To really see the theology of the body at work, you don’t have to go inside a church. God uses your body every day to make the invisible visible and the intangible tangible. It happens every time you share His love with another individual.

I’m not talking about what Christians call witnessing. Ordinary acts of love and kindness—from telling a relative, "I love you," to smiling at the woman who sells you your morning coffee, to pausing to let another driver into your lane—all hint at heaven. Moreover, such actions align your body with God’s purpose for it—a loving purpose that rejects selfishness.

The idea that parts of the body have purpose in and of themselves is not terribly fashionable these days. As our culture would have it, if a friend of yours gets her tongue pierced with a silver stud, you’re not supposed to say, "That’s gross. It looks unnatural, and it’s going to be a real pain for you when you eat." You’re supposed to say something like, "Cool! What a bold fashion statement!"

Likewise, our culture rebels against the idea that the body has a higher purpose, because to suggest it instantly implies that we will suffer in our spirits for sins that we commit against our own bodies. This is too terrible for many people to even think about—so they deny the body’s deeper meaning entirely.

Just as your tongue is made to taste and speak, so your whole body is made to experience God’s love and communicate it to others.

This is a great responsibility, but an even greater blessing—especially when we consider the most intense and exciting means that God has created for us to share His love.

In marriage, God enables us to use our bodies to create a love that is more than the sum of their parts. On one level, He does this literally—by granting children. But even before that occurs, He does it figuratively, by making the bride’s and bridegroom’s love bear new and greater spiritual fruit.

Jesus compared heaven to a wedding feast, and John wrote in the book of Revelation that we would all celebrate a wedding in heaven: the marriage of the church—which is to say, all believers who make it to heaven—to Jesus. When you unite yourself to a husband, you will in a very real sense be practicing for your life in heaven, united to the Lord in a way far beyond what you can imagine. Likewise, God intends your and your husband’s love for each other to emulate His love for you—full, complete, and eternal.

One of the most beautiful and mysterious things about marriage is the fact that people get so excited about weddings even when they’re not terribly religious. Why is that? I mean, when you go to a wedding reception, why are people so exhilarated if all they’re celebrating is the fact that John and Judy can finally have socially sanctioned sex whenever they want? Why do people cry at weddings if they’re only glad that Liz can have a kid before her biological clock runs out?

On some level, even if they don’t fully understand it, people at weddings know that they are witnessing something greater than two people uttering timeworn phrases of fidelity. They know that even if John and Judy have been living together and already have a child, something changes once they’re married. They’re no longer mere individuals, but a couple, with the deepest, strongest commitment two people can have.

Now, if a couple who aren’t even religious can feel somehow strengthened by the force of vows made before friends and family, imagine the force the marital commitment takes when made before the eyes of God. A man and woman’s commitments to love, honor, and cherish each other as long as they both shall live take on new meaning and power when they both long with all their hearts for eternal life with God. The gift of self that they give to each other becomes a gift to the Lord.

God rewards the married couple with the gift of being able to participate in His act of creation. This is expressed in the gift of children, but also in the creative spirit that flourishes between the man and the woman. When a husband and a wife put their hearts, minds, spirits, and bodies together with no limits, the result brings a spiritual abundance that—used properly—makes the world a far richer place.

Excerpted from The Thrill of the Chaste (W Publishing Group) by Dawn Eden. © Copyright 2006 by Dawn Eden. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

Dawn Eden is an assistant news editor and columnist for The New York Daily News. A former rock historian, her writings have also appeared in National Review Online, Touchstone, People, and her own blog, The Dawn Patrol.