In conversation with friends, the subject turned to singleness. One friend mentioned that more and more people she knew seemed to be staying single longer and longer and not by choice. Unwanted singleness seemed to her to be noticeably on the rise, even just looking back to her childhood not all that many years ago.
I agreed. To back up her point, I brought up the subject of incels. Not being as addicted to internet culture as I am, she hadn’t heard the term before. It’s short for “involuntarily celibate,” I told her, and I gave her a quick summary of the phenomenon of lonely men, unable to find sexual partners, who found each other on the internet, some of them turning each other bitter towards women or society generally; on rare occasions, some even turning violent.
The internet may provide these guys with a sort of online community, but it has probably added to their problems. So many of us are spending less time socializing in real life and more time alone on the internet, rather than acquiring the social skills needed to attract the opposite sex.
I went on to state that I thought the internet and the isolation it can foster wasn’t the root of the problem but just a contributing factor. Then, I laid out the theory I’ve heard proposed that the real cause is hook-up culture. Pre-sexual-revolution days, the cultural norm was monogamy. The general expectation was that people would marry. Men were looking for women, and women were looking for marriage. The difficulty in finding a life’s partner didn’t seem so great when people paired off and expected to. That balance has been upset. I don’t know about its accuracy, but the popular stat is that 20% of the men are sleeping with 80% of the women. And those 20% don’t often seem terribly interested in commitment. Such is the nature of male nature. Women still seem wired for commitment (see any Rom Com, aka: “chick flick,” for confirmation). So 80% of both sexes are being set up for disappointment by the normalization of hook-up culture. The 80% of the women who are having sex with the 20% likely do so under the delusion that this behaviour will somehow lead to a committed relationship with one of those 20%, leaving them uninterested in considering any of the 80%, and instead obsessing over men who have no real interest in them.
I didn’t think much about the conversation until a convergence of circumstances made me think there might be meat for a blog post on the subject. A video by a couple of political/cultural commentators I sometimes watch popped up on my YouTube home page today, touting the same theory I’d been touting in conversation two days earlier. It seems incels are back in the news again with a recent act of “incel terrorism” I hadn’t heard about until I watched this video about incels and hook-up culture. Here’s the link to it.
From what I’ve heard, the birth of hook-up culture (no pun intended) goes back to the sixties and the invention of the pill. A movement sprang up that we call the sexual revolution. Free love. Modern, radical, fourth-wave feminism can also trace its roots back to that decade. I call the sexual revolution and radical feminism “the evil twins of the sixties.”
In the timeless battle of the sexes, I rather imagine that men (some men!) thought they were really putting one over on us women. Men (some men!) thought they were getting what they wanted with the sexual revolution. In the age-old game of seduction vs. getting trapped into marriage, seduction suddenly began winning. Women with all their tiresome demands of commitment before they’d give men what the men wanted began losing! With the advent of contraception, women were led down the garden path to believe that the possibility of pregnancy was the only reason we’d ever held out for marriage. Why shouldn’t we “enjoy” all the same “freedoms” men had always been getting away with? (Because we don’t really want to, that’s why!) But we were told we should, and we tried hard to make ourselves believe it.
With radical feminism, I expect women thought they were getting a little of their own back. We thought the way to get the upper hand in the timeless battle was through equality of every kind in every way.
But the reality is that these evil twins have done nothing but bring us (both sexes) misery. Men/women relations have never been so dysfunctional, and the battle has never been so heated in living memory.
I’m a woman, but I will never wear the title of feminist. Not because I’m not grateful for the equal rights I have, but because I already have them. I’m very grateful to the suffragettes and others who fought for equal rights for women. I’m glad I can now vote, drive, own property, pursue any career I have the desire and capability for, and have every right and privilege men do. Equality under the law. Done! Check! Move on! But feminism is now devoted not to equality under the law but to eradicating all male-female differences in the name of equality. Today’s feminism tries to cram us all (men and women) into an unnatural and uncomfortable unisex mould that no one fits. Instead of acknowledging that there were problems in the past and celebrating their fixes, feminists today seem intent on looking for problems where there are none and breaking what wasn’t broken in order to have something to “fix” (i.e. make it even more broken). Feminism (as the name gives away) is about elevating the station of the female, but where that equation has already been balanced, any more elevation can only create imbalance. This style of unbalanced feminism has understandably made men unhappy but, interestingly, seems to have made women miserable, as well. (https://www.huffpost.com/entry/whats-happening-to-womens_b_289511)
Hook-up culture also does observable psychological damage to women, making them less able to commit or less satisfied in a committed relationship. For women, reported satisfaction after marriage is inversely proportional to the number of sexual partners before marriage. (https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2018/10/sexual-partners-and-marital-happiness/573493/
These data are unsurprising when you consider that women’s bodies release the same bonding chemical during sex and childbirth and breastfeeding. (https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/275795) By way of illustration, imagine a woman producing baby after baby, only to have every single one torn out of her arms after its first feeding and taken off, never to be seen again. After a few repeat occurrences, she’ll find a way to shut off her natural bonding mechanisms. Do you think this woman will make a good mother when she’s finally allowed to keep one of her offspring? When put in these terms, maybe we can begin to understand why casual sex does untold damage to women, and women who have had many sexual partners have commitment issues.
Just from personal experience, I’ve long seen that the sexual revolution/hook-up culture makes women miserable, but with the rise of incel-dom, I’m now beginning to see that it also makes men miserable. Even the 20% who think they’re getting everything they want out of it will find themselves in middle age suddenly ousted from that 20%, unfulfilled and alone (or moving from one gold-digger to the next until the money disappears, too) with a trail of damage left behind and nothing to show for it.
And the real victims of the evil twins are the new generations that come from the dysfunctional behaviours they bred. This short video by the same commentator of the earlier video is the best pulling-together of the stats about the effects of fatherlessness on children that I’ve found to date. And those stats are staggering.
Evil twins, indeed!
The evidence is in! We screwed up! When I look at the shipwreck we’ve created by our rejection of the traditions of marriage and family, I find myself becoming passionate. I’m passionate about easing suffering. I’m passionate about people living better and happier lives. I suppose that’s why I can’t seem to stay off the subject of sex and the sexes in this blog. While the sixties also gave us some much-needed social changes, such as the civil rights movement and actual equal rights for women (not to be confused with what feminism turned into), the evil twins it gave us have added so much dysfunction, disunity, damage, and despair to our culture, I often wish I had a delorean. I guess that’s why I’m driven to exercise my tiny voice in speaking out against the effects of the evil twins. I’m hoping one or two will join me in looking for that rewind button. Or at least reject the evil twins’ influence in our own lives. And convince one or two others along the way. Who can convince one or two others. That’s how ideas spread. People spread them.
We are all products of our culture. We all tend to imbibe it unthinkingly. Likely, I see the evil twins as evil twins because of the sub-culture of Christianity I was raised in. But a person doesn’t have to be a Christian to evaluate the data and come to the same conclusion I’ve come to through my Christian upbringing. Because I know the pull culture has on us all, I don’t look down in judgment on those who participate unthinkingly in the mess that the evil twins inflicted on us. But minds can change with exposure to new facts, new ideas, new ways of thinking. Here’s my little attempt to help change a mind or two.
My apologies to anyone who follows more than one of my blogs. The following post is going on all three of my blogs, so you’ll get multiple notifications. It belongs on this blog in that the subject does relate to Christianity, conservatism, and culture. Also, a warning: It’s very long, it’s very personal, and it’s a little preachy. So be it! What I have written, I have written! ; p
A few weeks ago, I wrote a post on the subject of freedom vs. safety which I deleted the next day after deciding it had far more to say about the subject of the present Corona-crisis than I wanted it to say. As I said in the post, I’ve been avoiding saying anything publicly that could come back to bite me on that subject because a) I don’t know what I’m talking about, and b) everyone else is talking about it. Why add my ignorance to the mix? I wrote the post because I did want to comment more broadly on the subject of freedom vs. safety and the general trend in our modern culture to chase after “safety” at the cost of our freedom and how that trend relates to the present Corona-crisis. It’s been a discussion that’s risen to the surface often lately in the political-commentary world with the extreme measures being taken on account of this latest pandemic. And it will be interesting to watch the results of the Swedish experiment in the months that follow.
From what I understand, Sweden decided on employing less extreme measures than other countries, allowing most businesses to stay open and trusting to its people to abide by social-distancing recommendations voluntarily. Will Sweden regret its COVID-19 strategy? Will it decide that the higher number of fatalities early on (getting the “second wave” out of the way in one, fell swoop) was not worth keeping the economy alive and its people leading relatively normal lives?
We were told at one time that the purpose of all our various lockdowns was not the for the sake of eradicating the virus (which wouldn’t work, anyway) but for the sake of “flattening the curve,” keeping the hospitals from being overwhelmed all at once and giving the health-care system time to make adequate provisions. If that really was the (sensible) point to the lockdowns, I would speculate that Sweden will have no regrets in not participating in them. From what I’ve been hearing, Sweden’s curve seems to have levelled off without its health system reaching swamping-levels. Life has carried on for Swedish citizens. They seem to have weathered the worst of the crisis and now have no fear and uncertainty of what will happen once people finally do begin to creep out of hiding in their houses. And they still have an economy.
And that is the point that the “freedom” side in the freedom vs. safety debate tends to focus heavily on. I’ve noticed that “freedom (plus the economy)” is the argument made by the side pushing to end the lockdowns. Which is interesting. It occurs to me that (for some) the debate is not really “freedom vs. safety” but “safety vs. a different kind of safety.” And when I couch it in those terms, I realize that a more accurate re-wording of those terms would be “the illusion of safety vs. the illusion of a different kind of safety.”
I’ve fallen into that illusion-trap myself with my own worries about the economy side of the argument. I’ve been reading and thinking about a story from the Bible today that has me seeing this illusion-trap for what it is.
In the story of the fall of the Babylonian empire from Daniel 5, Belshazzar (whose name means “Bel,” a.k.a. Baal a.k.a lord or master, “preserves the king”) hosts a drunken bash for his nobles on the very night that the Medes and the Persians invade the kingdom, killing Belshazzar and upending the Chaldean domination. You may be unfamiliar with the story from Daniel 5, but you’re no doubt familiar with the common expression that comes from the account: “…saw the handwriting on the wall/saw the writing on the wall.” In Daniel 5, Belshazzar was given supernatural warning as to his impending doom in the form of an apparently-disembodied hand that appeared as an uninvited guest at the party and wrote the words, “Mene, mene, tekel, upharsin” on the wall for all to see. It would be enough to make a man swear off strong drink then and there.
No one except the exiled Hebrew prophet, Daniel, a courtier from the time of Nebuchadnezzar, could decipher the meaning of the words. When Daniel was eventually called for, he interpreted the message to Belshazzar to mean that God (the God Daniel worshipped) had numbered the days of Belshazzar’s kingdom, that Belshazzar had been weighed in the balance and found wanting, and that his kingdom would be divided between the Medes and the Persians. The margin notes of my Bible may not be the equal of the prophet, but they interpret the words to mean, “Literally a mina (50 shekels) from the verb ‘to number.’ Literally a shekel from the verb ‘to weigh.’ Literally and half-shekels from the verb ‘to divide.’” Very, very interesting.
I didn’t need either Daniel or my Bible’s margin notes to interpret the shekel for me. I knew that the shekel was then (and still is today, I believe) the name of a currency. Money.
On some earlier occasions, I underlined four verses on the pages in my Bible where this story is found. I underlined Daniel’s words to Belshazzar in Daniel 5:23, “And you have praised the gods of silver and gold…” I underlined Daniel 5:30 which records, “That very night Belshazzar, king of the Chaldeans, was slain.” And on the facing page I underlined a verse from Daniel 6, the account of Daniel being thrown into a den of lions. “[…] he [Daniel] knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days” (Dan. 6:10). That act got Daniel into trouble and a lion’s den, but I also underlined Darius’, king of the Medes, words to Daniel in 6:16 as he (Darius) reluctantly carried out his own unbreakable law of the Medes and Persians by throwing Daniel into the aforementioned den of lions. “Your God, whom you serve continually, He will deliver you.”
I don’t remember when or why I underlined all the bits I underlined when I underlined them, but taken all together, the message jumped out at me from the pages. Are you seeing it?
Belshazzar (“Bel preserves the king.” Except, uh, no, he doesn’t) praised the gods of silver and gold. Yes, technically, he likely worshipped idols of silver and gold, but in a wider sense, his greed and love of “filthy lucre” was emphasized repeatedly throughout Daniel 5. I don’t think it was any coincidence that God spoke through the handwriting on the wall to Belshazzar in a language he should have been well-familiar with: the language of money.
But the gods Belshazzar praised did not and could not deliver him. All the wealth he had amassed and was showing off at his great feast did nothing to keep him from the disaster that overtook him that night. The gods of silver and gold are dead and helpless. They can’t deliver anyone, even themselves.
Daniel, on the other hand, praised the One True God. Did that God have the power to deliver Daniel as Darius fervently hoped in Daniel 6:16? Well, you remember the ending to the story of Daniel in the lions’ den, I hope. Yes, Daniel’s God certainly did have the power to deliver him and did, in fact, choose to deliver him.
On the U.S. currency are written the words, “In God we trust.” Atheists need not cry, “Separation of church and state,” over the design of the dollar. The statement is simply truism. One’s god (or God) will be what one trusts most. What one trusts most will be one’s god (or God). Sadly, the gods many, many, many trust are the dead, helpless pieces of paper on which the truism is written, the gods that populate their wallets.
Even Christians are prone to sliding into this idolatry in a thousand, subtle little ways. We will all carry around little pockets of idolatry with us that need conscious combatting till the day we die. For most of us, one of those pockets of idolatry we carry around with us is the idol we carry around with us in our pockets.
It’s not that money itself is an evil. It’s not that having money is an evil. It’s the replacement of the One True God with money that is the evil. It’s our misplaced trust in the gods of gold and silver rather than the One True God that is the idolatry. And it is misplaced trust because money provides only the illusion of safety.
I find myself combatting my own slide into this little pocket of idolatry constantly. Many people see it as crass to discuss one’s finances publicly (after all, that which is sacred shouldn’t be dragged out into common daylight for all to see), but I tend to be crass, anyway, so here goes the public discussion of my finances (the public declaration online that I have none should at least help protect me from online scam artists): I quit my most recent job at the end of December 2019 with no cushion of savings as a safety net. This may have been partially due to misplaced trust (or at least misplaced hope) in the illusion of online work but also due to the decline in my mental health that I noticed after going back to work in 2019. (I’m also crass enough to be very open about my depression.) The online work did not materialize as hoped, so for the five months of 2020 that have elapsed, I’ve had no regular income and no savings to live on. I also wasn’t eligible for the Canadian government’s bailout of workers who lost their jobs due to lockdowns, seeing that I quit my job before the lockdowns. And with the lockdowns still in place, I have no likely prospects of going back to work any time soon (even if my mental health were ready for a return to the workplace). To the general observer, I would imagine it looks like I am in dire financial straits. I wouldn’t ordinarily bother to mention all this in a blog post (and believe me! I’m not asking for money! I never have! I didn’t need to! And please! No more! I can’t sufficiently thank those of you who gave without my asking, but it’s time to stop!). Except that I feel I must mention it. I feel I must mention my finances in order to praise the One True God who promised to meet all our needs if we seek first His kingdom. I’ve had no savings and no regular income for five months, and yet, I’ve had all my needs met (and all that without even any conspicuous, strenuous effort on my part to seek first God’s kingdom. Sometimes, He meets our needs even without us meeting His conditions, I find.). I have all my bills paid and never once lacked food in my cupboards or fridge. These needs were met in various, unexpected ways. A generous gift here and there. The odd job that landed in my lap. The sale of items I didn’t need anymore. It’s been so spectacular to watch these needs be met right when they needed to be and just exactly how they needed to be that it’s astonishing I should still be capable of falling into the subtle idolatry of worrying over silver and gold, as though it has any power to deliver me.
For those who shake their heads over my laziness and irresponsibility and lack of regard for my future, you’re probably right. I have been lazy and irresponsible and careless of my future. But many who worked hard and valued their jobs have now found themselves out of work. Many who were prudent with their money may find that the stocks and bonds and portfolios and 401ks (and I am not speaking my own language now, so I have no idea what I’m saying here) can’t deliver them. Many who are trusting in the government to find the solutions may discover that the government doesn’t have the solutions, and we are now heading for a different kind of crisis. I don’t want to be alarmist, but I don’t know. We just don’t know. The future is always uncertain. Failing to recognize that fact is always illusion. It wouldn’t be the first time the gods of silver and gold have let us down. While I certainly wouldn’t recommend setting about decreasing one’s trust in the illusion of safety and increasing one’s trust in the One True God the way I inadvertently set about it, I would recommend the end result of decreasing our trust in the illusion of safety and increasing our trust in the One True God.
And that’s about it. Those are really the main COVID recommendations that I would recommend. It’s up to you, though. Those recommendations must always be taken on-board freely or not at all. The only true safety we can find, the safety of trusting God, is never about coercion. In the end, true freedom and true safety are not “versus” each other at all.
Today is Saturday, the day between Good Friday and Easter (or, as some of us like to call it, “Resurrection Sunday”). On this day every year, there’s a little mental exercise I like to try to engage in as a sort of tradition of my own. I like to try to imaginatively enter into the dregs of despair the disciples of Jesus must have been feeling on that day almost two thousand years ago that this day commemorates.
I don’t know if this little, private tradition was the reason I found myself breaking down in tears watching a show (that has nothing to do with anything relevant to this post) when the main character in it was weeping to herself in the bathroom.
“Okay, Idiot! Why are you crying?” I asked myself. “It’s just a fictional show. She’s not really crying. She’s just an actress. And, anyway, you know it will all have a happy ending.” And I answered myself with, “Yeah, but I’m crying for all the real pain out there, like the pain this character is going through.” Fair enough! That shut me up. Self had no come-back to Self on that one. That’s a legit reason to tear up because of a fictional show and fake tears. Life isn’t fiction, and there are plenty of real tears to go around.
There’s a Bible verse that keeps popping into my head lately, and I’ve now decided it’s my new favourite Bible verse. That’s not only because it’s the shortest verse in the Bible (a whole two words) and easy to rattle off when someone asks me to recite my favourite verse but also because it’s incredibly profound.
John 11:35. “Jesus wept.”
I want to give that verse some space and just let it bear impact for a second.
Like the crying scene in the show I was watching, this verse makes me tear over every time it’s occurred to me lately.
If you’re unfamiliar with its context, it describes Jesus weeping at the tomb of Lazarus. A man who was on the verge of coming back out of that tomb. And yet, Jesus stood at it and wept, knowing full well what He was about to do. Raise Lazarus from the dead.
But that ending didn’t negate all the pain He felt in that moment. He wept for the very real pain and desperation that Mary and Martha, the two sisters of Lazarus, (who didn’t know what Jesus knew) carried due to their (temporary) separation from a brother whom they loved dearly and who may have been their means of support. Jesus wept along with all the other mourners who wept for the temporary separation that is death—a necessary evil in order to escape the fate of living on this sin-stained planet forever with no end in sight and no hope of perfection and a fresh, new start. But still, a natural evil that tears us apart when torn apart by it (temporarily) from the ones we love. He wept for all the millennia upon millennia of suffering and death resulting from the sin-stain that has permeated our planet. He wept for the suffering that we inflict on each other. He wept for the suffering that our sin and suffering inflicts on God Himself. He wept for the death that we inflict on each other. He wept for the death that our sin and suffering and death would inflict on God-in-human-flesh in approximately a week’s time. He wept for the great drops of mingled blood, sweat, and tears soaking into the soil of a certain garden He’d be taken from under armed guard with the kiss of betrayal stinging His cheek. He wept for what was past. He wept for what was coming.
That’s what I see now when I read those two, simple, unutterably profound, little words. “Jesus wept.”
They’ve become my favourite Bible verse because, in a way, they sum up the entire story of the Bible. There is a God. There is a God who created us for relationship with Himself. There is a God who could not remain distant and unmoved when we cut off that relationship by our rejection of it. There is a God who weeps over that rejection and all its natural results. There is a God who did more than weep from afar. He came to weep with us in our midst and join us in bearing all the natural results our rejection of Him had created. Yet somehow, that bearing would be the means of defeating what He bore. Somehow, humanity’s ultimate rejection of Him would turn into humanity’s ultimate redemption. It was the plan all along. (What a fantastic plot the Author of the Book came up with!) He would weep from a cross, using the last remnants of the air left in His lungs to gasp out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” to show us that we are not God-forsaken, however it may feel. God Himself would be God-forsaken so we could understand that we never are. Not by His choice, anyway.
“Jesus wept” is a microcosm of human history with the main weeping-event at its centre, that event that divides our calendar into “before” and “after,” that event that is the ultimate example of God weeping, that event that we commemorate and then celebrate this weekend.
I wept today (a little) not because I don’t know how the story ends. Not because I don’t know that the main character (even this main character) gets her happy ending. Not because I don’t know that the disciples’ dregs of despair would be turned into wild, exuberant, scarcely-believable, over-the-top rejoicing. But I wept because weeping over the process is an appropriate response. John 11:35 shows us that.
But John 11:35 is followed (eventually) by John 20:1. “Now on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.” And we must never forget that outcome. Weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning.
Happy Resurrection Sunday, Everybody!
(Last series of posts, I mentioned that I had some thoughts on the topic of men and women and sexuality that I wanted to share on this blog. And then I excerpted a few samples from a recent book I’d written, The Curses and the Covenants. All that reminded me that I’d written another book, touching on the subject that I’d been in the process of editing and republishing and had never quite finished. I quickly wrapped that project up today and while doing so, decided to excerpt one of its chapters onto this blog. It expands on some of the thoughts I’d posted earlier in this series which, for the sake of brevity, left out a lot of what I would have liked to add. Besides this chapter, the book I just republished, 10 Thorns, fills out those subjects in much greater detail than I have here. If you’re interested in this subject and want to read a fuller explanation of what I tried to say in this series, here is the Amazon page for 10 Thorns.)
I ask the title question from the viewpoint of how the world at large sees us, and I won’t agree that all Christians are prudes, but I admit it! This is a designation I am willing to wear. I’m a prude, and I’ll own it, even if I’m not exactly proud of it. The topic of sex makes me squirm (and I will be squirming a lot this post). I’m an “old maid” in the true sense of the term. I am an older, unmarried woman who also happens to be a virgin.
I know plenty of married prudes, too, so I’m not sure my old maidenhood has made me prudish all on its own. I think it just may be that the topic of sex makes quite a lot of us squeamish because…(well, we’ll get to those reasons later in the post.).
However, just because this particular Christian happens to be a prude, I am not owning the title for Christians in general. Still, because of the Christian view of sex, the culture surrounding us has concluded that we must be prudes. We must see sex as something unmentionable and dirty. A necessary evil.
But what is that Christian view of sex, really? It’s very simple. A man is only supposed to have sex with one woman in his life “as long as they both shall live” and a woman is only supposed to have sex with one man “as long as they both shall live.” That’s it. Short, sweet, to the point, and very, very unpopular.
But not only unpopular. A lot of people would claim it’s impossible.
After all, humans are not one of those naturally monogamous species like wolves or penguins. (Do I mean penguins or some other kind of birds?) If God didn’t create us naturally monogamous why should He expect us to live monogamously?
~ ~ ~
If you agree with the objection that we are not a naturally monogamous species, you’re right. We are not naturally monogamous (at least not with the natures we have now. I don’t think I could agree that God originally created us non-monogamous.). And that’s why there is such a thing as marriage. If humans were as naturally monogamous as wolves or penguins, we would have no need for marriage.
Biblical marriage is that officially-recognized, society-sanctioned lifetime commitment between a man and a woman. In other words, because we don’t naturally live in such a way where we have sex with just one person for a lifetime, God instituted a system where other people are supposed to get involved to help us keep our commitments.
There’s the person who says, “What’s the big deal about a piece of paper. We’re in a committed, monogamous relationship. For all intents and purposes, we’re married now. Why should we wait to have sex till we’ve signed our names on a piece of paper? A piece of paper doesn’t change anything.”
Quite right! There’s nothing magical about a piece of paper. In some societies, I’m told the bride and groom jump over a broom to get married. It doesn’t really matter what marriage custom a society practises. The point is, it’s the society that practises it.
A marriage involves more than just the pair getting married. What makes a marriage a marriage is not just a couple saying their vows to each other. In a sense, they say their vows to a society or to a government official, though some would like to see the government get out of the marriage business, and I’m inclined to agree. Perhaps marriage should again be a religious ceremony, practised and performed by those who still believe in the sacredness of the institution. The rest can simply sign private legal contracts, if they wish, agreeing to whatever they decide regarding the distribution of children and assets when the couple breaks up. They can still throw the big, expensive party and call the arrangement whatever they want to call it, but legal marriage, as it is now, has long ago stopped being marriage in the true sense of the word, anyway.
But there are still good reasons why a biblical marriage involves other people. In a Christian marriage, the couple says their vows to God which involves their Christian family or faith community. The couple is answerable to someone who has an interest in seeing that the vows are kept and the responsibilities lived up to. And the reason for marriage is because most of us wouldn’t keep those vows naturally all on our own.
Those who say, “What’s the big deal about the piece of paper?” are right in that they probably will not be any more committed with the piece of paper. The point of the piece of paper is that now someone else is involved in the commitment. And true, the level of commitment required by our society today is not very exacting, but if a couple isn’t willing to sign on even for that level of commitment, I’d have to question if there’s any commitment at all.
Two people in love generally start off thinking they’ll always feel the same way about each other. Funny how feelings change, and funny how those feelings have a way of changing the commitments made based on them. Hence the piece of paper or the broom handle or whatever other weird and wonderful marriage customs there are.
And so God tells His people to hold off on sex until after the deal is official — till the piece of paper is signed or the broom handle is stepped over or the sheep and camels are exchanged — because He knows us. He knows anything else is no true commitment at all (see Hebrews 13:4).
According to the Bible, it was God who created all those glorious, warm, fuzzy, twitterpated feelings and the feelings of a forever commitment that naturally accompany them. His design in creating them in the first place was for men and women to get together and stay together for a lifetime.
But people are fallen. So He instituted marriage so that when fallen people didn’t feel like being committed anymore, there was something in place to help them keep the commitments they made when they felt committed.
~ ~ ~
For those who would tell me that the Bible’s position on sex is an impossible one, what do they really mean? One thing they can’t really mean is that these ideals are physically, humanly impossible. Actually and truly undoable. They’ve already been proven doable. Others have done it. Others have tried it and found that it is, in fact, possible for a man to have sex with only one woman for a lifetime or a woman with one man.
Others have gone a step further and tried having no sex at all. Ever. In their whole lives. They died celibate. (I’m not sure if that’s what they died from or not.) But they not only died trying. They did it.
So we know that chastity — the Bible’s standard of sexual purity — is not one of those things like trying to be in two places at the same time. It can be done. Those who believe it can be done are those who can do it. Those who believe it can’t be done are those who can’t do it.
What people really mean when they claim that the Bible’s sexual standards are impossible is, “It’s impossible for me to live that way,” and what they really mean is, “I’d rather not even try.”
I’m not saying that chastity is an easy thing. But we do make some revealing assumptions about what we’re capable of doing and what we’re not and what’s worth doing and what isn’t.
Browse a magazine today and you’ll discover that the people who wrote it hold the unspoken assumptions that no one could live a chaste life, or that if anyone could, why would anyone want to? But yet flip over a few pages in some magazines, and you may discover the assumptions that anyone can lose weight and everyone should want to.
I’ve tried chastity (actually, I’ve tried celibacy. I’m still trying it. Hasn’t even killed me yet.), and I’ve tried some of the diet and exercise regimens preached by magazines. As a life-long survivor (so far) of celibacy, let me state for the record that all my years of doing without sex did not take half the self-control that one month of fad dieting took with all its required doing-without of very necessary calorie-intake. Yet I don’t claim that dieting is impossible. I just admit I would rather not do it.
But we hear from all the health authorities, when we’re talking about diet and exercise, how our appetites are out of control and are killing us, how we’re just going to have to learn some self-control, how our out-of-control appetites are creating huge (groaner!) problems in our society.
Yet there is absolute silence or derisive laughter on the subject of reining in our sexual appetites. If anyone dares to suggest that our sexual appetites are out of control and are killing us, that we are just going to have to learn to exercise some self-control in this area, that our out-of-control sexual appetites have created huge problems in our society — far bigger and far-reaching problems than obesity and all its results, even as big and far-reaching as they are — that person is dismissed as a prude and a puritan.
I mean, what would you think of a world that ran the way God designed it to run in this area? “Boring!” you might say. “Why shouldn’t we have some fun? Even if chastity’s not impossible, it sure would be boring.” No doubt! What a boring world it would be if we were all as naturally chaste as wolves or penguins! What a boring world it would be with no AIDS or any kind of STDs. With no unwed mothers or deadbeat dads. With no adultery or divorce. With no rape, incest, or sexual abuse.
No doubt it would be a little more boring than the present state of things. I’d be okay with that kind of boredom, though.
Why shouldn’t people have some fun? They should. I’m just not sure that life the way we’ve decided to live it is all that much fun. Whereas, life the way God intended it can really be quite fun.
And for that matter, why shouldn’t God be able to say what the best use is for this gift He’s given? It’s not just our possession to do with what we want.
Let’s talk about some of the possible reasons that God gave the world the gift of sex and see if we can’t also see in them the reasons He tells us to use it the way He tells us to use it.
~ ~ ~
Here’s the first one I want to mention: I think He gave us the gift of sex for that reason. Because He gave us the gift of sex. It is a gift. It’s meant to be enjoyed. And one of the reasons He tells us it’s only to be shared with one other person as long as that person is alive is so that it can be enjoyed the way it should be. It’s for the sake of the gift itself.
The way we’ve decided to handle this gift has greatly reduced the enjoyment-value of the gift. If every day were Christmas, what would Christmas be? If every food were ice cream, what would ice cream be? If every relationship revolves around sex, what’s left to share with that one person we find who’s really special?
Talk about boring! This tantalizing, intoxicating, overwhelming, meaningful, powerful part of life to me looks supremely unappealing the way I see it portrayed in popular culture now. Leave it to modern humans to manage to turn sex boring!
As a society, we treat this gift of sexual relationships like a spoiled five-year-old treats his gifts. We rip into them and suck them dry, and then when they’ve lost their novelty, we cast them aside and trample them, looking for the next experience to rip into and suck dry and trample. This behaviour has a habit of spoiling both gifts and five-year-olds. (And those of us older than five who ought to know better.) Of all the natural gifts God gave us, this was one of His best. For that reason, He tells us to keep it special.
In fact, although a lot of people talk as though our sex drive is no more nor less than just a natural, animal appetite that needs gratification when aroused, just like our appetites for food or sleep, we know better.
For one thing, we treat it very differently from our appetite for food. (The one we’re constantly admonished to curb and keep in check. The other we’re constantly admonished to whip into a frenzy and indulge with all kinds of excesses.)
None of us really think that it’s okay to behave like animals and gratify our sexual urges whenever and however and wherever they lead us. We’ve tacitly admitted that there should be something a little bit special about the sexual act.
If you’re a promoter of the idea that sex is nothing more than physical, I challenge you to think about the spiritual effects this area of life has on us and compare them to the effects of a simple physical act like eating or drinking.
Think of the feelings of pain and betrayal non-chastity creates. Do eating and drinking call forth these kinds of deep emotional responses? Does a person undergo intense, searing jealousy watching someone else eating the meal he or she once thought of as belonging to him or her? (Well, possibly.)
Think of the life-long, inner scars molestation or rape leaves. Does anyone, years later, have nightmares and panic attacks from the memories of a friend or roommate who helped himself without permission to food out of the fridge? (Perhaps! But seriously, there’s no real comparison, is there?)
Think about the stigma attached to those who, for their living, sell sex like any other commodity. Or the level of desperation necessary in order for a person to steel themselves to pursue this particular “profession.” Or the trauma these “professionals” experience that must surely accompany the sale of the “commodity.” Or the natural loathing the rest of us feel for the “customers” who victimize these “professionals” by availing themselves of their “services.” I mean, does any little girl dream of growing up to be a prostitute? Does any decent parent want this for a child? Can we look at sex the same way we do any other product to be bought or sold? Do we place food-vendors and buyers on the same emotional footing as sex-vendors and buyers?
It should be clear to all of us that in the act of sex something happens that goes far beyond the purely physical.
As kids (and for some of us, as adults), we thought sex was something weird and yucky or something to giggle at in private, but we’ve never thought it was something to treat like any natural part of everyday life.
Why do so many of us (well, all of us until we manage to callous our sensibilities through repeated exposures) shy away from discussing sex openly and in all contexts? To a degree, prudery comes naturally to us all. Could it be because we do all know on some level that there is meant to be something… well… sacred… about sex? That sacredness has degenerated into a needless shame, but could that shame grow from the dim, nagging, subconscious realization that sex is not something meant to be dragged out into broad daylight and treated as any other normal part of life? That it is, in fact, something that goes much deeper than a merely physical need like eating or drinking or sleeping or breathing?
With the examples I listed earlier, we can all see that, in sex, the physical has strong ties to the emotional or the spiritual. We can all readily see the damage, in those certain instances, that results from the obvious abuses of sex. In that case, isn’t it possible that, as humans as a whole, we’ve been messing around with and misusing something we really don’t understand very well? And that by so doing, we may be causing untold and only-faintly-realized harm to our very innermost selves?
Although we must all admit that we are not a naturally chaste species, I think if we could see the issue properly, we would see that we’re not meant to be unchaste, either. We may now be naturally non-monogamous, but we’re meant to be morally monogamous. Now we have to choose chastity, but there’s still some deeply hidden part of us telling us that we should choose chastity.
In fact, we can all see that our sex drive is not just some animal instinct or physical appetite that needs gratification. Somehow, in our reactions to this gift, we show that we secretly all understand that, for us, it is a gift.
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The most obvious reason God gave us the gift of sex was to give us the gift of life. Somehow, as completely obvious as this fact is, we still manage to separate the two and pretend that the one has nothing to do with the other. Not unless we choose that it should.
Secondarily, sex is a gift meant to be enjoyed, but primarily, it’s the means God uses to bring about new life on the earth. Rather makes sense that if He created the gift of sex to create new lives, then, as the Creator of life, He has the right to say what should be done with the gift of sex.
Those who choose to ignore His right and do whatever they want with His gift make me think of a little kid playing with his daddy’s loaded gun. There’s a power there the child hasn’t reckoned with. He’s playing around with life. Yes, sex is a gift, but it’s a loaded one.
When you stop to think that God made us partners with Him in creating life, that He gives us some choice in this matter, it should blow your mind. It should certainly make you take into consideration what He has to say about how the whole process works.
If a person contends, “Yeah, but in our day and age, we know what we’re doing. We just have to be careful,” he’s missing the point. We didn’t create sex. We don’t get to say what it’s for and how it should be used. (And God is perfectly capable and willing to override all our precautions and our preventions. He’s done it often.)
So sex is meant to be kept for the context of a committed, monogamous relationship that can turn into a family. His ideal is for our young to be raised in families. With two parents. It just works better that way. Ask any single parent how easy his or her task is.
I’m not saying kids raised by single parents can’t turn out just fine or that single parents can’t do a great job. (As a kid raised by a single parent for years of my life, I would never say that, both for my sake and my mum’s.) I’m just telling you what’s easier for the kid and what’s easier for the parent.
God’s plan is bigger than the messes we make, and He does incredible and beautiful things through the results of the messes we make, but it seems that He seeks to keep us out of the messes in the first place.
~ ~ ~
So sex is about enjoyment, but it’s also about life. But then, it’s also about love. And this is the aspect of sex that really divides us from the animal world in this area. God gave sex to the world in general for pleasure and procreation, but for humanity, the gift of sex is not only for pleasure or procreation. It’s a picture. It’s a picture of something that means the world to God — His pursuit of us.
He’s the Lover that loves the way anyone would want to be loved. His is a forever type of devotion that, while it never forces and must be mutual, doesn’t give up while there’s any hope left.
Wouldn’t it be amazing to have complete confidence in your beloved’s love, to know yourself to be the one and only, to know your beloved will not stop loving you, no matter what? But that’s what God’s love is like. And this whole man/woman thing is meant as a picture of something incredible and strong and true. It’s meant to be a picture of God’s character and love.
And that really ups the ante. This is what people are messing around casually with. Are you starting to see why it might be a big deal to God? And are you starting to see into the heart of the reason that sex is not just a physical act but a deeply spiritual one for us?
If the way He loves is the way we all want to be loved, then why aren’t more people willing to try and love His way when it comes to this area of sexual relationships? Why are so few willing to give what we all want to receive?
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God doesn’t ask of us what He asks of us because He’s a prude and disapproves of sex. He asks it because He approves of it and wants it to be as good as it can be — rather than causing us hurt and harm. He doesn’t ask what He asks because He’s a hard taskmaster and likes to be unreasonable. He asks it because He’s trying to make life easier for us in the long run — in the way we bring new life into the world and raise our young. He doesn’t ask what He asks because He hates us. He asks it because He is Love. And He wants to give us a picture of the way He loves.
Now again, if you’re a Christian, you don’t have to like what God tells you to do. You don’t have to fully understand every reason behind it. You just have to do it. Again, if you’re not a Christian, you don’t have to worry about it yet (unless you happen to care about better sex, a better society, and better relationships all around).
God’s commands are commands for His own ones. This whole area of life is not where He starts with people. He doesn’t begin His work with those who are not already His own children by demanding that they follow His rules regarding sex. He wants you to give Him your heart; then your body, in that order.
Nevertheless, I believe the general population would benefit from following God’s directions on sex, and we’ll all reap the consequences for ignoring them.
Again, God’s way works. Ours doesn’t. And again, His way isn’t the easy way. It’s the only way.
(Another sample from The Covenants and the Curses available here.)
(Full study available for sale here.)
I started this blog to offer up my commentary on two primary areas of interest of mine: culture and Christianity—and on politics where it intersects with these two areas of interest. Seeing that sex and sex roles and sex differences have become a hotly-contested battleground in all three arenas and noticing in my thinking recently, a (I hope) brief return to my old misandrist ways of my misbegotten youth, I thought it was time to tackle a series on this blog on the subject of men and women.
As an older, single (never-been-married. Heck, never-really-dated) woman, it’s been an area in which I’ve invested a lot of thinking-hours. They say the best coaches are in the stands. I don’t know about that, and I wouldn’t presume to coach this sport, anyway, but I do know that the commentators sit as high up and as far away from the action as they can get for their bird’s eye view of the game. I feel like my distance from the action has perhaps given me a unique perspective to observe and analyze. At any rate, I’ve had some thoughts rattling around in my brain trying to get out for some time now, and I started to think maybe this blog would be an outlet for them.
I had far too many rattling thoughts to get them all out in one post, so I thought I’d do a short series: one post on sex differences, the next on sex roles (specifically within a marriage), and the last on the meaning behind sex (as an attribute and an act). Not sure if I was being brave or foolhardy in planning to write about this subject. One or the other. Take your pick. But definitely optimistic.
Too optimistic, I think. I started my first post but soon bogged down, overwhelmed by the task. I had too many rattling thoughts, and it’s a huge area of life and a controversial one. I set the project aside, still planning to get on with it someday but dreading it at the same time. In the meantime, I got on with a writing project I was thoroughly enjoying. I’ve written a number of Bible studies in the past, and I’ve loved every minute of the Bible opening up in a new way for me through the intense study required to write about it. A Bible study I’d started years ago and abandoned when it wasn’t coming together, finally clicked into place this year, and I powered through it in a matter of weeks. Along the way, I noticed that my rattling thoughts were finding their way out and into this study. (They had to get out somewhere, I suppose.) Seeing the Bible study lessons I was writing were taking the direction they were and saying most of what I’d wanted to say in these blog posts, I decided they could serve double duty. I’ll post four of those lessons here from the study I’m calling The Curses and the Covenants. The first is introductory to the subject of the week of lessons where my rattling thoughts finally came home to roost: the story of God’s covenant with David in 2 Samuel. It will give you some context for the other three posts. The second is the curse of Genesis 3 that went with that week of lessons—a curse very pertinent to the man/woman subject. Then the last two are my musings on sex differences, sex roles, and the meaning behind sex, jammed into some lessons on David of the Bible (who provided me a convenient excuse to let out some rattling thoughts). In the interests of keeping the lessons manageable, I left out a lot of the rattling thoughts, and the brevity hopefully makes them more readable. I don’t mean to bog you down and overwhelm you the way I did myself. On the other hand, I may still have to say more on the subject someday.
So that’s my disclaimer as to why the following posts will be breaking free from my usual blogging format and may seem to be outliers on this platform. They were intended for a different platform, that’s why. But if any of my rattling thoughts resonate with you here, then I’ll be happy to share them here.
(Another sample from The Curses and the Covenants available here.)
(The full study available for sale here.)
(Based on 2 Samuel 7 + Revelation 19:6-16)
“I will be his Father, and he will be my Son. If he sins, I will punish him with a rod and with blows inflicted by people. But I will never stop showing him my love as I did to Saul, whom I took out of your way. Your royal house will remain in my presence forever. Your throne will be established forever” (2 Sam. 7:14-16).
“[…] ‘Hallelujah! The Lord our God, the Almighty, has become king’ […] He wears clothes dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God […] On his clothes and his thigh he has a name written: King of kings and Lord of lords” (Rev. 19:6b. 13, 16).
“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give this testimony to you for the churches. I am the root and descendant of David. I am the bright morning star” (Rev. 22:16).
As we have every week so far, we’ll see the making of the covenant in the week’s Overview and then, in the first days of the week (after the “curse” day), we’ll back up to see the events that preceded and prompted it. (Then, in Day 7’s wrap-up this week, we’ll read the astonishing story of how God chose to make the promises of His covenant with David come true.)
As usual, there were too many events that preceded and prompted the covenant for me to do justice to half of them. I’ve chosen the ones I think have the most significance to this study, but one I could only touch on lightly in our intro page: the fate of the ark of the covenant before 2 Samuel 7.
First, you need to understand the deeper meaning behind the ark of the covenant. I mentioned it last week as the symbol to Israel of God’s power and presence with them, but it symbolized that power and presence in a very specific way: It was the visible representation of God’s invisible throne.
There was a “seat” on it (though no human would have dared sit on it). It was called the “mercy seat” or “throne of mercy” (Ex. 25:17). The idea was to think of God as invisibly seated above this box. Wherever God is, there is His throne. The two are inseparable. It’s the first fact we need to know about God. He is King. Sovereign. God. The One in control. Of His universe.
No, no box can contain Him. He overflows universes of universes (1 Kings 8:27). The point of the ark was that it was portable. It went wherever God’s people went. It was a reminder to them that God was always with them. And that He is always on His throne. He was meant to be their King.
Throughout the New Covenant, we read about “the kingdom of God” as a very important concept in that Covenant. And knowing the sovereignty of God emphasized throughout all the Bible, the obvious questions arise, “Isn’t God the ultimate Sovereign One? What, then, is the kingdom of God? Isn’t everywhere the kingdom of God? Isn’t everything the kingdom of God?”
And the not-so-obvious answers are that God is the ultimate Sovereign … except of one territory. The kingdom of God (very simply) is all that over which God is King. And everywhere and everything would be God’s kingdom. Were it not for one, tiny, huge fact: He is the God of freedom.
It goes back to that ol’ Genesis-3 decision: Who will be god? Of me?
Here’s the mind-blowing truth of that Genesis-3 decision that we see exemplified in the ark of the covenant: God, while very much in charge in His universe, will only reign in my heart and life when I ask Him to.
The territory that does not encompass God’s kingdom is every human being that chooses against His rule. There He will not enforce His reign.
All this is necessary background knowledge to the new kingdom that we’ll see created through God’s covenant with David. We’ll see, yet again this week, those two emblematic pathways of flesh vs. faith. We’ll see Saul’s kingdom (first king of Israel) as the kingdom of flesh. Self-first. And we’ll see, yet again this week, that the way of faith is the way of God in control. God as King. This was the state of David’s kingdom. Although David got it very, very wrong very, very often, his overall life-choice was God on the throne—God as his king. That was the choice he made early on in life, confirmed from the start of his reign, and finished out his days still embracing.
Did you notice the “Dad joke” God made with David?
David’s fondest wish was to build a house for God. This week, we’ll see his longing to be near God, to move the ark where he had ready access, and to build a house for it just as God had built him a palace.
Instead, God said to him, “No, David. You won’t be the one to build a house for me. I’m going to build a house for you!” And “house” was a play on words. David had in mind the physical structure we call a house: four walls and a roof. God had in mind a different kind of house: a royal house of sons and daughters. A dynasty. A reigning line of inhabitants on David’s throne.
Do you see the turnaround? David desired to build God a house. In turn, God built a house for David. David desired to seat God on the throne of His life. In turn, God seated David and his descendants on the throne. Forever.
The “forever” kind of language God used in making this covenant with David clues us into the fact that the promised “Son of David” of 2 Samuel 7 had a fulfillment bigger than just an earthly one.
Being fond of double meanings, God spoke words to David about his son (and his Son) that would have dual fulfillments. One set would find their fulfillment through a son named Solomon. The other … well, you know!
We’ll be seeing more of His life this week: the events that led up to one very important week in His life that began with His (almost) coronation.
We’ll see an important truth this week regarding “… who is really God and who God really is.” We’ll learn something we need to know about who God really is in order to know who is really God. The truth we’ll see through our New-Covenant passages is that Jesus, Son of David, was God Himself!
And this is the inconceivable truth we see through God’s covenant with David. Through David’s desire to build a house for God and God’s plans to build a house for David, David would build God’s true house. David, the son of God in a human sense, would become the human father of the true Son of God—God-come-to-earth. God would intertwine their houses.
God made a culturally-appropriate covenant with David involving his royal house. In David’s day (as in most historical monarchies), nations made alliances by intermarrying their royal houses and intertwining houses through their offspring (1 Kgs. 3:1, 11:1-8). Hard to engage in open warfare with your own family! In God’s covenant of 2 Samuel 7, He intertwined His royal house and David’s. It was (almost) the ultimate act of peace-making.
Tomorrow, we’ll see the people of Israel enter into covenant with God as their King. It lasted one chapter. God wasn’t Israel’s king under Saul’s reign. But an interesting thing happened with Israel’s second king. Because his King was God, David’s kingdom was really God’s kingdom.
When God finally came to earth as the Son of David and announced His Kingship, His acceptance by the nation again lasted about a chapter. At which time, He was again rejected as His nation’s King, but in the ultimate act of peacemaking, He created a New Covenant. And a new, New Kingdom.
And so we’ll find in a later day when God will officially be Israel’s one and only King again, it will be through One called “the Son of David,” the Son of one who had desired Him as the true King of his kingdom. The King of kings.
(Another sample from The Curses and the Covenants available here.)
(The full study available for sale here.)
(Based on Genesis 3 + Ephesians 5:21-33)
“The man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.’ […] That is why a man will leave his father and mother and will be united with his wife, and they will become one flesh” (Gen. 2:23a.-24).
“That’s why a man will leave his father and mother and be united with his wife, and the two will be one. This is a great mystery. (I’m talking about Christ’s relationship to the church.) But every husband must love his wife as he loves himself, and wives should respect their husbands” (Eph. 5:31-33).
“[…]She also gave some to her husband[…]and he ate it[…]Then he said to the man, ‘You listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree[…]’” (Gen. 3:6b,17a).
“[…] and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee” (Gen. 3:16b., KJV).
“And the LORD said unto Cain […] if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him’” (Gen. 4:6a., 7b., KJV).
I have a Hebrew-English Old Testament that I use to try and learn a little Hebrew. I made a discovery in Genesis 3 and 4 by looking at the Hebrew that I had never seen before from reading the chapters in the English. I noticed that Genesis 3 and Genesis 4, in two of their respective verses, contained a nearly identical progression of words that gave me a new understanding of Genesis 3:16b. I’ve quoted Genesis 13:16b. and Genesis 4:7b. for you from the King James as it’s the translation I’ve found that best sticks to the original.
I’d always wondered why the woman’s prophesied “desire” for her husband was placed in a passage about the natural effects of the first sin as though it were a bad thing—at least a hard thing, like the rest of the effects. Then, too, I always thought it a debatable point, especially in the middle of a list of the other indisputable and highly visible effects of “the fall.” I couldn’t say with conviction that I had seen woman’s “desire” for her husband as being a conspicuous feature of life on earth. God’s statement was puzzling.
I could very plainly see the truth of the second part. There was no arguing the fact that men are generally bigger and stronger than women and throughout history had sometimes abused their power. Men have put women under subjection—unwilling submission. That subjection I could certainly see as a result of the fall along with all the other disasters Genesis 3 describes. But the woman’s “desire” for her husband? What did it mean?
When I saw the similarity between God’s words to the woman in Genesis 3 and God’s words to Cain, the son of Adam and Eve and the murderer of his brother, I think I began to grasp what God was getting at in Genesis 3:16b.
In both verses, there’s a “desiring,” followed by a “ruling over.” The woman was told she would “desire” her husband but he would rule over her. Cain was told that Sin “desired” him but he should rule over it.
Was “Sin’s” (really, Satan’s) “desire” for Cain the desire of love? It was the opposite. It was the desire for mastery—the desire for control.
And suddenly, God’s words to the woman clicked for me. Now, I saw this effect everywhere all the time—just as much a fact of life as man’s “rule.”
Men and women would fight for mastery. They would fight not to be controlled but to control. There would be conflict.
The woman had already led her husband once. She’d led him into sin. This time, in His tailored consequence, God gave man the edge over the woman in the fight for mastery—an edge of size and strength.
Yet when speaking His words to the woman, you can bet that His eyes welled up from the emotion that the millennia upon millennia of pain that some men’s abuse of power over women would cause; but also millennia upon millennia of conflict between man and woman; and (to go one layer deeper) the millennia upon millennia of conflict between human and human.
On the most basic level, in God’s words to the woman, I see His promise of this natural consequence of sin: the breakdown in relationship that is the inevitable result of developing the taste for Self-first. It’s been there, lurking in the shadows somewhere, behind every war, every family fight, every conflict of every kind. Someone chooses Self-first, and conflict will follow.
The only part of this decree that was God’s doing was the “advantage” (if it was one) given to the man in the struggle for mastery. But why would God decree such a decree, knowing how that “advantage” would be used?
In every word of Genesis 3, even the dark ones, God had redemption in mind. We see the reversal of this effect of the fall through Ephesians 5.
When God created that first union of the first man and woman in Genesis 2, He had in mind a beautiful illustration of a beautiful, beautiful truth. He created the relationship between a man and a woman to be a picture of the closeness He desired with His people. But the all-knowing One knew what that relationship would end up costing Him. We see it in Ephesians 5.
And Ephesians 5 shows what a redeemed marriage can look like. Here, there is no striving for mastery—only the sacrifice of freely-offered submission and, instead of an abuse of power, the exercise of strength in a love that would sacrifice everything—even one’s own life—for the beloved.
Why did God give man greater strength (one kind, anyway) in the relationship of man and woman? Here’s what I think: The kind of sacrifice the man is called to demands greater strength. It’s God’s kind of love.
And in that kind of love, there is no subjection. Only submission to it.