The other day I (Christina) was working on the blog and I found a verse that I thought went really well with this piece. I wrote it down and instead of simply moving on and back to writing I found myself struck by the verse just after, “Husbands and wives shall not switch places”. Ever since I saw that verse I have been convicted by it, knowing I should follow my husband’s lead more and be a more submissive wife by letting go of my need for control so my husband can have room to be the more dominant figure.
Our children attend the Awana program at our church, and we attended family night. Nathaniel was still in a funk from a fight we had a few days prior. I blew off his irritation with an eye roll and moved on with my night, not giving much more thought to the fact that if he was still in a funk it meant that we were not connected on our normal level.
As we needed to arrive in separate cars (I had dance classes to teach), we too, left in separate cars. I began to back out only to see he was not waiting for me and was backing out himself. He did not recede when he saw me back out, so I was forced to wait for him. I had a haughty attitude for a moment thinking, “Hey, I was first!” But quickly realized I needed to let him lead. I yielded to and waited for my husband. On the freeway he changed lanes before I felt the need to and again I felt a haughtiness rush over me, “I can change lanes when I want to!” Quickly, again, I realized I should be following. Due to a long line of cars in the next lane I was now forced to stay in my lane despite wanting to follow my husband. I ended up driving peacefully behind a huge tanker truck and could no longer even see Nathaniel’s car ahead of me. I thought, “It’s okay, I know my way home.” But God intervened and clearly said to me, “You want to wait behind a barrier? Okay, go ahead and stay here.” I could tell God was making a point. So I attempted to change lanes. Again, stuck because a long line of cars was blocking me from moving over. As I continued driving behind the tanker I came to the understanding of God’s words and the metaphor He was using right there on the freeway. The tanker truck was symbolic of my need to control everything and following Nathaniel was what God wanted me to do. Just like He wants me to follow Him. As I made this realization, the tanker moved over and I could clearly see my husband in front of me. I followed him all the way home.
I have gone back to my Bible several times in search of that initial verse, “Husbands and wives shall not switch places”, but I could now find it anywhere. There are similar phrases, but I have yet to find those exact words I am still so positive I read only days ago. After my wholehearted search of the concordance and index and the Internet I begrudgingly came to the conclusion that the verse does not exist in the way I saw it and that God placed it there momentarily just for my eyes to see. While I can usually accept God’s irony, timing, humor and lessons I just could not sit peacefully without knowing the exact location of this verse. I was having a hard time accepting God’s timing and wanted to feel in control.
At church the following Sunday Nathaniel pointed out another verse, hoping it was the one he knew I was on the hunt for. While it still was not a match, it was one that piqued my curiosity.
1 Corinthians 7:3-5
“The husband should fulfil his marital duty to his wife and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”
The Corinthian people, at the time, were in great distress regarding intimacy and how immoral it had become, so much so that some Greeks turned completely away from sex in marriage altogether. They were seeing marital intimacy through shattered lenses due to how deplorable sex had become in their culture.
Sounds just like now! Nothing has changed about how so many people view sex. It is still seen as a negative disguised as a lust filled positive. Often, T.V. shows, commercials, movies, books and songs depict sex as a means to an end. A breast filled, booty shaking, stripper like atmosphere in which relationship is less than emphasized. What a world we would live in if the media conduits portrayed sex the way Paul in the Bible described it!
If we go back to the 1 Corinthians verse it is pretty clear to see why people take offense to the passage, me included, until recently. Words like “should” and “duty” ignite a fire within us, a reactive fire that makes us scream, “I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to do!”, “I’ve got enough ‘shoulds’ and ‘duties’ in my life and I don’t need any more thank you very much!”
The verse, “The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband” freaks out just about every woman I know. It freaked me out too, until I reread it recently and noticed one word that changed my whole perspective, “also”. The word also means my body is still my own, and I do still have a say and choice in how my body is touched. But, the word “also” is inclusive, stating my body, as a wife, belongs to my husband as well. And as the verse goes the opposite is true for husbands. Husbands have full control over their bodies and how they are touched yet his wife is to be a part of his body too.
Paul went on to explain to the inquisitive Corinthians when asked if they should just abstain from sex because of how dirty it had become. His answer was, “For now stay put. Be content in the situation where God has placed you”. Just be! He is telling them to just be because being there in the present is an opportunity to absorb, learn and grow in who God is going to make them.
Verse 5 says,
“Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer.”
We women tend to get all up in arms about this verse too, jumping on the concept of not depriving each other of sexual intimacy. We think again, “It’s my body, why should I focus on whether or not my husband is deprived of sex?” We further the thought with, “He’ll just seek out porn or whatever, he’ll just go take care of himself later.” We make this verse dirty. We make this verse selfish. Ladies, it is not all about us! Ladies, it is not all about our husbands either!
It is all about God!
It always was for us today and for the church in Corinth.
So, if it is all about God, do I have to fulfill every sexual desire and whim my husband has? Go back to the verse. It does not say give everything sexually to the man because he deserves it, or is entitled to it, or even because he likes it and you are co-dependent enough to give in to him whenever he wants it. The verse says, “Do not deprive each other”. “Each other”, these are relationship words, words of togetherness, words of mutual love, respect, friendship, confidence and admiration. These are the words of intimacy.
Before my husband and I were married we met several times with the pastor that would marry us and my mom (retired Marriage, Family Therapist). We had many, many conversations about marriage. One of the wisdom bites I took with me through 11 years of marriage is found in,
“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.”
We chose to be married under this guideline, but as our marriage progressed it became easier and easier to forget that we promised each other to become one flesh. Life, the media and other people can become greasy monkey wrenches in our staying of one flesh sometimes. It is such a “me” centered world we live in, a world where entitlement and self-motivation run rampant, breeding dissention, confusion, and jealousy in the marriage God intended to be pure, joyful and holy.
So what do we do when life has tainted our marriage? We look back to the Bible.
Verse 5 continues to say
“…so that you may devote yourselves to prayer.”
Yep prayer! It is always the answer. Why? Because prayer fosters the relationship between people and God and through prayer He wants to foster a prayerful relationship between spouses. He wants us to pray about everything, even sex. I was blown away the other day when I realized Nathaniel and I have not been praying about our intimacy. I am a God talker; sometimes I’ll talk His ear off, sometimes with superficial stuff and often with deep concerns. But, until a few days ago I never even thought to bring sex and intimacy to God. Well not in a healthy, constructive way. I am sure in the past I prayed for Boyfriend A to desire me more or for Boyfriend B to desire me less. But, those were superficial prayers, desires I had to get me something or get me out of something. Could this be connected to my repressed memories of childhood sexual abuse or simply a need for control or both? Perhaps because I repressed these memories I too pushed away the desire or need to pray for healthy intimacy. Perhaps it just never entered my mind because I had had many unhealthy intimate relationships in my past and I unconsciously decided not to deal with my sexuality and intimacy. I never prayed for growth. I never prayed for the kind of intimacy God desired for me.
Until this year, this month, only a few days ago when the verse hit me.
The last verse,
“Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”
I actually really love this ending. My husband and I must act together to protect ourselves from the immoral and destructive attacks of Satan. I believe “Self-control” to mean so much more than sexual lack of self-control, although, that is the big issue central in these verses. Lack of self-control for me is all over the board stemming from how I react to negative, overwhelming, anxiety-filled or scary situations. I am an exploder who throws rocks. And Nathaniel is a stuffer. We are an explosive pair at times. His stuffing makes me more reactive, my overreactions make him stuff more. But, as we are moving closer and closer to our own versions of self-control in our marriage I am convicted to feel another aspect of self-control, following!
I am the dominant personality in our marriage and Nathaniel is the more passive personality. I can often feel like the man and Nathaniel can often feel like the woman, hence the initial verse in this post, “Husbands and wives shall not switch places”. I do not want to feel overly masculine nor does my husband want to feel overly feminine. Aspects of, sure, yes, but overwhelmingly, no.
The verses I was lead to in my search for the nonexistent, “Husbands and wives shall not switch places”, was the 1 Corinthians 7:3-5 verses.
“The husband should fulfil his marital duty to his wife and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. IN the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”
These verses connected me back to the tanker truck I was happily following on the freeway. While I did indeed know my way home I no longer had my eye on my husband who is the spiritual leader in our home. In this same way, for all my wanting to take control in our relationship, my eyes had left my heavenly leader. I was going about intimacy by my own rules thinking that because I am married I can behave how I want or think what I want, because it’s all about me. That is what the world tells us, right? And the world is so much easier to follow. The world says, go sexy yourself up so you can snag that man, but as soon as you do make sure you complain about how it’s your body and you don’t have to give any of yourself to the relationship.
God’s path may seem harder because it is deeper and self-less. But really is it easier to feel entitled when it comes to sexual intimacy? What really comes from that entitlement? Separation. Separation of relationship, husband from wife, wife from husband, and separation from us and God. When it’s all about me, myself, and I it is never about God!
Today I encourage your, I ask you, I plead with you…pray together about your sexual intimacy, the intimacy God wants for your relationship.
You won’t regret it!