December 16, 2008

A Story

Today's post is centered around this holiday season. In my heart, I hold the precious birth of my Savior in highest regard and this year my feelings have been directed in love toward his mother. Beginning to understand and receive enlightenment, I have discovered beautiful detail of her experience and love for her husband Joseph. Their relationship was incredible. A union of sacred closeness that I'd like to explore today.

Mary and Joseph were engaged or "espoused" when the angel, Gabriel, visited her. In this time of history, to be engaged was as binding as being married itself. The only differences were the marital privileges you could not participate in; intimacy as one of those. To make the engagement official there was a large ceremony-or party-where the soon to be bride publicly accepted the proposal. She announced her acceptance verbally or had a written acceptance that was read to all in attendance. This was a standard event for those who were going to enter the covenant of marriage. We know this experience had taken place with Mary and Joseph as well. Their families and friends were excited and supportive. Their engagement had been celebrated. (ie. "Jesus the Christ", by James E. Talmage).

Mary, as we are familiar, was a virgin and had not been intimate prior to her angelic visit. She had kept herself pure and clean and was saving this gift for her husband to be. Back then, to be sexually active before marriage was not only unacceptable, it was forbidden by law. Thus, when the angel came to Mary and told her she was to be the mother of the Christchild the first question asked was, "How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?" (Luke 1:34)

As a religious woman, Mary knew that a Savior would be born. She had been taught and understood that Isaiah had already predicted his coming. Never, however, could she have imagined the sacred glory of this magnitude to be hers. Engaged to be married, learning of this pregnancy to come, and realizing her relationship was at stake, how would she explain this to her fiance'? How would she face her family and community? What would be her future?

I do not know your husbands. I do know mine however, and I am certain that news that I was pregnant while we were engaged would have been painful and heart breaking specifically because we, also, had not been intimately connected. Their story was not different. In addition to Gabriel telling her of this miraculous event, he also told her that her cousin, Elizabeth, was expecting a child as well. Elizabeth was old in years and had been trying all of her married life to have a baby. So old in fact, it was no longer possible for her to conceive (John the baptist, as it would be) thus making the news a miracle indeed. This was exciting for Mary. She was thrilled for her cousins' success. She had someone who could relate with her and truly understand God's hand in this journey, and, they would share this experience together. She packed her things after the angel left and went to visit Elizabeth-100 miles away.

She had not told Joseph.

When she arrived, there was joy in their greeting. I am sure that tears fell in their amazement and wonder as they unfolded the details of their lives and the marvelous encounter with an angel of God. They had so much to share and Mary stayed with Elizabeth for three months. (Luke 1:56)

In my own pregnancies, I begin "showing" around 3 months, as was the case for Mary. Coming home and meeting her sweet Joseph, the unspoken and obvious detail of her fragile state spoke volumes. He must have been devastated. The kind, loving, and compassionate man that he was however, is expressed in Matthew chapter 1 verse 19 which reads: "Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily."

Back in these times, to break an engagement was to "divorce". To finalize a broken engagement, one had to choose the direction in which the severing would go. Option #1: A large public display. The community welcome to watch the "he said- she said" fingers pointing- which was not uncommon. Or #2: A private meeting with two witnesses and the man and woman breaking the engagement. A signed document for the divorce agreement in an undisclosed event. Joseph, after finding her pregnant, denied his own confusion and pain and did not harbor a desire to hurt in return. He loved Mary. She was his life. She was his absolute joy, and he could not consider exposing what he thought was her "choice", in spite of his wounded heart. He sadly and quietly opted an honorable release from the woman he once called his "wife". (This makes me cry.)

Through the despair of loosing Mary in his heart, Joseph had a dream. In this dream, an angel explained to him the situation (Joseph also knew of the predicted Savior), and when he awoke, he rushed to her. Surely I cannot comprehend the deep emotion and relief he experienced, as he would marry his fiance' after all. No one knew that this pregnancy was not Joseph's as they married soon thereafter. With the exception of Elizabeth and her husband Zacharias, everyone thought that the baby was his. Another miracle. And he did this to save her shame. He did this because he LOVED her.

His love was so remarkable in fact that even after they were married they did not have sex. He was a patient and humble man to set aside his own desires and wait until after the birth of Christ. Matthew 1: 25 says: "And (Joseph) knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and called his name Jesus." Can you see what this means? He was married to her for 6 months and they never experienced sexual intimacy. Some may ask why...but the truth is that Mary was to be a virgin when she brought forth God's firstborn son. Joseph honored this, thus making it truly a virgin birth. He was amazing to her. He was selfless and kind. They had "consented one the other" and they remained pure and happy-even without sexual intimacy "for a time".

One friend said that this blog was a man's best friend...encouraging the wives to want sex. This blog is more complex than this as it also encourages a more difficult challenge for men- INTIMACY. It encourages closeness and selflessness and honorable choices that lift wives to their potential. It encourages respect and cherished moments in a private setting that focuses our hearts on one another. It encourages love that is established by becoming "one flesh" as we put our trust in the one we married. This kind of "focused" intimacy is in deed a challenge for many men. A difficult virtue, but one which Joseph's example proves possible and true, because it is innately in their hearts. It is with this kind of selfless intimacy that celestial relationships develop, preparing a husband and wife for exaltation.

This story is remarkable on so many levels. I share this with you to let you experience for yourselves the deep and abiding love this couple held dear. It IS possible. It is available to us- this love, without going through the things they had to face.

We all have challenges I know, but may we work for this unique love so our intimacy as a couple can grow. Many people wouldn't think that sex was written about in biblical text. I think this is because in our day the adversary has made this connection seem pornographic, sensual, and wrong. May we seek truth and light so that this connection can become clean and safe and awesome! This blog is about strengthening marital relationships. I hope this story prompts us to love our spouse with all of our soul, and one way to share this kind of love is to "be one."

Merry Christmas.


  1. Essentially, the physical union should be the literal symbol of coming together of family goals, finances, religious ideals, etc. This is the intimacy that takes work to is difficult!

  2. Very difficult Mrs Olsen! It is the stresses of everyday life that often pull us apart. Differences in opinions and strengths, differences in habit and ethic. Differences make it difficult- for sure.

    A concept that I had not really explored before, surfaced a few years ago in our relationship. I learned from an expert that it is wise and beautiful to use the "literal symbol" of our union as you said (sex)- to bring those very challenges to the table and dissolve them in that moment. To leave all of the world behind: finances, children, buisness, etc. and focus solely on eachother. Through this effort, our stresses were minimized. Not less. We could share the stresses and carry them together. We could relieve our minds of the day to day drama and experience a connection that carried us forward the next day or hour with stronger spirits to face the hardships we have to carry. My stresses were minimized with Mr. Napes because they were shared there. His stresses were minimized because he brought them to share there with me. Our unity as one, literally carried over into the bill paying and the diapers. It strengthened us.

    I would be lying if I claimed it were this way every time. Sometimes the very stresses I carry are Mr. Napes himself. And me as his stresses as well. These are the MOST trying times. Having experienced the good though, helps me know it is possible, because we have had felt the unity before. I then go to the drawing board and assess my pride. (Hard stuff!) Reconnecting after I am humble is the GREATEST intimate moments I have ever had though. Worth the fight to overcome.

    There are many different reasons and purposes in sex. Moments just to have fun. Moments to be romantic. Moments to make up from a fight. Moments to be silly. Moments during the day when the husband is home for lunch. Moments of tears. Even sexual moments through sorrow. Understanding the kind of moment we wish to share and letting our spouse know is very helpful to create the highest of all experiences.

    If he wants to make out because he's stressed and he tells you that beforehand, it makes it easier not to be dissapointed when he falls asleep after. We can support and put him first. If we want to feel his love because we are tired of the kids and need romance, he can prepare for that as well. Communication about our desires before the heat of the moment can draw us closer than ever before. It also helps prepare us to share in a way that is meaningful to the other. Both needs are met, and selflessly we grow as a couple. This then, means those stresses in life can be faced with unity and joy.

    No couple has it completely figured out. Difficulty and frusteration are sure to accompany intimate moments. It is apart of our learning. Maybe living lives of forgiveness and hope will save hard times from becoming unbearable times. If we all keep trying and communicating and pressing forward- we are bound to be blessed.

  3. I appreciate this post. I recently watched the movie "The Nativity" (maybe you saw this on my blog). After viewing this film, it made me ponder on the relationship of Mary & Joseph, and how this miracle of Jesus's birth effected them in every way, even sexually. It was touchy and difficult! You've added clarity to my thoughts in your discussion here. It's truly a wonderful, miraculous story. Mary & Joseph were no ordinary couple. And I have no doubt that they were specifically chosen for this mission because of who they were.
    Thank you, again.