The swiss Knie Circus was in full swing. Clowns were charging around soaking wet in an act where buckets of water kept spilling over their heads. Elephants were daintily balancing themselves on impossibly small spots. Acrobats were swinging and leaping through the air with breathtaking precision. Horses were marching, trotting, dancing, galloping, their black or white or satin-smooth beige coats gleaming.

Suddenly there was a hush. The tentful of people looked up at a wire that was being made taut. Children of all ages, teen-agers in blue jeans, dressed-up families, old people from a nearby home for the elderly, wheelchair patients from a rehabilitation home, rich people, poor people, the educated and the uneducated—everyone gazed intently at the wire; everyone had a sudden interest in the tightening of the bolts, in the testing steps of the tightrope walker.

A gasp escaped many lips as he started out. Step, step, step, waver, step, step—would he make it across? Then out of his pocket came a round plaque. He carefully bent to fasten it on the wire, put his weight a bit more on one foot, then shifted to the other, as viewers held their breath. Yes, he made it—up on his hands, feet perfectly straight above his head. Then back down again and on with his walk.

Balance—an essential ingredient in every area of life. When God created human beings in his own image, he created them to have perfect balance—and then they fell. In the fallen world there are no perfectly balanced people, but the Word of God provides the tightening of the bolts, so to speak, and gives us the kind of “tension” we need as we start out, stepping into life as Christians. I believe a net has been carefully provided for us: we bounce when we fall, and then get back up on the wire to try again.

And Adam said. This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (Gen. 2:23, 24). How astonishing this is if you come to it with fresh interest, with ears to hear what is being said. It is the man who is to leave his father and mother and to cleave to the woman, his wife.

What does “cleave” mean? I stopped to make sure, telephoning my son-in-law to ask him to look the word up in Hebrew and also to look up its counterpart in the New Testament. He called back to tell me that the definition of “to cleave” includes a number of things: to be glued to, to be baked (like ceramics), to be stuck to (as one’s tongue to the roof of one’s mouth when it is dry), to cling to (as Ruth to her mother-in-law in the book of Ruth), and to stay with constantly, as a husband with his wife.

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“Cleaving” has to take place when there is a danger of being separated. If everything is going smoothly and the little boat is not pitching or tossing, there is no need to “cleave” or “cling.” The practical moment for the husband to cleave to his wife comes when there is danger, a storm on the horizon or breaking over the prow of the ship. There must be some times in the marriage about which the man can say, “Look, dear, remember when I wanted to go to a football game and you wanted to go to the symphony concert and I ‘cleaved’ to you and took you to the concert?” “Remember when you wanted to swim in the ocean and I wanted to hike across the hills and I ‘cleaved’ to you and swam with you for days?” “Don’t forget the time when you felt the children needed us to take them to the zoo and on to a museum, and I wanted to get a baby-sitter for our day off, but I ‘cleaved’ to you and we all spent that unforgettable day together.”

To “cleave” to one’s wife is the command to the man, and it usually has to take place in the ordinary stuff of daily life. We can’t carry out God’s commands in the abstract. It does no good to repeat Scripture verses without living them out. To be a “doer of the Word” and not only a “hearer of the Word,” one must grasp the opportunity to live out a command.

“Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body” (Eph. 5:23). This is clearly a framework that is meant to be observed. But if submission is stressed so loudly that the noise drowns out all the other music as a loud drum would drown out an orchestra if played without regard to the score, then the balance has gone.

Hebrews 12:1 tells us we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, and likens our life to a race that is being observed. I feel it is possible to see this as the crowd watching the tightrope walker. We set forth on the wire, which has been tightened to just the right degree of tension by the One who alone knows our weaknesses, who also has put a net—his own arms—under us. The cloud of witnesses includes some who want us to balance and some who want us to fall.

In Ephesians 5 the balance is marvelously given, as we go on to how the husbands are to love their wives as their own bodies, even as the Lord loves the church. Then we come to this in Ephesians 5:30–32: “For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.” Here the admonition is also a reminder, a reference to Genesis and to Matthew 19:4 and 5: “Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?” So Jesus himself clearly underlines what has been given in Genesis as God’s Word to the man out of whom he made Eve, and also as God’s Word to all husbands. A wonderful continuity is apparent in Ephesians as the fact is declared that believers, the bride of Christ, are “members of his body, of his flesh, of his bones.” Our perfectionist God, our detail-perfect God, gives us the spiritual counterpart of the physical making of the first bride. The first man Adam had a bride made out of his own body. The last Adam, Jesus, has a bride who became his bride because he suffered and died for her.

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Thank God that Jesus, our Bridegroom, “cleaves unto” his bride. When we go out of his path, he does not let us go. Our heavenly Bridegroom is able to do for us things that no earthly husband can do, but still he is the example.

The “tightrope walker” walks on the wire of Christian life, dangerously leaning to one overemphasis or another, balancing with the help of the only One who can give balance. He has been given a balanced Scripture and will be given direct help in answer to prayer.

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