Singleness made me decidedly unhappy for most of my adult life (I didn’t marry John until a month before my 49th birthday). Admittedly, most of my misery came from my unwillingness to recognize how abundantly the Lord had blessed me in other areas of life. Be that as it may, my frustration always intensified when people exhorted me to “let” Jesus be my Husband.
I thought back to those frustrating attempts at mystical romance with the Lord last week as I read 2015 Living Proof Live Simulcast Review Part One and its companion piece Romance with Jesus: The Bigger Picture, both on Chapter 3 Ministries website. The critique of Beth Moore’s promotion of romance with Jesus should add to the growing concern over Mrs. Moore’s theology, certainly, but I feel an even greater distress over the specific teaching that women should expect erotic fulfillment from the Lord.
The problems with the “Jesus is my Boyfriend/Lover/Husband” approach to Christianity could keep me blogging for several weeks. Indeed, I have every intention to examine some of these issues. This teaching not only damages women by encouraging a self-centered understanding of God, but it drags us into enormous self-condemnation when we can’t sustain romantic feelings toward Him.
I can personally testify to the struggle with this sort of condemnation. On several occasions, I tried to “fall in love with Jesus” so that my yearning for an earthly marriage would dissolve. Once, my resolve to consider Him my Husband actually lasted from Valentine’s Day until Easter Sunday, with a relatively high degree of easing my loneliness.
But that Easter Sunday evening, as our little drama group presented our play about Jesus’ trials before the Sanhedrin and Pilate, I was disappointed that my heart didn’t break at the off-stage sounds of Jesus being flogged. Never mind that I’d collaborated in writing and directing the play, and was watching its third performance before an audience. I felt as if, now that my relationship with Him had “progressed” to a romantic level, His suffering should tear me to shreds.
That night, I knew that I couldn’t maintain a mystical romance with the Lord. I wanted those kinds of emotions towards Him, and I reprimanded myself for not feeling “that way” about Him, but I simply couldn’t accept Him as a Husband. Savior, yes. Lord, certainly. Bridegroom of the Church, absolutely! But I simply lacked the “spiritual depth” necessary to experience Him on a romantic level.
My apparent deficit in appreciating Him romantically led me to feel spiritually inferior. I wondered why I still longed for a husband who could physically touch me when I knew full well that only Jesus could love me perfectly. Evidently, I had skewed priorities. I felt intense shame, yet I had to admit my inability to experience wifely feelings toward Him.
Loving the Lord with all my heart, soul, mind and strength has more to do with obedience to Him than with having Him satisfy my romantic desires. The same principle applies to all Christians. Look at His own description of our love relationship with Him:
9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. ~~John 15:9-10 (ESV)
I do, very much, sympathize with single women. I remember the anguish I went through as friends formed into couples and got married while I sat on the sidelines wondering if a man would ever notice me. I tried so hard…so very hard…to let Jesus be my Husband, and I felt so incredibly guilty when I couldn’t feel romantic toward Him. I wish I knew how to comfort single women now, but I still find no way to relieve the soul piercing suffering of singleness.
The fact that singleness causes so much pain, however, gives us no excuse to denigrate the Lord into a Cosmic Lover, as if He existed for the sole purpose of satisfying our desires. Rather than feeling condemned when we can’t maintain a mystical romance with Him, we should be convicted by our selfish expectations of Him. Conviction can lead us to genuine repentance, which opens the door to a proper relationship with Him.