When I was 22 I heard Louie Giglio speak about the glory of God and I've never forgotten that sermon. He spoke about a road-trip he and a friend took in their late teens. Mount Rainier was the destination; they ate, drank, and breathed information about the mountain in preparation to summit it. But in the moment when they beheld the mount, it was not information that filled them, but awe. Louie told how he stood there looking at Rainier and wept. He was ashamed of his tears at the time—what self-respecting man weeps at a mountain? But as he shared the story in front of thousands of young people I guarantee there was no shortage of tears welling in our own eyes. Awe is contagious.
Rewiring Our Minds
A new film is set to release this year, the protagonist is a guy who values, "My body, my pad, my ride, my family, my church, my boys, my girls...and my porn." As best as I can tell from the trailer, when he finally encounters a girl who meets his porn-infused standards, he's surprised to find out she has some standards of her own. Her porn, though, is chick flicks—stories of tender, strong, fictional gentlemen who will meet her emotional and physical needs; needs which our principle guy finds he is hardly qualified to meet.
There's a good amount of gender stereotyping from what I can tell in just the trailer, however, as I don't see myself spending time, money, or soul watching the film, my observations here are based on the trailer alone. Now would be a good time to point out that porn is not just an issue for men: 66% of women today watch or have watched porn. But for the sake using the illustration of the film, we're going to stick to what it offers to us here. There are a few notable observations to be made from it, namely that even secular culture recognizes the similarity between men who watch porn and women who read books and films depicting romance. If watching porn rewires the minds of men, it's a safe bet to say there's some rewiring happening in the minds of women as well when they feast on emotional and sexual fantasies (of any kind).
One of the ways porn has affected men in greater numbers is their arousal by a real live woman is simply nonexistent. The more they feast on multiple women at the mere click of a button, the more they train their minds to need new, new, new. Though I have no scientific proof for my theory, I would argue the same is true for women who have allowed their minds to sit in the stench of imagined and unfulfilled futures. No man can compete with the specimen of modern lore.
A number of single, young men have told me they can't get a date because women have this strong, silent, tall, dark, and handsome fictional ideal. The same is true for women; men who have feasted on airbrushed women meeting their every sexual fantasy are not going to find much attractive in the girl next door unless she's wearing daisy dukes and midriff top. The more we feast on what is not real, the less we desire that which is.
In conversations with my single friends, the number one attribute of a woman the men want is someone they're physically attracted to, and the number one attribute the women want in a man is a partner and a friend. That's telling to me and it should be to all of us.
Wendell Berry, in his essay Feminism, the Body, and the Machine, writes,
Marriage, in what is evidently its most popular version, is now on the one hand an intimate "relationship" involving (ideally) two successful careerist in the same bed, and on the other hand a sort of private political system in which rights and interests must be constantly asserted and defended. Marriage in other words, has now taken the form of divorce: a prolonged and impassioned negotiation as to how things shall be divided.
While Berry is speaking specifically about the modern idea that within marriage we "split" duties and work equally, his share and her share, and how this is only a divorce mindset within the confines of a lawful marriage, there's something to be said here for the way we go about seeking a spouse. For a man to place such high emphasis on the "hotness" of his wife is to overlook the sharedness of the image in Whom they were made. And for a woman to find her greatest satisfaction in a man who will be her gentle-friend and provider, she misses the opportunity to reflect back the Maker to her spouse.
We have been splitting duties since the garden of Eden (Eve: The serpent gave it to me! Adam: The woman you gave to me gave it to me!). In a culture that increasingly sees nothing wrong with porn, romance novels, or chick flicks, we only fracture that split further: the woman is meant to please men, the man is meant to please women. Meanwhile both have almost completely lost sight of original intention which is not to please one another at all.
God's Good Pleasure
"Come, let us make man in our image, after our likeness," are the first words we hear from God regarding man. In our image. In our likeness.
He formed man from dust and breathed life into his nostrils. He formed woman from bone and brought her to man.
Adam's response to woman has been caricatured by many to imply that woman was staggeringly beautiful and so should every woman henceforth be to her husband. But it falls flat because to what did Adam have to compare this creation? There were no standards of beauty but One. God alone. And in Adam's cry we hear the anguished cry of every man and woman to this day when they behold the nearest thing to God they can know, "At last!"
It was not the mere beauty of Eve's body that brought Adam such joy, but the image-bearer of his Creator standing in full glorious reality in front of him. It was not only a sexual reaction, but a spiritual one. Like Louie at the foot of Mount Rainier, nothing could have prepared Adam for the sight of something which so beautifully reflected his Maker.
Within the hearts of men and women, at the sight of what God has created to bring Him worship and glory, to fulfill our greatest good and every mandate, we stand and worship, we weep. Why? Because we have seen the real thing, and no amount of airbrushed images or happily ever afters could prepare us for what God created to best reflect His likeness. A real, live person. The real thing.