One of the trickiest things in any relationship, and increasingly so in marriage, is honesty and boundaries concerning sexuality. The male struggle with lust is well documented. Entire industries, and book genres, revolve around the sale of, and the fight to control, male sexuality. Being a man myself, I usually find myself right in the thick of it; often lusting, often actively fighting against the objectification of femininity, but always struggling (I don’t mean struggling as in failing – I mean wrestling).
Prior to marriage, the struggling over my sexuality was most appropriately, and primarily, done in the community of brothers. This was a beneficial boundary for me. I am not saying that there is not an appropriate place for a woman to speak into a single man’s sexuality, because there certainly is, but it is a struggle that is best done intimately with a brother. And I’m also not saying that I wasn’t open with my wife (before we were married) about the struggle I am in, because I was. But we were not yet being “made one flesh” and it was not her’s to carry yet. And so, I wrestled and explored my sexuality among brothers and mentors.
Henri Nouwen gives one of the best summaries on the necessity of confession in his book “In the Name of Jesus” that I have come across. Nouwen teaches that one of the enemy’s main weapons against humans is spiritual blackmail. The sins that we have kept secret are ammunition for Satan, because he can always blackmail us with them. Thus confession becomes a mighty weapon in the arsenal of the believer. In confessing our sins, both to God and to our community, Satan looses his ability to blackmail us. Our darkness is known. Light has been shined into the secret places, and forgiveness covers that which would have caused isolation.
I believe that the Bible teaches that man was created for intimacy and relationship; with God and fellow man. Confession is the first step in starting conversations. Confession does not necessarily bring instant freedom or absolute victory, or perfection. Instead it is meant to be a doorway of intimacy and relationship that must be stepped through in order to continue a dialog (started through the act of confession) that moves into meaningful and healing relational conversation and presence. Confession is milk, the conversation (if continued and pursued faithfully) that follows moves into meat. – As a quick side note, notice how you can (and are called to) fast from food, but you cannot fast from liquid. We are never called to fast from confession or from pursuing open and healing conversation.
That being said, it is also possible to never move from the milk of daily confession to the meat of healing conversation. There are many Christians that I have met who have confessed over and over and over the same struggles to me without there ever entering a deeper form of understanding or spiritual meat into the conversation. While confession and forgiveness are daily rhythms (see the Lord’s prayer), we are not to return to our sin “like a dog to it’s vomit”. Confession – as my friend Jay McCumber puts it – is simply seeing things as God sees them. Thus, there is a form of confession that can actually become manipulative; when one repeatedly verbally confesses, but does not actively seek to see “as God sees” and thus, though often confessing, again returns to their vomit.
And so lust and twisted sexuality, as with all sins that so easily entangle, are to be met and brought to a head in community by confession. Confession acts a release from blackmail, a start to an ongoing conversation of healing, and a reminder of what God thinks (seeing as He sees).
Although much has been written and said about the fallen state of man’s sexuality, relatively little seems to be being said of the equally twisted fallen state of feminine sexuality. Until we see the feminine side of fallen sexuality (and what it’s meant to be from a redeemed standpoint) how can we move the conversation from “milk to meat”?
A husband and wife walk into a bar (stop me if you’ve heard this one before). The guy (being a gentleman) opens the door for his companion allowing her to walk in first. As she crosses the threshold she immediately checks out the competition. The woman first notices the other women in the bar and judges both them and herself instantaneously based on her observations. If there are women younger and more attractive than she, she enters with shame and jealousy (most likely sub-consciously) . But, in this case she can see that clearly she is the model of beauty and thus strides with confidence.
The man follows respectfully after his bride and as he crosses the threshold he immediately checks out the women. He doesn’t even mean to, his glance is both natural and unintended, but despite both of these excuses it is most certainly the women that he sees. He, too, immediately judges each feminine appearance and appeal and, most likely, judges whether or not he could have any of them if he so desired.
If the man sees other men as competition, it is only after he sees the women first. If a woman sees men, it is only after she sees her competition first. Interesting.
These factors lead me to believe that one of the most destructive pop-culture voices speaking into sexuality is the show “The Bachelor”. “The Bachelor” is the above “husband and wife bar situation” intensified and encouraged. A group of beautiful women compete against each other and base their judgement of themselves on their competition’s strengths and weaknesses (physical). A man checks out all of the women and then chooses one, based completely on whatever he decides he wants. And there is a “winner” in this competition? NO! EVERYONE HAS LOST! EVERYONE!
Sexuality is so much more mysterious and wonderful than this! Thank God we grow old and our bodies get saggy, but stay beautiful. Thank God I could have never imagined the sexuality of my wife or her complexity. I can honor it. I can cherish it. But, I can’t understand it or contain it.
“The Bachelor” says that sexuality is quantifiable and worth competing over. Christ says His bride is eternal and worth dying for. “The Bachelor” says there is a winner in sexual competition. Christ says all have fallen short of His glory, but that His bride is being dressed in white.
I never desire for my wife to believe that she must compete for me. But, the world tells her she must and that I must make her. Competition does not exist within the Kingdom. Play exists. But competition is two-dimensional and the Kingdom is fully-dimensional, just as my wife is fully-dimensional, fully complex; and so unbelievably beyond competition.