Marriage: a journey into oneness (godly marriage)

john-spencer-3

Recently, I heard of another celebrity couple breaking up. Whereas once I would have not cared that much or blamed their lifestyle, now I find it breaks my heart and I start praying.

Marriage is a prophetic image of Christ’s covenant with us, a breakup is declaring to the world that He will give up on us – that His love is finite and His devotion limited.

How terrible a statement – how can we as Christians shrug our shoulders and move on? Our weeping joins with heaven that cries “what God has joined together let no man separate” – that something on Earth would reflect this reality and shout it out for all to see.

Now this couple cited the distance apart as the reason for their breakup. As I was mourning this, the phrase “it’s not the distance apart but the distance in your heart” popped in my head.

Marriage is a journey into oneness symbolic of our journey of oneness with Christ. Each day we choose whether we go deeper or whether we hold back.

cs-lewis-4

Daily we choose how much to reveal about our innermost hopes, dreams, worries and anxieties. Daily we choose to become more vulnerable or to hide our true selves from our spouse.

By revealing more we can become closer, by holding back we build a wall.

My wife believed me to be a very confident man when we married. I was outgoing and bubbly and would take her on days out to new places. The truth was anything but. I was confident in situations that were familiar but terrified of the new – the only reason she thought otherwise is that I took her to places that I had been before but she hadn’t.

It’s very hard to hide in marriage from someone who wants to become closer – but I tried. My wife booked holidays to new places and I was frightened – but rather than opening up I hid it behind “not wanting to go out” from our hotel or saying how it was all rubbish or, even worse, blaming her for choosing terrible places. By pushing her away and holding her back from my true self, I was steadily building a wall. This was one of the contributing factors to her packing up the car 7 years later driving to my office and telling me she was leaving me. As I regularly tell my children – that day I made one of the best decisions of my life. I said “I will do what it takes to fix this – I’ll even attend a marriage course”. It was that course that began the process of putting us back together. So many weeks involved me apologising for hurting her which she gracefully forgave and her heart was softened again.

But the issue of hiding was still there. I didn’t even realise I had it. Keeping people out was my survival mechanism – built to cope with a volatile earthly father and the bullying I experienced during the majority of my schooling.

Whenever someone would get too close I would instinctively want to lash out to keep them back. In retrospect, this explains why we always argued on the way home from church and healing courses. The Spirit had become exposed my woundedness and so I felt unsafe and needed to protect myself.

The breakthrough moment was 3 years later on our 10 year wedding anniversary trip. With the help of my friend I had organised a romantic visit to Rome. But I didn’t speak Italian and I had never been there before. To say I was terrified was an understatement.  I wanted to stay in our hotel room rather than go out and just buy food from a supermarket rather than go to restaurants.  But she wanted to explore it all. It was a recipe for disaster or redemption.

One day we were sitting outside the Coliseum – I just wanted to stay there all day hoping my paralysis would pass rather than go somewhere else new.

My wife turned to me and asked, “What are you thinking?”

Normally I would have brushed her off with “nothing” but everything was so exposed that I responded, “Do you really want to know?”

She replied, “Yes” little realising what was about to be revealed.

For the first time in our marriage I truly opened up all my innermost workings to her – I reeled off the fear after fear that were plaguing me.

The funny thing is I don’t remember what she replied I just remember the feeling of release that her acceptance brought and how our holiday became beautiful as her acceptance and love meant I didn’t need to hide anymore.  We became allies against this enemy of fear.

Ultimately our marriage is a shadow of our relationship with Christ and each day we can choose to become closer or to build a wall.  There is no standing still.

Yes, He knows everything about us already, even the number of hairs on our heads, but it is only by us voluntarily opening up ourselves to Him that intimacy is deepened and His light floods in.

Unlike a human spouse who might reject us, He will in no wise cast us out, He is gentle and humble in heart and the perfect love that we let in will drive out our fears that we had previously kept hidden.

He is gentle but He will put us through testing, through desert times to expose what is in our hearts so that a deeper intimacy is developed than could ever be achieved from comfortable living.

Just like my trip to Rome, as uncomfortable as it was, was an opportunity for a depth in our marriage more than I could have ever have achieved if I just did all the same things every day and stayed in my comfort zone.

May you continue to open up each door to your heart that He is knocking on and not harden your heart.  May you see every difficulty as an opportunity for becoming more intimate, more full of His light and  more “filled with the full measure of His love”.  Inn Jesus’ precious name.  Amen.

Advertisements

Wired for intimacy part 2 (godly sexuality)

wired for intimacy

We saw in our previous post that babies brains are pre-wired to see faces and in particular their initial focus of their eyes is designed to see only those who hold them close, such as the mother who feeds them.  This is a shadow of the spiritual reality that we are designed to seek our Father’s face who gives us our daily bread and the affirmation of His love for us.

Unlike other objects our brains process faces in a different part of the brain (the fusiform face area) which is dedicated to recognising faces.  Furthermore this part of the brain is given priority over the other image processing areas in the brain, which is why we often see faces in things (called facial pareidolia):

faces in things

Hence advertisers use faces in their images as it is an effective way of getting a viewer’s attention.  Using eye tracking software you can see below how we focus on faces and their eye gaze:

face recognition

Hence the text gets more attention from viewers when the baby’s eye gaze was in that direction.

Now the world will say that this must have developed as a survival technique – so we can spot the faces of a predator in the brush.  However, we know that we are made in the image of God:

“As the Father, Son and Spirit have always know fellowship with each other, so we in the image of God are made for fellowship”  Michael Reeves

We look into another’s face to see the meaning behind their words and discover their true self – their nature and character.  For, as we know, the eyes are the windows of the soul.  Faces are needed if there is to be any intimacy.

Unlike animals*, we make love face-to-face this speaks of the fact that sex is meant to be an expression of intimacy† and it is no surprise that the Hebrew word for sexual intimacy, יָדַע (yada’), is literally translated as “Adam knew Eve” (Gen 4:1).  And in its pure form there is “no shame” as there was complete openness, acceptance and intimacy.

Interestingly, research shows that those who have religious or paranormal beliefs are more prone to see faces in things than sceptics or unbelievers.  This is a shadow of the fact that despite the intimacy of another no human can ever meet our need to be fully known.

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. (1 Cor 13:12 emphasis mine)

Jesus is “the Desire of all nations” (Hag 2:7 NKJV).  Jesus is the face that we are wired to seek.

 *After extensive research I can only find two documented cases of animals having sex face-to-face. Both were gorillas and in both cases it was commented on that this behaviour was extremely unusual.

† It is no surprise that since the sexual revolution and the rise of pornography, where sex is seen to be just biological and devoid of meaning, there has been a corresponding rise in sex in positions that are not face-to-face. It is not about intimacy or connecting but satisfying our own urges and getting pleasure.

Our marriage to Christ (Teach your children godly sexuality part 10)

godly sexualityWe saw in our previous post that marriage is an exclusive covenant relationship between a man and a woman which reflects the intimate relationship between the father and the son.

However, it is also a prophetic declaration of the relationship that Jesus wants to have with us:

For your Maker is your husband—the LORD Almighty is his name—the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer;he is called the God of all the earth. Isa 54:5

This is why Jesus refers to himself as the bridegroom (Lk 5:34-35 also Mt 9:15; Mk 2:19-20) and John the Baptist refers to himself as the friend of the bridegroom (Jn 3:29).  And we, the Church, are his promised bride:

“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”  This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.
Eph 5:31-32

Jesus proposed to us using the traditional Hebrew wedding ritual:

The arrangements preliminary to betrothal (Shiddukin)

The father approves a bride for his son often long before the couple were of marriageable age .  In our case God the Father chose us to be His Son’s bride before the Creation of the world (Eph 1:4, Jn 6:44).

The rite of betrothal (erusin)

When the groom comes of age he would go to the young woman’s home and present to her and her father the written marriage covenant (ketubah), which details the terms of the proposed marriage.Jesus came to the home of his bride (Earth) to present his marriage contract – the new covenant, which provides for the forgiveness of sins (Jer 31:31-34) written on our hearts.

This also includes the bride price (mōhar).  In our case Jesus pays for us with his life (Lk 22:20; 1 Pet 1:18-19; 1 Cor 6:19b-20a).

The prospective groom then pours a glass of wine (the cup of the covenant) for the young woman.  By drinking it she indicates her acceptance and the couple are now betrothed.  This is legally binding, like marriage, but is not yet consummated[1][1].  Jesus sealed is betrothal to us with the cup of the covenant at the last supper (Lk 22:20).

Before the groom left he would give a speech to his bride (the engagement promise) that he would come to claim her soon after he has prepared a new home for her.  Hence Jesus says:

In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” Jn 14:2-3

Finally, the groom gives a bridal gift (matan[2]), to his wife as his pledge of love for her and a reminder that he is thinking of her and will return to receive her as his wife.  For us, Jesus gives us the Holy Spirit (Eph 4:7-8; Acts 2:38) as he returns to his father’s house.

The betrothal period (kiddushin[3])

During this period of typically a year the groom will prepare the bridal chamber where they will consummate their marriage and build a new dwelling place for his bride.

The bride will undertake a ritual immersion (mikvah) to symbolise her turning aside from all the former things and starting a new life with her beloved.  Our ritual immersion is baptism (Rom 6:3-6; Eph 5:26-27).

She would also make her wedding garments (kittel).  Our garments are robes of righteousness (Isa 61:10; Rev 19:8).

The wedding ceremony (nisuin[4])

When the father of the groom approves the bridal chamber and new home, the groom would go to fetch his bride.  Whilst the bride knew the approximate timing, the exact day or hour was uncertain, so she and her bridesmaids had to be continually ready for his arrival.  One of the bridegroom’s party would go ahead and shout “Behold, the bridegroom comes” followed by the sounding of the ram’s horn trumpet (shofar).

When the wedding procession reached the bride’s house the groom would “steal” the bride and carry her back to his father’s house to meet the guests, share a second cup of wine and then enter the bridal chamber to consummate their marriage under the chuppah[5].

The groom tells the best man when it is consummated who then announces it to the guests waiting outside.  The guests would then celebrate for 7 days until the bride and bridegroom emerged from the wedding chamber honeymoon at which point they would participate in the marriage supper given in honour of the newlyweds.  Finally, the couple would leave for the home that bridegroom had prepared.

When the Father chooses (Mk 13:32-33) Jesus will return for his bride with a shout and a trumpet (1 Thess 4:16) return to His father’s house where we will share the second cup of wine (Mt 26:28-29) and He will take us to His chuppah and we will become fully known (1 Cor 13:12) – the language of one flesh (Eph 5:31-32).

Our greatest moment is described as the ecstasy of sex when we shall say “I am my beloveds and my beloved is mine” (SOS 6:3) and experience the “pleasures at His right hand” (Ps 16:11b) where “our souls will be satisfied as with the richest of foods” (Ps 63:5a)

We will then emerge from the wedding chamber and participate in the wedding supper (Rev 19:9) and go to our home in the new Jerusalem (Rev 21:1-4).

There will no longer be marriage between people (Mt 22:30; Mk 12:25; Lk 20:35) as we are married to the Lamb.  Our sexuality will find its ultimate fulfilment in Him, the Desire of all nations (Hag 2:7 NKJV).  Hence in this world we will not find ultimate satisfaction in our spouse (or any other part of creation):

If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.
C. S. Lewis

So every act of sex prophetically points to this beautiful wedding consummation with our Beloved.  How much more holy can it get?

Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting:
“Hallelujah!
For our Lord God Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and be glad
and give him glory!
For the wedding of the Lamb has come,
and his bride has made herself ready.
Fine linen, bright and clean,
was given her to wear.”
(Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people.)
Then the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” And he added, “These are the true words of God.”
Rev 19:6-9


[1] The man would need a religious divorce to annul the contract. For example Joseph seeking to divorce Mary, his betrothed, in Mt 1:18-25.
[2] The bridal gift, matan, is Charismata in Greek, which is used for the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
[3] This means “sanctification”, ie to be “set apart” (1 Pet1:2; 2 Thess 2:13; 1 Cor 6:11).
[4] This means “lift up” or “carry” since the bride was carried to the ceremony during the “home taking” in a carriage lifted by poles or on an animal.
[5] This was a rectangular piece of material, often the Jewish prayer shawl (tallit from Num 15:38), that would be attached to four poles above the bed. Representing God’s presence hovering over them witnessing the covenant.