On Friday afternoon we went on a bush walk with Byron’s work colleagues. Although we were with other people, we so enjoyed the time together. Walking is remarkably therapeutic for us… perhaps it’s the natural environment or maybe it’s simply the absence of the constant phone, email and text distraction.
Whatever it is, is not the point. It just feels strangely normal and earthy. Like we are stepping for a few hours into a rare world of simple living where the basics of being a man and woman in love are able to be felt and expressed with ease.
It was a great start to a wonderful, romantic weekend. That sense of feeling connected persisted throughout the evening dinner during which we happily participated in the group social activities before slipping out early to head back to our hotel room. It persisted throughout the weekend during our interactions with the family back at home the next morning.
The ‘romantic atmosphere’ between us brought a sense of joyful hospitality and generous service to the kids as we hosted an impromptu gathering for our daughter and twelve of her friends. It coloured the various chores that are part of our family weekend life – Byron specialising in garden clean up and Francine in laundry, which didn’t feel as onerous or demanding as they usually do.
There was no score keeping (I’ve done more than you!), no self-pity, no martyred sighs. Just peaceful coexistence with occasional comments between us loaded with innuendo hinting at what might await us later that evening.
From the outside, it was mostly just an ordinary weekend. But from our internal experience, it was a delightful few days filled with romantic awareness.
In our culture, sexuality tends to be equated with sex and people think only about what happens in the bedroom. While that is part of it, as married couples we need to expand our awareness of what it means to be masculine or feminine beyond the restricted confines of our love making.
As husband and wife, our sexuality is essential to all our interactions with one another. To be fully human, fully alive, fully ‘Matrimonied’ (or married), we need to be fully sexual; that is, fully present in our relationship in all our masculinity/femininity.
That’s really the essence of romance – a joyful awareness of his masculinity in relation to her femininity; a heartfelt appreciation of her femininity as it relates to his masculinity.
It’s not just that sexuality is good and from God (which it is); it’s that we are good when we’re fully at ease with our masculinity or femininity. We’re less picky and critical, more generous, playful and tender with each other.
Sadly, we don’t always exist in such a blessed state of romantic attunement. Too many days are characterised by dutiful interactions that seem more about subsistence than they do about delighting in each other.
Such days are dreary from the grumpy wake up to the exhausted collapse into bed. The day is marked by lonely, parallel busyness and a short-tempered abruptness. Even the interactions in our work places are impacted as are our children and extended family.
This isn’t at all what we envisioned for us when we dreamed about what it would be like to be married. Rather, it was closer to the romantic encounter we just enjoyed this weekend. It’s also closer to God’s dream for us.
Matrimony is intended to be lived in a sexually charged atmosphere, a climate of desire for our spouse that pervades our entire life. A ‘Romantic Atmosphere’ is about sexualness rather than just sex. It is not about seeking for more lovemaking, rather it’s about living our life with a profound desire to come to know each other completely – to be one in body and soul.
We can almost hear the objections as we write: But that’s not practical! We’re too busy! It’s not balanced! You can’t be that way all the time!
It’s easy to raise objections, but the fact is we were that way when we first fell in love, and we still functioned very well. Moreover, we were blissfully content. It’s true, we didn’t have as many obligations and responsibilities, but it really isn’t a matter of time or energy. It is a question of priority, and all it takes is attention and openness.
If we want to live ‘in love’, that is, with all the joy and passion that brought us together, we have to be willing to make our marriage more than just a convenient living arrangement – it has to be our mission.
When something is our mission, we make it our priority. We’re on the task 24 hours a day. We invest everything we have into it. And consequently, we’re more likely to be successful.
A mission is a fulltime preoccupation. When we make marriage our mission, we focus our attention on making this man, this woman, feel loved and valued. That’s really the job description – to love and value our spouse so that they will be utterly convinced of their goodness.
Or to put it in the context of our faith: our mission as a husband or wife is to provide for our spouse the best possible human experience of God’s unconditional love, as inadequate as that may be compared to his love.
Imagine if every Christian married couple loved like this! How happy we would be and what a brilliant witness to the Christian faith!