What Singleness & Marriage Have in CommonBH Women Contributor
Today's post was written by a Singles 20s/30s BH member.
As a single Christian woman in her 20s, I have heard enough talks on sexuality. Premises have ranged from weird (if you have sex with a guy who has had sex before, it’s like having sex with the other girl) to unhelpful (just stop thinking about it) to downright false (sex will kill your soul, and you will be permanently damaged so please stay away). Granted, I have also heard a few helpful talks that have deepened my views of biblical sex; unfortunately, those are few and far between.
If you are in the category of “Frustrated Single Christian Who Just Can’t Pretend Sexuality Doesn’t Exist,” I pray that these words will be a breath of fresh air. You’re not alone. So many Christian men and women are finding their sexuality as a single incredibly difficult to handle. And honestly, the outlets of porn, fantasy, and masturbation are an issue not only for singles but for marrieds as well. How do we explain this? What went wrong? More practically, how do we fight this now?
My biggest struggle has always been my thought life. More than simply seemingly harmless, it can deceptively seem helpful. I rationalized that it might be good to think through what to do before I ever actually got into a situation. (Please, married women, don’t laugh too hard. I realize that I’m young and foolish!) It wasn’t until my junior year of college that I began to realize the deception and destruction of sexual fantasy. I went through times where fantasy was nonexistent, then times of fighting in the trenches. Seeing how it was destructive to my relationship with God was the primary truth that flipped the switch for me, but a simple conversation with a friend a few weeks ago has also been tremendously helpful in changing the way I view sexuality as a whole.
The Commonality: Giving Yourself Up for the Pleasure of Another
It is nothing new and is shockingly clear in Scripture, but somehow I had never really wrapped my head around this truth. In marriage, sex is about giving yourself up for the pleasure of another like 1 Corinthians 7:4 talks about. In singleness, sexuality is about giving yourself up for the pleasure of God. Whether married or single, sexuality is always about giving yourself up for the pleasure of another out of love. The primary act of living as a Christian is giving to another, not taking for oneself.
In light of this truth, I can acknowledge and even leverage my sexuality as a single. Follow with me here before you cry heresy. My life is no longer about myself – it has been purchased by the Creator of all things. I am owned by a good and faithful Father, and He owns my whole being – heart, mind, and body. Saying no to sin and yes to Him brings Him pleasure. And right there in the trenches of the battlefield of my mind, acknowledging my sexuality but still denying the flesh by believing and trusting Him brings honor, glory, and pleasure to the One whom I will always love the most.
Our right action is always fueled by a heart responding to the initiating love of God. J.I. Packer says it this way: “…for love awakens love in return; and love, once awakened, desires to give pleasure.” Within this paradigm, the existence of sexual desire no longer brings shame and guilt; rather, we simply respond to God’s commands about our God-given sexuality out of love. This absolutely translates over to marriage. When you have built a habit of fighting for selflessness in the area of sexuality, it is much easier for you to obey the commands to lay down your life for your spouse in all aspects of life, which includes placing your spouse’s sexual gratification above yours. Even in marriage (so I’ve heard), sex is the best when both people are focused on giving pleasure, not receiving it.
One of the inherent problems within porn, fantasy, and masturbation is the fact that you’re the only one there. There’s nobody to give anything to; it is all about the pleasure you can receive. Sexual sin wires us to see actual two-person-sex as selfish consumption – using another person to eke out all the pleasure you possibly can. These self-focused distortions of sexuality aren’t ultimately satisfying. You may get pleasure, but you will not get the richness, intimacy, and deeper joy that comes from giving instead of simply consuming. And again, this problem is not restricted to singles. So I’ve heard, if you enter marriage with a mind and body trained to use and consume, relationship and actual pleasure both suffer. The disillusioned married person may then return to sources other than the spouse to get a thrill.
So, selfishness kills, and selflessness brings life. Isn’t this the only way that truly makes sense? Losing self and gaining all is one of the greatest paradoxes in the Kingdom of God. Lose your life, and you find it. Give up everything and gain it all. Seek first the kingdom of God, and all will be added to you. Take up your cross and follow Him and receive the deepest, richest life possible. Denying self always brings the greatest joy. Is it any surprise, then, that the same thread of truth runs through our sexuality as well? Why, when all other areas of life are richer when selflessly surrendered, would sexuality be all about yourself?
A Few Reminders
For those dating or engaged and struggling with purity: first, I understand. Sometimes I think physical touch is my only real love language. If you become my friend, you have no choice but to also become a hugger. And wow, when I date, I am in trouble. All I want to do is show the other person how much I like them when words aren’t enough. Believe me, I understand how hard it is. But here’s where the rubber meets the road: even if all you want to do is give pleasure, you are not married and that is not your job. It is only in marriage that you belong to the other, and we know either from our own experience or someone else’s experience that impurity while dating/engagement only destroys. Your God-ordained place as a single is still to say no to sexual gratification. Our hearts always belong to Jesus. When He says no, we say no, and only if or when He says yes do we say yes. We do this because He is good, and we trust that He is for us.
Some of you may be thinking, “That’s great and all, but if I have a choice, I’m going with the sex-in-marriage choice, and the lack of that reality still leaves me frustrated.” Valid point. If this life was it, I would agree that the singles living in self-denial have a pretty raw deal. Sisters, don’t forget what we are longing for above everything else.
John Piper describes heaven as a place where “Nothing is lost. The music of every pleasure is transposed into an infinitely higher key.” CS Lewis paints this picture: “The faint, far-off results of those energies which God’s creative rapture implanted in matter when He made the worlds are what we now call physical pleasures; and even thus filtered, they are too much for our present management. What would it be to taste at the fountain-head that stream of which even these lower reaches prove so intoxicating? Yet that, I believe, is what lies before us. The whole man is to drink joy from the fountain of joy.” I urge you not to let your eyes drop from His face. Continue to bring your desires before your Father, but let your heart be longing for Him more than anything else.
Would I rather deny self by actually having sex within marriage? Um, yes. Is following Jesus where He has me right now better than any plans I could imagine for my life? Absolutely. Will eternity with Jesus be awesome? YES!
We have such a kind and loving Father. Only He can enable us to believe His words and trust His promises in this area and in every area of life. Ask Him to do so – He is so willing and able.