Several months ago, Gary Thomas released a new book entitled Married Sex. At the time the book was released, a firestorm erupted from another author. Admittedly, she was upset because Thomas did not ask her to review the book. She then began to post quotes isolated from their context that could make Thomas appear to be furthering the pain of abuse victims.
Let me start by saying this: I definitely consider myself an abuse survivor. My first marriage was a one-sided relationship. When I got married, I was incredibly naive (many would say I still I am). Now that I have a better understanding of abuse, I see the impact of pornography on every area of my first marriage--especially in the bedroom. I see where I was nothing more than an object to gratify someone's lust rather than a human to be treasured and enjoyed as God intended.
I say this to explain that when I picked up Thomas's book, I began reading it through the lens of someone who has been through an abusive relationship. I needed to know if it was as one-sided as a certain author claimed it is. I needed to know if he was blind to plight of those of us who have walked this path. I needed to know if it would contribute to the pain of abuse survivors. I needed to know if this other author was giving an honest assessment or if she was simply upset for the perceived slight.
I will also say that for years I wrote off Thomas and his books. Why? Because his book Sacred Marriage has been used against me for years, used to tell me I should have stayed in my destructive marriage because marriage was designed to make me holy not happy. It was not until several years ago when Thomas wrote a blog post entitled Enough Is Enough that my mind was changed. If you haven't read it, I strongly encourage you to read it now.
Thomas earned my respect immediately.
Here's the thing: No book is written for every audience. A Christian marriage book may contain excellent advice--but not for a destructive marriage. No book is God-breathed and therefore not every piece of advice is appropriate for me or you. But, just because we don't agree with every word does not mean we can't glean wisdom from other parts. Our culture has lost the ability to use critical thinking when we read. And we have definitely lost the ability to have civil discourse with those who have differing opinions from us.
It is through this lens that I have been reading Married Sex. Can I say that I have thoroughly enjoyed it?
Early in the book, Thomas states, "Since God is a God of love, we know that every healthy act of sex must be rooted in love, must be governed by love, and must be an expression of love" (p. 3). This statement is the very foundation of the book. One difference between an abusive marriage and a healthy marriage is this foundation of love. An abusive marriage will never have a foundation in love; it will have a foundation of lust. It will be about what one can get, not what one can give.
While Thomas (and co-author Debra Fileta) discuss how a woman's beauty gives her a power in the relationship, they also emphatically state that a woman's power is not in her sexual appeal alone (p. 13). They use the book of Song of Solomon to show that it is biblical and pleasing to God for a husband to be enthralled with his wife's beauty--just as a wife should find pleasure in her husband's body. God created us to find pleasure in one another. They explicitly state, "Sexual power, handled appropriately in a healthy marriage, is a force for good" (p. 17).
Should a husband be captivated by a wife's body? Or is that demeaning? Again, when taken in the context of a loving, healthy marriage, I would hope that every husband finds his wife to be the standard by which all other are compared. Can I just tell you that as I age, I find myself becoming more insecure in my own physical appearance. A few extra pounds. The wrinkles that appear. The gray hairs. I see every change in my physical appearance, and it is sometimes difficult to accept the aging process. But, there's something about having my husband see me as beautiful, intriguing, knowing he is captivated by my appearance and that he doesn't the aging process the way I do that gives me great confidence. God created our husbands to find joy in our beauty. It doesn't mean we are only physical beings; instead, it means our husband's see the beauty even when we don't.
So what's my assessment of Married Sex? If you are in a healthy marriage and you want to find a deeper level of physical intimacy, grab a copy today. Thomas and Fileta have joined together to present a comprehensive guide to sex for the Christian marriage. The questions you've always had but were afraid to ask are compiled into one easy to read book. It is filled with hints and tips from both the male and female viewpoint.
Most importantly, the pair emphasizes repeatedly that sex was created by God to be enjoyed by both the man and the woman. It should never be a one-sided experience. God intended sex to give pleasure, and too many Christian couples have failed to experience the ecstasy that should come with marriage. It's time we as Christians gain a better understanding of God's design for sex.
Happy reading! And enjoy putting these concepts into practice