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The pain and struggle of leave and cleave as a married couple.
I glanced at the clock before I shut my eyes. It’s 2:03 am.
When I opened them again, it’s 5:11.
Did I wake up early or was I able to sleep at all? It seems like a few minutes, yet three hours have already passed. I stayed on the bed to see if I could still catch some sleep. 15 minutes later, I’m still awake. They say reading would help, so I grabbed a book and finished a chapter of Facing Your Giants by Max Lucado. 5:47, sleep remained elusive.
What’s wrong? Is the room warm? Is there too much light, too much noise? Seems not. Lalaine and Joab are sound asleep. — With mouths partly opened, and drool streaked their cheeks.
It must be me. My heart is racing and my mind in high gear. Thoughts overwhelm me. Was this the result of an intense workout I had yesterday? Could be. But if I’ll be honest with myself, the truth is, I fret the transition that’s about to happen in our life.
NEW CHAPTER: Moving Out
My family is close to flip a page to a new chapter. I can hear Change knocking at the door. In a few weeks or even days, we will move out of my parent’s house. We bid goodbye to comfort and security, while we say hi to fear, uncertainty and added expenses. Nevertheless, we look forward to wave hello to maturity, confidence, and stronger relationships.
I can’t describe the way I feel. My emotions are all over the place. On one side, it’s grief and terror. Yet if I look beyond them, it’s hope and thrill for the new adventure.
I’m not good with change. My default is to grow roots and settle in. All this is difficult for me. I can’t endure the thought of leaving home. I’ve grown attached to my parents, my brother and my routine. I like the pattern of my life. If it’s up to me alone, I’d rather stay in our little kingdom and continue to live like a prince.
NEW STRUCTURE: Leave and Cleave
But it is not only about me anymore.
This whole move out thing started with a need for a larger space to welcome our second child. As days pass by, I learned it’s more than that:
It’s an act of obedience to God’s structure of man and wife.
I rarely decide on my own. I have a cabinet where I seek guidance. They’re my spiritual mentors and counselors whom I trust and look up to. From them, I learned God’s calling for married couples to Leave and Cleave.
“Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”Genesis 2:24
John Piper, a pastor, author and the founder of DesiringGod.org, explained:
… the heart of what it means to leave mother and father and cleave to each other in marriage.. (is to give way to the) new structures of allegiance and responsibility.
In essence, the whole concept of leave and cleave is to teach independence.
To be independent means to stand on your own feet. It’s to take care of your own needs. To assume responsibility for your decisions. To blaze your path.
Independence is being able to say “Thank you!” when someone helped you. And can respond “That’s okay” from the bottom of your heart when they didn’t.
NEW ALLEGIANCE, NEW PRIORITY: Wife
Married couples achieve independence by being detached from the temporal parent-child bond — And be united to the new permanent husband-wife covenant.
It means, next to God, my new allegiance, devotion, priority, and affection is my wife. Not mama and dada. She’s now number two in my life. No matter how I love mom’s cooking, Lalaine’s food is the new favorite in town! No matter how I enjoy dad’s bad jokes, my wife’s punchlines now top the chart.
It also means relieving my parents from any physical, emotional, and financial obligations. As a husband, it’s my turn to provide, protect, and lead the family.
In short, my prince days are over. It’s time to suit up and be a king to my queen.
“Of course, the whole clan can help one another to make life work. But there’s a unique responsibility and burden that falls not to the parents, but the husband…” John Piper clarified.
I seek our pastor’s input on this and he said:
God knew that parents don’t live forever. The marriage bonds move us into the next phase of our lives…
Without the intention to sound morbid, he continued:
Independence is when they (our parents) are gone, we will grieve them and miss them, but we can move on with life…
John Piper closed his topic on leave and cleave with a reminder:
I don’t think that leaving mother and father in the forming of a new family should mean a loss of care or a loss of thankfulness or a loss of respect. But whatever distance happens, there should be some sense of ongoing responsibility that aging parents be taken care of.
NEW STRUGGLE: Cost
5:59 am, the sun has risen. My attempt to find sleep took me nowhere. I got up and drank a glass of water. I reached for my toothbrush and squeezed some toothpaste on it. As I brush my teeth I pondered:
Is leave and cleave a wise move? Is it good leadership to uproot my family from this place? How do I call myself reliable when I’m about to expose them to certain risks?
It seems we can battle through the physical and emotional aspects. But financial?
- I still have debts.
- Joab will begin school next year.
- Lalaine’s pregnant (a delicate one) and she’s due in 5 months.
Will we have enough money to set up a house and maintain it?
Can’t we wait a little longer? At least until I become more stable?
My heart and mind are in hot debate. My heart wants to obey God, but my mind thinks it’s silly.
Richard Poon, a Chinese-Filipino singer, shared the same hesitation on his blog:
Honestly, I never wanted to leave the family home. It was very comfortable and most things were paid by my parents.
Is this a natural phenomenon to us husbands? I don’t know. Seems like it. The struggle is real.
NEW PLAN: To Delay
6:13 am. After I brushed my teeth and washed my face, I’m now completely awake. I grabbed my phone, my bag, and headed down to the dining area to have a quiet time.
I prayed, reflected, and weighed our options.
There’s an unused house, my parents bought when I was still in college. It’s an hour away from where we presently live. A humble house in a subdivision with a climate I like. An ideal home to start a family.
The problem is, the place is still unlivable. Time and money are not on our side since baby number two is coming soon. The place would take at least a year and a half to fix. One year to save money for it, and half a dozen months to do the actual renovation.
The contingency is to have a temporary space. Someplace we can stay while we little by little save-up to fix the house. And that implies we need to rent.
RENT. Most folks do not like the word — unless they’re a landlord. I too find renting to be impractical. It is money you won’t see again. Why not use the rent money to pay for your place? That’s why a rent-to-own scheme is such a nice idea.
I also asked myself the same question. Why not stay with your parents for another year? Keep the rent for the renovation. Why not take your brother’s offer? He’s willing to give up his room for your family.
While I appreciate my brother’s gesture, I can’t stomach the thought of evicting him from his room for our sake. I’m not comfortable to make people go through the trouble for us.
Yet after some thought, this seems to be the most prudent move we can make. It will only be a year and a half anyway.
Sounds like a plan: I’ll take my brother’s offer and stay with my parents for another year to save up for the renovation.
NEW TRIAL: Obedience
7:07 am. I rise from my chair, relieved. It’s good to have a plan. I ran to the kitchen to pour myself a glass of milk. And yet another question popped up:
Will this decision honor God?
I remember the story in Luke 9:59-62, where Jesus tell people to follow Him.
One said, “Lord, let me first go bury my father.” (9:59 ESV).
And another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.”(9:61 ESV)
Jesus replied, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” (9:62 ESV)
In another translation, “Anyone who lets himself be distracted from the work I plan for him is not fit for the Kingdom of God.” (9:62 TLB)
I’m distracted alright. I worry about the costs too much. It’s like saying “Lord, I want to follow You, but first let me save-up for the house.”
On paper, my plan to stay may appeal to man, but might not be the case with God.
“That’s a wise move.” men may say. But God could give me a different response, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”(Mark 4:40)
NEW TESTIMONY: Answered Prayers
7:21. I’m back to square one. The debate between my heart and mind rekindled. I’m torn.
I came back to my chair and opened my journal. I try to recall how God has been faithful to me and my family throughout the years:
June 2015: I worry about our rocky relationship.
Today: We’re married for 3 years.
July 2016: Our business collapsed. I found myself in a mountain of debt with zero income.
Today: 80% of the debt, paid.
May 2017: I was anxious about being a dad.
Today: It’s one of the most satisfying jobs in the universe!
I fret about a bunch of things, yet God made everything well in the end. I closed my notebook with renewed strength.
It seems this faith thing is lived forward, and appreciated backward.
Remember our singer, Richard Poon? He reminisced the pain and reward of leaving home:
Looking back, I realize LEAVING the family home, ALTHOUGH VERY PAINFUL, changed me in ways I could not have experienced had I stayed.
He said he became a stronger husband and leader.
I learned more RESPONSIBILITY when I ran away from home. No dad or mom to save your butt. When I committed mistakes, there was no one else to blame and I had to OWN UP to the consequences.
Have a more supportive wife.
Our mentors remind us, your marriage vow to God is to keep your wife TOP PRIORITY. If you secure her this way, she will be your NO. 1 SUPPORTER, no matter how difficult your road.
What’s more, he discovered his purpose when he left the house.
If I stayed in our family home/business, I believe I NEVER would have ended up doing WORK THAT I LOVED. I would have ended up very resentful… Nobody thought I’d end up singing. Not even me. But I discovered it when I left the nest.
NEW DILEMMAS: Risks
7:53. I paused for a moment and allowed things to sink in.
Yes, I’m encouraged. But still, a part of me asks,
What if God didn’t show up this time? What if the losses in our decision to leave and cleave are greater than the rewards?
Is this doubt or I were only reasoning with myself because I’m not yet ready to go?
The late Billy Graham said:
It will cost us to follow Jesus. But it will cost us more if we will not follow Him.
Whatever the decision, there’s a cost either way.
Abraham costs his comfort (Genesis 12:1). Hosea costs his fortune (Hosea 3:1-2). But nothing can be more bitter than Judas’ regret (Matthew 27:3).
I shared this struggle to my counselors and they responded,
You know what, I hope God does, but He’s not obliged to show up. He’s God. The Creator. The Author. He does things on His terms… But He promised to honor those who honor Him.
I’m into gardening for about a year now. I propagate basil and avocado trees. One of my dreams is to have an avocado farm.
I learned trees take years to bear fruit if you grow them from seed. For avocados, it would need at least ten to fifteen years.
I researched and found a way to hack it to three to five years. The trick is, instead of growing a tree from a seed, you grow a tree from a tree. Yes, you read it right, grow a tree from a tree! You call this process Marcotting or Air Layering.
I haven’t tried this method yet. But the idea is to choose a mature branch and induce it to develop roots by wounding it. You slit the part of the branch to be rooted, and cover it with a rooting mix.
Once the branch grows enough roots, it’s ready to separate from the parent plant and get planted in its soil.
With Marcotting, you turn branches into trees.
NEW DECISION: Growth, Independence, and Fruitfulness
It appears Marcotting and Leave and Cleave are similar in some way.
Both require pain. Both require separation. Yet, both promote growth, independence, and fruitfulness.
In the end, there are only two choices:
Be comfortable and stay connected as a branch.
Undergo a painful process and become a tree.
I began to write this post a couple of months ago on my parent’s dining table. Today I’m about to close it on the dining table Lalaine and I bought on sale.
It’s been a week since we moved out to leave and cleave as husband and wife. It was excruciating. I cried several times before I was able to walk out the door. I cried even though our new home is only 15 minutes away.
It appears the struggle is not with distance, but with acceptance.
All my life I traveled in the same van with my parents and siblings. Today I stepped out of the van to drive in my own car.
It’s difficult to accept the passage of time. That while we’re still a family, we now have to travel on different paths.
“Anyone who comes to me but refuses to let go of father, mother, spouse, children, brothers, sisters – yes, even one’s own self! – can’t be my disciple.”Luke 14:26
Moving to your first apartment? Check out the recent Rent.com article we were featured in: Dad Knows Best: 7 Dads Share Their Best Apartment Advice