missed my dad.

For the longest time there was a split allegiance in my heart. Two decades of living under the love and care of one man do not disappear with the stroke of a pen or the exchange of rings. I knew my husband was the most important man in my life. I wanted to make a home with him. But at the same time, I longed to return home to the house of my father, to the place of the familiar.

My dad was my image of the ideal man. Not because he was perfect, but because he was all I ever knew. The “ideal” man, whoever he is, is a standard no husband can ever hope to live up to. In those early years of marriage everything my husband did or did not do was held up to the light of my father’s example. I wanted him to do and say things the way Dad always did. I wanted my husband to be someone other than who God made him to be.

As a wife, this was my first lesson in submission: I needed to yield to the learning curve of living under the care of a new and different man. A woman’s heart cannot serve two masters--a wife’s devotion is meant for one man, her husband. She seeks not her old ways, but is patient and kind, as her husband learns and leads the way in a new and better love. In this way the husband and wife are able to grow into and grow old together in their God-given roles.

May we find joy in our marriage as we submit to our Lord who grows love over decades.


Rebekah is the wife of Joshua, her husband of eleven years. With the help of the Lord they have brought forth six children. Five grow and play and learn here on this earth while one (lost due to miscarriage) lives and sings in the glory of heaven. They reside in southern Illinois where Joshua serves as pastor to the Lord's flock. Each day ushers and compels them deeper and deeper into the promise of new mercies, the hope of the resurrection, the coming King of Kings, and the blessed life of the world to come. 

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