I came into marriage prepared for the advent of the Era of Sexy, and I had a good idea of what that would look like. Bridal shower lingerie, knowing looks, candles, lotions and potions, and a playlist with earthy beats and sotto voce vocalists. There would be whispers, slow dances in the kitchen, lingering applications of sun screen. There would be fireplaces.
These would be our habits, I thought.
So, 10 years down the line, it took me by surprise to realize what our sexiest habit has become. Here it is: my husband gets home a little after 6pm and steps into the whirlpool of whining and sticky hands from our 3 small kids. We sit down, pray, and eat dinner while the children complain that they didn’t get quesadillas or hamburgers or vanilla ice-cream.
After the whining-eating festival is over, I step into the kitchen and enlist the help of power scrubbers to reverse the chaos of the dinner hour. In the meanwhile, he escorts the kids upstairs and begins their bed-time routine. He gets them out of their clothes and into their pajamas. Teeth get brushed and inspected. Sometimes, there is wrestling. Often, there is crying. He lets each of them choose an age-appropriate bible story and reads it patiently: usually with one of the children hanging from his neck while another practices death-defying jumps from bed to bed. He sings them one song, two songs, three songs. He brokers a deal with a four-year old terrorist. And finally, he kisses their exhausted, sweaty little heads and flips off the light. He sinks down the stairs, and this is where we find each other: crumpled and wordless on the couch, stunned that we just survived another day. Again.
Astonishingly, I find that this habit of his – this daily putting the kids to bed in all its chaotic, frenetic beauty – is the sexiest habit of all. But before you click away in annoyance thinking, “That title was deceptive! There’s nothing sexy about this at all!” let me explain.
That daily 30-minute bed-time ritual is precious to me: our children are DAILY loved, attended to and prayed over by their father. And I DAILY have a few minutes of quiet to collect my thoughts and pick up the kitchen; a few moments to collect my thoughts, hang up my mom-apron and remember that before I was mom I had a name.
Daily, I hear my husband patiently affirm his love for our children and daily I see him demonstrate the marital principle of togetherness in action – no matter how long his day has been or how tired he is. And, amazingly, it is sexy.
It is not sexy because there is anything innately awesome about putting the kids to bed. I am not unaware that we have exchanged fluorescent and sulky for the dreams of candle-lit and sultry. It IS sexy, though, because his daily act of love is exactly that: an act of love, and it is a love language that speaks loudly and clearly to me.
At this age, and in this stage of life – the barriers to intimacy are deep. The warmest fireplace, the skimpiest clothes, the “let’s get it on” music will do nothing to get me “in the mood” if I feel unseen, unloved, unnoticed. It is hard for a lonely wife to be an enthusiastic lover. I need to be called by name, I need a few minutes to take off the other aprons and hats of responsibility I wear and feel known before any knowing-in-the-biblical sense is going to happen.
And so, he put the kids to bed. He does it for our children, and he does it for himself as a Dad. But he does it for me too, and of all the things he does that make me treasure him, want him – this one habit stands out.
In Psalm 139:3, the Psalmist writes of the Lord: “You scrutinize my path and my lying down; and are intimately acquainted with all my ways.”
Yes indeed: intimacy is about being known in all our moments, not about being known for just a moment. It is the one who knows our path, who is with us day-in and day-out, the one who sees us and walks beside us, buoying us up with acts of loving self-sacrifice, it is the one who puts the children to bed every night when I am weary-of-mothering – that is the one with whom I long to be intimately acquainted.
It’s the sexiest habit. Candles are an optional extra.