The intimacy of marriage is the pinnacle experience of human-to-human relationships. Because humanity does not continue without that experience, God has built reward and pleasure into it. But he has also built into it a deeply profound symbolism that illustrates the spiritual nature of the physical union between a man and a woman. Consider the teaching that a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh (Ephesians 5:31). This multifaceted truth isn’t as obvious as it first appears, but instead has levels and fathoms of meaning. For instance, when healthy, the union of marriage produces a new organism in the sense that a man and a woman meld into each other through a mutual commitment to one another’s well being. They begin to act as a team and pull beneath the same yoke, and strive toward the same goals. When God is placed first in such a marriage, there is pleasure and reward in the striving. Even deeper, is that such a union often produces children. Those children are the fusion of the genetic materials of mother and father – one flesh born from the melding of the two. At its healthiest, there is also a fusion of values and direction in the child. This fusion flows from the unique attributes of each parent as they transfer wisdom individually through their raising of the new person. This is the earthly reason why marriage is so serious, and so important. An unhealthy marriage does not produce pleasurable striving, but strife. Worse, it produces a new flesh born into that strife, which is predisposed to disunity and fracture.
The temporary pinnacle sexual experience of physical intimacy can find its greatest pleasure and climax only after other forms of intimacy have been cultivated. Cultivation is work and toil. It is the weeding of the garden, the breaking of ground, the daily watering and feeding of the fruit you have planted and wish to produce. It is taking out the trash, sacrificing in small things, sharing in pain, telling someone they are beautiful, recognizing accomplishments, giving when it hurts, preparing the day and the week in such a way that union is desirable and attraction natural. It is the daily making of the bed so that sheets are fresh, smooth, and ready. When these intimacies are cultivated, the fruit is sweetest. A mysterious and counterintuitive truth that the best gardeners have come to realize is that the tending of the garden even becomes pleasing. This tending is a symphony of work. It is a crescendo that leads to a climax. A climax without a crescendo is just a clanging noise.
Deeper still is that human intimacy is a reflection of the relationship between God and his people (Ephesians 5:25-33). It is a reflection of sacrificial, submissive, nourishing bonding which ultimately creates new creatures that embody the values and attributes of the parent (2 Corinthians 5:17).