Peter J. Leithart
August 12, 2012
Category: Bible - OT - Genesis,Bible - OT - Psalms,Uncategorized
Bless the Lord, O my soul. And all that is within me, bless His holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget none of His benefits. Psalm 103 rushes on to enumerate some of those benefits: God pardons our sins. He heals our diseases. He buys us back from the pit. He crowns us with lovingkindness and renews our youth like the eagles’. He passes judgment on behalf of the oppressed. He puts our sins behind Him as far as the east is from the west. He keeps His lovingkindness from generation to generation. You have received these benefits already. God has forgiven you. He has healed you and brought you back from the pit through the cross of Jesus. These benefits form the firm foundation of your new house. Forgiveness, deliverance, life, health, salvation, God’s favor: Without these benefits, your marriage cannot be successful, cannot create a succession. Never forget these benefits. But the Psalm doesn’t enumerate all God’s benefits to you. There are other benefits that you must also remember through your life together. You are, most importantly, benefits, gifts, to one another. As he named the animals, Adam learned something about himself; alone in the garden, Adam discovered that he was created for fellowship with a different sort of partner. So God took a rib from Adam and built a woman to be his companion. In a dramatic act of special creation, God presented Eve as a gift to Adam so they might be united in personal communion. Your very bodies symbolize this created purpose. A man’s body is designed for intimate personal and sexual union with a woman, and a woman’s body is designed for receptive communion with a man. Your hands are created to caress and hold one another; your lips to speak and kiss and taste; your eyes to admire and your ears to listen; your feet to walk together in one direction. You are created to give your bodies and yourselves to one another, so that you two might become one-flesh. As the late Pope John Paul II said, God created men and women with “spousal” bodies, bodies designed for personal communion. God also designed this intimate communion to be profoundly creative. Nothing you make in life will be as splendid as the children you make together. Together you will repeat Eve’s words at the birth of Cain: “I have gotten a man with the Lord.” Your spousal bodies, bodies designed for physical and personal communion, are fulfilled in this creativity. Your masculine powers will be fulfilled in fatherhood; your body’s design will find completion in motherhood. Spousal bodies become fruitful as paternal and maternal bodies. By accepting one another as gifts, you receive also new gifts, the gifts of children. In all this: “Bless the Lord, and forget not all His benefits.” Forget not His benefits, the Psalmist says. He has to say this because we do forget. We forget that our iniquities have been forgiven. We forget that God heals our diseases. We forget that we have been rescued from the pit, so we slide back in. In marriage, we forget that we are gifts to one another, created for personal communion and procreativity. When Adam and Eve sinned, they immediately covered themselves. They hid from God and from one another. They no longer knew their bodies as spousal bodies, designed for fellowship. They felt shame, and they cowered behind a veil of fig leaves. In shame, they withdrew from one another. Shame obstructs the union that we were created for. In sin, husbands and wives try to possess and control one another. Men use their bodies to subject their wives rather than to communicate and commune with them. Women use their bodies to manipulate their husbands. Each exploits the other as each seeks his own pleasure instead of giving to the other in creative love. Filled with shame, you no longer live for one another but for yourself. Shame destroys the intimacy of your marriage; shame prevents the personal communion that is the heart of your marriage; shame wrecks the creative potential of your marriage. Unless you take care of the problem of shame, you’ll spend your marriage hiding from one another, covering up, sewing aprons of fig leaves. Your marriage will be filled with the bitter taste of unfulfilled promise. Unless you find some way to remove the fig leaves, your marriage will not flourish. Which brings us back to the beginning: Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget none of His benefits. He forgives iniquity, and heals disease, and puts our sins away as far as the east is from the west. Like a kind Father, He has compassion on His children. He knows that we are dust. He is gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love. He will not keep His anger forever. He has compassion on those who fear Him. In His Son Jesus, God the Father delivers us from shame. He removes our pathetic fig leaves to clothe and crown us with glory, the glory of His only-begotten Son, the glory of His Spirit. Radiant with that glory, our bodies again become spousal bodies, bodies used for communion in love; they become creative bodies, bodies that God uses to multiply His image on earth. In Christ Jesus, each of you can rejoice in the other as one of God’s greatest gifts. In Christ, you stand before one another as Adam before Eve and Eve before Adam, naked yet not ashamed. Our prayer is that this Psalm will be the song of your marriage: Bless the Lord, O my soul. And all that is within me, bless His holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget none of His benefits.
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