Today’s reader question is a short one, with a longer answer.
I had (what I hope is) a quick question. I’ve read that for men, arousal tends to follow desire, whereas for women, desire tends to follow arousal.
Do we have any thoughts on why God created things this way, assuming it was not by accident?
My first thought is that God has quite the sense of humor. Not only do we have to get naked and get into these awkward positions to have sex, we have to figure out the one we love and all those ways they’re different from us. We plan for our sexual intimacy to look like a passionate love scene from a romance novel, and sometimes it ends up feeling more like putting together an IKEA bookshelf unit with no assembly instructions. (Not that I read the instructions anyway.)
It reminds me of this Yiddish proverb: We plan, God laughs.
However, God did not design us this way just to have a great big belly laugh, especially not at our expense. He is generous and wise, and I think He created such differences for a higher purpose.
That higher purpose is to make us more like Jesus. Yep, I really believe that.
It’s true that for many husbands, arousal follows desire. He wants sex; then sees, thinks about, or touches you; and bam! he’s ready to go. Yet for many wives, desire follows arousal. Which is why some wives feel they don’t have a sex drive, but if they choose to engage and become aroused . . . their libido kicks in. One way isn’t better than the other; they’re just different. Getting you both on the same page to feel arousal and desire together can be a challenge.
But if husband and wife approach sexual intimacy and satisfaction differently, then they must display traits characteristic of Jesus to get in harmony and experience the best in their marriage. The Bible says that’s how we should conduct ourselves in our relationships with each other, including marriage:
“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5).
The passage following (Philippians 2:6-11) is quite possibly a hymn sung in the early church about Jesus’ humility and servant-mindedness as he left the throne of Heaven, became a servant on earth all the way to the cross, and was then exalted by God to the highest place — where He belongs.
And the verses before this one tell us about several Christ-like characteristics we should pursue:
“Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others” (Philippians 2:1-4).
Did you see those traits? Tenderness, compassion, like-mindedness, love, unselfishness, humility, consideration of others.
I can’t assume my husband will approach sexuality the same way I do, so I have to make an effort to understand him, honor him, arouse him, and satisfy him. And he should make that effort for me. As we display that kind of tenderness, compassion, love, etc., we become less selfish and more like Christ.
Our sexual intimacy better mirrors the relationship we Christians have to our bridegroom, Jesus. We understand more about our spouse, but we also understand more about Christ and the loving, intimate relationship He wants with us.
I’m not saying that you can never pursue your own pleasure in the marriage bed. Jesus fed others, but he also ate and drank plenty, including at supper at people’s houses, wedding celebrations, and a dinner in his honor. It’s okay to want the good stuff for yourself, but you must also attend to what your spouse needs.
God making us different forces that equation.
But it acts like a cycle too, where honoring one another’s different sexuality brings us more pleasure in the end anyway. Satisfying one another becomes satisfying for ourselves. I know that in the throes of ecstasy, when my husband is rockin’ my world with a capital R-O-C-K, I feel especially motivated to turn him on even more. Turning him on, turns me on. Turning me on, turns him on.
Sex often doesn’t start that way. It can be a choice one spouse makes to engage and allow their arousal to follow — often the wife, but it can be the husband who has less independent sex drive. And that higher-drive spouse — often the husband but not necessarily — needs to be patient and considerate of their beloved’s need to warm up more slowly.
So I don’t think God’s trying to make sex harder for us. He’s trying to make us better for one another and more like Him. Our calling is to embrace the sex drive we have or can cultivate and trust His generosity.
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Colossians 3:12).