No, this is not some new fandangle technique for improved sexual performance. But it grabbed your attention, didn’t it? There is some significance to the peanut butter & jelly sandwich though. But first, some jargon explanation. I hate to even use the word “sex” when referring to what is rightly called “the marital act” or “the marital union.” When you fill out any kind of application it asks for your sex. There is a common joke that quips about how the options are male and female, not “yes”, ” no” or “none of your business.” Sex is actually defined as the male or female division of a species, not an act. Even when we say we want to “have sex” it really makes no sense either. Unless we see it as it is most assumed; to have another. Hmmm. This brings us to why it is truly the marital union and to the peanut butter & jelly sandwich.
What is a peanut butter & jelly sandwich? It is a sandwich made with peanut butter & jelly, right? If you leave out the peanut butter, it becomes a jelly sandwich. Likewise, if you leave out the jelly, it’s only a peanut butter sandwich. Is a peanut butter and banana sandwich the same as peanut butter and jelly? Of course it’s not. So if we can understand it takes peanut butter and jelly to make a peanut butter & jelly sandwich, hopefully we can understand what the marital union really is and what it takes to make it really what it was created to be.
In Genesis 1:26 we read that God chose to make man in His image. So how is man, as in humanity, created in His image? First, we are created to love and be loved. John tells us in his first letter that “God is Love” 1Jn 4:8. How does God exemplify love? He gives, and gives and gives. He gave us a world in which to live. He gives us food to eat. He blesses us with children to continue to give us His love through them. Most sacrificially, He gave us His Son to show us how to love one another while He walked this earth and then showed us how to love each other eternally by giving up our lives for another. Maybe not physically, but definitely on a day-to-day basis. That Love is how we are created in His image.
So, back to Genesis. When we combine the two creation stories we find the two purposes of the marital union. God created Adam and then saw that he was all alone. He had no one in which to give his life. He had no one from which to receive love. So God created Eve. Genesis 2:24 tells us, “Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh.” Christ speaks of this in Matthew 19 when he teaches about divorce. He says in verse 4, “Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall be come one?’ So they are no longer two but one. What therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder.” There’s the first purpose of the marital union; union with another experiencing the love of God. We can also call it bonding or an even deeper meaning is love. It is a love that is a gift of ourselves to our spouse forever. It is a love that is given to only one person forever. That’s why it says a man leaves his mother and father and is joined to his wife, not his lover, not his girlfriend, not some woman in a bar. It’s a special gift to be given. It deserves one special person in which to be given. It is a gift that when given appropriately, leads the spouses to God because it is the sharing of the love given by God.
The second purpose of this marital act reveals why it is even more intended within marriage. Genesis 1:28 is the first wedding, “And God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it…” Now how can that be done except in the one flesh union? A handshake won’t cause a couple to be fruitful and multiply. Neither will a good kiss. It is only when a couple becomes one flesh that they can multiply as God intended. So now we see the second purpose of the marital act, babies.
Here’s how the peanut butter & jelly sandwich comes into the explanation. If it takes both peanut butter and jelly to be a peanut butter & jelly sandwich, then it should be easy enough to see that it takes both the unitive aspect and the procreative aspect to be the one flesh union God intended it to be. Leave out either bonding or babies and you have something different that what it is supposed to be.
The Vatican II document Gaudium et Spes reiterates this teaching in paragraph 48 stating, “Authentic married love is caught up into divine love and is governed and enriched by Christ’s redeeming power and the saving activity of the Church, so that this love may lead the spouses to God with powerful effect and may aid and strengthen them in sublime office of being a father or a mother.” So we can see that this one flesh union is meant to draw the couples closer together to share God’s love with one another and to create, with God, new life. (Peanut butter & jelly!)
When we try to negate our fertility and just have the unitive and bonding part of the act, we don’t have the marital act as it was intended, but something distorted. When we try to have babies without the one flesh union, again we have left out one of the ingredients of the sandwich and have something that will leave us needing something else. It will be either too sweet or too dry. We have to put love and life back into the understanding of the marital act and we have to put the marital act back into marriage or else we will end up with a peanut butter and banana sandwich when what we really, really wanted was a good ‘ole peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
Copyright 2012 Diane Schwind