Sharing My Own Story

I’ve told bits and pieces of my own story regarding sexual intimacy here and there throughout this blog, and more of it is entailed in the My Story page.

But today I’m focusing a bit more on what I went through and how it affected my initial years of my marriage. Here’s my story: Inside My Head.

Pen writing "My Story" on paper

17 Years Old

I haven’t had sex. Totally haven’t had sex. Fine, call me a “technical virgin.” But that word virgin is still in there, right? (Right?)

I don’t mean to go over the line with guys. I just end up there somehow. I tell myself I’ll keep anything beyond kissing from happening, and then he’s there and I’m there and we’re kissing and it’s hot and heavy and things just, well, happen. And once they’re already happening, it’s too late. Might as well enjoy it.

Besides, who decides what’s too far anyway? Whenever we ask that question of an adult in church or some youth event, we get one of two answers — “Just don’t have sex” (which is what I’m doing) or “Don’t ever be alone with a boy.” Seriously? Who are these people? It’s like they’ve forgotten what it was to be a teenager.

And I don’t even think they like kissing and foreplay and sex. That one wife in our “becoming a woman” Bible class pinches up her face every time one of us girls mentions it. Do they know what it’s like to have your heart thumping and your head floating and your lips entangled with a guy you really, really want to be with? Do they know how hard it is to say no when all that’s going on inside you?

Still, I’ll keep from doing the big thing. I’ll be a virgin until I marry. I will. Promise.

22 Years Old

When it comes to counting my lovers, it’s not a big number, at least not in the secular world. But it’s a big deal to me. And as much as I’ve tried to rationalize my decisions, I suspect it’s a big deal to God.

I apologize and try to repent each time, but I simply keep failing. I completely understand Paul’s statement that “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” So very, very weak.

Although honestly, why did God make it feel so physically good? And why must I wait until I someday get married? I could have waited if I’d lived in biblical times, because they say Mary was probably a teenager, maybe even 15 or 16, when she got married. I was pure as new white porcelain when I was 16.

Now? Not so much.

Though here’s the real question: What wonderful Christian man wants this package of damaged goods?

Then again, what besides my sexuality do I have to offer? I’m not particularly beautiful or poised or rich or whatever. I’m smart, but how far does smart go? When it comes to who you want to kiss at night, are you thinking, Hey, this girl reads Tolstoy. I so want her!?

Still, there’s got to be a better way.

26 years old

“Sadie, Sadie, married lady, that’s me!” I can’t believe I’ve picked the guy, said the I Do‘s, and moved in with my lifetime love. Me? The girl whose monogamy track record is less than stellar. I had too much of a “love the one you’re with” approach.

But now I have this heart-sure feeling this is The One (cue serious music). I love him, more and deeper than any other. I can envision our lives together, lasting many years into the future. “Till Death Do Us Part.”

For the time being, however, it’s nice living in the present. The present that includes making love almost every day. Our sexual intimacy is amazing.

Although sometimes I’m nervous around him. Cautious about showing too much or seeming too experienced or eager. That uninhibited part of me comes from my days of premarital promiscuity, the days I’d now like to forever forget. (Why can’t I just forget?) After all, I’m Sadie, Sadie, married lady, so I really should be more feminine, more reserved, more coquettish. If I act like I did before, doesn’t that just make me a slut? All over again?

I have to keep that part of me inside. Bury it. Ignore it. Hope it goes away. I’m legit now. I’m not that same person I was before. Right?

God has forgiven me. Hasn’t He?

♦     ♦     ♦

So I just let you inside my head to hear what was going on regarding my sexual intimacy through the years. But the story doesn’t finish there. Not by a long shot! It took a while, but God righted my heart and my life regarding sexual intimacy.

I learned the difference between trying to do the right thing in my own might and surrendering to God. I learned God had indeed forgiven me and I needed to accept His grace, the grace He sacrificed His own son to give. I learned God was not punishing me for past sins when I experienced difficulties regarding sexual intimacy in marriage, that ongoing challenges were par for the course and opportunities to deepen my trust in His perfect plan.

I learned my husband never saw me in terms of my wayward past, that I was his cherished wife and lover. I learned that trying some different things and letting go of inhibitions could positively affect our marriage bed. I learned to feel good about my body and the beauty I possess.

I learned my past hardship and heartache shouldn’t be ignored or buried or wished away, but could be part of my personal testimony — from which to help others who struggle with sexual intimacy.

I learned that even regarding sex, God knows what He’s talking about. His design is good.

The words “THE END” haven’t been written on my story. There’s more to come. Yet I have absolute faith my story will end with the phrase: “And, with God’s help, she lived happily ever after.”

Now what’s your story? What lessons have you learned along the way?

Have Stories Damaged Your View of Sex?

On Thursday, I addressed how I would write screen sex scenes differently from the way Hollywood does. But I ended the post by pointing out that “if Hollywood let me write the sex scenes, very little sex would occur on the screen. I’d opt for the approach of many classic movies in which lovemaking was implied but not shown. After all, sexual intimacy in marriage is the sort of thing that should happen behind closed doors.”

One commenter added: “Why and how did it become acceptable to have sex scenes in movies anyway? Why do people want to watch that? Focus, Hollywood. Less is more.”

jeune femme drôle cachée derrière livreI agree with those who say there is a danger in filling our minds with unrealistic stories about sexual activity — whether it comes from pornography, Hollywood, erotic books, or over-the-top romance novels. When we allow erroneous messages about sex into our eyes, our minds, and our hearts, we can cheapen the intimate act God gave married couples and adopt twisted expectations of the sexual intimacy in our marriage.

  • Why won’t my wife do what that woman on the screen will do? Why isn’t she as eager and wild?
  • Why doesn’t my husband sweep me on my feet like that and pleasure me for hours?
  • Why does our sex sometimes feel awkward, when it looks so beautiful in the movies?

Do you pay attention to where you’re getting your messages about sexuality? Who is telling you the stories about romance, love, passion, and sex? What are they telling you, and is it helpful for the sexual intimacy in your marriage?

From a practical perspective, I don’t think you can entirely avoid stories that don’t wholly support God’s view of sexual intimacy. At least not without locking yourself away somewhere. Turn on the TV or watch a movie or open a magazine, and there will be tales of couples engaged in premarital sex, comedies poking fun at sexless marriages, messages hinting that kinkier is better, etc. As Christians in the world, we need to sharpen our filters and be able to move past that, identifying untruths where they occur.

But honestly, I cannot remember the last time I saw an R-rated movie, because I grew so weary of being cussed at and shown naked people doing it. Sometimes we don’t need a filter so much as a fortress — just shoving out those stories of sexual intimacy that could do real damage to our minds, hearts, and marriages.

Consider these scriptures:

I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a young woman.” Job 31:1

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Proverbs 4:23

“But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Matthew 5:28

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.” Philippians 4:8

“I will not look with approval on anything that is vile. I hate what faithless people do; I will have no part in it.” Psalm 101:3

Of course, the Bible itself includes stories of sexual sin — but they are provided as warnings, not entertainment. Like the fables or original fairy tales provided important warnings about not talking to strangers (Red Riding Hood) or the importance of working hard (Ant and Grasshopper). There’s a very different tone in stories like Tamar (this one or this one) or David and Bathsheba and the love between Elkanah and Hannah or between the Lover and Beloved. It’s clear what sexual stories would receive God’s approval and which would get His rebuke or condemnation.

Maybe it’s time to ask yourself some questions. What are you reading? What are you watching? What are you listening to? What stories about sexual intimacy are you soaking up and giving credence? Are they in line with God’s message? Do you need to make different choices?

If I Wrote the Sex Scenes

It’s too bad Hollywood won’t hire me to write a few sex scenes. I’d like to change a few misguided myths of the screen. Albeit, I don’t know if anyone would pay the ticket price to see the nitty-gritty of real sex in real marriages.

While sexual intimacy in marriage outranks mythical Hollywood sex by a long shot, it may not look so visually appealing from the sidelines. Indeed, I’ve never personally had a desire to videotape a sexual encounter with my husband to watch later — because I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t titillate me, but rather make me incredibly self-conscious about every body motion and facial expression I made from then on.

I’ll take blissful ignorance and unbridled passion instead.

Film clapboardSo what if I could write the sex scenes? How would I infuse a bit of truth onto the screen — while not repelling the audience?

1. No perfect-passion-night-becomes-long-lasting-romance. That happens all the time in movies: A couple barely knows each other, has a wild night of passionate lovemaking, and then realizes this is the person they want to live with, clean up after, and make little people with. In real life, that happens to maybe 0.0003% of the population. More often, a couple who has an amazing night of sex and decides to jump in with both feet find themselves months down the road screaming at each other and divvying up the furniture. Why? Because one night of hot sex does not a lifetime of happiness make.

Instead, my sex scene will occur at the end of the movie — as the culmination of a building of a relationship, learnings the ins and outs of this person, finding out if this is someone they want to be with for a lifetime, saying some much-needed I Do’s, and then tumbling into bed for a wild night of passionate lovemaking. Which now means so much more because the foundation is solid.

2. Her bra and underwear don’t always match. Am I the only one this annoys? So there will be some actress who had no idea she’d be making love that night, and she slips off her dress to reveal perfectly matched, gorgeous lingerie.

While I’m all in favor of wearing something nice to bed or under your clothes, there are puh-lenty of nights I wear something perfectly matched and sex doesn’t happen . . . and then I dig down to the bottom of the drawer for something to wear one day, and bam! hubby’s in the mood that night. And he doesn’t care if my bra is beige and my panties are green.

Instead, my sex scene would involve the wife pulling her last pair of underwear from the drawer, promising herself to do laundry, and then apologizing to her husband for the hole in her left cheek’s fabric. And hubby would say, “Don’t worry, sweetheart. You’d be sexy wearing a paper sack.” And then – be still, my heart — he’d offer to do the laundry.

3. They have to talk out the positioning. Somehow movie couples seem to move in tandem, in well-choreographed rhythm, like a Dancing with the Stars 10-out-of-10 performance. Whether they’ve made love once or a thousand times, the man and woman intuitively understand one another’s moves.

However, one recent moment of lovemaking in my house included this moment. “Hair! Hair! Hair!” I yelled. And my husband moved his arm and freed my hair from its painful entrapment. I don’t care how good a lover he is, yanking my hair follicles is not a turn-on.

Like it or not, quality sex can sometimes require communicating about how to move around and get everything lined up just so. It can also involve a few oopses from time to time, when unexpected entanglements happen. Or even falls. Like off the bed.

So maybe the married couple should stumble or fall now and then or say unsexy things like, “Can you move? You’re hurting my arm.” When you have that level of comfort in marriage that you can say such things, you’re likely to experience better intimate moments. That sex scene is well-coordinated, because it’s well-communicated.

4. Orgasms involve turn-taking as much as simultaneity. Movie couples tend to climax at the exact same moment, falling back onto the sheets in breathless fits of exhaustion and satisfaction. Every. Single. Time.

Sure, simultaneous orgasm is possible, even common in some marriages. But as a good friend of mine expressed so well, “This ain’t synchronized swimming.” Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn’t. Quite often in many marriages, one climaxes, then it takes a while to get the other there. Or maybe one climaxes this time, and the other doesn’t. It can vary. And not climaxing doesn’t make sex a failure. The closeness and intimacy still matter.

In my sex scenes, the couple would generously take time and help one another to figure out how to climax. If one achieved orgasm first, the other would receive additional attention until they reached the peak or decided to pass this time. Regardless, the deep physical connection and exciting sensations would be a satisfying part of the lovemaking.

Actually, if Hollywood let me write the sex scenes, very little sex would occur on the screen. I’d opt for the approach of many classic movies in which lovemaking was implied but not shown. After all, sexual intimacy in marriage is the sort of thing that should happen behind closed doors.

How would you rewrite the stereotypical sex scenes into something more like real married life?

Who’s in Your Story of Sexual Intimacy?

Open story bookWriting fiction, I’ve studied character archetypes with which we are all familiar — the hero, the love interest, the villain, etc. A successful book or movie incorporates all the necessary character types to tell the story.

But sometimes our own lives lack the supporting characters we need. When I hear of married couples struggling year after year in a sexless marriage or with pornography issues or physical challenges to intimacy or adulterous affairs, etc., too often they are struggling alone. It’s a me against the giant scenario.

While that’s an appealing story, David was not actually alone against Goliath. Neither should we face extreme marital problems alone, even those involving sex.

Who are the characters in your story of sexual intimacy?

Snow White

Snow White, the heroine

Heroine. Hello, wife. You are the heroine of your story. You’re the one with a goal — which is hopefully healthy, godly sexual intimacy with your husband. But you’re also likely to face challenges along the way, obstacles which must be overcome.

Why? Because Earth isn’t Heaven. We live in a broken world where problems occur and temptations abound. However, God can use these struggles to grow us into the people He desires us to be. Through our difficulties and victories — and even our failures and repentance — we can learn how to be stronger, love better, and glorify our Heavenly Father.

Flynn Ryder

Flynn Ryder, hero of Tangled

Hero. In romance novels, there’s the main-character heroine and her love interest, also known as the hero. You and your husband are involved in a romance, and I assume you both want a Happy Ever After. God wants you to have that Happy Ever After too. It was one of the reasons He made sex the way He did for His children.

Most romantic stories involve the hero and heroine finally recognizing that they love each other enough to conquer whatever ails them. So do you see your husband that way? Do you identify yourselves as being on the same team? Able to conquer your problems together?

Perhaps you need to take another good long look at the man you chose. If he isn’t acting the way you expected your hero to act, ask why. Do you understand where he’s coming from and why he feels the way he does? Do you acknowledge the difficulties he faces? Does he feel like you are on his team? If you need to work through some things to get on the same page, to have that together feeling, make one goal of your story aligning the hero and heroine so you can pursue your Happy Ever After.

Maleficent

Maleficent, villain of Sleeping Beauty

Villain. Yes, there’s a villain. Satan does not want you to have a good Christian marriage. If you’re healthy and happy in your sexual intimacy, how will he tempt you to sin? It’s far easier to divide you as a couple, wear down your trust in God and marriage, and tempt you to meet needs elsewhere when you’re unhappy or disengaged with your husband and your sexual intimacy.

Sometimes we don’t consciously identify Satan as the real villain. Maybe instead you dump everything on your husband, believing he’s the instigator of all your difficulties. Or maybe you blame your church or your parents or your past marriage or your ex-boyfriend or some past event.

I’m not saying there isn’t responsibility there. Some are to blame and deserve a heap of heavy guilt dumped upon their head. But many times, a Christian marriage is simply being attacked by the Prince of Lies, and we need to get that clear in our heads. We need to identify the real villain of our story.

Lumiere

Lumiere, herald of Beauty and the Beast

Herald. A herald challenges the existing order by announcing something important, something that will change things. In American history, a famous herald is Paul Revere shouting, “The Regulars are coming!” to colonists so they could prepare for the arrival of King George’s troops. In the Bible, Job has heralds in the form of servants who come to tell him of the deaths of his livestock and children.

Heralds aren’t necessarily popular, because they well may deliver tough news. But it’s news we need to hear.

Churches and marriage ministries should be filling this role. Christian communities need to speak loudly and unequivocally to protect, support, and encourage healthy God-honoring sexual intimacy in marriages. We have to be willing to speak against sexual activity outside of marriage, to speak clearly about what the Bible says about sex, and to spread the good news of how God can heal and nurture our intimate lives. Is your church doing this? Are you plugged into resources that herald the truth about sexual intimacy?

Ariel and Flounder

Flounder, Ariel’s ally in The Little Mermaid

Ally. What would Sherlock Holmes be without Dr. Watson? Batman without Robin? Captain James T. Kirk without Spock? (Had to throw that one in!) We all need allies — people who’ll support us and our mission.

I’ve talked again and again about the importance of having godly friends who support your marriage and your sexual intimacy. If you’re in a group of wives who constantly berate their husbands or mock their sex drives, you’re not getting the ally experience you need.

Instead, find wives who will talk honestly and positively about sexual intimacy in marriage. Be that kind of wife to others. “One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24). Make sure you have friends who’ll be your marriage’s ally.

Fairy godmother

Fairy Godmother, mentor in Cinderella

Mentor. We know mentors when we see them in film: Gandalf in Lord of the Rings, Yoda in Star Wars, Mr. Miyagi in The Karate Kid, and on and on. In the Bible, there are often mentors as well — people who have wisdom and faith they impart to others. Samuel had Eli, Paul had Ananias, Timothy had Paul.

When it comes to sexual intimacy in marriage, it can be hard to identify who should mentor you. Whom can you turn to for wise advice? Yes, you can come to blogs like mine, but it’s also helpful to have face-to-face interaction when you’re in the midst of a struggle. You may need a counselor or organization to speak directly into your situation and mentor you through difficulties. You may need to consult a physician or a pastor or a Bible class teacher. You may simply need a more experienced wife who can teach what is good, as described in Titus 2:3-5.

But let’s admit we don’t know it all, and sometimes we need a mentor who can speak the Word of God into our lives with a fresh perspective and loving kindness. We may need to seek out a mentor for our story.

Who’s in your story of sexual intimacy? Have you reached out to others when you’ve needed a better perspective and godly wisdom? Where do you think your story is lacking in the right characters?

What Jesus’ Family Tree Tells Me about Sexuality

I recently re-read the first chapter of the gospel of Matthew — the chapter that lays out Jesus’ genealogy, establishing his bloodline to King David and Abraham. The chapter is better read silently, unless you want to try to pronounce such interesting names as “Rehoboam” and “Zerubbabel.”

However, five names on the list are definitely pronounceable — and female. Yes, there are five women listed in Jesus’ genealogy, and their inclusion in this list reveals something important about sexual history and God’s plan. Let’s take a look at each woman from Jesus’ family tree.

Tree with heart-shaped leaves

Tamar (Matthew 1:3). The story of Tamar is told in Genesis 38, and it’s a doozy — the sort of tale that is incredibly honest about the personal failings of God’s people. Summarizing the story: Judah, son of Jacob and brother of Joseph, marries and produces three sons. The firstborn marries Tamar, but he dies without her bearing children. By Hebrew law, Judah’s next son was required to marry Tamar, give her a child, and the child would take her first husband’s name — to keep his bloodline. Instead, Judah’s next son (Onan) deliberately fails in his duty and then dies, and Judah doesn’t give his next son to Tamar.

So Tamar takes to take matters into her own hands, poses as a shrine prostitute, and Judah sleeps with her, not realizing until later that he impregnated his former daughter-in-law. Awful, right? Like soap-opera or bad-reality-TV-show awful. And then God takes all this mess and produces a Messiah from this bloodline. Say what?!

Judah’s sons had an obligation — sexually. In that era, Tamar was expected to conceive and raise children, and when she married the first son, the whole family committed to her that duty. When they didn’t fulfill their duty, Tamar found a different way to satisfy her needs.

We don’t have the same obligations today to marry the siblings of dead husbands, but people behave in similar ways. When sexual needs aren’t met according to God’s design, people tend to start looking elsewhere. What Tamar did was absolutely wrong, but the denial of sexual duty to her was wrong as well. Sexual sin goes both ways.

Rahab (Matthew 1:5). Rahab’s on my Top 10 Bible Women list. I relate to her story and love how she turned her life around.

Rahab is a prostitute in Jericho when it’s conquered and leveled by Joshua, his army, and God shattering the city walls on their behalf. Beforehand, she hid two Israelite spies from Jericho authorities looking for them, allied herself with the coming army, and asked for protection in the siege. Joshua honors the spies’ commitment, and Rahab moves into the Israelite community.

Think about that: Rehab left behind her former home, former occupation, former life, and became part of God’s people. Since she appears in Jesus’ bloodline, I suspect she found a husband, settled down, had kids, and lived a far better life. (Yeah, I relate.) She could have been so easily defined by her previous choices, her bad sexual history, but God didn’t see her that way. When she left her old life behind, she got a fresh start — a second chance.

God gives second chances every day, to those who have sexually sinned in all kinds of ways. If a former pagan prostitute can be welcomed into God’s community, those with sinful sexual pasts can be forgiven and blessed as well. Whatever our sexual history, we can start fresh today. We can leave behind the bad choices and make different ones. We can find forgiveness and healing. We can come into the fold of God’s people and become part of Jesus’ family. You aren’t defined by your past or how others see you, but rather your present choices and your future of hope.

Ruth (Matthew 1:5). We know nothing about Ruth’s first husband, only that he was named Kilion. When he dies, Ruth and her mother-in-law, Naomi, return to Judah. To feed themselves, Ruth begins gleaning the fields of a wealthy landowner and relative, Boaz. And let’s be honest, ladies: Both Ruth’s beautiful spirit and her savvy flirting catch her a husband.

Is anyone else bothered that Ruth basically sneaked into Boaz’s bed? I certainly wouldn’t recommend that course of action to any young woman. But like I said — the Bible is brutally honest and tells it like it happened. Knowing his reputation, Naomi certainly believed her daughter-in-law was safe in his company. And Ruth’s approach got Boaz’s attention.

What’s the takeaway? The Bible doesn’t say that Boaz took advantage of the situation. Perhaps he understood his role was to honor this woman by holding her sexuality sacred. Whatever a woman’s opportunity or current situation with boyfriend or fiancé, the goal is sex in marriage. Husbands are commanded to present their wives holy and blameless, and that attitude can begin before marriage. Once married, God blessed the sexual union of Boaz and Ruth with a baby boy, who was the grandfather of King David.

Bathsheba (Matthew 1:6). There are two takes I’ve heard on Bathsheba — either she was the wife of a soldier who was taken and presented to King David without asking for it, or she was a flirtatious woman bathing on her roof for the king to see and a willing participant in adultery. Either way, she conceived a son outside of the bonds of matrimony, and her second husband was her former adulterous lover. Not the way to start a marriage.

But the sexual story of Bathsheba that grabbed me most is not her adulterous affair with King David, but how sex played a part in her marriage after the death of her child. 2 Samuel 12:24a says: “Then David comforted his wife Bathsheba, and he went to her and made love to her.” I’ve written about this event before, and the amazing ability of sexual intimacy in marriage to comfort a spouse. However, it’s clear that — although her entry into this marriage was not God-approved — God forgave and blessed David and Bathsheba with restorative intimacy and another child, the future King Solomon.

Some marriages have rocky, or even sinful, beginnings, but when we turn our hearts toward God, He can bless our marriage and our sexual intimacy. We start where we are right now.

Mary (Matthew 1:16). We Christians see Mary as young, innocent, a willing servant, and a thoughtful and loving mother. At the time she lived, however, people saw her as a knocked-up teenage mom. She was betrothed to Joseph, but they hadn’t officially married or consummated their union. So when she turns up “with child,” how does that look? Surely, Mary faced others looking askance at her for an ill-timed pregnancy. But it doesn’t matter how others saw her in that moment. What mattered is that God was working in her life, bringing out His divine plan, and blessing her marriage to Joseph.

What ultimately matters in your life is not what others think about your sexuality, but if you’re following God’s plan. The world and some Christians may not understand or approve of your choices to hold out for marriage and then experience frequent and intimate sex in marriage, but God smiles upon you when you follow His design.

None of these women — Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, and Mary — became part of Jesus’ bloodline through the usual means we might expect. Their sexual histories were unusual, but God acted in their lives and planted the Messiah into their family tree.

While I believe we should seek God’s best with all our heart and efforts, it’s pretty clear from Jesus’ family tree that God’s grace is alive and well when it comes to sexual intimacy. He can work powerfully in our lives and create something beautiful from whatever we bring Him.

Are you bringing God your sexual story? Asking Him to bring forth something beautiful and lasting from your life?

[This post was edited here and there after thoughtful comments from readers.]