“Naked and unashamed…” the description of Adam and Eve that starts their existence is one that gives design to marriage.
When a couple marries they make vast promises to each other. For many people these vows mean, essentially, “I’m going to stick.” I think that’s cool. But the way I look at it, the vow of marriage means even more, that I am deciding and declaring in public that I will provide you with an arena of safety. In this place you will be able to be as vulnerable as you can possibly get and you will be safe. Things won’t hurt you here. For me this is the essence of sexual and sensual expression that is blended throughout marriage and is God honored. I will create a space where you don’t have to prove anything and that space is simply my presence. You can be who you truly and actually are and you will be safe as that.
God’s pleasure in sexuality is not fully appreciated it seems to me. If we take the Bible at face value he reveled in it at creation. Then, just about the center of the book is an erotic poem entitled “Song of Songs.” Some people have tried to explain away the eroticism by attaching figurative spiritual meaning to it. That’s interesting, but I can’t completely buy it. There is Midrash, old Jewish commentary on Scripture, where an ancient Rabbi said that when the lover is describing his love’s breasts as “twin doves,” he was actually speaking about the two tablets of God’s law handed down to Moses. I’ve read the passage a number of times now and, in context, I’m pretty confident in saying the lover had something else in mind.
Other folks have taken the illusions and Christianized them, suggesting that Paul’s description of a husband loving his wife (Ephesians 5:25-32) being like Christ loving the church opens up the meaning of Song of Songs. Yeah, ah, no… I’m not seeing it. But I do find the arena of safety in Paul’s words as I do in the Song. Paul describes a husband as taking on the role of a body servant for his wife, one who intimately prepares and assists her from bathing to dressed in order to meet the one who loves her best as her truest self. Now, there’s a spiritual image I can move with. This is like Christ loving the church and the description of how a man treats a woman.
Or at least how a husband ought to treat his wife… he’s to be about two directions of work. He is to provide an arena of safety where he assists her spiritually in getting ready to come into the presence of God, some day, fully, prepared. He’s also to assist her to come into his own presence here and now, clearing away anything that doesn’t make her feel as completely safe and fully herself as she is when she is alone with him.
Wives teach their husbands that they also live within an arena of safety with them, but in what may be construed as a simpler fashion. She teaches him that the core of who he is deserves respect and she does. She teaches him that weaknesses he knows he has can be overcome with humility to God and partnership with the Spirit, and that he has the wherewithal to come into anyone’s presence and never lose his worth because of the work of Jesus in his heart. All of these are expressed in the respect she teaches her husband can be relied on.
Now, I’m pretty sure that I can be accused of utopian ideals in marriage, but I can make this even more idealistic. Suppose we kick it out even wider in scope and decide to treat the other gender as if inviting them into a wider arena of safety, one not as intimate as that in marriage, but moving in the same direction, maybe seen as care and value. Yeah, there’s an idea for the Body of Christ. Beyond our reach? What’s beyond the reach of Christ?