It’s safe for me to talk about this here, right? Look, I know it’s a bizarre question, and it may sound irreverent. But let me try to explain what I’m getting at this way:
Imagine a bride and groom, very much in love. She wants their love to multiply, to impact as many lives as possible. She’s completely preoccupied with dreams of bringing new life into the world together.
But when she doesn’t get pregnant on their wedding night…or on their honeymoon…or during the following week, she starts to worry that maybe they aren’t doing something right.
Or worse, maybe there’s something wrong with him. As time goes by, she starts to question whether he’s a good husband for her after all. In moments of panic, she accuses him (in her heart or out loud) of cheating her out of a family. How would you respond to this anxious bride?
First, I’d tell her not to panic. Acknowledging the sensitivity of the subject, I might ask a few questions about her cycle. I’d remind her that she’s only fertile for a few days each month, and her husband is most likely fertile the entire month. I’d reassure her that there’s probably nothing wrong with either of them. If they were still having difficulty after several months, a specialist would usually suggest monitoring her cycle so they’d know how to focus their efforts to conceive.
How different would our lives be if we approached intimacy with our Bridegroom the same way?
We want to be intimate with God, but not just intimate. We want to be fruitful. Fruitfulness is woven into our biology. It’s everywhere in creation.
But what we don’t see, or don’t account for, is that everything in creation is also cyclical. Everything operates within cycles of growth and dormancy, increasing fertility and decreasing infertility, expending and replenishing.
Yet so much of Christianity is geared toward fruitfulness without regard for cycles. We promote intimate encounters with God every. single. day. without any regard for cycles. And when we don’t see the fruit we expect, we say we’re waiting for God to do something, disregarding our place in the cycles He created.
We sometimes expend a lot of emotion and energy trying to make God receptive to us. So much of our prayer, praise, and worship seems to be designed to put God in the mood so we can have a fruitful relationship.
Let’s face it: God is always ready to be intimate with us, and ready to do His part to make us fruitful. But we as His bride have a cycle. We have times when intimacy will be more pleasurable, times when it will be more life-giving, and times when we won’t feel like it.
And the Bible has an unexpected response to our fluctuating desire. It instructs husbands and wives to be separate from one another for a portion of the wife’s monthly cycle. There were originally multiple reasons for this, including the challenges of desert hygiene. But what if there’s more going on there? Some scholars believe this period of separation was also designed by God to rekindle desire between spouses.
What if we also need time and space to let desire build in our relationship with God? This isn’t about commitment or faithfulness. We’re still the bride of Christ, even when we feel distant. We still live in covenant with our Bridegroom, even when we don’t feel like it. But embracing a cycle of intimacy, distance, and pursuit could protect our relationships from become stale, one dimensional routines.
Here are a few questions this principle of cycles has raised for me:
What if you weren’t designed to sustain a a steamy love affair with anyone (even God!) every single day?
What if you have cycles of receptivity, creativity and intimacy?
What if, when things seem stale for other believers, we encouraged them to become aware of the cycles in their lives, rather than force intimacy?
What if we stop trying to put God in the mood, acknowledge that He’s ready, and admit that we may need time or space for desire to build?
In just a few days, we’ll begin again the yearly cycle God set in place. This last year, I’ve winced in recognition of the times I’ve been that bride.
The one forcing it with God, more out of fear than love.
The one resenting the lack of apparent fruit in my life, or in the lives of people I love.
The one wavering between just wanting to please, and feeling betrayed when I feel like I can’t.
The one secretly asking, “What’s His problem?”
I’ve finally at home in this body with daily, monthly, seasonal, and yearly cycles. I’m not a slave to them. But they can be trusted, because I trust their source.
I’m learning to trust my Bridegroom again.
How would acknowledging the cycles in your life change things between you and God?