I had sex before I got married. A lot.
I remember sitting in church on a Sunday morning, listening to the pastor tell us that the sin that pops into our minds first–were we to commit any sin we’d like free and clear–is the same sin the enemy would use to tempt us every time. My best friend was sitting next to me. We exchanged glances. I knew her sin and she knew mine. “Sex?” she whispered to me? “Yes, sex,” I told her.
That was my biggest temptation and one I battled daily at times.
It was quickly made clear to me, after meeting Christ, that sex and the church don’t trust each other. They aren’t friends. If anything, sex and the church are frenemies, really. Kind to one another when people are looking, but calling the other a liar when backs are turned.
I would hear youth pastors say things like “Set boundaries” and “Find an accountability buddy.” Really? Another teenager who was just as sexually frustrated as me was also supposed to help me douse water on this fire? And boundaries? What boundaries exactly? You mean the ones my boyfriend and I established–things like “lights on, doors open, stay vertical,” only to turn around and immediately break them when our parents weren’t home?
The church began to paint a new picture of sex for me — one that was in direct conflict with the life I had lived.
They told me sex was a non-issue. They told me to just put sex away in a little black box until marriage. Don’t peek. Don’t shake the box. Don’t even think about the box. Just let it collect dust on the shelf until the day you need it. Then, and only then, can you experience its contents.
The church told me that purity could be maintained if I followed the rules. If I set up the right boundaries and “guarded my heart,” I could resist whatever temptation might come my way.
But it was all a lie.
Because, before I knew it, I found myself falling in love with a man, slipping on an engagement ring, and saying, “I do.”
I was married and, just like that, what was once sold to me as my forever-flaw, my achilles heel, my burden to bear…now it was perfectly acceptable and, heck, expected: Sex.
Now, I was allowed to have it, supposed to have it. And not only have it, but enjoy it freely without hinderance or shame, without reservation or ramification. No longer was I expected to abstain, but rather enjoy. Yet, I found myself unable.
Nothing I experienced in my marriage bed was like they had said it would be. Sex in marriage was not some instantaneous, perfectly functioning, hot and steamy, mind-blowing experience. It wasn’t the movies. But it wasn’t the obvious result of marriage like the church would have me believe, either. It was something quite different.
Sex was work.
Good sex was even more work. Pleasurable, delightful, intimate, and freeing sex even more work still.
Once married, I spoke about sex with jaded and jagged words. I hated to call it “love-making” because the inner lies told me it had nothing to do with love. My past sin told me sex was just a physical act to be dabbled in casually and carefree. I could enter into a place of pleasure for brief moments, but only through prayer and petition, when I was able to escape all the lies I had once been told about sex–what it is and what it is not.
My shame and old life wanted to tell me that I was unworthy of a healthy sex life. That, somehow, by not waiting until marriage, I had forfeited the right to enjoy the beauty and splendor of it now.
And for a long time, I believed those lies.
For too long, I allowed my past to rob me of my now and present. I let what once was determined what could be. But thankfully, Jesus does not. In the economy of God, our past does not determine our future–our sins do not define us–nor does our Lord condemn us.
Slowly, as I let the grace of Jesus seep into my broken places, swelling them to the point healing, however slow, I began to see and experience sex for what it really is:
Sex is love. All of it.
All of the love God has for us, bound up in the physical act of a husband and wife coming together.
So, I began inviting God into the bedroom, instead of keeping Him at arm’s length. I began to see sex as worship unto the Lord and, despite how foreign it may feel at times–how awkward or embarrassing–God desires to be a part of it.
If I can give Jesus access to my work, my dreams, my children, my relationships, my tomorrow, then I can certainly give him entrance into my bedroom.
Because what I know now, more than ever before, is that He desires for me to enjoy the gift of sex. He desires for me to meet my husband there, in a place of pure intimacy and pleasure, just as He designed it. Where shame is unwelcome, past sins are forgiven, and love is immeasurable.
What lies has the church told you about sex? What have you had to re-learn about sex?
[photo: oveth, Creative Commons]