Saturday, March 9, 2013

The Marriage Bed

How many times have I heard well-meaning Christians counsel that sex is most beautiful in the context of marriage?  That God created sex to be a loving act between a husband and a wife and that it is the purest form of pleasure?  This is ideally true...and because it's true, then why aren't Christians counseling on HOW to achieve this beautiful union?

A couple of years ago I was in a mommy Bible study and the leaders wanted feedback on what topics would be helpful to study.  When I mentioned discussing "sex after children" you could hear a pin drop....then....well, how about "creative play ideas?"  {Sigh}  Why don't we want to go there?  What's the mystery?

Statements made regarding marital sex being God's design for a husband and a wife are true, but seem short-sided.  They leave me feeling that marital sex should be magical transporter to bliss and perfection.  And maybe that is what it was for Adam and Eve before the fall.  But we are fallen and it seems that when we come to the marriage bed, the context for which God created the sexual union, we are bringing all our baggage with us.

We come to the marriage bed with all our worldly notions that it should be as easy and exhilarating as it looks in the timeless love stories written by humankind.  But instead, what shows up is the many bags of luggage, the empty candy wrappers and moldy cheese of our past; the hurts from childhood, the abuse, the hurts from each other, the lack of communication, the exhaustion of the day, the month, the years - and begin to realize there's no room for us in the bed at all for all the stuff wedged between us.  And then we're supposed to look into each other's eyes and not be able to hold back our passionate flood of sexual energy we've been storing up all day.

Amoureux de Vence Art PrintAt this point I can't help but think of Adam and Eve and their perfection in the garden with Adam's song, "You are bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh," singing naked and unashamed.  And then the demise of their shame and nakedness after eating the fruit.  Sin has polluted our marriage bed.  Sin has made us naked and ashamed.  Sin has made us utterly self-focused and, thus, utterly self-conscious.  Sin has made us entirely ego-centric, focused completely on our own needs.  From here we could springboard into many selfish sexual sins, from pre-marital sex to sodomy and everything in between.  BUT GOD, rich in mercy, is redeeming us in every way - through His abiding with us, through communing with saints, through our kids and family, and, mostly, through our spouse and, ultimately, the marriage bed.

What is marriage?  Marriage is a covenant union between a man and woman in which they become one.  This oneness beautifully depicts the fellowship and unity of the Godhead itself.  Marriage between a husband and wife is also a picture of Christ and His bride, the church, as Paul says in Ephesians 5:31-32, "'Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.'  This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church."   Therefore my union with my spouse flies in the face my prideful need to be my own person.  It chafes against my individualism and my need to have life my way.  Sin has destroyed our unity with the triune God and with our spouses.

God is so merciful to give us the mirror of marriage as a truthful window into our sinful souls to reveal our self-centered blind spots.  Our blind spots are revealed in how much we live for our own comforts and desires all day long, how we react to our spouses when they sin against us, how we resist confrontation with reconciliation and redemption.   

The mercy of God extends to the challenge of the marriage bed 

How like God to fit two pieces of a puzzle together so beautifully with perfect ecstasy and joy - so much like His union with the Godhead and with the church.  And how like us to kick against the union to preserve our own individual selves.

The marriage bed is a merciful grace first to show us our ugliness as we experience our discomfort with being known intimately.  The marriage bed reveals our intimacy on every level with our spouse - it is a veritable gauge of our relationship.  The sexual struggles within a marriage seem to correlate to the areas of struggle with our spouse when we are dressed.  Thus, the areas of struggle with our spouse tend to be the areas we wrestle with God.  How merciful of Him to give us an honest means with which to face ourselves, each other, and our Heavenly Father: naked and ashamed, perhaps timid and humiliated.  And then, if we are trusting Him, He uses this same baggage-filled bed to redeem us and reconcile us to His beauty.

What He created for a perfect picture of the Trinity 
and for our highest earthly delight, 
that which sin damaged, 
He uses for our sanctification! 

How like God to use all means to redeem His image through us!  
To beautify His bride!

From Song of Solomon: 

You are altogether beautiful, my love;
    there is no flaw in you....
I am my beloved's,
    and his desire is for me.

As the husband hungers for his wife and longs for her, seeing her as beautiful and desirable, so Christ hungers for us, desiring us, seeing His perfection in us and all He created us to be.  Just as a husband is to beautify his wife with his sacrificial love, so Christ beautifies us, His bride, with His sacrificial love and sanctifying work. 

Perhaps the beauty and the joy in the marriage bed in this fallen world (besides the obvious pleasure that ensues in good love-making) is that regardless of all the baggage lying on the bed, we are painting a picture - Expressionistic as it may be - a picture of Christ and His bride; a picture of the triune God Himself in His fellowship:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. 
 We are being changed!   
Closer to glory!   
Greater image-bearers!   

And all the while, growing closer to our spouses and learning to experience and give greater pleasure.  Trusting.

No wonder sexual sin is so offensive to God - it throws acid on the very picture that was meant to glorify God.  Oh!  May God redeem us in all ways!  Yea, even through the marriage bed.  
Soli Deo Gloria!

True Food, True Drink

All I needed was to hear the sermon.  I rushed to get three small children fed, dressed, and out the door.  Shoot.  Missed Sunday school.  Ok, we’ve just got to get to the service!  I need to hear from God’s word!  Yay!  We’re here!  Ok, everybody get in and find Grandma….Thanks, Grandma, for taking the two boys while I deal with the baby…..I am finally walking through the sanctuary door after starting the service in the cry room and the pastor says, “Ok, let’s pray.”

WHAT???? I MISSED IT?  THE SERMON IS OVER?  Let’s PRAY?????  I am almost in tears now.  It’s been a hell of morning, literally.  I feel my soul being smoked out by the fires of Hell.  Let’s at least sit with Grandma for the communion hymns.  The baby just won’t cooperate and sit quietly….I’ll stand in the back and wait for the family’s turn to go down to the Lord's table.

I now am standing in the back, keeping my eye on our pew to know when to walk down front, tears cresting to the top of my soul, trying to erupt into a stream down my face and what do I hear? A baby crying; another one screaming; and yet more loud cries from babies all over the sanctuary.  Now the tears are brimming over with gravity on their side, and I think: That’s us.  That’s all of us.  Babes crying and writhing in soul-filled tears, needing the grace and blood of Jesus; needing true sustenance; needing to EAT CHRIST!

How desperate our need for HIM through our well-clothed appearances! Through our smiling, and sometimes, pious expressions; through our “Sunday celebration” jargon and our upbeat songs; through our dyed hair and hip accessories and Facebook status updates – WE ARE DESPERATE!  We should be running barefoot down to altar, reaching up for the bread and wine and savoring it’s taste like only babes can do!  We need to EAT JESUS – DEVOUR HIM like ravenous, famished infants crying from hunger, exhaustion, and selfish wantonness.

Jesus Himself said in John 6:23-59, “I AM the living BREAD that came down from Heaven….My flesh is TRUE food and My blood is TRUE drink…Whoever FEEDS on my flesh and DRINKS my blood abides IN Me and I IN him…whoever FEEDS on Me, he also will LIVE because of Me.”  Verse 66 says, “After [He said] this many of His disciples turned back and no longer walked with Him.”  How many of us hear the Truth, respond to it and then live like we never believed it?

Christianity is the only grace-based religion.  The only spiritual movement in which a real Person comes to us and becomes our God, our Friend.  God, Himself, changes our hearts, gives us peace with Himself and ABIDES WITH US!  Christianity is the only religion in which we rely on someone else's perfect work – Christ’s death on the cross, resurrection from the dead, and ascension into Heaven – for our GOODNESS and our RIGHTEOUSNESS.  It is the only non-works-based religion.  Why then, why, oh Christian, are you relying on your actions to gauge how your spiritual life is going?  You and I are living like idolators when we rely on ourselves – our own works, our own attitudes, our own disciplines and talents and reputations and vocations – to feel good about our standing with God.

God sits sovereignly on His throne, full of His immovable plans, bending down to us and raising us up to Him.  Jesus is the Bread that CAME DOWN to feed us.  Eat Him!  Fill your soul with Him!  Gratefully take and eat and drink and abide with Him.  HE is true food, HE is true drink!  He IS from Genesis to Revelation!  May we never squelch the cries of our desperate neediness welling up from our baby souls to be filled with TRUE food and TRUE drink.

Soli Deo Gloria!