Written by R. Todd Mangum
Friday, 14 February 2014 00:00
Philip Yancey suggests that the blessing of marital love — including the pleasures of sex — is one of the strongest indicators we have of a Creator God who loves the human beings He’s made, and who is breath-takingly skilled in the kinds of good gifts He crafts for them, too. In the scheduling for the faculty blogs, I just happened to draw Valentine’s Day — so I thought I’d float some theological thoughts about love and marriage, sex and intimate relationships today.
Sex and intimacy are integrally related — or at least were designed by God to be. In our narcissistic, hedonistic, hyper-sexualized culture, though, people too often seek to separate the two, with the thought that sex can be enjoyed without the baggage of “relationship.” That’s a lie. But it’s a lie with a lure to it — and is therefore causing pain and destruction amongst people in our culture on a spectrum from humiliating devastation (at its worst) to a numbing sense of protective, unfeeling cynicism (at best). One by-product of the Fall, Genesis tells us, is that Adam and Eve noticed their nakedness . . . and shame replaced what was previously unmitigated exhilaration.
In a good marriage, some of the mitigation can be jettisoned, with the exhilaration partially recovered. Many an unwary teenager has mistaken lustful infatuation for full loving commitment; that first taste of virginal sex might be thought to be expression of love — but almost invariably it’s a cheap hormone-charged counterfeit in reality. And when the superficiality of the relationship is revealed . . . that’s what is commonly called “breaking the heart.” And it’s hard for a young person to recover from the humiliation of it, when full bodily commitment has been exposed and delivered. Is it ever recovered from fully, really?
We’re now a culture constituted almost entirely by broken-hearted teenagers. And because the foolishness of adolescence is the default mentality of the culture, we too often can think the banalities of immaturity represent a normal adult mindset. Just look at our music, our TV entertainment, our movies. Superficial. Lustful. Snide. Cynical. . . . Normal? Hardly!
My wife, Linda, and I will celebrate 30 years of marriage this coming summer, by God’s grace. I’m not going to talk about our sex life, sorry — other than to say we have three boys who are now all adults themselves; and we had great fun not only conceiving them but raising them.
And that in itself tells you something about God’s design: the “activity” that potentially conceives a child is supposed to bring with it the commitment to raise the child (together); and that entails commitment, covenantal commitment — relational “baggage,” for sure. But if one tries to tear asunder what God has joined together, pain and misery are the inevitable result — which too many people in our culture are finding out the hard way.
But the way God designed it? The beauty, the joy, the reassurance, the security . . . is virtually unmatched by anything else in human existence. Of course there is cost; of course there are challenges to the bliss; of course the selfishness that husband and wife both bring to a marriage are surfaced and accentuated by the close quarters and years of living together — all that’s true, too. It’s kind of like the promise of abundant blessings that Jesus gives His disciples in Mark 10:29-30 — “You’ll receive a hundred times [what you’ve sacrificed] in the present age, along with persecutions; and in the life to come, eternal life.” Oh, there are ten thousand charms in a good marriage, too – with patience-testing trials and tribulations. . . .
A couple of weeks ago, I discovered I needed to have a minor medical procedure — on my face, no less. My wife and I have had a romantic weekend get-away planned the weekend before Valentine’s Day, tickets and reservations made for my wife’s birthday (last December) — leaving few options left in this two-week window to get this medical procedure done. One option: February 14. “But,” I said to my wife, “you don’t want me all bandaged up for Valentine’s Day. What if I want to take you out or something?” To which she replied: “I can think of nothing better I’d want to do on Valentine’s Day than get my beloved patched up and made right.”
And then I realized that Yancey is correct: there is nothing on earth that pictures more closely the love that God has for us than the love that a spouse has for their beloved. Song of Solomon makes this point, too. Yes, love and marriage and all that comes with it — when it’s good — point to God. Indeed.
I’m thinking of offering an elective course one day called, “The Truth about Sex,” that explores the accurate, the mythical, the damaging lies, and the full truth about sex and love and God’s design — from a theological perspective, and from the perspective of being a married man for thirty years in this culture. I’d probably need to team up with one of the counseling people to pull off the whole psychological and physiological aspects; maybe one of the woman professors to get the female perspective. What do you think?
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