Few topics cause more guilt, angst and rancor than biblical views on sexuality. In this posting, I look at the hangups and hurdles that sexuality presents on our journey towards constant inner peace.
I can fairly and honestly say that sexuality was a major factor in my divorce back in 1996. It’s not that she was at fault. It was the crap going on in my own head and my inability to come to terms about sex. Here’s what happened.
In a word, fantasies. Is it just a guy thing? Mostly but not only, I know that much. Jesus said if we even have a lustful thought, we have committed adultery. Who can climb that mountain? None of us, which is the point. All of us fall short of the mark.
Throughout my first marriage of ten years, I experienced constant fantasies about sexual delights I wanted but dared not express. This wasn’t because of her hangups so much as my own. I viewed them as “dirty.” Yet I wanted them – a former love, multiple women, different positions, places…you get the idea.
When another woman came along and offered to make some of my fantasies come true, I folded like a cheap tent. Had I expressed and resolved my inner conflicts about sex, I believe I might have withstood the temptation even as an unbeliever at that time. It’s not like I didn’t know that adultery was wrong or the severe consequences of that betrayal. Indeed, I had been extremely committed to not crossing the line and not putting myself in risky situations.
The truth is I was ashamed. Shame is the devil’s greatest weapon. When we feel ashamed, we hide in darkness. Jesus said, “Light has come into the world but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.” (John 3:19)
The key to releasing yourself from shame is to expose it to the light. We can only do that if we have a safe place in which to be authentically truthful. If sex is not a safe topic for you with your spouse, you are in the high-risk zone. You need to find the courage to express your truth about sexuality or this will be a barrier to intimacy and a temptation that will lead to the ruin of your marriage, let alone stealing your peace for years.
The key is to first get neutral about the outcomes you want sexually. Otherwise, you have a plank in your eye and cannot see clearly what to say or do. This means exploring openly the possibility that you will never get what you want.
For the person with an under-driven libido, it can mean having sex far more often that you would ever want. For the one with an over-driven libido, it can mean the opposite. What actually happens is unknown, of course. That’s the whole point of first getting neutral – to trust that the future will unfold according to his will. Yet our sex drive is so powerful that getting neutral can seem impossible. Thus the only solution is to bring our desires into the light with our spouse, as well as with a counselor, coach, therapist or a wise friend.
I had an instructor once who said, “How you view your sexuality is how you view your world and how you view your world is how you view your sexuality.” I asked him what he meant by that. He replied, “After having worked with thousands of people, it’s simply a truth that I have seen.” I now get that. Sexuality is existential. It is as hard-wired as our ethnicity, our race or having two eyes.
So why is the bible so strict about sexuality? I believe it is because when we are one with our lover, we are also one with God. In that moment of intimacy and orgasm, we are fully in the present with no thoughts or emotions in the sense of sad, glad or mad. Our sexuality is spiritual ecstasy and anything less separates us from God himself.
Here’s the dilemma. We either fantasize about sexual lusts or we suppress them. Either way, we are shutting out God and his peace. Our only spiritual option is to confront our hopes, fears and anxieties about sex. We need to explore why sexual “dirty” words carry judgments, guilt and shame. We need to explore why we think gay sex is worse than any other sexual sin. The one who refuses to have regular sex within a marriage is just as guilty as any lusting person or any homosexual. All are sexual sins and virtually all of us are guilty.
We must come to peace with our sexual guilt. When we confront it, we liberate ourselves. This will feel risky to you. My experience is that doing so liberates us to speak openly, frankly and lovingly about one of life’s greatest realities. We are sexual beings. We desire sex as much as we desire food and water. When expressed with the one whom we are committed for life, we experience love. Indeed, an Australian couple, married 55 years, recently gave the Pope and 200 senior clergy a lesson on how sex is what made their marriage work. Read about it here.
Society has commercialized sex yet it has also liberated it too. Sexual crimes are now confronted, thank God. The debilitating effect these have on victims are the proof that sexuality is existential. Sex is not just two bodies shared by ‘friends with benefits’ as some would treat it.
For those of us seeking inner peace, we need to confront our own fantasies and hang-ups. When we do, you will find as I have, that practicing your sexuality fully and completely exactly as the Bible teaches, leads to an enormously satisfying sex life, a happy marriage and the fullness of God’s love each step of the way.