Yesterday a young woman sent me this email:
I have a question that I’ve been researching for quite a few days now, with not much success. Recently, my husband tearfully confided to me that while he trusts fully in Jesus for his salvation, he finds it hard to feel the love for God that Christians often speak about. He is a man of integrity—he is kind, compassionate, and generous. He is knowledgeable in the Bible and believes that it is the true word of God.
Is it possible for someone to be a Christian and be reverent to God, but not feel love for him? Is it just more difficult for men to connect emotionally with God? Is it easier for women to feel like a “bride of Christ” than it is a man? I have never heard this topic touched on or talked about in any capacity.
My husband is a highly intellectual individual—a thinker. I want to be able to understand his feelings, but I can’t relate and haven’t heard this issue addressed. I would be truly thankful if you have any ideas or know of any resources that may expound on these things.
Dear obviously earnest and good-hearted wife:
Tell your husband not to worry. I think is a problem of language, not substance. Christians use the same language as everyone around them, but oftentimes what they mean by the words they use is so different from what the rest of the world would mean by those same words that a kind of disconnect in the Christian’s mind can result. And nowhere is there a bigger difference between the way Christians and everybody else uses the language than in the way Christians talk about their “love” of Jesus.
Not long after becoming Christian I read about how a believer is meant to be the bride of Christ. My first thought was, “Oh no. I look awful in taffeta.” Then I tried to picture Jesus and me feeding each other cake at our wedding reception, and me getting it all over my veil, and everyone laughing and laughing until we all remembered that it’s wrong to be gay. (Um … I’m going to assume you know that was a joke, that I do not think it’s wrong to be gay.)
See? It’s a problem of language. We always hear how we’re supposed to be a bride of Christ. But I’m one ear-hair shave away from being Sasquatch. I’m not a bride. I’m never going to be a bride. Jesus never got down on one knee and proposed to me. He never invited me to meet his parents. Nothing like that ever happened.
I think Christians feel stress over the way their emotions don’t fully accord with the language they use when they talk about God. I can say I love Jesus, but the relationship I’ve then connected with that word is so radically unlike any other relationship with which I ever connect that word that I’ve automatically set myself into uncharted territory. As much and as readily as we talk about Jesus as if he were an actual, living, corporeal being, he’s not. We can’t actually, literally walk with Jesus. We can’t hold his hand. We can’t get into anything like a normal conversation with him. We can’t send him a letter, phone him, hug him, tousle his hair, or buy him a tie he has to pretend to like for Christmas. The relationship we have with Jesus isn’t anything like any other relationship we ever have with anyone—and yet we talk about it using the exact same words we use to talk about all of our other earthly, loving relationships.
I think this perpetual linguistic dichotomy causes Christians stress and even doubt. I think Christians hear other Christians rhapsodizing about Jesus as if he really were their husband or lover or friend, and then they, following suit, say the same things about their relationship with Jesus—and then secretly feel weird because of the disconnect between the language they’ve used and the reality of the relationship they’ve used that language to describe. I think they then fear that the disconnect they’ve sensed is an indication that they’re in some way disconnected from God. I that’s what’s happened with your husband. I think it speaks volumes about the quality of his relationship with Christ (not to mention of his relationship with you) that he would be honest enough about that perceived disconnection to share it with you.
Young husband: Fear not! You love Jesus, and Jesus loves you. Your problem is that you’re stuck, as are we all, using the only language you have to describe the one relationship in your life for which there is, in fact, no language at all.