I was only “dating” God
When I was in my forties, I realized that all my life I had only been “dating” God when he had been waiting for my full “spousal” surrender. I thought I was intimate with God: regular prayers, going to Mass, and receiving the Sacraments. I could still recite the ten commandments in order and name the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. But he wanted more; he wanted all of me.
Marriage between spouses is an image that points to how deeply God longs for each soul and how—like a husband—he wants to woo us into a loving and permanent union. He wants to provide for and protect us and bring us home to “happily ever after” with him. If the soul is not ready, he waits and may even tenderly withhold some of his blessings until the soul is willing to say, “I do.”
But a more casual relationship with God is easier; you get the regular companionship, the great conversation, and some of his gifts. There is no total commitment and you retain your “freedom.” With marriage, your options close—until death—and that can be pretty threatening to some. We like to keep our options open.
My submission to God had been partial and usually with an agenda l Like, “Here I am, Lord, I come to get your favor.” Or, “Here are my problems; please fix them.” I preferred him to be a parent, a pal, and a repair man…but not a true spouse (in that analogy).
It wasn’t until my failures in marriage that I awoke to the Scriptures where God is “Husband” to Israel and Jesus is our Bridegroom.
The Saints and Spousal Love
The problems with sex and the unquenchable aches for romance, passion, and pleasure, is that they have been separated from true love . . . which is a share in divine love.
The saints are those who have finally released anything that stood in the way of total union with their Bridegroom. Following this analogy, they entered naked and unashamed into the bridal chamber. Maybe not completely understanding, but completely trusting him. On fire with desire for him and even intoxicated with his love. Willing for him to love them—and to love him in return—in the way he wanted.
That is the kind of love for which we were made. But, like many, I tried to experience those joys apart from God. Having been “engaged” to God by my parents through baptism, I was like an unfaithful fiancé and, worse, a runaway bride!
Don’t be afraid of this imagery
With this imagery, are we sexualizing mystical experiences? Are we too preoccupied with the natural and holy pleasures of marriage? No! We begin to look up and past them, seeing them as beautiful signs of something greater. We allow them to point us higher, and to integrate them once again with the spiritual and divine life that has been wrenched away from them.
Look at what some of the saints have to say about love—and the suffering that will come—in this mystical marriage:
St. Agnes said, “Christ is my Spouse. He chose me first and His I will be. He made my soul beautiful with the jewels of grace and virtue. I belong to Him whom the angels serve.”
St. John Chrysostom told married couples to remember that Christ united himself to the Church “in a spiritual intercourse.”
Teresa of Avila writes of ecstasies she experienced in “nuptial union” with Christ.
Bishop Fulton Sheen – assuring his audience that he was quoting St. Augustine verbatim – proclaimed that Christ “came to the marriage bed of the Cross, … united himself with the woman [the Church] and consummated the union forever.
Marriage always brings the cross of painful self-sacrifice, which is true love. That’s why many avoid a full commitment with God and even within their own marriages. When we say, “I do” and surrender every part of our life to him, Jesus will at times ask us to pick up our cross and walk with him. But he is loving and tender and—thankfully—carries the heavier load.
Things to think about:
- If you haven’t ever really given him your all, don’t wait any longer. Ask him to show you how deeply he desires all of your heart and what is really holding you back!
- Plan a “second honeymoon” with the Lord if you need to escape life’s distractions for a while and get back in the groove with him.
- Wonder where you may be stuck along the way? Find out in the “Seven Stages of Divine Romance” in my book. (A Catholic Woman’s Guide to Romance, 2019 TAN Books)