The other morning, I was having a discussion with someone about the damage that I believe churches have caused for a lot of people over the years in the area of sex. The person I was having the conversation with is a wise man with a strong theological background which is why I was surprised to hear him say, “Well, Don’t you think *insert my church’s name* is ahead of the other area churches where this topic is concerned?” This statement is not overtly bad or sinful…it just stuck with me and itched…and continued to irritate me all morning. I kept letting go of the conversation but it continued to show up in my thoughts so I decided this morning to give the Spirit room to work out whatever it is that he wants me to glean from this…so here goes…
First, I think the statement bothered me because it feels like putting a nice pretty bow on an issue that has been damaging people for decades (especially women.) I am not saying that the church is wrong or that the Bible is wrong about pre-marital sex…God designed sex to exist within a marriage covenant so the obvious temptation is to have sex before we are married and to not have sex after we are married…but I think the church has put a lot of emphasis on a topic that is also was historically unwilling to discuss. For example, in high school, it seemed like every church was getting kids to sign contracts and wear rings about how “true love waits.” The whole message was “don’t have sex. Sex is bad. Don’t spoil your future and that of your future mate.” I get it. I do. But there needs to be more discussion around the topic. How do we handle the physiological urges that exist? What if you have already “spoiled” yourself? (Talk about putting a kid in a hopeless situation.) Also, this led to a lot of teens wanting to “draw the line” of exactly how far they could go and it be ok…it became legalistic. I think that a legalistic approach always causes separation…distance…between us and our God. He doesn’t want mindless rule-following; he wants to be welcomed into our heart space. The hard lines that were drawn and the lack of discussion led me (and other gals like me) to believe that pre-marital sex was the ultimate of all sins that would ruin us forever. By this way of thinking, the day before I got married, I’d be better off killing a nun than having sex with the man I was marrying the next day.
Then there are the social ramifications…I vividly remember being on a date with a guy while I was at A&M and him discovering that I was a virgin and had no intention of having sex with him. His response…are you ready for this?…”Virgin? But you’re not ugly…” Ummm…gee thanks Romeo! You better watch all that sweet talk or I just might swoon. *rolls eyes.* The problem here (beyond the obvious stupidity of that particular choice of date) was that I also didn’t know why this was my stance other than that it was forbidden. It is really hard to stick to your guns on something when you aren’t sure why you have chosen this particular stance. This happened repeatedly in my dating life and produced another issue: I became the conquest…I quit being a person and was simply a challenge to some or “marriage material” to others who were “having their needs taken care of by non-marriage material in the mean time.” How degrading for everyone involved! Message received loud and clear: A woman’s value is directly proportional to the condition of her hymen. Gotcha.
And don’t even get me started on the how you are supposed to switch from the undefiled virgin bride to freaky sex-kitten wife by the time you finish saying “I do.” How is that for unrealistic? I can tell you this, three years after we got married, I took a test and discovered that I was pregnant. You know what the first words out of my mouth were to Stan after saying “Ummm…We’re pregnant!” It was “Oh my gosh! We can’t tell my dad!” Stan laughed until he realized I was serious. “You’re dad married us…I am pretty sure he assumed that we would have sex.” But I couldn’t shake that old high school training that basically told me that “bad girls get knocked up.”
So back to the statement at the top that started this whole rant: “Well, Don’t you think *insert my church’s name* is ahead of the other area churches where this topic is concerned?” Well, yes, I suppose I do…but that doesn’t erase the damage that people have endured…women who feel that they have wasted much of their married lives because they felt they weren’t supposed to do certain things with their husbands (legalism again)…women who think that they don’t deserve God’s best for them because they were “spoiled” This is why I didn’t want to tie a pretty little bow on it…this is a process and there is still damage and wounds to be carefully handled. Also, I don’t think we are called by God to compare our church to other churches any more than we are called to compare ourselves to other Christians…we are called to be obedient to God. Comparing ourselves to other churches only keeps us from realizing that, although we are heading in the right direction and learning from mistakes, we are still missing the mark…it allows us to rest where we are instead of pressing further to make sure that we are fully obedient…fully loving…fully forgiving…fully healing.
For many of you, this topic won’t be applicable. I’m sorry if I wasted your time…I hope you at least got a chuckle or two out of it. For the others…the wounded ones…God sees you and loves you and wants sex to be beautiful and fun and liberating. How are you doing with this? Do you carry around baggage where sex is concerned? Does sex seem like a shameful thing to you? Are you with-holding from your spouse? What can you be doing to step toward a healthier place in your sex life? What about your spouse? Is he/she wounded? Does he/she even know it? How can you lovingly and gently point this one you love toward the Healer? One thing is for certain, keeping shame and fears and sins and thoughts in the darkness only leads us further into the darkness.
My prayer today is for the wounded ones…the ones who have been abused, misinformed, made mistakes, or who have just been fearful. Sex was meant to be a beautiful thing and for many, it is dirty or shameful or painful. I am praying for healing in your life and heart and marriage and sex life. I am praying that God would speak truth into your life and heart and that it would transform you and bring you joy. I am praying that if you need to see a professional to get help, that you would do so without feeling foolish or shameful. Finally, I am praying for ultimate freedom in this area…that if it isn’t already, that it would become something that you absolutely delight in. Much love friends,