You are misunderstood quite often, friend. And by quite often, I mean almost 99.9 percent of the time. Especially by Christians like myself. I’ve grown quite EXHAUSTED of these misunderstandings and distortions. For your sake. And for mine.
I have lived 28 years having sexual purity DRILLED into my mind. Any Christian who grew up within my age group remembers the “True Love Waits” movement, complete with Bible and unofficial theme song by Rebecca St. James (“Wait For Me”).
(insert hiccup laughter from watching this video)
But that DRILLING didn’t help me understand you, sexuality. Or why sexual purity was even really important. Instead, it caused me to demonize sexuality (though, really, my hyperactive conscience also had a hand there). Either way, you became a part of me that, like Voldemort, SHOULD NOT BE NAMED. I thought that if I acted like my biological urges didn’t exist, they would EVAPORATE so I could continue being a Christian nice girl. After all, Christian nice girls don’t struggle to maintain sexual purity–either in body or in mind.
FALSE. SO MUCH FALSE.
It took me nearly all of my 28 years to understand you even a fraction of a bit better. Even so, I think if most Christians are honest, we live in almost SHEER TERROR of you. Sexuality has become something to be feared and despised, rather than what it should be: A gift from God that is a part of us.
Don’t misunderstand me. I am a wholehearted believer that premarital sex is a sin. I firmly believe that, as a follower of God, I need to control my thoughts and actions, both inside and outside of a relationship. So yes, that means I believe (generally-speaking) that masturbation is not a good idea (yup, just wrote that. EEP!). We are not to live as slaves to anything except God. That, of course, means that as a single woman, I cannot act out of my biological urges or sexual desires. So clearly, I am a supporter of self-control and sexual purity. What I am not a supporter of is acting like you don’t exist or don’t affect us if we are good Christian people.
From my experience, Christians tend to fall into three categories when it comes to you, sexuality. There’s the “it’s fine whatever you do,” the “sexual purity is the ideal, but it’s TOO DURN HARD,” and the “DO NOTHING NEVER AND FOREVER. AND DO NOT SPEAK OF IT UNLESS IN VAGUE TERMS” category. I’m going to focus on the latter, which is what caused my skewed perspective.
The problem with the “DO NOTHING NEVER AND FOREVER. AND DO NOT SPEAK OF IT UNLESS IN VAGUE TERMS” category is that it creates this inherent FEAR of you, sexuality. It’s almost as if we’re told, “You can’t control it, so the best thing you can do is repress it and act like it doesn’t exist.” This is SO SO dangerous for, well, every person who is alive and breathing. It breeds a defeatist attitude that WE WILL FAIL unless we pretend to have no desires at all. So how should we handle you, sexuality, as Christians? I have a lot of thoughts, but I’ll start with these three.
1. Start talking about it, for real.
- And I don’t mean by having “true love waits” conversations. I mean by getting nitty-gritty, uber-vulnerable with each other. We have to stop dancing around what is really going on in our hearts and minds, and we need to start giving each other practical solutions. If you say to a godly Christian friend (of the same sex, mind you), that you are struggling with that aspect of your life, BE SPECIFIC. Because chances are, they are or have been struggling with the same thing. And the more specific you get, the more they can help you (and the less UTTERLY ALONE you will feel). Isolation is a perfect breeding ground for shame–and continued sin patterns. Confessing your sin and struggles to someone who loves you and loves God will be a huge RELIEF. But you will have to ask God for the courage to do so. How do I know? Welp, I have done this. For me, spitting out the specifics of my struggle helped TREMENDOUSLY. Suddenly, I knew I wasn’t alone. Someone else–someone who was godly–was struggling with the same SPECIFIC stuff. Plus, we were then able to keep each other accountable, talk about triggers to sinful behavior and learn what we can do to embrace purity. So SPEAK UP, durn it. For all you Christian youth and young adult leaders, learn to talk about about sexual fantasies, pornography, physical boundaries in relationships and masturbation. Because the kids you are leading are struggling with it or will be struggling at some point. Giving them vague “HANG IN THERE till marriage” pointers won’t help. For all of us single Christians, we need to find friends of the same sex who are willing to go beyond the “sexual purity means not having sex” talk and into the “sexual purity is a daily choice in heart, mind and spirit, and one that I struggle with this way: _______.”
2. Stop being scared.
- You don’t have to be afraid of your sexuality. Did you hear me? STOP LIVING IN FEAR AND REPRESSION. God gave us sexuality as a gift. And you know what else He gave you? The Spirit of the resurrected Savior. NOTHING is bigger or more powerful than God–not even your sexuality and sexual urges. At no point do you HAVE TO indulge your sexual urges. Although it may feel like you HAVE TO, you absolutely DO NOT. Remember, anything (including fantasies and lusts) that is outside of God’s best for you is a sin. So since our sexuality was created to be something shared within a marriage, probably anything you are doing outside of that is, at the very least, not good for you and at the worst, a sin. But you don’t have to be fearful, because Christ’s salvation means you ARE (and can be) victorious. YOU ARE NOT A SLAVE TO YOUR BODY (1 Corinthians 6:13, 20). The best thing you can do is recognize that you are a sexual being, and that God ABSOLUTELY made you that way. Instead of REPRESSION, try SUBMISSION to the Holy Spirit. And friends, even if you remain single and celibate for the rest of your life, that sexuality is still a gift, because it can teach you self-discipline in a way few other things can.
Abstinence is not a miserable way to live. In fact, I think it’s the best thing ever.
Besides, as a single person, all your sexual energy can be redirected. Why do you think I have so many great workouts? (insert laughter)
3. Your sexuality is fragile.
- I wish someone had explained to me how incredibly malleable and easily influenced my sexuality is. You have to protect it as if it were a baby. Whatever you feed your sexuality, whatever you use to nurture it, however you speak to it or treat it–that will ABSOLUTELY affect your sexuality’s appetites and appearances. Again, I know this by experience. Though I have remained physically sexually pure for all of these 28 years, I can tell you frankly that I haven’t protected my sexuality as I should have–partly because I didn’t understand how easily it could be changed or tainted. The media you watch, the music you listen to, the images you see … it ABSOLUTELY will affect you. Its affect may be large or small depending on a variety of factors. But it will affect you. I can just hear people’s assumptions: “This girl must shut herself off from the world and all entertainment sources.” Ummm… NO. I love watching movies and reading all kinds of books and listening to every genre of music. HOWEVER, I am far more careful than I used to be. And when I do hear or see or stumble upon something that contains a sinful expression of sexuality, I force myself to think and not just ingest. These are the questions I ask: “Is that really what I want?” and, “How would I really feel if I were to do that?” The answers help me re-frame, at least slightly, what I just ingested.
So you, sexuality, are precious and an amazing part of us. I want to keep you from being distorted. I value you, sexuality, and recognize that you are a gift–whether or not I one day get married. You teach me discipline. You teach me delayed gratification. You’ve helped me have some amazing workouts! And I’ve learned I am not a slave to you. I will work harder to protect you. And I won’t be afraid to share my struggles honestly.
You are a part of me, sexuality, and I will not be afraid of you. I choose SUBMISSION, not REPRESSION.
Editor’s additional note, Sept. 8: I’ve had many wonderful married friends remind me that the battle is not over when you get married. Remember, marriage is not a finish line for any aspect of life–merely another path. What you do as a single person WILL ABSOLUTELY AFFECT your life as a married person in all respects–including your sexuality. Your outlook on your sexuality will affect your outlook on it as a married person, too. It’s time for us to understand and speak that truth to each other within the Christian community. Amen? Amen.