Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Kim Gaines Eckert’s new book Things Your Mother Never Told You: A Woman’s Guide to Sexuality (InterVarsity Press, 2014).
God created you as a sexual being, but in this fallen world that’s full of sexual brokenness it can be challenging to live your sexuality out in healthy, faithful ways. Myths about sex abound in our culture: Sometimes sex is presented as a god, with people devoting themselves to it as an end in itself. At other times, sex is portrayed as something evil, with people feeling ashamed of the sexual feelings they naturally have. Women often receive especially confusing messages about sex in our culture, which urges them to be provocative at times and makes them feel insecure at others.
But no matter how sex and femininity have been distorted in our world, the fact remains that sex is something good that God invented and gave humanity as a gift. Our sex drives create the desire within us for union with someone outside ourselves, which ultimately points us to the union we can have with God through loving relationships with Jesus Christ.
God redeems brokenness and wants you to enjoy wholeness in every way, including sexually. Here’s how you can find sexual wholeness as a woman:
Approach sexuality holistically. Keep in mind that your sexuality isn’t just one part of you; it encompasses your whole self. The sexual decisions you make affect you to your core and impact every part of your life.
Reject sexual expressions that make you feel dehumanized. Authentic sexuality should always make you feel more human – not less so – because God created sexuality as an integral part of your humanity. Keep in mind when deciding how to express yourself sexually that love and respect for yourself as a child of God should always be reflected in your choices.
Understand that sex is more than an act. Since sex is a sign of the eternal union that God wants to have with the people he loves, any type of sexual behavior is significant. Sex is more than just the act of intercourse through vaginal penetration; it also involves a broad spectrum of other sexual behaviors that couples express on a continuum, such as holding hands, kissing, caressing, touching body parts, masturbation, and oral sex. When considering a particular kind of sexual behavior, ask yourself whether that behavior is an appropriate way for you and your romantic partner to reflect God’s loving, relational nature.
Consider the sacred purpose of sex. Ask the Holy Spirit to remind you regularly that sex is sacramental. Keep in mind God’s purpose for sex: to teach you more about how to love him and others. Sex is relational because God has a relational nature (between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) and it unites two people into a one-flesh relationship, sex is fruitful because it draws couples to create something wonderful together (from children to other creative results of their relationship), and sex is pleasurable because God designed spouses to enjoy it together as a taste of the joy that comes from a loving union and finds its ultimate expression in uniting with God in love.
Understand the principles that govern how God has designed men and women to relate to each other. Those principles are: unity and difference (God created people in His own image (unity) as males and females (difference), order and equality (just as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all fully God, men and women have distinct gender differences and yet are fully equal), and loving relations (God intends for men and women to give and receive love to and from one another, just as the parts of the Trinity do).
Base your identity on who you are in Christ rather than on the roles you play in life. Your circumstances – single or married, mother or not, paid or volunteer worker – don’t define you. What does define you, from God’s perspective, is your identity as someone made in his image who he loves completely. So remember how valuable you truly are whenever you make choices about how to express your sexuality.
Think critically about how the media portrays women’s sexuality. Rather than just passively receiving the messages that advertising, television, and movies send you about female sexuality, actively think about those messages and notice how they either do or don’t line up with biblical truth. Whenever you identify deceptive and unhealthy messages (such as portrayals of women as sexually submissive victims or provocative little girls), intentionally reject those messages so they won’t distort your perception of healthy sexuality as a woman.
Don’t avoid dealing with difficult sexual issues. When sexual issues are hard to understand or make you uncomfortable, it’s tempting to just sink into silence and shame whenever you encounter them. But when you bring your questions and difficult feelings to God, he will give you the wisdom and peace you need to deal with them well. Ask God to shed light on issues such as masturbation in various circumstances, same-sex attraction you may experience, and how far you can go sexually before marriage.
Approach sexual experimentation within marriage wisely. If you and your spouse are considering starting new ways of expressing yourselves sexually in your marriage, ask yourselves what’s motivating you all, and why. Are you simply seeking more pleasure, such as better orgasms? Or are you seeking to express your love for each other in deeper ways? Always make sure that the ways you have sex are for each other’s good – to bless each other with love – rather than degrading or hurting either one of you.
Fight sexual addiction with intimacy. If you’re dealing with any form of sexual addiction (such as a compulsion to use pornography), you can heal from your addiction by intentionally pursuing greater intimacy with God, your spouse, and friends you can trust to encourage you and hold you accountable throughout your healing process.
Heal from sexual abuse and unwanted sexual experiences. If you’ve been victimized by someone who forced or pressured you to engage in any kind of sexual behavior (from rape to an unwanted touch or kiss), tell your story and rely on God to help you heal by learning new ways of relating to others with healthy boundaries and developing healthy relationships with trustworthy people.
Find fulfillment despite sexual disappointment. When the reality of your sexual experiences doesn’t meet your expectations, ask God to show you how to live with, grieve, and learn from the loss. Rather than expecting a sexual act to fulfill you, look to intimacy to fulfill you. Although sex may disappoint you, God will always give you the intimacy you crave as you spend time in his loving presence.
Adapted from Things Your Mother Never Told You: A Woman’s Guide to Sexuality, copyright 2014 by Kim Gaines Eckert. Published by IVP Crescendo, a division of InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, Ill., www.ivpress.com.
Dr. Kim Gaines Eckert is a licensed psychologist in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where she maintains a private counseling practice and teaches at Lee University on an adjunct basis. She holds a doctorate from Wheaton College Graduate School. She is also the author of Stronger than You Think and is a national speaker who has been featured on programs such as Prime Time America and Midday Connection.
Whitney Hopler, who has served as a Crosswalk.com contributing writer for many years, is author of the Christian novel Dream Factory, which is set during Hollywood's golden age. Visit her website at: whitneyhopler.naiwe.com.
Publication date: February 11, 2014