I couldn’t believe my eyes. I casually logged onto the internet to check my email and there was JLo‘s bare chest, staring me right in the face. She wasn’t naked. She was at an awards ceremony, posing for photographers in an “outfit” exposing all but the tiniest portion of her breasts, and split all the way down, let’s say… well below her navel. I didn’t click on the link, but I didn’t need to. The image is indelibly in my mind, and there is nothing I can do to remove it.
In the computer world, the solution would be to format the hard drive and start over. In the real world it is not that simple. Our minds retain those images and drift back to them at the most inopportune times. We may be tinkering on the car or mowing the lawn, and those images pop back into our mind. I’d like to say that I’m immune, but I’m just like any other guy. I can’t go to the store or watch TV for five minutes without seeing a suggestively dressed woman. I don’t understand all the physiology, but I know that when men see a naked woman, something fires in the pleasure center of the brain. Thus the saying: “Some men are visual…the rest are dead.” But guys, we can’t just say it’s normal, and use it as our get out of jail free card. The bible tells us to take every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:5. We can’t stop a bird from landing on our head, but we can prevent it from building a nest.
Many wives are hurt and frustrated when they see their husbands struggle with the visual assaults. But don’t get mad at your husband for being male. Be a sympathetic ally. You can be his biggest helper in the battle. Many husbands haven’t seen their wife naked since the invention of the walk-in closet. They have no visuals of their own wife’s body that they can muse upon when temptation strikes.
Wives can be a tremendous help to their husbands by simply dressing in front of their husband. When you’re changing clothes, don’t go into the bathroom and close the door; dress where he can see you. You don’t have to do a strip tease and you don’t have to make an event of it, but be visually generous. When you are preparing for bed, do it in front of your husband. Take your time and carry on a conversation. I promise you, he will be attentive. Give your husband some “sanctified images” to remember and think about. Remember, you are the only person in the world whose body he can think about without guilt. Give him plenty of moments to remember, rewind and relive, focused on you. You may be astonished at the results.
Many good-willed husbands and wives have suffered needlessly, because they did not know how to help each other. Amazingly, a willingness to serve our spouse and a few small changes in our dressing habits can infuse health and satisfaction into our marriage in ways we never would have imagined.
Whose body is it, anyway? Yours of course….until you pledge it to somebody else. Then everything changes.
The Old English vows say that on our wedding day we “enter into a new estate”. That’s why I always spend extra time with couples in pre-marriage counseling to make sure they fully understand what they are signing up for. Think about it. When we are choosing our marriage partner, we are evaluating how trustworthy they will be to fulfill their role as our – one and only – husband or wife. One very important role in marriage is that of lover. When we stand at the altar and pledge our self to our spouse, we are entrusting one person in the whole world to fulfill that role. For those who are married, consider this: You are the only person in the whole world who is authorized to fulfill your spouse’s sexual needs. And not only that; but you are commanded to do so. I know that sounds a little silly. About half of us are thinking: “God commanded us to have sex, so I’m suddenly really into obeying God.” The other half of us…not so much.
Typical pre-marriage couples are eager to get married, and blissfully optimistic. They envision marriage as having sex every day, multiple times, for as long as they both shall live. But life and our sin nature has a way of throwing a monkey wrench into those plans (Read Take Out the Trash).
So let’s look at what the bible says about sex in marriage:
I Corinthians 7: 3-5 says: Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
Wow! There’s a lot here, but let’s look at the main points. When we pledged our self to our spouse, we not only pledged our life, but our body as well. This is a sacred trust that husbands and wives must guard with the utmost care. But practically, it also means the when our spouse is “in the mood” for sexual relations, we should respond willingly and reciprocate. If we are unavailable for sexual intercourse due to illness or some other reason, we should communicate with our spouse, affirm our love for them, and make a date in the near future to take them up on the offer.
It is a rare exception when the bible says it is OK to “deprive” our spouse of sexual relations. But God gives very specific instructions because He wants it to be rare, and He wants it to resolve quickly. God knows that whenever sin interrupts our sexual relationship, the enemy tries to exploit it, and tempt us towards the greater sin of infidelity. That’s why God says only “with consent” and only “for a [specific agreed upon] time” and with action steps: that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer.
So let me ask you a question: How long can you fast? That’s about how long is healthy to abstain from sexual relations with your spouse. God’s ideal is speedy resolution of any problem that comes between husband and wife, and full and complete restoration of the relationship.
Before anyone panics, this is not carte blanche for selfish spouses to abuse. There are a few exceptions, but they are few and they are exceptions. We need to let God be the referee in those cases. Because our spouse is not the only one we have pledged our life to. When we pledge our life to Christ, we surrender lordship of our life to Him. The bible says: your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own. 1 Cor 6:19
All of life is better when we give God the final word.
To maintain a satisfying sexual relationship, husbands and wives will pay particular attention and make it their goal to “render affection” that is meaningful and fulfilling to their spouse. Your spouse’s idea of affection will often be different than yours. If both husband and wife make their first priority to serve each other, rather than serving themselves, they will do well. Make it your goal to always be an eager participant in sexual relations with your spouse. Learn to communicate with each other about your sexual relationship in order to keep it healthy. Don’t expect your spouse to automatically be an expert. Be patient with one another and help each other become a great lover (read The Chapter on Sex). As we learn and grow together, we will discover the joys and blessings of true oneness with our spouse.
Why do they always put the chapter on sex at the back of the book? I am the dubious owner of over a hundred books about marriage. I’m not sure if that makes me a scholar or an idiot, but it is what it is. I think God makes me study and teach this stuff so I won’t forget it. But I find it interesting that virtually every book on marriage has the chapter on sex at the end of the book. It may be that they are embarrassed to talk about it. Or possibly they are being pious, as if to say that sex is unimportant to Christians. But the truth is, according to all the couples I’ve counseled over the years, having a healthy love life is a big deal! Years ago, Willard Harley Jr. wrote a book entitled His Needs, Her Needs (Revell 1986) where he cites a scientific study stating that of a man’s top five needs, sex is number one. The woman’s number one need is for affection. If that is the case, we shouldn’t pretend it is unimportant; “out of sight, out of mind”. Because, although we may keep it out of sight, it will not stay out of mind.
So, I figured we’d better begin with the end in mind as Stephen Covey says in his book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. When it comes to sex, that isn’t difficult, because many of us already do this. And therein lies the challenge. We might not have said it in so many words but from the time a teenage boy discovers girls, he’s trying to see if he can get to first base, second base, third base…you get my point. So why is it that when we get married, we forget all those baseball analogies and try to score with our spouse without ever rounding the bases?
Climax is a word that is familiar to all of us in reference to our sexual relationship. It’s interesting because it is from the Greek word, Klimax which means Ladder. I have another book called Sex Begins in the Kitchen by Dr. Kevin Lehman. No, it’s not some kinky Love American Style book, but the title says it all. You’ve heard of foreplay? What about before foreplay? Chances are your wife would find it very romantic if you’d help her with the dishes after dinner. Maybe your husband’s favorite home cooked meal would set the tone for a romantic evening. Every thoughtful thing we do for one another is like climbing another rung of the romantic ladder towards the climax.
I was teaching a married couples’ bible study, using my ladder analogy, and one bewildered husband piped up and said “Every time I get almost to the top I see big bold writing that says DO NOT STAND ON OR ABOVE THIS STEP” We all laughed at his wit, but we also, all understood his frustration.
So I guess I got the answer to my question. All those chapters leading up to the Chapter on Sex are important rungs of the ladder. So we’ll talk about all of them, ways to climb the ladder as well as the challenges and pitfalls couples face. In the meantime, let’s remember back to our dating relationship and all those little things that made our future spouse feel special. Going places they liked to go, eating the foods they like to eat, and paying attention to the things that were important to them. And let’s begin again to climb the ladder trusting the Lord for a very satisfying result.
Jesus said: Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do again the first works Rev 2:5