Intimacy and Instinct

Escape. That is the name of the buck we brought into our back yard on Tuesday to help begin a new generation of goat kids in our herd. For us city slickers, still learning the urban farm life, the realities of goat mating have been eye-opening. It is not that goats are unaffectionate. Just this morning I saw one of our mother-child pairs laying down, facing each, with heads intertwined, resting on each other’s necks. After Rachael milks the three girls each morning, they nuzzle against her and beg to be scratched along the jawline. Each time I go into the goat pen to fix something, Treasure walks up and stands beside me until I show her attention. These creatures are capable of great affection. And yet, as soon as we got the first doe into Escape’s personal pen, one thing became clear about the mating process: there is nothing romantic about it, just a doe in heat and a willing buck doing what God wired them to do.

The contrasts with human sexuality are inescapable. God created us in his image as male and female, not to procreate through an emotionless, mechanical act, but to experience sexual oneness in the context of holistic intimacy. Biology itself tells the story, as humans are uniquely designed to have intercourse face-to-face. God created sex not merely as a way to repopulate the herd but as a beautiful experience of pleasure and unity.

This original design, however, was tragically twisted in the fall. In John Milton’s fictionalized version of the story, Paradise Lost, Satan burns with envy when he sees Adam and Eve conversing, working, and enjoying sexual intimacy with no shame. He vows to bring this to an end. And he does. Throughout the remainder of Genesis we see the devaluation of this great source of oneness–Ham mocks Noah’s nakedness; Abraham and Isaac each pass their wife off as their sister, risking her violation; Jacob’s wives bargain over who will lie with him that night; Judah visits a prostitute in a neighboring town. The intimacy is all but gone, leaving crass and self-preserving instinct.

In The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis uses the perspective of a demon (who refers to God as “the Enemy”) to capture Satan’s strategy in this way: “Never forget that when we are dealing with any pleasure in its healthy and normal and satisfying form, we are, in a sense, on the Enemy’s ground. I know we have won many a soul through pleasure. All the same, it is His invention, not ours. He made the pleasures: all our research so far has not enabled us to produce one. All we can do is to encourage the humans to take the pleasures which our Enemy has produced, at times, or in ways, or in degrees, which He has forbidden. . .  An ever increasing craving for an ever diminishing pleasure is the formula.”

Here is where we differ from goats. The mating in our back yard is not a pursuit of intimacy but an expression of instinct. As humans, we were created for more than this. We were made for the pleasure of life-long, holistic intimacy with another human being. So when we act on instinct and ignore the intimacy, we find ourselves with “an ever increasing craving for an ever diminishing pleasure.” If anything, this highlights the need to heighten sexual prudence as we elevate the value of sexual intimacy in our marriages. We live in a culture where the dam has broken and the waters of sexual expression now flood our pages and screens. There may be little we can do about the availability of sensual images, but there is much we can do to focus our own hearts.

Whether married or single, we must fight well to experience the intimacy for which God created us. This begins with our intimacy with God, a rare creature-privilege that goats or any other animal–had they the brain for such thoughts–would envy. Pleasure is God’s idea, and our ultimate experience of pleasure will come from ongoing communion with our Creator. Likewise, we must pursue meaningful, authentic, faithful relationships within the church. This requires time, listening, and commitment. It also puts us on the defense, where we must consciously fight the enemy’s strategy for us to sexualize others.

Finally, we who are married must labor well to nurture the type of holistic intimacy that will allow us to celebrate sexual oneness. The Satanic perversion of sexuality in our culture is so intense that I would categorize the pursuit of single-minded, pleasurable, sexual intimacy as spiritual warfare. It is a battle we must fight well.

May we be a people who rise above instinct and, by the Spirit’s power, display the intimacy, love, self-giving, and faithfulness of God in our relationships.

Pastor Chris

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