charade: (n) an absurd pretense intended to create a pleasant or respectable appearance.
In 2011, author E.L. James unleashed a firestorm with the first book in the “Fifty Shades of Grey” trilogy. Selling over 60 million copies, the book was #1 on the New York Times’ bestseller list.
These books have been met with both support and criticism. Supporters claim that this is a harmless way to explore new territory for women and is liberating. Supporters also insinuate that critics are prudes and are denying their own sense of lust. Critics are often “Church Lady” types, disgusted and pointing a finger at those who partake in the reading of this book as unclean lepers, decrying the sinful degree to which one must stoop to read it.
I quite frankly am weary of hearing both of those points. For me, I see this a little bit differently.
If you haven’t read “50 Charades, part 1”, you will probably find it helpful to stop now and read, as you will need the vignettes found there to understand my explanation.
So what was I trying to say with the vignette of Couple One and Couple Two?
In the examples of Couple One and Couple Two, they are each eating a meal. And that meal is representative of. . . .
Intimacy. Defined as, “close familiarity or fellowship; nearness in friendship”, and in this context, also including a physically intimate relationship.
Couple One is a marriage that has been touched by pornography first brought in by the husband.
Pornography is EVERYWHERE. It is at the grocery checkout and on the highway billboard and in the advertisements for clothes. It is in the box scores of the paper. It is online, anonymous, and plentiful. It is on TV commercials. We are all bombarded by images of pornography.
When a woman has a husband who chooses to view pornography, she is like the wife in Couple One. She has prepared and adorned herself to the best of her ability to provide intimacy. She is sure that she isn’t the best thing out there and she is often times keenly aware she is no supermodel, but she looks at herself as a gift to her husband. And she is.
Pornography is a charade.
When a man brings pornography into his family, the charade says that it doesn’t hurt anyone and that it can spice up your marriage, thereby improving it, and that it is OK. In reality it hurts both of you and is the enemy of intimacy. It wounds your wife by bringing a competitor into the most private, vulnerable, and least confident of areas, and results in bitterness: she is powerless to fight against a nameless, ever changing, virtual enemy. She feels unloved, disrespected, and uncherished. It pushes her away to a place where she begins to feel her own need for external intimacy.
Which brings me to the book.
In response, the wife runs to her own pornography: literature. Literature differs in that it is relational and the reader is sharing an experience with the character, which is why it is a successful tool against women, who are by design more relational.
God created Eve to be the helper of Adam, and after their sin He stated of Eve, and all subsequent women; “her desire shall be unto her husband”. Women want the approval of their husbands. The reward of the Virtuous Woman spoken of in Proverbs 31 is that she would be rewarded in this manner: “give her the fruit of her hands, and let her own works praise her in the gates.” She has a desire to be well spoken of by her husband. We may not want to do things his way all the time or even MOST of the time, but we all seek and need his approval, much like as children, and sometimes adults, we seek and need our father’s approval.
When a man sets the tone that, in order to have intimacy, you must seek the need for yourself in other things------well, he is leading his wife to do the same.
Why are we so surprised at this phenomenon of women wanting to read books like this? We shouldn’t be. They depict a relationship where a man is fiercely, and abusively, engaged with his lover in all aspects of her existence. This book is male attention on steroids.
Do you know how many husbands I have met whose week consists of going to work (maybe), drinking with the guys, and playing video games into the wee hours of the morning, and viewing pornography? That is just the icing on the great big old cake of loneliness that his wife is eating each and every day. Finally she gives up the fight, and starts following his lead: by having that need for intimacy met elsewhere.
She finds it in friends and social time and books that provoke the senses. She shuts down to her husband, and they lose intimacy----not just physically, but mentally and emotionally too. When they do come together-----physically or otherwise-----they may both be engaged, but are partaking as separate.
But dear reader, oh it was never ever intended to be like that! God never designed marriage to be two lonely people coexisting, scrambling in an unintended selfishness to get needs met. God is love-----He is true, patient, longsuffering, promise keeping, unfailing, head-over-heels, know you to the very number of hairs on your head, LOVE. Marriage is to be a reflection of that love.
He gave us the gift of intimacy to be fully enjoyed in that capacity, in the context of a promise as husband and wife, mutually; physically and otherwise. This is why His word speaks against fornication, adultery, and homosexuality---they are self-serving types of love. A selfless type of love, where each person seeks only the best for each other to a great degree of sacrifice-----to the point of daily laying down each desire, big and small, to the benefit of the other---- is what marriage should look like.
The Song of Solomon in the Old Testament is a book that makes people squirm in church when the preacher says to turn to it. It is a very descriptive narrative of the love that Christ has for His church, but it is written as woman speaking of “my beloved” and the husband speaking of her. It is very descriptive in the love each has for the other, but two things I love about it----
The bride calls her beloved, among other things, “my friend”.
The espoused husband calls his bride, “my sister, my spouse”.
They love each other way beyond physical intimacy.
Now-----what a lot of the bestsellers in Christian bookstores say is, “there is hope for your marriage. Look at how awesome it can be! It can be all fulfilling and perfect!”
Which is a big, fat half-truth.
Is there hope for your marriage? Absolutely, in Jesus there is, and in doing things His way. But is there ultimate fulfillment in marriage?
Nope. Not by a long shot.
But there IS ultimate fulfillment in Jesus! Listen to the bride describing how she met “her Beloved”:
By night on my bed I sought him whom my soul loveth: I sought him, but I found him not.
I will rise now, and go about the city in the streets, and in the broad ways I will seek him whom my soul loveth: I sought him, but I found him not. The watchmen that go about the city found me: to whom I said, Saw ye him whom my soul loveth? It was but a little that I passed from them, but I found him whom my soul loveth: I held him, and would not let him go, until I had brought him into my mother's house, and into the chamber of her that conceived me.-----Song of Solomon 3:1-4
Oh dear reader, I too have found Him whom my soul loveth! In June of 1995 I sought for Him by my bedside too. I had tried for years to find Him in the broad ways of works, and religion, and a profession of the mouth. But I found Him not----until I heard some watchmen who pointed me to repentance. When I humbled myself before Him and abased my pride and confessed my utter wretchedness before my King of Kings-----oh, then I FOUND Him whom my soul loveth! And I would not let Him go, and I have feebly and very poorly tried to take the message of My Beloved to those I love.
Because my Beloved loved me enough to make me His----I can love my husband like He does me. I don’t love as I should most of the time, but I AM able because HE is able, and when I rely on Him I do.
Which is what is on my heart.
Those who profess Christianity may or may not really know this Beloved. I can say I know who LeBron James is but this is useless if he doesn’t know me. But a true child of God, who Jesus knows through true salvation----should realize that we are not above ANY TEMPTATION. I want to educate, not hate. I want to speak God’s truth in full----not just in judgment, but in love, so that my friends might be pointed to JESUS, the “author and finisher of our faith”. It isn’t in my own strength that I avoid temptation, but in HIS. I realized a long time ago that I myself am, as they say, “a hot mess”.
Friends, if I could give you anything, I would give you a taste of Jesus. My heart’s desire is that you come to intimately be loved by Jesus, who knows you and created you. I long for you to know Him, to have your delight in Him. To be deeply known and loved in the soul----not your mind or heart, but your soul-- a place that lies dormant until Jesus passes through. I pray your desire is to find Him, that He may be your beloved.
Love to you all this fine day----