by Sonja DeWitt | 5 October 2020 |
Of the “curses” against women after Adam and Eve sinned, by far the most destructive has been, “You shall desire your husband.” A fish does not desire water. A person does not desire air unless he is being choked. Desire does not exist in a state of completeness and abundance. Desire only exists for things we do not have.
When man sinned, his natural impulse to protect and provide was overlaid with the desire to control and to dominate—signature hallmarks of Satan’s kingdom. Man came to resent the power women had over him, because of man’s own God-given need for love and intimacy. He came to see the desire for love women inspired in him as an insidious trap, designed to control and emasculate him.
So man subjugated his need for intimacy to his compulsion to work—to gain control and domination over others by physical force, by wealth and by a dominant personality. His greatest temptation became the drive for physical intimacy divorced from love. He began to protect himself from women’s “control” by taking his pleasure in exploitive and superficial ways from multiple women instead of developing deep emotional and spiritual communion with one. And men became further and further removed from who God created them to be: the loving, self-sacrificing servant-leader.
The need for love
This left woman like a fish on the shoreline—desperately gasping for love, abandoned by the man God intended to give her that love. Women could not turn off the flow of their love, so they adapted by giving more and more, in the futile hope that their generosity would inspire a loving response. But many times, the only response they received was contempt, disrespect and abuse.
This “curse”—a woman’s deep need for romantic love—is the modern woman’s darkest and most shameful secret. Women know very well that this unconquerable desire makes them vulnerable to all kinds of pain and exploitation. They know it, and hate it. They know as strong, modern women they shouldn’t need a man. So they try desperately to suppress their natural desire through work, hobbies, intellectual and professional mastery, constant busyness, and meaningless affairs.
But no matter how impressive their professional accomplishments, how wide-ranging their reputation or immense their fortune, nothing quite compensates a woman for the lack of the devoted love of a man. This is demonstrated by the fact that despite women’s signal successes in every area of public and professional life, the demand for romantic novels and movies, dating sites, dating books, dating coaches and matchmakers continues to accelerate at an ever-increasing rate.
Married women also suffer from this frustrated desire, because of the contemptuous disrespect modern Western society has for any kind of intimacy—except, of course, the shallow, purely physical intimacy of sex. So many married women, and men, suffer—sometimes for years—through a dry, barren relationship, devoid of true closeness and even friendship. Until they finally divorce and start the process over again.
There is a tendency among Christians to see the Eden curses as “God’s will.” But that could not be further from the truth. God’s will was the state of perfect oneness existing in Eden. But when Adam and Eve decided to follow Satan, they became subjects of his kingdom. In the “curses” God, with a broken heart, explains to the couple the operation of the laws in the kingdom they have chosen.
The good news is that Jesus came to “reverse the curse.” Not only the general curse of sin, but the related curse of broken intimacy. Through his ministry and through his guidance to the early church, he gave clear signposts for returning marriage to the original intent at Creation.
Reversing the curse
The apostles’ carefully-chosen phrases are chock-full of nuggets of wisdom to guide a man in creating the delicious, rapturous connection with his wife that men secretly crave. Hidden in these somewhat enigmatic lines are deep psychological insights into the most effective ways to love a woman to awaken her natural feminine allure and fascination, and her deep capacity for love.
“Live with her in an understanding way.” 1 Peter 3:7
A sincere and honest attempt to understand a woman is key to intimacy. Women and men are different in many ways. It is only through observing and studying his wife, and gaining knowledge about women’s unique nature, and his wife’s unique nature, that a man can “love his wife as Christ loved the church.”
“Giving honor to her” 1 Peter 3:7
This was particularly revolutionary in the First Century world in which women were considered little more than chattel and repositories for a man’s seed. But today’s society is really little better. Men talk openly and freely about, “bitches” “hos” “a piece of tail,” “getting some,” “She was asking for it”—and those are only the PG-13 versions. This phrase absolutely forbids such devilish denigration of a human being made in God’s image. God takes the debasement of women very seriously.
Ephesians 5:26 also contains this phrase:
“to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word”
This phrase has several distinct layers of meaning in the Bible, each adding a slightly different shading.
- The Mikvah
The Mikvah was the ritual Jewish bath—the precursor to baptism—which was used for cleansing from ritual impurity. In the context of marriage, it is noteworthy that the mikvah was used by a Jewish woman before her wedding, and again every month to cleanse herself after her period to prepare her to resume intimacy with her husband.
A woman must be prepared for intimacy. Most women have accumulated many layers of emotional wounds, causing them to build tough protective shells around their hearts and their bodies. This shell blocks a woman’s ability to open herself to intimacy—emotional, physical or spiritual.
In an intimate relationship, a loving husband has the duty and the joy to use his words, his touch, and his strong protective presence like a healing bath—washing away the dried blood and the roughened scabs and softening the scar tissue caused by the wounds of the past. His tenderness, patience and understanding gift to his wife the emotional and physical safety his wife requires to open gradually to him like the unfolding petals of a flower. This safety is the necessary foundation for genuine trust and intimacy.
Baptism symbolically represents the death of an old life and the beginning of a new one. When a person accepts Christ, they give up a life of constant and frantic striving to take care of themselves, to support themselves, to save themselves. And they replace it with a life of childlike trust in God to care for them and to save them.
Similarly, when a woman marries a loving, mature Christian man, she leaves behind a life in which she suffers from the constant strain of being solely responsible for her own support, safety and care-taking, to a life in which she has a strong and reliable partner, a helper, an ally who “has her back.” Having a strong man she can trust and fall back on gives a woman an immense sense of relief—of security and freedom.
This ritual was commanded by Jesus as a perpetual reminder of his ultimate act of humble service and self-abasement. Footwashing was one of the most demeaning tasks a Jew could be asked to perform, and was only performed by the most menial slaves.
This reference emphasizes the humility of Christ in his dealings with man, and by extension, the humility the passage requires of a husband. There is no room here for male supremacy, for controlling tactics, for “I am the boss” chest-beating.
Sonja DeWitt is a civil rights attorney with over 20 years of experience handling Equal Employment Opportunity cases. She has a strong interest in religious liberty and has worked with the North American Religious Liberty Association, work for which she received an award. She blogs about religion, politics and government, and social justice at www.voicesfromthewilderness.net.