Married for God - Pt 4
Having worked through how having children fits into Gods purposes for men and women to look after the world, Ash now poses the question: what wider purpose can the love of husband and wife, expressed supremely in sexual intimacy and delight, possibly serve in God's world? Since most sex does not lead to children, what do we make of sex at these times? Essentially selfish? Or, like Augustine, essentially sinful outside of attempts at procreation?
Thankfully the Bible does not share these negative attitudes towards sex! As you might expect Ash takes us to the Song of Songs, but it is an unusual reading of the Song that is quite intriguing. Ash asks: does the Song of Songs indicate in any way that human sexual delight is used in the service of God? His answer is yes, but you need to read the book with a sense of poetry and poetic imagery. The first indicator is the theme of spring flowers that leads to autumn fruit and vegetables. The lovers here, "revel in the springtime of love because it gives hope for the autumn of fruitfulness. And fruitfulness is a great Bible picture, not only of children but more deeply of a world properly ordered and cultivated. As those lovers revel in their love, they grasp that this love overflows to play its part in caring for a needy world" (p 75). The second indicator is that the identity of the bridegroom is that of a king, who not only gazes into his lover's eyes, but has work to do in justly ruling his kingdom. Again, their obvious sexual intimacy is designed to nourish the delight they have in one another, and they will then be a blessing to other people.
Is this how you see your marriage? How you think of sex? Can the warm intimate love at the heart of a marriage really be a blessing to others? I remember when I was first converted as a teenager, coming from a non-Christian upbringing, being invited into the heart of family life of several strong Christian families at my church. I loved those times, learning what it meant to 'be Christian'. As I look back, and think about those husbands and wives who I have watched grow old together, it was their security in each other, their loving intimacy with each other which deeply affected me - they were a blessing to me! How I pray that my marriage, and the marriages of my children, will be just like that.
The other contribution that Ash makes here is the place of sex in a marriage. In other words, put it in its right place. So, don't have too high a view of sex or you will be disappointed. Sex is not a god or goddess: it cannot save us or give us our identity or fulfilment. But on the other hand, don't have too low a view of sex. Sex is very important, and husbands and wives ought to devote themselves to stimulating and nourishing their sex lives. But he also has some very wise words to those who find the sexual relationship difficult, and to those whose libido weakens with age.
This is a very stimulating chapter. I would love to know what you think.