Let us review some key ideas we have looked at so far:
- Spirituality and sexuality are connected.
- God designed human sexuality for physical purposes: procreation, comfort, pleasure, human fulfillment, and also for a spiritual purpose, to create "oneness" between two people.
- When this "oneness" is achieved, it in turn opens the door to deeper understanding of spiritual realities such as:
- The true image of man created to reflect God's image (a return to the Garden).
- The experience and nature of Christ's relationship with the church that is to come and last forever.
- The ultimate private honoring of God and His creation.
- Because God created sex to lead us to these spiritual truths, this act and the relationship that surrounds it is holy or sacred as are all things specifically created by God for spiritual purposes (the ark, the temple, the church).
- To use sex in any other "context" (e.g. outside of marriage, the union of two men or two women, etc.) or to use it for some other purpose (i.e. for power - rape, or money - porn) is to use a "holy" thing in an unholy way and is thus sinful.
This is why not all sex is holy sex. When we misuse human sexuality in any way its power turns against us and instead of empowering us to oneness and deeper spiritual truth and experience, we are blinded and left empty.
I have talked about "oneness" through sex, but that does not mean that oneness happens automatically when two people have sex. There is a learning curve.
In some of the material I am using for this book, there are several counseling case studies used to provide background information. I want to share part of one of these to set up my next point.
This is the dialogue between Kevin and Brenda as they shared their problems with a therapist.
Brenda kept apologizing for the feelings she was sharing. She didn't want to hurt her husband, Kevin, but she had kept her thoughts hidden for too long. Now, for the sake of her marriage, she was glad that everything was finally coming out. Kevin was sitting next to Brenda in my counseling office, but he wished he could be somewhere else.
"I know I am not supposed to exaggerate," Brenda began, "but it seems that every time we're alone, Kevin makes some sexually suggestive comment aimed at getting me to have sex with him. I feel like he must spend his days coming up with new lines to try to get me to say yes. And if it's not a comment, it's a grab. I can be cooking or doing the dishes, and he'll come up behind me and plant both of his hands on my breasts. A hug would be great. But he can't seem to touch me without it being in an erogenous zone."
Brenda assured me that she didn't hate sex. "I can get aroused, and sometimes I even have an orgasm. But the more Kevin pushes, the less I want to have sex. The more he talks about 'doing it,' the more I feel that sex between us is just that: a cold, impersonal 'it.'"
"And have you begun to feel like an 'it' too?" I asked.
"Yes. Yes I have."
Brenda's story is another sad example of how much we are missing in our sex lives. By losing sight of sex as a holy act, we are depriving ourselves of the richness and deep satisfaction that God designed it to provide. Since sex is invested with so much spiritual meaning, that should affect the way we approach our moments of sexual intimacy, but how? When we acknowledge the truth that sex on God's terms is sacred, we can stop fighting about frequency, positions, and who initiates it. (Sacred Sex, T.A. Gardner, Waterbrook Press, 2002)
The thing that Kevin did not "get" and that Brenda was searching for without being able to articulate it was the idea that the number one purpose for sex is not procreation or recreation, it is unification!
This unification or "oneness" goes beyond the actual physical unity that is experienced in the sex act. As a matter of fact, the physical sexual union is actually an outward manifestation of a deeper more powerful spiritual reality taking place.
In this context, the sex act becomes a celebration of the soul-deep bond that is present when a couple knows and experiences the certainty that they are together permanently, and together permanently for divine purposes, not just physical ones. But in order for sex in marriage to become an actual celebration of the deeper oneness shared, a couple must have a shared life emotionally and physically outside of their sexual union as well.
In the case of Brenda and Kevin they could not connect sexually because their focus was not on oneness, but rather on their individual needs and desires: Kevin was absorbed in his physical impulses and he remained focused on orgasm. Brenda became focused on self-preservation and maintaining her self-respect. Everything about their sexual encounters, both in bed and out, was a battle for the achievement of their individual goals and desires, not for their mutual benefit. They were learning the hard lesson that whenever we make orgasm the goal of sex, we fail to experience Godly/holy sex.
This is where the issue of masturbation comes in. Masturbation has some benefits as far as sexual release is concerned for those who have no spouse or their spouse is not accessible (separation, illness, etc.). The problem with it is that it cannot produce oneness unless shared with our spouse.
Many individuals focused only on orgasm (people like Kevin here) turn to the combination of pornography and masturbation in a search for satisfaction. This is terrible because it pushes them further away from their partners and the true satisfaction they crave, and it creates an addiction to a powerful stimulant that only enslaves but never satisfies. Masturbation usually produces guilt of some kind, not satisfaction.
The experience of "oneness" in sex can only be achieved if we share every part of our lives together and then celebrate this unity through sexual oneness. In other words, the big "O" in sexual experience is not orgasm, it is oneness.
Oneness in sex
The idea that human sexuality was created to produce "oneness" is a Biblical idea and one recognized by many in the ancient as well as modern world. We, in our sex saturated society of the last hundred years, have gone away from this concept and reaped the consequences: high divorce rates, more blended families, increased pornography and sexual abuse, dysfunctional families as well as sexual confusion (homosexuality and other sexual disorders).
In the past and in other cultures today this "oneness" idea is embraced and blessed by those who pursue it. For example, to Jews, sex is the ultimate "bonding" experience. In Hebrew the word "Yada" is often used to describe sex between a man and a woman. It means to know by observation, reflection, and experience. This term, however, has been hijacked to mean something else in our society. Now the expression, Yada, Yada, Yada, is simply a way of saying, "You know the rest, you're familiar with what I am saying.
In Genesis 4:1 the Bible says, "Adam knew his wife and she conceived." Sexual intercourse, by God's description, is the way of knowing and experiencing another human being in the most intimate way possible.
Another example: in the Dutch language the slang word for sex is "NAAIEN" which means "to sew." You sew two pieces of cloth together so that long after the sewing is done the two pieces remain closely knit together as one. God sews us together in marriage through human sexuality. In this way we can become one without losing our individuality.
Marital sex works as a circle of oneness. Having been joined by the oneness of intercourse, that union affects every other aspect of our relationship. Feeling cherished and valued in other parts of our lives creates the desire to be one again with our mates through sex. In God's design, sex creates oneness and oneness fosters a climate of unity and love that circles around to create more and better sex.
What about the other "O"?
I have talked a lot about the "spiritual" nature of human sexuality but not much about its physical nature, and yet our primary experience is physical. I use the example from a previous chapter, that God could have designed a way to achieve oneness without the use of sex or the experience of orgasm, but He did! God gave us this!
As I said before, when pursued for its own pleasure, sexual experience will always follow the law of diminishing return (i.e. the first powerful orgasm experienced through individual masturbation will yield less and less power and pleasure if repeated). The first powerful climax experienced through premarital or homosexual, or adulterous, or any form of illicit sex, will only produce less and less power and pleasure until newer and more depraved experiences are tried.
Even within marriage, sex pursued simply to gratify our urges will eventually lose its allure and spontaneity as well as its pleasure. That is why counseling offices are filled with unhappy, confused singles and unhappy, unsatisfied couples.
However, when sex within marriage is seen as a part of a bigger picture, a spiritual activity, then the potential for maintaining sexual satisfaction and excitement remains and the law of diminishing returns is suspended.
The pursuit of oneness affects not only the way we "think" about sex, but the way we experience sex as well. For those who pursue oneness through sex, each partner abandons control of their own orgasm to their partner at the moment they feel most vulnerable.
This is what Paul the Apostle is getting at:
The husband must fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control."
- I Corinthians 7:3-5
The word "duty" comes from the word "debt" or to owe something. The husband "owes" his wife the pleasure she needs to be satisfied because this duty has been given to him by God and vice-versa. The body (this includes the erogenous zones) does not belong to the person but to the spouse! My wife is responsible for my pleasure and fulfillment, not me, and I for hers. In sexual union my focus is her pleasure, not my own and her focus is my pleasure, not her own.
This is why people who struggle with "control" issues and with trusting their mate often struggle with achieving orgasm. They are always on guard, never wanting to give up the control or responsibility for their own pleasure to their mate.
However it is when we abandon control to our mate and trust them with our most vulnerable state, that the full union of physical oneness is most deeply experienced.
We can reach a transparent, vulnerable, totally open state with our mate because of one reason. We know and believe that the orgasmic experience we hope for in sex has been created by God Himself, and available through oneness with our spouse.
We can take the risk of vulnerability, openness and abandonment because God has chosen this as the pathway to physical and sexual fulfillment with our mate. We can trust that this is not only the right way to have sex, it is the only way to be completely satisfied physically and spiritually.
Find a time to pray together and during this time do 3 things:
- Confess your sins to each other.
- Bless one another with words of praise.
- Ask God to show you ways other than sex that you can be one. Working on oneness leads to more satisfying sex.