It was the day before our wedding on 7/7/07, and Luke and I could barely keep our holy hands off of each other.
We had spent a few days moving our belongings into a new apartment with bright pink carpet, dreaming of how this would be the place where sex would finally be ‘legal' as good Christians. In between kisses and almost inappropriate gropes, we talked about where we were gonna do it, how we were gonna do it, and of course, how good we were going to be at it….pushing each other away to ‘cool off' since our bodies felt like Superman weakened by each other's sexual Kryptonite.
Up until that point, we had outlined a few rules to get us to the finish line.
NO TONGUE. Why? Because kissing with our tongues instantly made the lower half of our extremities explode like a nuclear bomb.
NO LONG FULL FRONTAL HUGS. Why? Because pressing our bodies up against each other made the lower half of our extremities explode like a nuclear bomb.
NO SEX SCENES IN MOVIES. Why? Because watching other people do what we wanted to be doing made the lower half of our extremities explode like a nuclear bomb.
Hormones raced around in our bodies like cars at the Indy 500, where one look from his blue eyes would turn my physical body into a pulsing mess, forcing me to cross my legs and quote scripture as distraction.
(Sorry, folks. This girl promised to start keeping it real. And sex is very real—even for good Christians.)
From my Christian worldview….
Sex was wrong, but it was about to be right.
Sex was bad, but it was about to be good.
Sex was shameful, but it was about to be shameless.
Sex was worldly, but it was about to be holy.
(I start to walk down the astroturf aisle at about minute 1:37!)
As we finished our ceremony in front of almost 70,000 people on a football field in Nashville, Tennessee, kissing and hugging our family and friends goodbye, the two of us drove to our honeymoon Bed and Breakfast where we now had our parents, friends, and God's permission to finally get it on. Luke reached over as a husband to put his hand on his wife, and instantly I felt the difference.
There was no explosion in my physical body.
Something was very wrong.
For the first year and a half (probably longer) of our marriage, being physically intimate with my husband was intensely painful for me almost every single time. And when it wasn't painful, it felt more like two people shaking hands—which we all know that no one craves shaking hands for long periods of time. It was as if a switch had been turned off with our vows, and the body that used to feel like a hormonal teenager now felt like a crippled mess, unable to work the way it used to.
And what poured out of my heart with this new reality? Intense shame. Shame for being broken, shame for not working the way I should. Shame for being a bad wife. Shame for being screwed up. And because Luke knew sex wasn't pleasant for me, my beautifully kind husband stopped asking for it as much, not wanting something for himself that would bring the one he loved more pain.
But instead of feeling loved by him, what did I feel? Rejection. Which brought on more shame.
This part of my married life felt like SHAME, REJECTION, SHAME, CONDEMNATION, JUDGMENT, SHAME…..creating a distance that neither one of us wanted, but didn't know how to change.
SHAME is a feeling, and feelings aren't wrong. But when you partner with and accept the feeling, you're always going to act on it.
For the first year of our marriage, I became increasingly cruel in our home, pouring out bitter words and actions that were just a mirrored projection of how cruel and bitter I was at myself. I lived angry at Luke, really just angry at myself and my body for not working. The heart that beat with excitement for a new sexual world now beat with fear–fear of myself, fear of ever being healed, fear of always being broken……fear of my marriage never being what it was supposed to be…..because I wasn't who I was supposed to be.
Two years later, with sex being something Luke and I both saw more as marital duty than bliss, I was riding in the car with a world-wide, famous, beautifully pure worship leader. She and her husband had both waited for each other until marriage, and her voice was recognized as one of the strongest voices in the contemporary worship movement. As we rode in the car together and she gushed about her husband and how sexy he was, she looked out the window and said the last thing in the world I ever expected her to say….
“Man, Christa. I love my husband so much. And we sure do love to (insert shocking OH MY GOSH expletive).”
I remember being so shocked at that word–and that it had come out of her little worship leader mouth–my hands tightened to clutch the steering wheel, eyes widened and glued to the road. After at least 30 seconds of awkward silence, I finally mustered up the courage to say what my heart was dying to know…..
“Is that LEGAL?” I asked while peering over into her passenger seat.
She burst into laughter, looking over at me with the same purity I always saw from the stage. From the same mouth that sang some of the most anointed worship songs the world has ever heard, she told me about her sex life, how powerful it was, how sexy she felt, how adventurous they were, how connected, and how much fun they had texting and sending pics to each other that they made sure their kids never saw. My jaw dropped as the minutes rolled by, hearing all the things I thought that sinful word encompassed….like being sexy, sensual, and erotic….all the things that I still considered worldly, shameful, wrong, and bad.
You see, I grew up in a church culture that didn't tell me why God didn't want me to have sex before marriage–I just heard that it was sinful. I heard how being sexy was wrong and caused men to stumble, so I had avidly practiced being the OPPOSITE of sexy for decades, attempting to make my clothes and actions appropriate. I didn't learn why God wanted me to wait until I had a covenant around my relationship so I would be protected when all the ugly parts of my life came to the surface—I just heard that sex before marriage was wrong.
So what did I hear?
My head and heart played this message for so long, my body believed it….down into my bones. Even after I was married.
Proverbs 23:7 “As a man thinks in his heart….so is he.”
I went to the altar with an internal tape recorder that told my head how WRONG sex was….but from experience, that WRONG turned my body on. And when sex was finally right, my body didn't know how to work. I went to into my marriage bed trained to think sex was BAD….and that BAD turned me on. When it was finally good, I didn't know how to function. When watching a sex scene in a movie and finding my body aroused, I believed that my arousal was WORLDLY. But I needed to be HOLY….so surely it was wrong to feel those worldly feelings.
In my head, purity meant….well….feeling nothing sexually. So when I went to my pure wedding bed, my body felt nothing sexually.
WHERE DID I LEARN THIS MESSAGE?
For the most part, healthy sexual relationships had never been dialogued or displayed for me in a church setting. I had never heard sermons about how it was right, I'd just been to loads of church camps that made sure I knew it was wrong. But the silence about GOOD sex screamed a very loud message:
SHHHHHH….SEX IS SHAMEFUL.
It's wrong to talk about sex as a Christian. It's private. It's bad to talk about sex as a believer. It's embarrassing and crass–until you have (maybe) three months of premarital counseling (if any). Don't talk about sex….it's holy.
It seemed that the only voice in my life willing to talk about sex was mainstream culture…and they SCREAMED about how good it was. They sang about it in pop songs, filmed themselves doing it in movies and television shows, uploaded home videos, used it to sell magazines and books, and portrayed it in photo shoots. The world outside of the church was so excited about sex that all of them were having it, LOTS OF IT, and there was no shame for their behaviors. In fact, they praised each other for having sex, talked about it with coworkers, friends, and family, and were proud of their bodies for being and feeling sexual!
But not me. And not for scores of women that I've talked to. For years before marriage, I hated my body for getting sexually aroused. I despised it for being weak. I condemned it for DESIRING sex. I was angry at it for getting me into trouble as a good Christian girl, furious when it would get turned on before it was supposed to.
And the whole time, I hated my body for simply doing what it should—working the way God created me to work.
The problem with the church's silence about sex is that we're being silent about something that our God created–and He only creates good things.
Sex is not worldly—it's Godly.
Sex is not the world's idea—it's God's idea.
Being turned on and wanting sex isn't shameful—it's how God shamelessly created your body.
And pleasure is not bad—it's amazing.
That day when I drove along years ago with my friend, hearing how much she liked to be sexy, sexual, sensual, erotic, aroused, pleasured, adventurous, and carefree with her husband in their very Christian bedroom, something shifted in me. I realized that I had completely misunderstood what it meant to be holy and pure in my marriage bed—interpreting Godly sex to be boring, unsexy, unadventurous…..and very unappealing.
The only way I was going to find out how great sex was supposed to be in my marriage was to start thinking about sex the way God does…..
And He thinks it's a great idea….because it was HIS idea.
This blog is long, and there is much more to say. So I'll leave us here for now….opening up dialogue and thoughts in the comment section.
(PS. In light of the new 50 Shades generation, I have to say that in NO way am I talking about S&M, BDSM, or any kind of bondage, violence, or submission when I refer to sexy being adventurous. It breaks my heart that I even have to make this disclaimer….but I do. Alright…enough of that.) (:
More to come.