Saturday, March 03, 2012
That is a quote from the book Sacred Sex by Tim Allen Gardner, a Christian counselor. Much of what you will read here is a result of Mr. Gardner’s obedience to God in writing the above mentioned book. I have suffered from what I call 'relationship dysfunction' for most of my life. There is no doubt in my mind that the root of my relationship dysfunction is sexual. I grew up with the plan of only having sex with one man. I grew up with the plan of waiting until I was married to have sex. This was the Biblical law of God and I was going to adhere to it. Unfortunately, I also grew up thinking sex was Biblically wrong or “bad” in some way. No one told me this, it was just something I figured out on my own. I don’t remember anyone ever talking about how great sex was going to be after marriage, I only ever remembering people telling me “don’t have sex.” My conclusion was certainly natural, I mean why was such a big deal being made about not having sex if sex was a good thing? People told me not to do drugs... everyone knows drugs are bad. People told me to stay in school and get good grades... everyone knows skipping school and getting bad grades are bad. So when people said "Don't have sex"... why wouldn't my immature brain conclude... sex is bad.
Enter romance novels and television. I began reading corny love stories early in life, I also watched soap operas like General Hospital and the Guiding Light. Being a girl who was boy crazy from as early as Kindergarten, stories involving the heart really sucked me in. I loved the idea of love. Being a girl who wasn’t exactly every boy's dream of beauty made me long for love all the more. I was strongly influenced by the stories I watched and read. I believed anything was possible with love. Love could overcome anything... and most embarrassing... I began to believe that anything a person might do for the sake of love, even if it was morally questionable, was okay... because it was done for love. Doesn’t the Bible tell us to love???? Above all else... love?
In my late teens, I fell in-love... for real (at least I thought it was). I was naive and living my life based on raw emotion. I made the decision to have sex with the plan to marry this boy in the future. As long as I married him, it would all be okay. To be honest, I didn’t really want to have sex, just the idea of sex was repulsive for me but I also knew that if I didn’t have sex with him, he would find someone who would. I didn’t want to lose him, I loved him... so I did it for love. Afterwards, I felt awful. I felt dirty and gross. I felt like if my parents knew, they’d kill me! I felt a guilt I can’t describe but I pushed through it and went on with life. It would all be okay once we were married, the guilt would leave and I wouldn’t have to worry anymore. I would just have sex to keep him happy, he would love me and life would be great. Unfortunately, the boy in this story didn’t have the same plan I did. I guess one of my failures as an 18 year old girl was poor communication. I never talked to him about my plans... I just assumed he had the same one I did. Turns out, me deciding to have sex with him didn’t keep him from finding other girls willing to do the same. I caught him having sex with a girl from my high school and my heart broke into pieces.
I made the same mistakes over again in the years that followed. And even though I had a very separate place in my mind for love and sex, trying to keep myself loved by who I desired seemed to always twist love and sex together uncomfortably for me. I never valued myself enough to think I was worth just plain being loved for who I was... without sex. Spiritually, I felt unforgivable for my sexual sins. But somewhere in my flesh I think I believed it was all okay because the sin was committed in the pursuit of love. Sex rationalized by love, I’m not the first person to think of that!
Fast forward to 2010, I am a devoted follower of Jesus who is married to a wonderful man who I know loves me without doubt, for if he didn't he would have left me long, long ago. I am clean and sober of alcohol for three years and I have a beautiful five year old son who is smarter than I am. I am no longer dabbling in sexual sin... I am married and have received forgiveness for my past sexual sin from my loving and graceful God. All that’s left for me is to keep my man happy, which means having sex with him on a regular basis and I am home free. In my mind, I put it on my calendar along with doing the grocery shopping, going to the dentist and folding laundry... not things I necessarily like to do but things that must be done, so I do them. In a conversation with my therapist, I am told that my view of sex is not very healthy. I’m told that I’m supposed to enjoy sex and want to do it. I’m told that God wants me to enjoy sex and by not allowing myself to enjoy it or desire it, I am being selfish.
What? Having sex for my husband even though I don't really desire it.... is selfish? What kind of crap is that? And what of this whole “God wants me to enjoy it” stuff? That makes NO SENSE!!!! God was the one who said “DON’T HAVE SEX.... DON’T HAVE SEX.... DON’T HAVE SEX” and here we are years later and He goes and changes His mind and tells me not only to have it... but enjoy it. Right buddy... whatever you say. Let me just reach into my brain and flip the “I hate sex because all it has ever done is cause me pain, suffering and guilt” button. I’ll get right on it. The truth was, I didn’t want to switch the button. I was happy with the way things were. Thanks Mr. Therapist... but no thanks. I’ll work on some other stuff instead, maybe we can get back to that one later.
God is funny though... it seems that once He shows me something in my life that isn’t quite working for me, He just keeps bringing it up over and over again until I decide to listen. I guess He took His job seriously when I asked Him to help me become a whole person, the person He knows I can be. He is going to do that for me, even in the areas I don’t want Him to. I have “worked” on my sexual dysfunction many times and it seems I always get to a certain point, think I am doing better and then I stop. Sooner or later I am right back where I started. I found myself at the starting line again recently and finally admitted to myself... I don’t want to change. But its obvious to me, God wants me to change so I began to pray for Him to make me want to change... even though I really don’t want to.
Not too long ago I started reading the book I mentioned earlier, Sacred Sex. In it, the author suggests that sex between spouses is holy, just as taking communion is holy. He also says that sex between spouses is a way to experience God. As I read these things, I rolled my eyes. Whatever... sex... holy... no way. My heart was so hardened. I couldn’t even imagine any of this being true. But as the author began to back up his ideas with scripture and experience... I began to wonder if maybe he was right but I was just unable to see it with my human eyes. It would have been really easy for me to put the book down and say “screw this crap” but instead I asked God to crack me open, even if just a tiny little bit. Maybe if He cracked me, He could show me that it was possible for me to change my feelings about sex. In my mind change truly seemed impossible. It seemed like fact and seemed unchangeable.
I kept reading and taking notes as different parts of the book text would hit me but nothing seemed to help. I was starting to think change was not possible for me.
In the book, the author tells a story about a session he had with a woman. It was her first session and she was there because her husband wanted her to go see someone to get “fixed” because she didn’t like sex. The author asked her a simple question... he asked her what she believed the purpose of sex was. Here was her answer, “I don’t know if I am sure what I believe. Obviously its to have children and its something men need, but beyond that, I don’t know. Right now, I can take it or leave it.”
Hmmm... her answer was exactly what my answer would have been.
The author then explained that this point of view was sadly shared by many, many woman. Next, the author said something interesting...
“Men do not, in fact, have a life or death need for sex.” I don’t think it was a coincidence that little Miss. Gracie woke up from her nap at that very moment so I was unable to read any further.
That sentence stayed in my head rerunning over and over... it took several hours but....CRACK....
Men do not, in fact, have a life or death need for sex.... in other words... men don’t have to have sex. Meaning... it is not MY JOB to give a man sex just because he THINKS he needs it. Further... if a man becomes completely miserable because he isn't getting any sex for sex' sake, that is NOT MY PROBLEM.
As the crack to my hardened exterior began to open up a little more, I heard a voice in my head and for the first time ever the bright light of truth was shined upon a dark, ugly lie. I have been told many lies about sex in my life... and I have believed a lot of them but this one took the cake. This lie had been so carefully and consistently placed in my view for so many years that I just assumed it was a fact. This lie was straight from the devil and he had not only convinced me of it... he has society convinced of it as well. I have heard it on television and radio, read it in books and seen it in the news. Talked about it in school and with good friends, heard it expressed in church and among family members... jokes and serious conversations alike had all led me to believe this lie even more convincingly. And here it is, the most cunning lie I have ever believed about sex... MEN NEED SEX.
Something in my soul relaxed when the truth really hit me. Knowing now that a man no more needs sex to survive than I need alcohol to survive... sheds a brand new light on the subject. I no longer have to view sex as a have-to or job that is my responsibility. Sex no longer gets to imprison me. I can move the chains out of the way and try to find a new way to think of sex. It is very exciting to me to finally have real hope... a real chance to change my old views.
I have wondered for years why I have not been able to believe that men are capable of true love and affection. I knew it was supposed to be true, but I simply could not believe it. I'm sorry guys, I know that is unfair and offensive but that is how I have felt for as long as I can remember. This crack has finally shown me that it is possible for me to embrace that a man can truly love because if I no longer believe with all my heart that men need sex, then I can begin to believe that the things they do to show love are not a mere "act" done with the intent to get sex. Ahhhhh.... Freedom.
In addition, the crack helped me recognize that I had left a few key words out of my original belief system. God didn’t say, don’t have sex... He said, sex is for those who are married. God didn’t say, sex is bad... He said, sex outside of marriage is a sin. And my belief that all sex had ever done is cause me pain, suffering and guilt.... well that might be true but the sex that caused those bad feelings was unholy, sinful sex... not sex the way God designed it to be. I have been so hung up on the unholy side of sex that I have not let myself experience the holy side. Which leads me to another quote from the author, “The existence of unholy sex does not make all sex unholy.” The all or nothing girl in me needs to let this one soak in.
I have no idea how long it is going to take for me to make real true progress in this area, but I’ve got to say, this is the most hope I have ever felt. As always, the willingness to change is the most important part of the journey because without that, you’ve got nothing. I pray I will keep my willingness, if I do that, I know God will come through for me because all things are possible with God.