One of the wonders of human sexuality is the many ways in which the sexual relationship of a husband and wife is a mirror of our relationship with God. Sex and our relationship with God have strong parallels.
One simple example is that wives typically need more conversation before lovemaking than husbands do. A husband can (and wants to) “get right down to it,” but his wife wants to build up emotional intimacy by an exchange of ideas, endearments, concerns, feelings. Husbands can get irritated when their wives want more conversation — talking, it seems, about everything under the sun — when they are eager to begin the lovemaking (or, more precisely, move to the physical dimension of lovemaking). Yet how many times have we attended spiritual services (e.g., a Catholic Mass) and before, and even during, them, let our mind wander along many paths (“everything under the sun”) — not realizing that God wants us to attend to Him, talk to Him, be intimately close to Him?
Sometimes a husband approaches his wife for lovemaking when she is distressed by various problems — a child’s most recent report card, an adolescent’s difficulties in dating, problems with the house, the demand that she do five things in the time it takes to do one, a friend’s failing marriage — and she finds it difficult to take her mind off the problems she sees as unresolved. Her husband just wants her to put them aside and forget them, failing to understand how they are intertwined with her love and concern for her family and friends and with her many responsibilities. She can’t turn these concerns on and off, the way a man typically can. (If marital relations are in the offing, a man can usually easily forget or push to the side anything else!) Trying to make love to her at such moments can be frustrating, because she seems completely insensitive to anything physical he does to arouse her.
How much God wants us to pay attention to Him — but we are beset by problems, completely absorbed in them, and ignore Him completely!
Another parallel is the obsession women can sometimes develop (especially as they get older) with their limited or declining physical attractiveness. It is natural for a woman to want to be beautiful, and the decline in physical beauty over the years can be distressing to her. In fact, it get get so upsetting that, when her husband approaches her, wanting to make love to her, and finds her attractive and desirable (even if not as much as when she was young — though he would avoid saying that!), he can be met with resistance, because she is so taken up with her declining looks.
This parallels an experience in the spiritual life: if we are struggling to live our faith well, we can sometimes get very upset or distressed by our continual failures — we do the same stupid things, over and over again, we think (rightly!). We get so obsessed with ourselves and our own faults that we fail to pay attention to the most important thing: God’s extraordinary love for us, even with all our faults. Like a wife who finds lovemaking difficult because she is so down on her own looks, we focus on ourselves, instead of focusing on — and rejoicing in — God’s desire to be close to us.
How often are we so absorbed in our own concerns that we are completely obtuse to God’s desire that we think about Him, talk with Him, love Him? We are as unresponsive to His spiritual “caresses” as our wives can, on occasion, be to us.
Wanting More Love
A man typically (yes, there are always exceptions) wants physical sex much more often than a woman. He frequently acts like a two-year old when he can’t have it when he wants it. (And some of us want it very often.) He can accumulate feelings of resentment against his spouse for not being “loving” enough. But a moment’s reflection reveals that he acts the same way with God — actually, much worse (since a wife has no obligation to cater to every demand of her husband, irrespective of the circumstances). God wants us to love Him so much more than we do (and He knows it’s the very best thing for us). But we are so caught up in ourselves and our own concerns or problems that we don’t give much attention to Him.
If a husband is resentful because his wife is tired and “not in the mood,” how often is he himself “not in the mood” to talk to God? Husbands sometimes just can’t understand how their wives cannot be interested in something that feels soooooooo good! But physical pleasure comes and goes, and sensible people would never put all their eggs in that basket, to achieve human happiness. Everything we experience on earth as good and desirable is only a small reflection of the complete good that God is. HE is the one who could say “how can you not be interested in union with Me?” Each time we get frustrated with our spouses, it might be time to see how this experience is a mirror of our relationship with God.
Some Christians focus on the passage in Ephesians (and Colossians) that says “Wives, be submissive to your husbands” — but they give much less attention to “Husbands, love your wives” — as Christ loved the Church. If that is the standard, how many men live up to it?