Want to listen to the post instead? Trying out this new feature below. (There are minor differences between text and audio.)
In recent weeks, I’ve been looking for more sources of both practical information and emotional inspiration to address my current chronic health issues. One personal story that struck me comes from actor Timothy Omundson, whom I was familiar with as Detective Lassiter in Psych and King Richard in Galavant. (I understand he’s now in This Is Us.) I was listening to an interview with him by actor Michael Rosenbaum, and he said something that stuck with me as applicable to any journey of healing—including the healing of your sexuality or marital intimacy.
Here’s the clip:
From Inside of You podcast with Michael Rosenbaum (heads-up: full episode has a lot of curse words)
Honor the Milestones
Other marriage bloggers have spoken very well about celebrating your progress. But something about that particular phrasing—honor the milestones—resonates with me.
Maybe it’s because I’m a fan generally of the word honor. It appears often in scripture (178 hits for that word in the KJV, 177 in the ESV, and 211 in the NIV) and in a few of my favorite verses, such as:
Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.Romans 12:10
You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.”Revelation 4:11
And then there’s this verse about the marriage bed:
Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.Hebrews 13:4
Also, the phrase honor the milestones is reminiscent of the story of Samuel setting down an actual stone to mark the progress of God’s people.
Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.”1 Samuel 7:12
How We Make Progress
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times: I wish I had the magic bullet to make everyone’s marriage bed a place of mutual pleasure, satisfaction, and intimacy.
But then I also wish we could cure hunger, poverty, addiction, mental illness, disease, and a host of other ills. (Cue “Wouldn’t It Be Nice?” by The Beach Boys.)
God’s response is that He will restore a lot (Joel 2:25) and turn wailing to dancing (Psalm 30:11)! He will be with us in our pain (Psalm 34:18) and our journey toward something better (Isaiah 43:2). But if you’re looking for a single switch that flips it all from bad to good, that’s next-life stuff.
Rather, progress is almost always made incrementally. Even Paul, with his Road to Damascus Conversion, spent a long time with Ananias as a mentor and then being refined into the apostle he became.
Starting with Baby Steps
Baby steps begin tentatively. But what happens after your child takes his/her first step? Does anyone say, “Big deal. I’ll cheer once they’re running”? Noooooo! As any young parent knows, you applaud like your child just won a gold medal at the Olympics!
Over time, of course you don’t have that same reaction for a few steps. But you do continue to encourage your child, and you share their progress with others who love them (and maybe a few who don’t).
Yet when it comes to making progress in our marriage or our sex lives, do we cheer on those first steps? It’s true that you can’t stop there, but those first tentative steps matter. For encouragement, check out any or all of these posts from a few of my marvelous colleagues:
- Forgiven Wife: Baby Steps for Moving Forward, One Step Forward, Keep on Walking
- Generous Wife: Baby Steps, Small is Better, Baby Steps Will Get You There, A Little Bit Sexier
- Generous Husband: Yoda Was Wrong!, Baby Steps and Small Beginnings
- Intimacy in Marriage: Are Incremental Changes the Secret to Better Sex in Your Marriage?
Marking the Milestones
Maybe you’re just starting out with those baby steps.
Or maybe you’ve worked on issues for a while, but you’re frustrated that you haven’t reached your goals. Despite doing better:
- You still struggle with body image.
- Your past trauma got triggered, again.
- You can’t seem to fully relax and enjoy the experience.
- You made another clumsy attempt to initiate sex.
- You failed to reach orgasm this time.
- You didn’t feel God’s blessing of your sexual pleasure, but rather guilt.
Add whatever other frustration you’re experiencing to the list.
But what about how far you’ve come?
Honoring the milestones—truly honoring them with the attitude of “Thus far the Lord has helped [me]“—can remind us that even a step back isn’t a failure. You are on a journey, and all the steps you’ve taken toward healthy and holy sexual intimacy with your spouse matter."You are on a journey, and all the steps you've taken toward healthy and holy sexual intimacy with your spouse matter." @marriage #Christiansex Click To Tweet
They are markers toward the ultimate goal of one flesh and the mystery of reflecting God and His bride, the Church.
Remembering the Past, Pressing Ahead
Sometimes, I think we misconstrue this verse, believing we’re supposed to be solely focused on the future:
But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.Philippians 3:13b-14 (ESV)
Yet in that book, Paul talks about what has been happening in his life and refers back to all that God has done for him, especially through the sacrifice of Christ. He doesn’t dwell in the past, but he uses what has happened so far to push him forward toward the prize.
It’s like a marathon runner who doesn’t, or shouldn’t, keep thinking about the last mile and how they could have done it differently. Rather, they calculate how far they’ve come (halfway there!) and focus on where they’re going (finish line!).
Not that I have any actual idea how runners think. I’m in the camp of if you see me running, you should run too, because we’re being chased by something bad. But I have heard that’s how they think. Hey, roll with me here!
You’ll do all this better if you write it down. Honestly. It’s science.
That is, honor the milestones by writing out where you started, what your first steps were like, how far you’ve come, what your next step will be, and where you hope to end up. If it helps, use the tool below (page 1–blue, page 2–pink).Honor-the-Milestones
I’m happy to cheer you on too! So feel free to share in the comments:
- What steps you’ve taken so far
- How your view of God’s design for sex or sexual intimacy in your marriage has improved
I’ve got my confetti ready!