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It's a valid... albeit uncomfortable... question.
Have you ever had a sexual fantasy?
I know I have.
And I admit that at times I've wondered the meaning behind some of those fantasies.
So you can imagine how encouraging I find it that Christian author Shannon Ethridge has courageously dug into this topic -- a topic the church has often skirted around at best and outright ignored at worst.
"The Fantasy Fallacy: Exposing the Deeper Meaning Behind Sexual Thoughts" is Ethridge's latest book, and she was kind enough to respond to my request for a copy so I could read first hand her take on this topic.
There is a lot to like about this book.
Ethridge, an acclaimed Christian author and speaker, wrote the book on the heels of the sexually-charged secular book "Fifty Shades of Grey." But rather than dumping endless energy into vilifying "Fifty Shades of Grey," Ethridge wisely pours herself instead into taking us to better depths.
In "The Fantasy Fallacy," Ethridge offers a solid mix of psychology and spirituality to reveal that the two are not mutually exclusive.
What goes on in our mind -- even our most baffling, frightening or arousing sexual fantasies -- often has roots in past pain that only the steadfast love and hope of Jesus Christ can heal.
Honestly, that's what this book is about. It's about not being paralyzed in the shame and fear of skewed sexual thoughts and actions, but rather bringing them out in the light to loosen their grip on our hearts and souls.
"But regardless of how many times we've gotten it wrong in the past, we can allow our sexuality to be fully sanctified by our spirituality. We can develop such an overwhelming appetite for healthy fruit that forbidden fruit loses its appeal altogether." (pg. 191)
I have no doubt that Ethridge will receive a fair amount of criticism for this book.
After all, sexual fantasy and the fallout that often goes with it is a difficult -- even treacherous -- reality to explore.
My optimistic hope is that Ethridge will stay the course in the face of such criticism.
She has a good track record of being brave in speaking humbly yet directly on topics where the church and society as a whole have been crippled sexually. I like that kind of courage. I like that kind of voice.
We need not look far to see that many people, including many Christians, have followed their fantasies into sexual depravity and devastation.
And even if they haven't, they still have allowed their fantasies to take up residence in such a way that authentic God-honoring sexual intimacy is hindered and sabotaged at every turn.
With the credentials and counseling and coaching experience to back up her words, Ethridge clearly shows that our sexual thought life does not have to define us.
But more so than her professional accomplishments, I most appreciate about Ethridge her willingness to vulnerably share about her own past struggles with sexual fantasies and temptations that would have destroyed her and her marriage -- had she fueled them instead of confronted them.
I absolutely love that kind of realness.
She also gives us real-life examples from many of her coaching and counseling clients (with names changed to protect their anonymity).
"So will you pay attention and watch and listen to your life's movies? Will you accept the invitation to expose the deeper meaning behind your sexual thoughts and let them heal you rather than hurt you?" (pg 51)
She also reminds each of us that we individually hold the keys to walking in the direction of healthy sexuality.
"Fully understanding a fantasy or a particular bent toward specific images can only be accomplished by the one doing the fantasizing. A book can't interpret your fantasies for you, but you can. You know more about yourself and your own sexual thoughts than anyone else ever will, so again, my prayer is that this book equips you with the tools you need to connect the dots, reveal the bigger picture of why you fantasize the way you do, and successfully move your mind toward the high road of recovery." (pg. 80)
"Our painful feelings must be processed. Swept under the rug, unresolved pain multiplies exponentially, giving birth to even more overwhelming feelings of guilt, shame, self-loathing, depression, anger, and bitterness, which drive us toward more self-numbing activities. However, brought out into the light where it can be carefully examined and understood, emotional pain can reveal what still needs to be 'made right' in our minds. Embracing this healing journey can be scary at first but will eventually elicit feelings of acceptance, wholeness, gratitude, victory and even great joy." (pg. 81)
In my opinion, there is not another book on the market right now that better delves into this matter than Ethridge's "The Fantasy Fallacy: Exposing the Deeper Meaning Behind Sexual Thoughts."
Thank you Shannon for tackling this topic with grace, courage and humble authenticity.
Let's spread this post around, people!
Let's be about giving voice to saving marriages, helping individuals heal deep pain, and better equipping one another to nurture healthy sexual intimacy.
Copyright 2013. Julie Sibert. Intimacy in Marriage Blog.