Monthly Archives: June 2012

Am I Obsessed with Sex? No. Are You?

"I am not obsessive" repeated.C.S. Lewis said in Mere Christianity: “Starving men may think much about food, but so do gluttons.” He was making an analogy of food to sex, arguing that those who are obsessed with food or sex are either terribly hungry or overly indulged. I agree.

One of the charges laid against Christian sex or marriage intimacy bloggers is that we overemphasize sexuality in marriage. Perhaps, some believe, we are obsessed with sex.

I admit that I think about sex a lot. Hey, I write this blog! I hear people’s stories, I come up with topics, and I research the subject in both secular sources and the Word of God. I have long been passionate about passion so I thought about sex more than the average Christian gal, but since writing this blog, sex is on my mind even more.

But while I consider the broad topic of sexuality quite often, I don’t give my own married sex life a whole lot of contemplation. I anticipate it, I flirt with my husband about it, I remember special times, and I engage in beautiful intimacy with my man. But I’m not obsessed.

Why?

Well, let’s break down Dr. Lewis’s descriptions more.

Starved. I recently had to have fasting blood work done and, through my own foolish planning, my doctor’s appointment was not until mid-afternoon. Thus, I did not eat anything from around 10:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. the next day. Around noon, almost all I could think about was how hungry I was! I packed a snack to eat and a soda to drink in the doctor’s office as soon as the lab siphoned my blood. Even after that, I drove through a fast food place and gorged on a hamburger, fries, and a drink. I kept eating the rest of the day, feeling the desperate need to feel the hole that had surely formed in my stomach from those several hours of not eating.

Yeah, I was kind of a drama queen about it. But you can already see the analogy forming here, right?

If you are in the presence of delicious food and can’t have any, your mind is drawn to thinking about eating. Even if it’s a buzz in the background of your brain, you are aware that you are hungry and unable to satisfy that hunger.

I believe the same happens in marriages where one spouse is around the person they love and yet are unable to sate their intimate desire for that person. The lack of what you need and want is on your mind because you cannot scratch that itch often enough, or in some sad cases ever, so your mind turns its attention to that aspect.

The spouse who desires physical intimacy and doesn’t get it anywhere near enough can become obsessed with sex, even pleading or begging their mate to engage in acts of intimacy. Because they are sex-starved! It’s no wonder that sex is seemingly always on their mind.

Saturated. On the other hand, don’t ever let me work in a bakery. If I spend my days surrounded by donuts, cinnamon rolls, scones, croissants, empañadas, or whatever, I will be the next contestant on The Biggest Loser for sure. I LOVE pastries, and the last thing I need to do is line the walls with them. I won’t be able to stop eating those delicious, sweet, wonderful…

You get the idea. It’s easy to obsess about sex when you metaphorically line the walls with it. Thus, looking at porn, reading erotica, shopping at sex stores, always looking for the next big thrill, etc. can cause you to obsess about sex as well. You may be having sex with your spouse, but it will never seem like enough if you saturate your environment with the subject.

Frankly, this is the setting of much of the secular world regarding sex. Our music, our movies and TV, our magazines and newspapers, and our conversations are inundated with sexuality. Because it’s constantly given the stage, the spotlight, and paparazzi, sex is forever on people’s minds.

With so many ways to partake, it’s easy to fall victim to indulgence. Such a person can get obsessed with having sex more, better, riskier, until the person with whom they are engaging is little more than cheesecake on a plate to satisfy a sweet tooth. The sex-saturated don’t feel that they’ve had enough or maybe are enough because their attention is rapt by sex itself and not intimacy with their mate.

Satisfied. Years ago, I changed how I approached Thanksgiving. We used to eat very little in the morning, waiting anxiously for that midday meal, and then stuff ourselves until we had to unzip our pants and take a two-hour nap to recover. Now we eat a reasonable breakfast, and I serve a slightly larger meal than usual, but nothing too extensive. Once everyone has declared themselves sated, we pack the remaining food into the refrigerator. I find that I am much more thankful for the meal when I get to enjoy it as a special treat without starving for it or becoming a glutton during it.

When the physical intimacy in marriage is healthy, you don’t need to obsess about sex. It’s there when you need and want it, and if it isn’t available at the moment, it won’t be long before you have a taste of it again. Moreover, the sexuality between a couple isn’t the focus of their relationship, although still an important aspect of it.

Just as the body needs food, sleep, exercise, etc. to remain healthy, so a marriage needs emotional, spiritual, and relational intimacy in addition to physical intimacy. All aspects are important in keeping a marriage healthy.

I write about one aspect of marriage. Other bloggers write about others.

My goal is to encourage Christians to avoid starvation or saturation and find true satisfaction in marital sexuality. Sure, I’m on this topic a lot, but I don’t think I’m personally obsessed. I’m like the person advocating for feeding the starving in a third-world country or your personal trainer batting away that Hershey bar and telling you to get on the treadmill already. For myself, though, I am in category number three: sex-satisfied. I’d like to see more of us here.

In Song of Songs 5:1, the Lover (husband) makes a food comparison as well: “I have eaten my honeycomb and my honey; I have drunk my wine and my milk.” The Friends respond: “Eat, O friends, and drink; drink your fill, O lovers.”

So are you satisfied? Starved? Saturated? Do you find yourself obsessed with sex?

Step Up, Church, and Talk about Sex

Q&AIs it Monday again? It’s time for me to address another question left by a commenter on my Q&A with J at HHH post:

GREG DONNER: “I also mentioned this to Julie [Sibert, I suspect], but I would be interested in your take on how we as believers can (and should) be doing to boldly speak the truth about biblical sexuality in the church. It’s something I’m very passionate (and frankly, very concerned about).”

In some respect, Greg answers his own question: boldly.
Take a look at the letters of Paul in the New Testament: He boldly addresses whatever issue plagues the church and refocuses people on God’s desire for their lives.

Wrongful thinking and behaviors regarding sex permeate our culture. From the sexually abused child to the promiscuous teen to the porn-addicted husband to the withholding wife to the married couple who struggles to connect physically, we are off target a lot. Jesus never turned a blind eye to sin and pain in His midst. It is our God-given duty to speak into others’ pain and confusion, to speak for God where He has spoken, and to pass on God’s desire for their lives, even in the area of sexuality.

What should this boldness look like? Ideally, churches should have a cradle-to-grave approach. Here are some suggestions for how churches can minister to people in various stages:

Childhood/Teen Years

Provide parenting classes to help families address the subject. Plenty of parents want to equip their children with a godly view of sexuality, but they simply don’t know how to talk to their kids about it.

Empower youth ministry to address biblical sexuality with tweens and teens. All too often, parents resist having the subject brought up in church. Guess what? It’s being brought up everywhere else your kid is. Isn’t it better for our children to get information from a biblically-driven youth pastor than from his/her school friend or a TV show?

Host fun, well-supervised teen events. Churches can help teens by hosting events that provide opportunities to mingle and have fun without the sexual temptation that often exists in secular venues. It needs to be something that will attract teens, but also keep them out of pressurized situations. For instance, when I was a teen, a couple of churches hosted teen dances; the likelihood of anything inappropriate happening with my date at the Mormon family dance was practically nil. Here’s another out-of-the-box idea: What if a church rented a bunch of luxury cars and had volunteer members drive teenagers and their dates to and from local proms?

Singles

Provide preengagement and premarital classes and counseling. Preengaged.com focuses on this kind of assistance, and Brad and Kate Aldrich of One Flesh Marriage recently mentioned a premarital program at Watermark Church in Dallas, Texas. There are some excellent studies for dating couples (although I am only familiar with Before You Say I Do by H. Norman Wright). Ask most married couples if they wish they had prepared more, and they will say yes–including in the area of sexual intimacy.

Help singles find a mate. I don’t believe everyone must get married or that being single is a lesser status. However, 1 Corinthians 7:9 says, “It is better to marry than to burn with passion.” And although marriage rates are declining in the U.S., the vast majority of people still want to be married at some point. Hey, the best thing the church ever did for my sex life is introduce me to my husband. But too many single Christians have few options. What can churches do? They can offer area-wide singles events. I’m not suggesting some Christian version of The Bachelor or The Dating Game. Such events shouldn’t be meat markets, but rather worship, fellowship, or Bible studies which allow singles to gather and get to know one another. Love can take it from there.

Marrieds

Make marriage classes, retreats, and seminars routine. In addition to in-depth scriptural and theological studies, churches should teach on the practical application of God’s Word. Look for biblically-based marriage studies or find couples with knowledge to share. Here are a few series I have been through: Marriage Helper (Dr. Willard Harley); Love & Respect (Emerson Eggerichs); Love, Sex & Marriage (Joe Beam). I am also a fan of The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman (who has a study titled The Marriage You’ve Always Wanted) and just about anything Dr. Kevin Leman writes (he has a study titled Making the Most of Your Marriage). Several friends have also spoken well of Mark Gungor’s Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage.

Stop skipping the sex part! This is part B of the above suggestion. I was recently told by another blogger that churches often skip the sex lesson in a marriage series–perhaps because the topic is considered too sensitive. That tidbit of information had me V8-headsmacking the rest of the day. (Ouch.) God wants married couples to have growing marriages and great sex! Let’s support healthy marriages by helping couples do exactly that.

Financially support marriage ministries. Many quality marriage resources can only continue through outside financial support, and churches can make that a goal of their budget.

Provide babysitting services to married couples with children. One of the hardest periods for marital intimacy is when your kids are young. A group of church members (e.g., youth, “Golden Agers,” singles) could provide babysitting as a ministry. Or a church could establish a babysitting co-op in which couples keep others’ kids at times and get their own date nights.

Miscellaneous

Take a sex survey of your church and present your findings. Oftentimes, we don’t know that church members are struggling with sexuality. Who’s going to stand up on Sunday morning and say, “Could you address biblical sexuality because I ain’t gettin’ any at home?” We can awaken the attention of church leaders and members by asking for anonymous input about where they are thriving and where they need help.

Be specific. Too often, churches address sexuality at too high a level. For singles, we hear, “God wants you to stay pure.” Yes, He does. But be specific about how a sexually-ramped-up 17-year-old boy can stay cool when a hot girl throws herself at him. Or how a 23-year-old single woman can wait another seven years to let her libido see daylight? For the marrieds, it isn’t enough to say, “God wants you to have a good sex life.” How does a husband figure out how to pleasure his wife to climax? How can a women deal with her lagging interest in sex? How can a couple move beyond negative sexual histories? Be specific.

Bring in special speakers. Christian colleges and universities often have marriage and family therapy or Christian ministry departments with qualified experts. There are also writers, bloggers, counselors, and speakers who address this subject. For instance, get Sheila Gregoire, author of The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, to come talk to your church (or better yet, my church).

Offer couples counseling. Couples counseling should be available to dating teens, couples in serious relationships, engaged couples, and married couples. The singles may need a session or two to learn strategies for stopping sexual activity before it starts, while a married couple may need to address a lack of intimacy or physical barriers to satisfying sex. If the church does not have the wherewithal to offer such counseling, it can subsidize another church’s counseling center or a Christian-based counseling practice.

Plug into ministries that help those who need special care. Has a child been sexually abused? Is a husband dealing with a porn addiction? Is a couple dealing with adultery? Such issues go beyond typical couples counseling. Find ministries that address specific issues.

Look for experts in your midst. That physician who attends your church? The labor and delivery nurse? The psychologist or counselor? The recovering sex addict? The woman who was sexually-abused as a child and found healing? The couple that lived through an affair and have a thriving marriage? They have something to offer. Ask how they are willing to help support healthy and godly sex lives for church members.

Maintain a quality library with helpful resources on biblical sexuality. There are many Christian-based books and video and tape series available, but cost can be prohibitive for families. Churches could use purchase resources, and then let families know that they are there.

No one church can offer all of this, so we must rely on each other in the larger church body. But each church can address godly sexuality throughout the seasons of life by offering biblical knowledge, specific information, relationship support, and prayer for the purity and intimacy of their members.

Now that I’ve thrown out my brainstorming ideas, what are yours? What are your churches doing to boldly address biblical sexuality? What would you like to see your church or area churches do?

What Is Sex?

"Sex" spelled outGiven that I blog twice a week on marriage and sexuality, you wouldn’t think I’d even ask such a question. Don’t we all know what sex is? Yet sometimes when people use the word sex, I wonder if we’re all talking about the same thing.

The dictionary definition is sex is simply coitus, or intercourse. Sex originally referred to gender and was not used to denote intercourse until 1929 (thank author D.H. Lawrence for that). However, the original meaning of coitus, from Latin, was merely meeting or uniting. The root word “coire” means “together.” Coitus also once referred “to magnetic force, planetary conjunction, etc., before sexual sense came to predominate” (Online Etymology Dictionary).

Enough background research. Why am I even bringing this up? Because I think when we discuss sex as Christians, we’re talking about more than intercourse. The union of two individuals can involve a myriad of sexual activities outside pure penetration.

Are we having sex if we fondle our spouse’s naked body? Is it sex if we engage in fellatio or cunnilingus? Should we call it sex if a husband brings a wife to climax through digital stimulation?

Taking the narrow definition of sex as only intercourse causes us problems both in defining our boundaries and in feeling freedom in our marriages. As to boundaries, if only intercourse is sex, then singles can pronounce themselves virgins so long as they don’t cross that one last line. Spouses may feel that they have not committed adultery with someone because their interactions with an opposite-sex person haven’t led to intercourse, even if sexual flirting or contact has occurred. Prior to marriage, we may not make the right choice to wait on the whole kit-and-caboodle until the wedding night because we don’t really feel like we’ve had sex.

In our marriages, we also need to understand that we are not limited to only one way of God-approved sexuality with our mate. God has designed marital intimacy to include different ways of appreciating, exploring, and pleasuring our spouse. Of course, intercourse is the ultimate act and the one that produces children. However, we have freedom in the context of marriage to engage in other acts that are indeed sexual in nature and increase our sense of intimacy with our spouse.

Looking more specifically at what the Bible considers sex (or whatever word we want to use — intimacy, sexuality, physical union), the Old Testament primarily speaks of sexual relations between a husband and wife using the Hebrew word “yada‘.” This word means to know. It doesn’t denote a Tab A/Slot B act, although that is certainly implied, but rather a joining of two bodies in deeper knowledge. Once the robe is off, you know that person more than you know others.

Those of us who have experienced that sense in marriage (and sadly, outside) understand that to be true at some level. Sex is a physical knowing of another individual that rises above the usual knowledge you have of others. It goes beyond friendship and involves entering the boundary of physical privacy that we otherwise maintain. I believe that includes more than intercourse. (See Sheila Gregoire’s Experiencing Spiritual Intimacy While You Make Love for more on this “knowing.)

In the New Testament, the term for sex varies more. Sexual immorality is typically porneia (recognize the root there?); however, the references to sex in Ephesians 5 and 1 Corinthians 7 are more general words also translated as “come together” (sunevrcomai) and join or cleave (e.g., proskollao). It’s like saying “sleep together” now when an audience can easily discern by context when you mean sex. Interestingly enough, such words all connote unity. Indeed, Paul even warned against such sinful joining in 1 Corinthians 6:16 (“Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, ‘The two will become one flesh.'”).

Is such physical unity with another restricted solely to intercourse? I think not. In fact, the prohibition in the New Testament against extramarital sexual activity includes lust and inappropriate touching (see Matthew 5:28; 1 Corinthians 7:1 KJV — which provides more literal translation of the Greek word “haptomai”). Sexuality includes two bodies uniting in sexual activity, which often includes intercourse but doesn’t have to.

When I think of my “sex life,” I think about all of those things that go into having phenomenal physical intimacy with my spouse: the randy flirting we do long before we arrive at the bedroom; the touches, strokes, and gropes that we engage in; the gazing at one another’s naked bodies; the sensuousness that pervades our bedroom time together; the foreplay that is pleasurable in its own right and builds toward the main event as well; the array of sexual activities that show our desire and delight in one another; and the beautiful joining of our two bodies in intercourse. It’s a whole package deal.

If you’re just going for the intercourse, you’re missing out on some other great aspects of marital sexuality. We need to appreciate that sex as God intended is comprised of all those parts of our physical relationship which are uniquely shared with your spouse. That is what I think of as sex.

What do you think sex is? How do you think Christians should define sex? And do you think the definition even matters?

Additional sources used: BibleGateway.com, BibleStudyTools.com, Sex Scripture Notes from La Vista Church of Christ

Does Your Church Know?

Q&AOn Mondays, I’m working my way through the questions left in the comments section of Q&A with J at HHH. I still have several fabulous ones to get to, and I appreciate your patience. If yours hasn’t shown up yet, I promise it will.
Today’s question, however, is a bit personal:

HAPPY: Aloha, J! You had mentioned earlier that you told your mother about your blog – how about people from church? If so, what sort of response have you received?

The quick answer is no. However, my pastor has known for a full year what I am doing and is supportive. He agrees that the church needs to foster healthy marriages, including biblical sexuality within them. Beyond that, I don’t speak for him, as he might or might not agree with everything I’ve written on my blog. He and his wife do have the web address and can access my posts at any time.

Why haven’t I told my church? First, I have chosen to remain anonymous for the time being, simply going by the letter J. I have personal and family reasons why I have not yet revealed my identity, but I do expect to at some point.

Even if I was ready to tell my church, it’s a small world. For instance, I have more than once discovered that two of my personal Facebook friends knew each other when I didn’t know they had any connection. I have also visited churches where within a few conversations I have found mutual acquaintances. Moreover, I am three degrees of Kevin Bacon. Really. The point is, once the cat is out of the bag here, it’s out of the bag everywhere. So I will likely tell the church just a few days before I tell all of you.

I have considered how my church will react when I suddenly announce, “Hey, you know how I said I didn’t have time to teach any extra classes, and you wondered what on earth I was doing with all of my time? Well, I was super-busy writing a blog about sex. And yes, it’s ministry.” And what about when someone from my church Googles the blog name and finds posts on shaving, fellatio, and sex and bunnies? Maybe there is some way to direct them first to The Gospel in the Bedroom.

What I expect is that my church will be much like The Church — some will ignore it, some will be supportive, a few will be thoroughly encouraging, and a few will be in my face giving me an earful for discussing something so very private in such a public way. I do suspect that my church will have far more of the supportive and encouraging types than detractors (which would explain why we chose it as our church). However, I have no doubt that someone will think I have stepped every single toe over the line and wiggled them in the direction of hell.

In that case, I’ll take heart from one of my favorite Winston Churchill quotes: “You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.” Of course, I’m not trying to make enemies. Far more important than Prime Minister Churchill is the Word of God which says, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18).

But I’m not keeping my identity a secret for fear of retribution from a few detractors. Hey, I already have detractors in the blogosphere. I get a little friendly fire from time to time as it is. My reasons are focused less on me and more on certain people in my life.

Still, when I do tell all of my friends and family what I’ve been doing with this blog, those closest to me won’t be surprised. I’ve been talking about godly sex for a long time. I recall sitting at a table with some women who were talking about marital intimacy like it was a chore and one of my friends said something like, “Well, we can’t talk to J about this because she’s likes sex.” I might as well have been a flying purple people eater at that moment. (See also Intimacy in Marriage’s great post called 5 Reasons I Like Sex: Confessions from a Christian Wife.) However, I bet that I wasn’t the only gal in the room who loved having sex with her husband; I was simply the only one who had spoken up.When I finally add a bunch more letters to the “J” and give you a full name, I would love to also speak about God’s gift of sexuality. But perhaps God wants to groom me a little while longer. For now, my ministry to equip marriages for thriving physical intimacy largely takes place through one-on-one conversations as the subject arises and this blog. Indeed, that may be part of God’s refining of me: I gain information, encouragement, and wisdom from my interaction with others on this subject. In particular, some of you have left comments that make me reflect, study the Bible deeper, and simply keep me going.

I wish I could thank all of you in person. But of course, if I did that, the cat would not only be out of the bag, he’d be yowling all night.

But I’m not so silly as to think that whether I speak up or not is going to be the make-or-break moment for the church and sexuality. I agree wholeheartedly with Mordecai from the Bible when he advised his cousin Esther: “For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place.” My perspective on the blog is what Mordecai follows up with: “And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?” I started with a “Who knows? Maybe God really can use me here” attitude. But if I don’t do it, someone else will. Indeed, if Christians are going to effectively fight against Satan’s attacks and reclaim God’s gift of sexuality, it will take more than one blogger or one speaker or one preacher anyway. But maybe I can do something from this blog — and someday in other ways.

Regardless, the Church needs all of you talking about godly sexuality where you are and in whatever way you can. It may be giving encouragement to a friend who is struggling with porn or lack of interest or coordinating a marriage class at your church or instructing your own children about God’s plan for marital intimacy. It may be writing or speaking on this subject. It may be commenting here when you have some wisdom to add.

My church doesn’t currently know I’m writing this blog. But the church knows that I stand for godly sexuality. What about your church? Do they know what you stand for? What small or big thing can you do to foster godly marital intimacy where you are?

Be sure to come back next week when I’ll answer a question about what the church can specifically do to foster biblical sexuality.

The Lover & the Beloved

Bible open to Song of Solomon

By Jonathan Thorne via Wikimedia Commons

I often quote from the Song of Songs (or Song of Solomon). It is a relatively short book in the Bible, found in the Old Testament, and tells the story of a husband and wife experiencing attraction and physical intimacy with one another.* Today is something of a blog vacation for me, as I am occupied this week with another ministry opportunity. Since I bet you don’t often think to open up to that book and read its inspiring passages, I decided to provide a passage for you to read today.

I suggest that you even read this aloud to your mate. Remember that the relationship in Song of Songs is blessed by God. Ask how your own marital intimacy can become filled with this kind of passion for one another.

Note: The Lover is the husband; the Beloved is the wife. These labels do not appear in the original text; however, passages have been thus ascribed by scholars looking at the message and the feminine and masculine pronouns used.

Song of Songs 4:8-5:1

Lover

8Come with me from Lebanon, my bride,
come with me from Lebanon.
Descend from the crest of Amana,
from the top of Senir, the summit of Hermon,
from the lions’ dens
and the mountain haunts of the leopards.
9 You have stolen my heart, my sister, my bride;
you have stolen my heart
with one glance of your eyes,
with one jewel of your necklace.
10 How delightful is your love , my sister, my bride!
How much more pleasing is your love than wine,
and the fragrance of your perfume than any spice!
11 Your lips drop sweetness as the honeycomb, my bride;
milk and honey are under your tongue.
The fragrance of your garments is like that of Lebanon. 
12 You are a garden locked up, my sister, my bride;
you are a spring enclosed, a sealed fountain.
13 Your plants are an orchard of pomegranates
with choice fruits,
with henna and nard,
14 nard and saffron,
calamus and cinnamon,
with every kind of incense tree,
with myrrh and aloes
and all the finest spices.
15 You are a garden fountain,
a well of flowing water
streaming down from Lebanon.

Beloved

16 Awake, north wind,
and come, south wind!
Blow on my garden,
that its fragrance may spread abroad.
Let my lover come into his garden
and taste its choice fruits.

I have come into my garden, my sister, my bride;
I have gathered my myrrh with my spice.
I have eaten my honeycomb and my honey;
I have drunk my wine and my milk. 

Friends

Eat, O friends, and drink;
drink your fill, O lovers.

I second that sentiment from the Friends. May all of you drink your fill this weekend! Blessings.

*Some have suggested that this book is an allegory for God and His people (or Christ and the church). While I agree that analogies can be drawn between marriage and our relationship with Christ (see Ephesians 5:32), I concur with scholars who say that this book is about marital love itself and is more literal.