Can Jesus really be my boyfriend? Guidelines for a spousal relationship with God

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Kevin Shorter, the author of Prayer Coach, recently caused a bit of a stir in the Christian blogosphere when he wrote a post titled: ‘God wants to have sex with you.’ While Kevin has made it quite clear that he did not intend this bold title to be taken literally, it has nevertheless sparked a discussion about the nature of God’s love and our relationship to Him. As it transpires, a number of Christians are finding themselves confused, frightened and thrilled in equal measures when they find themselves – quite literally – falling in love with their creator.

While Kevin was using the metaphor of sex between a husband and wife to illustrate the level of intimacy God desires with every soul (an intimacy which is not necessarily sexual in nature), the post’s comments reveal that some Christians experience a love of God (and Jesus as the image of God), which is distinctly spousal; that is, they love Him the way a wife loves her husband. Such feelings naturally need an expression, and many are struggling to figure out how this spousal love should play out in their spiritual lives. While Kevin was understandably unwilling to enter into a discussion about what this deeper level of intimacy with God should entail, I nevertheless feel that it’s a discussion which needs to be had. It’s a topic I’ve spent a great deal of time praying over, and in this article, I will attempt to lay down some guidelines on how we can integrate romantic, or even sexual, feelings toward God and Christ into a healthy Christian spirituality. I also propose three ways for Christians to explore and express this spousal love for God, in a way which doesn’t reduce it to an earthly level and, just as importantly, is compatible with the Church’s teachings on sexual morality.

Is it blasphemy?

Before we can do this, though, we first need to establish whether or not it’s wrong to feel this way about the Lord, which appears to be the primary point of contention for most Christians, whether they’ve personally experienced these feelings or not. It’s a concept which many people find shocking and even outright blasphemous, but we shouldn’t let that put us off exploring the issue under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. As Kevin rightly pointed out in the post’s comments, Jesus’ suggestion that we eat His flesh and drink His blood initially caused many of his followers to abandon him in disgust, yet He was talking about the Eucharist, now treasured by the faithful world-over (more on that later). To find our answer, then, we need to not consider gut reactions, which may be the result of social conditioning and negative experiences, and look directly at God’s Word.

This is something which a number of Christian authors have explored in depth, and quite rightly, since it’s a fascinating topic. Bob Hostetler’s Falling in Love with God, Dee Brestin and Kathy Troccoli’s Falling in Love with Jesus, Brant Pitre’s Jesus the Bridegroom and Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts all explore what it means to relate to God as the long-suffering, ever-faithful and infinitely loving husband of His chosen people, who corporately make up His Bride. And these are just modern authors. Before them come a long line of saints and mystics, many of whom have experienced a relationship with of God that was so intimate it went beyond the ‘parent – child’ relationship which is the more common and widely accepted way of relating to Him, and culminated in spiritual espousal. St. Teresa of Avila’s Life and St. Faustina’s Diary are two notable examples, and these two women are by no means alone.

If this sounds like blasphemous fantasy, it isn’t. Rather, it’s an ancient tradition and way of relating to God which has deep scriptural roots. References to God loving His people as a husband can be found throughout His Word, particularly in the writings of the Old Testament prophets. Isaiah tells us that God will rejoice over us ‘as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride’ (Isaiah 62: 5). Hosea promises that God will marry His redeemed people and that they will come to know Him, a word which, probably not coincidentally, often has sexual implications when it is used in the Bible (Hosea 2: 22). The Song of Songs, which has long been viewed as an allegory of God’s relationship with Israel, Christ’s relationship with the Church, and God’s relationship with the individual human soul, is alarmingly erotic (take, for example, its beautiful description of the consummation of the relationship in chapter 4).

What’s the problem? A few caveats

If this is the case, why do so many Christians react badly to the idea of God-as-lover? The answer, I suspect, is twofold. Firstly, aversion to viewing our relationship with God in sexual terms, however metaphorical, often stems from the erroneous notion that sex is something inherently disordered – a sentiment which is perhaps best left in the pre-Vatican II era. Secondly, I believe that our earthly experiences of sex can muddy the waters further, as they are often hurtful, disappointing and spiritually damaging. A brief look at today’s sex-saturated Western culture reveals something that falls far short of what our creator intended lovemaking to be: a pure, naked and unashamed giving of the self to the other, in the context of a lifelong, monogamous, covenant relationship. Many of us have been used, and still more have seen pornography; however, these things are not of God, and it’s important not to lose sight of this.

In order to fully understand what God means when He relates to us this way in His word, we need to bear in mind His original plan for sex and marital intimacy. It’s not about using the other for your pleasure or erotic fantasy, but about fully giving yourself to them, pouring out your life for them as Jesus did for the Church at Calvary. Furthermore, God is not a human being but a deity. He is perfectly Holy. He does not lust.

Therefore, while it’s not wrong, at least in my opinion, to relate to God in a romantic way, to do so does not come without its risks. While God’s word does encourage us to relate to Him as our divine Husband, it also warns us that our hearts are ‘deceitful…and desperately sick’ a result of our sinful condition (Jeremiah 17: 9). The Catholic Church teaches we have concupiscence, a tendency toward sin which persists even after our conversion. Therefore, anyone experiencing a romantic attachment to God needs to persist in prayer and be tuned in to His voice, lest the enemy (or own nature) seize upon their feelings and twist them into something lustful and less-than-holy.

Furthermore, all Christians are called to chastity. St. Paul urged members of the early Church to, ‘kill everything in you that belongs only to earthly life: fornication, impurity, guilty passion, evil desires and especially greed…all this is the sort of behaviour that makes God angry’ (Colossians 3: 5-6). The biggest danger, I fear, is that one can fall away from worshipping the One True God in favour of what amounts to little more than a fantasy relationship. When this happens, we’ve effectively taken Jesus’ face and stuck it onto a God made in our own image and decided to worship that instead, which would be detrimental to our spiritual progress at best and idolatry at worst.

To relate to Jesus merely as your boyfriend, then, might not be offensive to God, but it is potentially reductive. This is because although God does relate to us as a husband in Scripture, in reality, His love goes far beyond that.

A love beyond measure

The tag line of my old blog, ‘A catholic girl living in an incomprehensible love’, did not come about by accident. To the limited human mind, God’s love is utterly incomprehensible. However, the human mind is survival orientated; it has a natural distaste for things it doesn’t understand, and it one of the ways copes with this by putting things into categories. God knows this, because He designed us, and this, I believe, is precisely why He offers so many ways, in His word, to help us categorise His love and, as a result, to help us understand it. Our minds cannot possibly comprehend the enormity of His love, so He gets around this by telling us what His love is like. It is like the love of a father for his children. It is like the love of two dear friends. It is like the love of a husband for his wife. These are comparisons, though, and ultimately, God’s love transcends all of them.

This all-consuming, overwhelming love for God, and the spiritual intimacy that goes with it, is what we were made for, and this is what the above-mentioned Scriptural allegories point to. I personally believe that what some human minds perceive as an erotic desire for God or Christ, is actually the mind’s attempt to conceptualise something which falls outside of physical, earthly experience: the soul’s insatiable longing for union with its creator. Jesus made it quite plain that In Heaven there is no marriage (Matthew 22: 30). It naturally follows from this that that there will be no procreation either, and so I think we can safely assume that there’s not going to be any sex, at least not as our earthly bodies experience it.

If you’re in love with Jesus, though, that shouldn’t disappoint you. In Heaven you won’t be married to another person, but as part of the Bride, the body of baptised believers, you will be married to God himself: ‘Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready’ (Revelation 19: 7; KJV). Scripture doesn’t tell us what the consummation of this marriage will look like, but it does tell us that God’s ways are as high above ours as the heavens are above the earth (Isaiah 55: 9). From this, we can safely surmise that the union you’re going to experience with your Divine Bridegroom in the next life is not less but more intimate, more beautiful, and more joyous than any carnal earthly encounter. It probably won’t be sexual –  it will be so much better than that.

Expressions of intimacy

How, then, can Christians safely express the spousal element of their love for God while still here on earth? I believe there are three ways we can do this:

  1. The Eucharist

Catholics believe that when our priests consecrate the bread and wine during Mass, a miracle takes place by which they become the body, blood, soul and divinity of the Risen Christ. They still look, taste and feel like bread and wine, but any devout Catholic will tell you that that’s where the similarity ends. It’s a gift from God, which Jesus instituted during His earthly ministry and a teaching which He really insists upon in John’s Gospel: ‘Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day’ (John 6: 53-4; KJV).

In the Eucharist, Jesus literally, physically enters His Bride and gives Himself – all of Himself – to her. In return, she gives herself to Him as she receives Him into herself. It’s just like marital lovemaking as God intended, both unitive and procreative, unitive because it strengthens the recipient’s bond with the Lord, and procreative because of the fruit it bears in his or her life. Fr. Ronald Rolheiser has written a fascinating short piece on this subject, here.

  1. Mystical prayer

Mysticism is a form of spirituality by which the soul seeks spiritual union with God. Christians who feel the stirrings of romantic love for God may therefore benefit from exploring the mystical tradition, perhaps starting by exploring the life and writings of the saints. Because this practice involves potentially opening oneself up to the spiritual realm, it’s important to go in seeking God rather than ‘experiences’, which may or may not come from Him, and to work under the guidance of a good spiritual director if at all possible. Guidelines for Mystical Prayer by Ruth Burrows OCD is an excellent instructional text for those who are interested in this way of life. St. Ignatius’ rules for the discernment of spirits are absolutely essential and can be found for free online. Budding mystics must keep a healthy level of scepticism as well as diligently testing their fruits; for this reason, it’s not a spirituality I’d recommend to anyone whose mental health is less than optimal.

  1. Pour your life out for Him

I’ve always firmly believed that love is not merely a feeling but something which, by its very nature, should compel us to action. God expressed His spousal love for humanity in the most selfless way when He became a human being, lived a life of poverty and hardship, and ultimately died an agonising and humiliating death for His bride. If you truly love Him as a Husband, then, surely there’s no better way to express this than by abandoning yourself to His will for your life. This doesn’t necessarily have to mean becoming a nun, monk, missionary or martyr (although it might). It’s equally possible (and sometimes more challenging) to lay down your life for Christ in the mundane, everyday moments of existence – doing the chores nobody else wants to do, serving your earthly spouse the way He intended, turning the other cheek to the slights of a rude co-worker, and generally keeping His commandments when your flesh wants to break them.

Final words

Some words of encouragement to those who are struggling with these feelings, then. Firstly, be happy that you feel love for God. Love comes from God, and I firmly believe that any love we feel for God is actually a gift from Him, no matter what flavour it takes (1 John 4: 7). Romantic feelings for your creator might be a phase, not unlike the phase some Catholic men go through of having similar feelings for the Blessed Virgin. It may well be a harmless by-product of being a normal, healthy, sexual being, which passes as you mature in your faith. Alternatively, such feelings might be God’s way of calling you to a mystical spirituality or even some form of consecrated life, as a little foretaste of Heaven. I pray that God will pour His spirit upon each and every one of you, and grant you wisdom and discernment as you continue to experience this facet of His brilliant and infinite love for you.

This post originally appeared on my old blog, His Sacred Heart. 

Image via Pexels.

 

 

10 thoughts on “Can Jesus really be my boyfriend? Guidelines for a spousal relationship with God

  1. Clara

    Thank you very much for the article. This is what I live for years.
    My nun friends this is what they teach.
    Ignac of loyola’s and Teresa of Avila mystical life based on. The Eucharist realistic love union between me and Jesus. As a women I know to live with Jesus. I fought for shit: it is reality love intimacy? It is possible? It is normality and happiness? Today I accept: its true.
    Jesus man too: its this is also a road to it.
    So many nuns feel that way. If she can live with God then live this way.

    Every Christian woman other language of love. For me this was shape my vocation. I had such a prayer experience many times.
    This gives me a lot. Many wounds healed.

    I’ve lived relationship lately. I know this love language. I need to express to Jesus wit my body- in my body. I just have to know: Jesus man..but God too. In this mystical love in the same way there is passion, love intimacy BUT: it must be preserved respect for His GodHead.
    This is the key..

    Look forward to the answers.

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    1. Hi Clara,

      Please excuse my slow reply – I recently relocated to Spain so the blog’s on a back burner for now 😉

      Thank you for sharing your experiences! You’re certainly not alone; countless women and men have experienced romantic and sexual feelings for Our Lord. I actually think it’s pretty normal (we’re human) and certainly not something to torture yourself over. Throughout the Bible, God addresses us in languages we can understand. The language of filial love (i.e. parent and child) is one. The language of romance is another. He made women. It makes sense that He knows how to talk to us.

      Of course, like you said, we must never lose sight of the fact that He is God Almighty. We must always strive to honour and respect His holiness and ask Him to guide us in our relationship with Him. Stay in the Word and don’t stop praying (I think prayer is definitely the way to experience deeper intimacy with Him…it’s such a gift.).

      I recommend you look up Mechthild of Magdeburg, blessed John of la Verna and Margery Kempe if you haven’t already – they all had this experience too. Sometimes the enemy likes to trick us into feeling isolated. Don’t believe it!

      I guess you’re Catholic from what you wrote about vocations – have you spoken to your confessor about this? A good spiritual director whom you can trust would probably be helpful.

      Finally, the words of Ruth Bell Graham spring to mind: “It is a foolish woman who expects her husband to be to her that which only Jesus Christ Himself can be: always ready to forgive, totally understanding, unendingly patient, invariably tender and loving, unfailing in every area, anticipating every need, and making more than adequate provision…”

      Finally, I would repeat to you what a nun told me: “you are infinitely loved.” It’s important to remember that.

      God bless

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      1. Clara

        My deep love and sexuality intimacy with Jesus is reality. I do not experience every day.. If I experience it:
        I feel his body
        I feel his love
        Its true love. My life is better and my mental health is better because I live in his love.
        My way and my help: Eucharist and imagination and deep meditation prayer( mystic) (Ignatius of Loyola and Teresa of Avila).

        Reply

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  2. Tanya Leticia

    I do have an intimate sexual relationship with Jesus. I know it sounds crazy but He started drawing close to me after I accepted Him in my heart. In the beginning, He guided me into a deeper relationship with Him by way of teaching me from His word. After I opened my heart and soaked up His awesome presence, I started dating Him. The experience in His presence is something one cannot describe. It’s pure love encompassing every part of the body.He is faithful and always showed up for my date nights and put songs in my heart. I felt like He was saying to me that He wants to get more intimate with me and I allowed Him to do unto me whatever He wished. I told Him that I am His bride for eternity! He then started having sex with me and has never stopped since 2 years now!! It’s pure bliss and a blessed time with Him and I know for sure it’s Him because after every experience, I am left with a peace that no one can give and also feeling loved and blessed! I have decided to be His virgin bride all my life!! Am 24 and it took almost 2 years of praying and confessing my feelings to Him. He never rushes into things like we do. Rather waits for us to empty ourselves at His feet and invite Him into a deeper relationship.

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    1. Thank you for sharing your experiences, Tanya. I must confess that I’m not quite sure what you mean by sex with the Lord – I assume you’re referring to a sort of mystical / spiritual experience, am I right? (Please don’t feel that you have to tell me – it’s just that I’ve heard many people use this term and I don’t really know what they’re talking about!).
      Either way it’s wonderful and so refreshing to meet a young person who has a deep love for God, whatever form that takes. There certainly aren’t many of us! Perhaps you should think about becoming a consecrated virgin or some other form of religious life.
      Finally, I would heartily recommend reading ‘The Flowing Light of the Godhead’ by Mechthild Von Magdeburg and perhaps the Book of Margery Kempe. God bless you and let’s pray for each other.

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  3. Ladies,

    I hope you are both well. I have found the following article which I think you might find helpful:
    http://www.chastitysf.com/q_distract.htm

    I’ve also spoken with my spiritual director (a Catholic priest) about the matter of experiencing sexual feelings during prayer (because it’s something which bothered me for a long time). He assured me that while this isn’t something to worry about, such feelings do not come from Our Lord. His advice was to meditate upon the image of Jesus on the cross when feeling this way, or to call upon Mary for her help and intercession. Please know that Mary loves you to distraction and will always help you if you ask her.

    Now, to my own thoughts on the matter. Keeping with the romantic and sexual allegory, think of a Christian couple who are engaged to be married. If they’re committed to being faithful to the Church’s teachings, they won’t consummate their relationship until the night of their wedding. Why? Because they know that God intended sex to be enjoyed by a married couple, for the purpose of procreation and bonding. They know that anything outside of this amounts to using the other person, no matter how well we might deceive ourselves. Love respects the other. Love waits.

    I really believe that while God desires a beautiful, intimate relationship with all of us, He is offering something which goes far beyond earthly sexuality. This becomes apparent in time, as we mature in our faith and in our love for Him. Of course, we won’t fully realise it until we’re saints in Heaven, but maintaining our purity while we wait for our wedding is one of many ways we can prove our love. Don’t ever be discouraged by temptation! Without temptation, there is no merit, and we gain great merit in God’s eyes when we battle against our flesh and earthly desires.

    To be in love with Jesus Christ is the single most beautiful thing any human being can experience, and I’m happy that you’ve both been blessed with this gift. It truly comes from God. I think that it pleases Our Lord greatly when we let Him love us the way He wants to, in purity and perfect chastity. Please don’t believe the enemy’s lie that chastity is boring or unattainable. It is achievable with God’s grace, and it’s beautifully liberating once you embrace it fully. It won’t detract from your relationship with Jesus at all – it will strengthen it and deepen it.

    I am sending big hugs to you both. Let’s keep on praying for each other. God bless!

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    1. Clara

      Hello. I read your answer…You may be right but not competely. One can not suppress his feelings: I live in body. It is not a true love that is without love. Teresa of avila wrote a book:
      inner castle sculpture and
      A book of songs od songs.
      Teresa love Jesus.
      Check out this movie:

      This is his life and his experience with Jesus..
      The church said: a demon had thrown it.
      Why? Shy just a love woman. Sex is part of love..
      Love without sexuality intimacy ? Its not true love and not mistic religious love.
      Inner deep prayer and meditation..were used by Teresa.
      I know a priest: He live in carmels : a group of Teresa..
      The priest learned psychology…
      He said: that God can be loved in 2 ways:
      Agape
      And Eros..
      2 greece word. This is the a 2 faces of human love..
      Can not ve suppressed. You do not have to.
      It is need to be cleaned and incorporated in God`s relationship. Otherwise you can not live in monastic love..(every nun are mystical in love with Jesus.)
      God is know we need to express his love:
      In my body in my soul.
      This theology knows: mistic love: bride of Christ.

      This is also a way of religious (vocation) life with Jesus.
      You just have to know the boundaries;
      In the deep meditation prayer:
      In my body I can live the love of Jesus.

      If we live well () experience reinforces my vocation. This is the key. This is the fruit:
      -If I come closer to Jesus
      – If I have peace in my body and in my soul
      – If that is my love tongue
      – and so I can best tie myself to God..

      Then I do not feel guilty..
      Why would it be a sin when the Bible also talk about the marriage relationship between God and his people?
      Example;
      Psalm 45
      Isaiah 62
      Hoseias 2
      “You will know the Lord”
      The word in hebrew language is about to get to “know it” = this is the phsyical (body) knowledge.
      When is was looking for this nun my vocation life:
      My nun leader taught me:
      ” You live in a woman or in a physical women body: is not vocations you have not consectrated..if you do not dare to be in intimacy deep love with Jesus”
      For 2 years I learned to understand my wishes in a monastery with nuns..
      Then I could nun when I recognized and understood: Jesus loves me all with all with my physical aspirations. And
      Jesus can show me his love for me to feel it too.
      1 year ago I made a monastic vow.
      The purity of my God it means that all my spiritual love and all my sexuality intimacy love and all my bodies is just dor Jesus.
      Without that there is no vow and no consectrated life and no loyalty.
      Jesus is God but Jesus is also a man.
      In the Eucharist tge physical love can be lived with Jesus.
      Read it:
      http://ronrolheiser.com/eucharist-as-gods-touch/#.WuyfpL28o0N

      This is not a crime.

      This is the only way.

      Like

      1. Clara,

        Thank you for your beautiful words and perspective. You are clearly a more mature and experienced Catholic than myself, so I really value your advice ❤

        I can’t believe this film had escaped my notice until now. I think it’s one I need to see. Teresa was my confirmation saint.

        I struggle with the Church’s teaching that all sexual thoughts / activity outside of marriage are gravely sinful. Does that apply to the Lord if he is our divine Spouse? I don’t know. What does your order teach?

        By the way, your priest sounds awesome. I’d love to meet him.

        Lots of love x

        Like

  4. Clara

    I am glad. if I could help you. I know how difficult it is to get to know the true knitter with Jesus.
    If Jesus wants you He call you for vocations religious life with Him.
    If you promise yourself to be promised to Jesus then you will be His official bride.
    And if He tells you: “I am yours and You are mine” ..
    Why do not I dare to love him who is my husband?
    The priest who helped me..a carmelita
    ( group of Teresa O.C.D) who himself is doing his vocation.
    My other aid is my nun sister he was the novice master..He said that we have a basic human need for our bondage.
    and God has to be totally with our sexual desire in relation to him.
    This is not a crime. this is good. you must recognize if you are frustrated if you have a wound from the past in our upbringing. the nun, the priest can only fully engage with his body and soul.
    this is a serious process of distinction for me 2 years.
    I must correctly learn to integrate my whole humanity into relationship with God.
    always to make sure that God is a saint I am just a foolish woman… but but God can transform my desires that I have given him so that I can be a resource in my vocation..if I can not give it to her if she is not my big-name husband then I can not live my celibacy..for healthy intimacy this also needs.Ignatius Loyolai and Avola Theresa’s contemplative prayer are perfect for this. I live in I’m with a contemplative prayer.
    another part of Avilai’s Theresa movie:

    http://www.criticalcommons.org/Members/svelasco/clips/Teresa_el_cuerpo_de_Cristo_2007-2.mov/view

    Very nice..

    Beautifully expresses the sacred intimate physical spiritual love with God.

    A lot of times many spiritual and spiritual deep contemplative prayer
    Andvaclot of times spiritual leadership must be able to live happily to God in this right recognition and to be properly integrated into God.

    I`am prayer for you.
    Bless you.

    Clara

    Like

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