God loves to surprise me with answers to my struggles and questions and frequently speaks to me in January. For example, when working with guys on The Three Circles exercise—a foundational Pure Desire tool in many of our resources—and I ask them what they wrote in their outer circle, they look at me with a confused, blank stare. My wife often gets the same response from women in group. For me, the tension comes from knowing that a man is going to make it when he stops focusing on the inner circle—the things he doesn’t want to do—and instead, becomes focused and passionate about walking in sexual health—the outer circle.
I was perplexed by this continued response until recently when the Holy Spirit whispered to my soul a seemingly unrelated fact. “Have you ever noticed that there is a wedding at the beginning of God’s word and one at the end?” I was stunned. I had never before made this observation. The biblical story runs from the Garden of Eden to the New Jerusalem—from the first man and woman joined together in marriage by God, to the marriage of Christ and his bride, the church. Therefore, from a biblical perspective, marriage becomes a lens through which we come to perceive God’s grand strategy. God’s eternal goal is for Jesus to ”marry” us, and for us to live in an eternal community of love and communion with God.
One of the primary reasons God made human beings male and female was for us to experience community; the community of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. This is exactly what Genesis 1:26-27 is referring to:
Then God said, "Let us (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) make man in Our image, according to Our likeness [not physical, but a spiritual personality and moral likeness];..." So God created man in His own image and likeness of God He created him; male and female He created them.Genesis 1:26-27
Prior to this point, the concept of the marriage supper of the Lamb, (Revelation 19:9) and me being a bride was simply inconceivable to me. The only picture that came to mind was of me, standing there dressed in my Vietnam flight gear, with a cigar hanging out of the side of my mouth, and a bridal veil draped over my face. It made no sense to me.
Now, I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but with God’s help, I finally came to understand something. God is not a sexual being in the way humans think about sexuality. The mystery to which Paul refers to in Ephesians 5 is about the love and communion that God has planned for us to experience in eternity with him. It is simply beyond my ability to totally comprehend this mystery in this life.
Paul uses the term mystery more than any New Testament writer; in fact, 20 times. The book of Ephesians, in many ways, is an exposition of the mystery and wisdom of God. The Cross of Christ is the mystery and the wisdom of God working out of that salvation; therefore, not accessible to human reasoning because it appears to be absolute foolishness to mankind. The mystery is knowable, but only comprehended by revelation and faith.
There is a comment, however, that Paul makes specifically to men in Ephesians 5 with respect to the mystery that is crystal clear—this is probably one of the greatest points of struggle for so many guys battling sexual addiction.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her...This is a profound mystery––but I am talking about Christ and the church.Ephesians 5:25 & 32
Now, if you are completely confused by my comments so far, that’s great! This means that you can relate to exactly how I felt at the time. The turning point came to me through a song. Suddenly, everything made sense. I realized why most guys have no idea what healthy sexuality looks like or feels like.
In the morning, I usually pull out my cell phone and play worship music as I prepare for my day. Music frequently speaks directly to our limbic system. This is why you can hear a song from your past and it triggers a cascade of old memories and experiences. The men I counsel are usually battling addictive behaviors because of the lies or beliefs they have deeply embedded in what the Bible calls their heart: the biblical name for the limbic system in the brain.
A limbic belief you will die for—facts you will argue about. This is why so many people are frequently dying in their marriage because of the deep limbic beliefs about themselves, their spouse, and their sexuality.
As I listened to the Pentatonix rendition of the song, Mary Did You Know, I had to put down my razor—I was crying so deeply. I wasn’t just hearing the words, I was experiencing them.
Mary did you know that your baby boy would one day walk on water?
Mary did you know that your baby boy would save our sons and daughters?
Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you've delivered, will soon deliver you.
Did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod?
When you kiss your little baby, you kiss the face of God.
Mary did you know?
I realize now why I usually receive an answer from the Lord to my deepest questions in January. It is because, in December, I am normally confronted with the mind-blowing facts of the incarnation. I mean, read those lyrics again and let them mess with you!
That morning, I began to experience the mystery Paul was talking about. I knew the theology in my head, but at that moment, the reality of Christ and his Cross was impacting my heart. I was experiencing the power of the Cross. I was experiencing the fact that Christ came in the flesh for me, personally.
Why were men so puzzled by what to write in their outer circle? Answer: they don’t understand the stunning power of the Cross. They have not grasped the fact that Christ has redeemed their sexuality, as well as their soul.
You can hear the deep limbic lies that block their realization of the exquisite authority of the Cross as they articulated the themes and core beliefs about their sexuality: “Sex is dirty.” “Something is wrong with me.” “I am not enough.”
Many men see their bodies as an obstacle to their spiritual growth: their bodies as bad and their spirits as good. This kind of belief was identified by the early church as heresy. It didn’t matter what form it came in: Manichaeism, Gnosticism, or some present-day form of “Try harder Evangelical Christianity.”
Men who deal with sexually compulsive and addictive behaviors are not the only one in the room struggling. The guy’s wife is probably warring with a comment Paul made in Ephesians 5, particularly, verse 22.
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.Ephesians 5:22 (NKJV)
If you want to have an explosive couples counseling session, just refer to that verse when you are trying to resolve a recent conflict. It could be hazardous to your health. In fact, it could be hazardous to everyone’s health. Now, I totally understand why she is so upset with her husband. He betrayed her. Like David, in Psalm 55, she cries out:
“It is not my foes who so arrogantly insult me—I could have hidden from them. Instead, it is you—my equal, my companion and close friend (my husband). His (my husband’s) words are as soothing as lotion, but underneath are daggers!”Psalm 55
I obviously inserted the words “my husband.” When counseling a man who has completed pillar 7, lesson 2, in Seven Pillars of Freedom, his eyes are often open to the pain his wife has suffered with this simple insertion into Psalms 55.
A wife’s profound anger is actually an eloquent testimony to the truth of Paul’s fulminating comment in Ephesians 5:22. For example, have you ever wondered why did so many women flock to see the movie Titanic? It became the top-grossing movie of the 90s. Was it because women have some deep emotional need to become a flying hood ornament on a large ocean liner? Remember the scene where Jack encourages Rose to extend her arms and fly as she leans over the bow? Obviously, women desire something more than becoming a hood ornament in their husband’s life.
The word “submit” is a military term meaning to come under, but it doesn’t imply any rank or indication of being less than. Instead, it means to place yourself in such a way, relationally, as to win the battle. Therefore, Paul is challenging wives to come under the calling of their husband. Ephesians 5:25 makes the calling of every husband very clear: it is to lay down their life for their wife.
The Titanic was so popular with women because Jack laid down his life for Rose. The scene that really triggers the tears is when Jack helped Rose get out of the freezing water but slowly froze to death himself. Jack is a classic Christ-figure in the movie. Not a perfect man by any stretch of the imagination, which is true for any husband. Yet, this is every woman’s dream: to have her husband love her so deeply that he would willingly lay down his life for her.
Here is another intriguing question: why are movies like Braveheart and Gladiator so popular with men? In Gladiator, it is easy to understand what provoked Maximus to have the courage to take on the overwhelming power of Commodus. Commodus comes down into the blood-soaked sands of the Coliseum to meet this incredible gladiator who has totally wowed the crowd with his military expertise. He demands that the gladiator take off his helmet and share his name. I choke up and get goosebumps every time I watch the scene.
My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius, commander of the Armies of the North, General of the Felix Legions and loyal servant to the true emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Father to a murdered son. Husband to a murdered wife. And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next.
Maximus would eventually engage with Commodus in mortal combat and destroy the perverted Caesar. He would die himself shortly after the battle. My point: Maximus would spend his life defending his wife’s honor.
In Braveheart, interesting enough, William Wallace laid down his life defending the honor of his murdered wife as well. Yes, his battles eventually result in the freedom of Scotland, but the key to the movie is not Wallace screaming, “FREEDOM!” with a raised sword. You can see the truth clearly when his fearless friend Hamis declares,
“Your dream isn’t about freedom, it’s about Murron. You’re doing this to be a hero because you think she sees you!”
To which William replies, “I don’t think she sees me, I know she does.”
I have never met a man who deep down in his heart doesn’t want to be his wife’s hero.
And I have never met a woman who doesn’t want to be deeply loved by her husband: to be loved by her hero.
Despite our brokenness, the fact that Christ came in the flesh on Christmas morning made this possible.
Ted is the co-founder of Pure Desire Ministries. He is veteran fighter pilot with 30+ years of pastoral ministry and an IITAP certification as a Pastoral Sex Addiction Professional. Ted is a clinician on our Pure Desire Counseling staff. He has a M.Div from Asbury Theological Seminary and a D.Min from Western Seminary. He is the author of Pure Desire and co-author of Going Deeper and Sexy Christians. He is also a contributor to many of our group resources.