With my body I Thee worship

withmybody_headerMen are at risk to serve sexuality instead of offering it.

by Phil Wagler

“With my body I thee worship.”

Once upon a time grooms uttered those words in marriage vows. To today’s postmodern ears they must sound like utter nonsense. They have a preposterous, even blasphemous ring about them. Does it not seem like something coined by an amorously tearful bride at the climax of the worst chick-flick of all time?

Wrong. The great English church reformer Thomas Cranmer, hopeless orthodox romantic that he was, framed it in the 17th century. I’m now half way through the second decade of married life and still learning to worship with my body. Life, let alone marriage, is quite the sexual journey for a man. Visions of fireworks are quickly doused by the sudden realization that we have much to learn and unlearn. The wise one implored the testosterone-driven male to rejoice in the wife of his youth (Proverbs 5:18). Song of Songs swoons that her smooth, succulent, adventurous beauty is worthy of great joy and, if biblical wisdom and Cranmer are right, adoration.

The Word of God frees us to celebrate that season of life when the tree is green and the fire stoked and very nearly out of control. The gift of youth is virility and fertility. It is a wonder any man survives to tell of a more settled, supposedly contented land beyond Hormonedom. Does it really exist? Can you get there from here? And, what of us who are single and no less endowed?

Each man must wrestle with the gift and problem of sexuality. A few among us actually don’t survive that wretchedly glorious springtime of life when this challenge assaults at our most vulnerable moment. Some men find themselves consumed by that blazing fire in the lower realms. Having not given their bodies to worship, to give what is due both God and woman in on-fire fidelity, they become pitiful slaves to desires that are never satisfied; to a thirst no woman, try as she may, will adequately be able to quench.

All men wander along a raging, potentially consuming libido current and are tempted to unreservedly dive into that river-of-no-return. I have yet to meet a man who is not somehow sexually broken. Admit it. Something has wrecked us. Some of us were never exposed rightly to this part of our identity; others were over-exposed. Some were abused; others abused. Some were baited by airbrush and caught by fish net; others were hoodwinked by a doctrine of male superiority. We are broken and risk serving our sexuality rather than offering it.

Our bodily functions are not to be served slavishly, but offered in free worship. The fertility cults of the ancients and contemporary Hollywood are disastrously misguided and blinded in this regard when they glorify unbridled smorgasbords of pleasure. Our bodies and all their various hungers and desires were not intended to be fed endlessly like some buffoon at a buffet, but, as the Apostle Paul said, to be offered as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1-2). It is our reluctance to offer such worship that keeps us bound in deceptive slavery to that which was to be given, not horded.

We may argue that any joy in sex is equally fitting, like when as a teen I argued I was celebrating creation by watching Revenge of the Nerds. Stupid me, I wasn’t even celebrating good filmmaking. Such rationale is of course pathetically faulty, for it argues from and for self-worship.

If with my body I worship—give to another what they are worthy of—then I must willingly set aside the self. I must die to me. I give what God, my Creator and Redeemer, and woman my complement in the image of God is worthy of. God deserves my obedience; woman my fidelity and gentle awe. I hoard no more. I take up my cross and follow Jesus. I surrender to the self-controlling Spirit of God. The divine, not the diva, beautifully corrals my manhood.

Then I am free to give woman what she is worthy of—honour, faithfulness, single-mindedness, and my strength. I am free to rejoice, to wait, to give, to offer, to vow, to serve and to love. It is true: with my body I do worship.

Phil Wagler is a son, husband, father, friend, and servant of the Body of Christ in southwestern Ontario.

The article above was featured in the May 2009 issue of SEVEN magazine.