Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Passion and Process in Marriage and God

This week's scriptures are Song of Songs 2:8-17 and Revelation 21:1-4.

We're going to have the pleasure on Sunday of being part of Barbara and Jim Jordan renewing their wedding vows as part of our worship service. I hope we'll all turn out to celebrate with them.

It also gives us the opportunity to look a the ways in which scripture has used courtship and marriage as images and metaphors for the relationship of God to God's people.

From Hosea to the Song of Songs to the book of Revelation we are presented with pictures that bring the ups and downs, the passionate longing, and the daily challenges of the marriage relationship into focus as a way of looking at God's desire for us. It's a little embarrassing to look at how often God's people are referred to as an unfaithful wife and God equated to the injured husband.

All that being said, I think there are two particular places where we can take the marriage metaphor and see something important about our relationship to God; the first is explicit in scripture and the second is implicit. And I'm going to maintain that while at it's worst, marriage can mar our understanding of God's love; at it's best, our relationship with our spouse can be a vehicle that God uses to teach us incredible things about God's self.

The first place where the marriage image has something to say to us is in the area of passion. The Song of Songs is about the longing ache of two lovers for one another. They seek each other through the streets at night. They sing songs about the beauty of the other's body. They openly proclaim their lusty desire for one another. This is how God feels about us. God desires a relationship with you and me with a longing so strong that its closest expression is in the longing of one lover for the body of another. It is this powerful longing that takes Jesus to the cross; a longing so great that God would endure death to see that longing fullfilled. But the second part of this is equally important: we were created with an equal longing for God. St. Augustine's famous "our hearts are restless til they find their rest in Thee" is a pale expression of the desire that I believe we are born with for a passionate, earthshaking relationship with our Lover/Creator/God.

The problem is that while God's passionate desire for us does not change; ours often does. The wounds and pains of this life often bend and warp our desires. Fear can make us apprehensive about believing that anyone-especially God-could possibly love us in all our naked frailty and flaws. But the longing never goes away. One of the things I devotely believe is that at the heart of every bent, warped, addictive (chose your phrase) desire is the true desire for relationship with God. This is why the famous psychiatrist Carl Jung wrote to Bill W. (founder of A.A.) that he would not ever get sober without a "spiritual awakening." The Good News in all this is that God never stops desiring us; and we are always reaching (even in wounded ways) for God.

This brings us to the second part of the marriage image...and that is process. Those of us who have been married for a while...and I'm sure that Barbara and Jim would agree...know that being married is a process. We go through changes that we never imagined. We 'fall' in and out of love...and back in again...with our spouse over and over and over. The relationship opens us up to places in ourselves that we didn't even know were there. We wound and are wounded. We heal and are healed. And as time goes on we find that where we once needed something to do, somewhere to go, something to entertain us; now, more and more it is the sound of their voice, the awareness of their presence that gives us the greatest comfort and the deepest joy. Give us enough time together and many of us (I'm told) start to look alike.

The process of our relationship to God is a lot like this as well. It is a growing thing. We fail, we re-connect, we grow, we discover new things about ourself and about God. Til, hopefully, we find a measure of peace and comfort in the experience of God's presence, and a deep joy in the daily living in that Presence.

And maybe....just time goes on, we start to 'look' alike.

Hope to see you Sunday.


Anonymous said...

I didn't know that Carl Jung had a relationship with the founder of A.A. - let alone one that contributed to its principles.

I also liked the reminder that EVERYTHING is a process - we're never done, even though there are many institutions in life that would have us think we are.

I like the idea of us 'looking' more like God as our relationship grows, too.

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