Monday, October 22, 2012

Sex [For Lack of a Better Title]

I write this with much fear and trepidation. I am fully aware that the topic of this post will bring about interest so I want to be careful with my words, sensitive from my heart, true to scripture and as honest as possible. Above all else I pray that even in some small way this may be used to set captives free. Nothing I write is new. There is nothing new under the sun. This is not a "how to" or a "how not to" - I'm not that smart. Nor is this a lesson in biblical womanhood or biblical manhood - I'll leave that for others to instruct us on. These are just some thoughts on a sensitive subject that seems to be an area of much stress, distress, pain, and guilt.

Flip answers and five step solutions are not very helpful. 
Bible thumping and using God's commands on the subject are crushing. 

Any voice speaking into this situation that shouts law is just that - law. Maybe we can find another voice here - a voice that speaks grace and forgiveness and love...just maybe ~

Some Things Are Very Clear

God created men and women in his image:
So God created man in his own image,in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. Gen 1:27

God declared:
everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. Gen 1:31

Man (Adam) and Woman (Eve) enjoyed perfect fellowship with each other and with God in the Garden of Eden:
And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed. Gen 2:25

While the bible does not detail the marriage ceremony and the honeymoon highlights, we can see by the text that Adam and Eve enjoyed each other. Pointing only to the physical aspect of their enjoyment would be a gross oversight, but we do know that their physical relationship was part of the glorious freedom, liberty, and delight each experienced with the other.

For a moment, let your heart and mind wrap around the idea of a relationship with your spouse that is guilt free and shame free - one that is perfect in every way! 

It's hard I know, but that is the relationship Adam and Eve had - perfect fellowship with God and in perfect relationship with each other.

A Lot Of Things Are Not So Clear

Enter sin. Adam and Eve ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and:
Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. Gen 3:7

They knew their sin and they knew their nakedness. Overwhelmed with shame, guilt, and regret they tried to cover themselves.

Afraid now, they hid themselves from the One who created them:
And he said, "I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself." Gen 3:10

You can read the full account of creation and the fall in Genesis 1-3. From the verses above we now know why life is hard and confusing. Sin has entered the world - it will never be the same. Sin has affected and infected everyone and everything. We live in a fallen broken world with fallen broken people and an enemy who prowls seeking our devastation and ruin. The world, the flesh, and the devil are our constant companions which explains why suffering exists. As my pastor puts it "If you are breathing, you suffer".

Knowing these foundational truths can serve to inform my thoughts and feelings on the subject of sex.

God authored sex. It is a good gift he gave to men and women. 

It is a delight and a pleasure and something to be enjoyed in the context of marriage relationships. Because of sin, delight and pleasure and enjoyment are tainted. Selfishness, perversion, and unbelief have distorted what was once beautiful, pure, and good. 

We now have a lens to understand what's going on in our own lives and in our own relationships.

The Ideal

If you are married think about your wedding day. Mine was filled with excitement, hopes, dreams, and fantasy! If you are not married, maybe you dream of that day and anticipate all that your heart is beating for. Love and acceptance; fulfillment in every way. 

There is so much expectation wrapped up in marriage and sex is just one part of a bigger picture. It's funny how our expectations always center around the good things and never the hard things. 

We enter marriage expecting delight and joy, comfort and fulfillment.

The Reality

We don't enter marriage expecting sadness and loneliness, anxiety and shame.

We enter marriage thinking we are naked and unashamed

The truth is we are naked and ashamed.

We are still trying to cover our sin and hide from ourselves, each other, and God. The truth is we are continually trying to rid ourselves of sin and guilt - all of us, whether we realize it or not.

As a result of every single person struggling with sin and the resulting shame and guilt, we are all affected by the consequences. Every single day we look for ways to cover up and deflect the shame and guilt we feel. Our lives are organized around our constant need to feel better.

Some Of The Fallout

The presence of sin is our battle. Horizontal consequences have had, and continue to wreak havoc in the area of sexual relationships. That won't change until we go to be with Jesus or He returns in glory. Because of life in this fallen world it's safe to assume that all of us have dealt with, are dealing with, or will deal with one of these issues surrounding physical intimacy -

Men and women who enter marriage both having a sexual past
Virgin men married to women with a sexual past
Virgin women married to men with a sexual past
Intimacy issues
Communication issues
Parenting issues
Financial issues
Pornography (men and women)
Same sex attraction
Physical ailments
Prescription medications
Alcohol or drug addictions
Women and men living out of wedlock
Past abuse
Current abuse
Self esteem
Power struggles
Control issues
Effects of aging
False religious beliefs

Did you find yourself in thist list? I did. At least 9 times.

The truth is, consequences of living in a broken and fallen world seriously affect our relationships and only Jesus can heal hearts and make us free. 

I have talked with countless women who suffer daily under guilt, pressure, shame, and regret. Because of any number of the above listed realities, they are all too aware of their failings and their faults when it comes to sex and their relationship with their husbands.

I was sitting at a Women's Bible study table the other day and through our study of Genesis a discussion regarding sex ensued. A dear friend of mine spoke up and I was grateful for her words. She was helpful to the conversation when she reminded women of the biological differences between men and women - God created men and women uniquely. She went on to encourage women to understand their husbands desire for sex and she explained their needs as well as their intent. Sex for men is an expression of love and a vital way for them to connect with their wives. It was a serious conversation but at the same time it was lighthearted. What I most appreciated was my friend's boldness and willingness to bring it up - not your typical bible study convo!

As I sat and listened to the conversation from some, I detected silence from others. Not the typical shyness about speaking in a group bible study.

It was the averted eyes silence. 

The kind of silence that speaks a thousand words.

 It was the silence that was speaking shed tears and past and present pain. 

I could almost hear their cries and heartbreaking realities:

"I hear what you're saying, but that's not my story"
"I hear what you're saying, but my life is broken and there is no repair in sight"
"I hear what you're saying, but the painful past is haunting and I long for healing but I still struggle - every day."
"I hear what you're saying, but there is so much division and silence in my home I don't see how we can find our way back."
"I hear what you're saying, but the medication I/he is on is clouding everything and sex is the last thing on my/his mind."
"I hear what you're saying but my spouse is a porn addict and we are both too ashamed to ask for help - and honestly I'm too angry and hurt to be sympathetic".
"I hear what you're saying, but every time I close my eyes I hear the shouting and can feel the hitting again."
"I hear what you're saying, but we've gone so long now without physical intimacy I don't know if it can ever change."
"I hear what you're saying, but I feel guilty and I feel pressure. I regret how I feel everyday and want it to be different, I just don't know where to start."
"I hear the truth in what you're saying, but I feel like it's just one more person telling me what I should do without knowing the real pain and confusion I'm in."

The Only Redemption Possible

For all these women the only answer is Jesus. For the women I know (they are all around you) who are struggling in this area right this very moment - the only answer to the pain and suffering is the gospel of Jesus Christ that assures you that you are loved, accepted, welcomed, and approved by God because of what Christ has done for you. You are now clothed in the perfect righteousness of Christ.

Hearts longing for wholeness and healing can only come 

as we rest in the healing power of Jesus.

Hearts can only be transformed and melted by the glorious and radical good news that Christ died for sinners like us. Not for those who have it all together and all figured out, but for those who are at the end of themselves and realize they have no power to change their past circumstances, lingering feelings, and selfish motives apart from Jesus Christ.

If you are in Christ, nothing can separate you from the love of God...

He loves you with an eternal, 
everlasting love that will never let you go.

Resting in Christ's unconditional love and forgiveness is the fuel and motivation for relationships that are naked and unashamed. 

Grace is powerful enough to mend hearts, restore relationships, and renew physical intimacy

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