Have you ever wondered why we experience puberty in our early teen years, but how (at least in our Western culture) we don’t get married until much later? Our bodies experience all these hormonal changes and we start feeling strange new sexual urges all the while being told by the church that we should not do anything about those urges until we are married. I don’t know about you, but when I was a teen this idea seemed like a mean trick. Why would God design our bodies in this way, then ask us to do nothing about it until early adulthood or later? I think the answer to this questions lies in this idea of sexual responsibility.
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I wonder if we start to experience our sexual urges early on in life because then it gives us an opportunity to learn how to responsibly handle them. As we grow and mature we learn to value, foster, and live with our sexual urges without always having another person to engage with around those desires. What an important lesson to learn!
Our individual sexualities are ours and ours alone to foster well. Our sexuality is an important part of how God made us, and was His design and intention from the beginning. God made our individual sexualities and He called it good. Just like we as a people are called to tend and keep the earth (Gen. 2:15), I believe we are also called to tend and keep our individual sexuality.
I grew up during the purity culture movement in the church. If you’re not familiar with that, it was basically a time where the entire North American church adopted this idea that all dating and relationships were bad unless it led to marriage. Books like I Kissed Dating Goodbye and others like it were all the rage as Christians everywhere decided that God hated kissing and going on dates. There were conferences and promises galore in the days of my youth that told me that sex was bad until I got married, but then it was good after. All of this was well intentioned and I truly believe that. The hard part was no one talked about what to do with the urges before the wedding. I see this now as a missed opportunity in the church. If we ignore sexuality until marriage then we miss this important aspect of what it means to take responsibility for ourselves in that area.
This responsibility is incredibly important to foster in our years as a single because it impacts how we relate to our spouse sexually when we get married. If we never learn how to manage our sexual urges and impulses in a healthy way when we are single, then we can sometimes come into a marriage with a mindset that our spouse is now responsible to “take care of that” for us.
Often, we have developed unhealthy ways of managing our urges like masturbation, pornography, or other kinds of sexual acting out. This can morph into a kind of unhealthy thinking that says, “my spouse isn’t taking care of my desires so now I have to watch porn in order to manage my urges.” This type of thinking is unhealthy because is defers sexual responsibility for the natural urges that we have onto someone else.
Part of learning how to do this is learning how to accept the sexual urges for what they are and that they teach us. Our sexual urges are there in order to point us to our healthy desire to connect with others and with God. As Doug Rosenau says in his book Soul Virgins:
“Your sexual ache was purposefully designed by God to motivate you (body, soul, and spirit) toward an intimate connection with God, an intimate connection with other members of the body of Christ, and eventually an intimate connection with a future spouse. Even if you never marry, the sexual ache is a divinely created vehicle God uses to give you a longing for intimate connection with himself and others,” (p.113).Doug Rosenau, Soul Virgins
Accepting this healthy and important part of yourself is essential for connecting and vital relationships both sexually and otherwise. Even if a spouse is not wanting to connect sexually in the same way that you are, ask yourself if there is another way you can pursue connection and closeness. That healthy and good desire for intimacy inside you can still be met, just in a different way.
What Healthy Sexual Responsibility Looks Like
So what does it look like to have healthy sexual responsibility? I’m glad you asked.
Value Your Sexual Desire
First, you need to notice and value your sexual urges and desires. It starts by first noticing that you are having a sexual urge in the first place so that you can make an active choice to manage it well. Your urges are a gift from God designed to draw you closer to others and to Him.
Express Your Desire
Next, express your desire to your partner in a non demanding way. Your desire is an invitation to closeness, not an expectation for release. If your partner is unable to connect at that time for whatever reason, that is ok. It is then your responsibility to make sure you manage the urge in a healthy way like engage in some other physical activity like yoga or going for a run.
Validate and Embrace Your Desire
Lastly, validate the goodness that God gave you the sexual desire that you have as it provides such a beautiful opportunity for closeness and connection. Your sexuality is also unique to you and a part of your identity. Embrace it!
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