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I’m not faulting the church across the board, so hear my heart.
Without a doubt, the motives are more often than not well-intended. The purity movement, for example, raised awareness about abstinence, all in an effort to show young people value in saving sex for marriage.
But… And this is a humble and crucial but…
Too much of the message of the purity movement became entangled in shame and sweeping generalizations. The same can be said for the uncomfortable silence about sex in general.
The Christian community does not have a strong track record of broadening much-needed dialogue about sex. If anything, we too often have intentionally and unintentionally stifled such dialogue.
We pushed sex into a nice and tidy box and hoped everyone would get with the program, not ask too many questions, and arrive at the altar eager and enthusiastic about the awaiting gift of sexual bliss.
I remember talking with a friend about the moment her dad gave her a purity ring. (These were quite popular back in the day. The idea being, of course, that the ring was a sign of her virginity and she would wear it till her future husband replaced it with a wedding ring).
Unbeknownst to her dad, she wasn’t a virgin. Imagine the angst in her heart that began to well up the moment her dad put that ring on her finger. She didn’t feel like she could tell him the truth, so she silently heaped a bunch of shame on herself, kept her mouth shut and went along with the charades. Good acting.
I’m sure this far into my post, you’re thinking, “Oh for the love, Julie, will you get to your point already?!”
Okay, my point is two-fold.
Striving for sexual integrity — however we define that — must be paired with a willingness to listen with compassion and respect as someone shares their perspective.
As a believer, I need to maturely ask myself, “Can people of all ages, regardless of their sexual lens and no matter whether single or married, discuss sex vulnerably with me? Do they feel safe with me, even if we don’t agree on everything?”
And this is key… It’s okay to not agree on everything. Seriously, it is. There is still richness in the dialogue.
Below gives you a little glimpse, and then keep scrolling down for two of their conversations with author and speaker Shannon Ethridge.
In Touch Podcast Episode 9, Shannon shares her story (completely fascinating if you don’t already know it) and her heart for speaking authentically about sex.
In Touch Podcast Episode 10, the conversation with Shannon continues, as she and the hosts dive into talking about Lighting the Fires of Holy Horniess (the name alone is piquing your interest, right?!)
Obviously, my wheelhouse is sexual intimacy in marriage. You would not believe the number of married people I hear from who have built their marital intimacy on skewed and shaky foundations OR are still struggling under the weight of past sexual shame. So many marriages suffer.
Okay. Maybe you would believe it. Maybe you are living it.
As for arriving at the altar a virgin, I can count on one hand the number of Christians I know who would fall into that category. I wouldn’t even need all the fingers on that hand. And I know a lot of married Christians.
And though some virgins may not bring to their marriage any actual sexual experiences, I have found that they still bring a fair amount of sexual struggle, mostly in the form of overly romanticized expectations and paralyzing unknowns about sex.
As for those of us who were not virgins on our wedding day? We are not immune from needing authentic dialogue as well. We do not have everything figured out. Our past sexual experiences may even still be tripping us up as we try to connect sexually in the context of marriage.
Is there still relevance in the abstinence message? Absolutely. I used to speak in public schools on abstinence, so I am a fan of such message. But I believe we need to be wiser about not portraying sexual sin as greater than other sin. And we need more in-depth dialogue.
We need to be willing to have conversations (not one-way speeches) about sex that motivate people to better understand God’s heart on sexual feelings and sexual intimacy. We have to not flinch from conversations that are messy and uncomfortable.
That’s hard. I get that it’s hard. I do. But personally, I’m fine with that. I hope I continue to meet others who are fine with it, too.
Copyright 2018, Julie Sibert. Intimacy in Marriage Blog. Links may be monetized.