on idolising women

A dear friend of mine and I were recently talking about my singleness. I was telling him that I’m actually pretty scared that I’ll be single for the rest of my life.

Now God has been outrageously, scandalously generous to me all my life. And the takeaway from that, I tell myself, should be the knowledge that there is nothing good that God will withhold from me. The takeaway is not that God has given me all good things therefore he won’t withhold a wife, but the fact that no good thing has been withheld, and if singleness is my lot I won’t merely get by, I’ll thrive.

It’s not terribly comforting, but it makes sense. But moreover it raises the issue many guys are probably struggling with: why do we want romantic relationships so badly, to the point that it seems like we need them? What is it about women? What do they have that we want or even need so badly?

What my friend next told me floored me (though I’m surprised I hadn’t caught on to this earlier): all the beauty and goodness in women are in fact a reflection of what God already has in abundance, and displays in ways that no woman possibly could.

Isn’t it strange that men are so captivated by the beauty and goodness of a woman but completely forget the one who made woman beautiful? Is it possible that we are in fact idolising woman and woman’s beauty but completely forgetting the one who made it; completely forgetting that that beauty points not to woman but to the creator; and completely forgetting that we can and must go to him and him alone with our desire for that beauty, that intimacy?

For me this raises a few points to think about:

1) My view of God needs to be corrected. While I see God as a mighty King, a warrior, a judge, a saviour, I have stressed these aspects while ignoring his other aspects, the feminine aspects if you will. If woman is beautiful, alluring, tender and graceful she is so because she takes after her Father God. I need to remember that yes God is brave, he is a warrior, he saves and upholds and protects, but he also sits quietly with us, he woos us, he is tender with us, he is beautiful. And because of that,

2) All men (including me) should take a hard think about why we pursue or love a woman. Is it to satisfy our longing for beauty, intimacy, tenderness and all these good things? Because not only will no woman ever truly satisfy these longings (no person on earth can), it can easily spill over into idolatry. When we idolise a woman it will not only crush her but it will derail our relationship with the one who truly loves us. Which is why we say with confidence that God will not only satisfy us but fill us to overflowing with these good things that we want in woman (barring maybe physical intimacy, if I may be so crude). There’s no need to fear singleness, because single or not we have the fount of all goodness.

3) All the good things we see in women are perfectly displayed in God: tenderness (Jesus wooing sinners again and again, God pouring out his heart through the prophets again and again), vulnerability (God pouring out his heart, coming to our world as a frail human being, allowing himself to be killed in our place), self-sacrificial bravery (Jesus on the cross), beauty, intelligence, nurture and care, wit, gracefulness, intimacy, the list goes on. Instead of looking to fallible human beings to drink deeply of these things, let’s look first to the one who embodies all these things.

So my challenge to you men (and myself) is to get our priorities right before we think about pursuing or loving a woman. Think about what it is you want out of a relationship or out of marriage. Would a relationship or a marriage satisfy those wants? Are idolising romantic relationships and women a real danger for you? Does your desire for a woman simply disguise the fact that you want to use her to satisfy longings that no person ever possibly could?

And remember the whole time that while it is not good for man to be alone, the cure for loneliness is not relationship with a woman; the cure for loneliness is breathtaking, life-giving fellowship and intimacy with our creator, the kind that Jesus enjoyed all the time. Let’s learn how to live this, let’s beg God to really show us what that kind of intimate fellowship looks like. Single or not, that kind of fellowship will last forever. (addendum: having good friendships in your life is also important! It is good for man to have good, life-giving friendships in his life.)

Hopefully then our priorities will fall into the right place, and we’ll know better how to walk through this life with one less (or at least lighter) burden.

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