How is one supposed to maintain or develop a healthy understanding about and attitude toward sexual intimacy in a culture where anything and everything goes? Whether single or married, how can you maintain or develop sexual integrity when there are endless opportunities to engage your body and mind in ungodly “stuff?” This key to staying clean in a dirty world can become priceless for you.
I’m going to assume you’re serious about following God, including what He says about sex and intimacy. You agree that God originally created sex to be ravishingly enjoyed between one man and one woman within the covenant of marriage. You recognize your vulnerability, and you’d like to do something about it.
An “anything goes” attitude saturates our culture: pornography, singles having sex, physical and emotional affairs, sexual messages in the media, gender and sexual orientation controversies, the commercial sex trade, and more. And the cultural message around sex in marriage is that it’s boring, unsatisfying, and likely to end quickly.
Constantly attacking the “bad stuff” may be important, but it ends up being like whack-a-mole; hit one and two more pop up. It feels impossible and exhausting. Not to mention feeling like you need a shower. And if you do “fall,” the shame and guilt can be overwhelming. It’s easy to give up.
What is a believer to do?
Keep Your Bucket Fresh
Think of your soul as a bucket – a leaky bucket. Every day parts of you leak out – good intentions, a sense of God’s presence, beliefs in what is true and pure, Biblical understanding, memories of what God has done and wants to do. You don’t lose everything, but you can’t live in our world without constant assaults, temptations, and just plain human frailty boring holes in your bucket.
“The world, the flesh, and the devil” are only too happy to keep filling your bucket with dirty water. There’s no shortage of spigots pouring out filth. By default your bucket will constantly get filled with dirty water.
Plugging the holes in your bucket helps. You can and should intentionally block exposure to the “anything goes” sexual ethic when possible. But that only goes so far, and you can never plug all the holes in your bucket fast enough. And trying to clean your bucket by tossing out one dirty drop at a time doesn’t work either.
Perhaps even more important than trying to keep up with plugging the holes is to keep filling your bucket with the good stuff. Proactively choose to keep returning to the places where God’s truth and light can fill you up; it’s the only way to keep your bucket full of clean water. And when you place your bucket under a strong flow of clean water the dirty stuff gets washed out.
Some of the ways to do that include:
– Time reading God’s word
– Time with godly friends and believers
– Taking in uplifting media (podcasts, books, etc.)
It’s hard to overestimate the difference constantly getting filled with clean water will make in your life. You can choose what kind of water fills your leaky bucket.
Keep Returning to the Real
When bank tellers, FBI agents, and others are learning about counterfeit currency, they focus most of their time on the real. They spend almost no time examining the counterfeits. Handling, seeing, being around authentic US treasury bills is the only way to become sensitized to what could be fake. There can be an endless variety of counterfeit currency; there’s only one variety of the real.
It’s the same with authentic God-ordained intimacy, sexual and otherwise.
A single person who only hears “NO outside of marriage” gets worn out, and may also struggle greatly if and when marriage does come. A man or woman starving for intimacy within marriage may have little defense against ever-present online or human alternatives. Someone carrying shame and guilt over ungodly sexual experiences can have little hope of anything better in the future.
UNLESS – as individuals and as the body of Christ we highlight, focus on, and actively pursue what is real.
For married people, that means pursuing intimacy with your spouse. Yes, that includes sex, but think in terms of intimacy. What are the walls between you that need to be broken down? Are you seeking the key to your spouse’s heart? How can you create an environment where your spouse will want to come closer? That may all be hard work, but it’s what you are called to do.
For single people, that means intentionally filling your heart, mind, and life with good and godly stuff. If you wish to be married, study successfully married people. Study God’s design for intimacy. I went through Song of Solomon countless times in the months before I got married, and it made all the difference. If you aren’t looking for marriage, keep your inner being fed with healthy soul nourishment.
For parents and leaders, that means doing more than saying “Don’t do it” to those under your influence. While refusing to ignore the sexual traps in our culture, it means constantly showcasing the authentic intimacy God built us for.
When you understand and stay filled up with God’s idea for intimacy, any counterfeit or trap will alert a red flag in your soul. It’s the key to staying clean in a dirty world.