All is well, and yet…

Good morning, sisters –

I was thinking this morning about what the perspective of someone who might come to this blog would be on the reality of my marriage as it currently exists.

And so I thought I should share. A year and a half ago I got “the news” from my husband – and that led to to a year of breaking, and a year of being made whole. Our marriage is stronger than it has ever been. We are more connected. We laugh easier, we forgive quicker, we see each other and offer grace.

And yet…
We still struggle to connect sexually.

Here is what I want you to know –
A whole marriage and a happy marriage does not necessarily mean a marriage where sex has been perfected (either in it’s actual performance or its regularity). I thought when our marriage was finally healed, our sex life would function as I have always hoped. In fact, I thought a fully-functioning sex life was an obvious and required part of that healing.

But guess what – that’s not necessarily the case.

So why do I tell you this?
To give you hope.

Your marriage functioning well does not necessarily look like your marriage bed functioning perfectly.

To expound, here is what I am not saying:

Our sex life is a regular, healthy pattern – there are many reasons for this (hello, children, I am looking at you), but whatever the case, our sex life isn’t functioning with any sort of regularity.
We always connect well sexually – just recently we had a complete bomb-out. It ended with both of us feeling a bit hurt and miscommunicated with. And no sex took place.
We always get our needs met – my husband and I are built very differently in our needs. And I am, in truth, still trying to figure mine out after this past year. But we often miss the mark in meeting each other’s needs, especially in the marriage bed.

Now, here is what I am saying:

Forgiveness has happened – my marriage bed is no longer a place full of hurt and unhealed wounds. Case in point was the bomb-out  night. We had talked and reconciled (led by my husband, I should add) by the time we got out of bed the next morning. Two years ago it might have taken 2 weeks to recover.
Conversation has happened – we talk about our marriage bed now, and we have both spent a good bit of time exploring our own souls to understand our sexuality.
Sexual connection has happened – this year has not been without some really beautiful and deep connection in our marriage bed.

Why is this hopeful, you ask?

Because, dear sister, the redemption of your marriage, while it may seem to rest it’s weight on your marriage bed, may not really be tied to your marriage bed at all. In fact, it may be healed so deeply and so truly that your marriage bed takes a more humble, beautiful place in your marriage.

Let me try to explain.

When a marriage is broken, and when a marriage bed is functioning poorly, it is a heavy weight on the scales. All of life can seem to rise and fall on what happens behind that closed door. But when a marriage is centered on Christ – when He is the sun that rights all the planets of our life – then sex can take its rightful place. (And please understand, there may be many reasons  for brokenness)

Don’t misunderstand – sex mattersI am not discounting it’s import, or pretending that it’s brokenness isn’t painful. But when communication, forgiveness, grace, understanding, and growth are happening in each spouse, then an imperfect marriage bed becomes another arena to practice all of these things, and see fruit.

So while my marriage bed may still at times frustrate, I find that I am full of hope towards it. I see the long road ahead, the life ahead (however long Christ may give us), and I know that we will continue to walk with each other with real love

I am praying for you today, sisters.
Praying for those of you who are doubting. Praying for those of you who are ailing. Praying for those of you who are discouraged and dismayed.
I am asking Him for grace to cover your hearts. I am asking Him to reveal Himself to you in your sufferings. I am asking Him to help you count the cost and find Him worthy of it. I don’t discount the pain – it hurts. Its okay. You are allowed to grieve.

I love you.
I wish we could share a cup today, and comfort each other with the Gospel – there is Good News, sister. May your heart hear it today.

Annabel

Theology of sex, pt. III

If you have missed the first two posts in this series, I encourage you to go read them.
The Theology of Sex, Pt. I
The Theology of Sex, Pt. II

In these posts I stated that I believe the ultimate purpose of sex is to glorify God. Today, however, I wanted to write about what the implications of God-created, God-glorifying sex are in our marriages.

It is crucial that you realize that sex is not an accident. It is not an arbitrary gift of marriage that God gave without thought or meaning. God does nothing without thought or meaning. And since the primary story the Bible is telling is a love story, that starts with marriage (Adam and Eve) and ends with a marriage (the marriage supper of the Lamb), our marriages here on earth are divinely ordained pictures of the whole point of creation – God creating a bride for Himself.

In order to truly understand the importance of sex, we have to understand the true importance of marriage. Marriage is a covenant created between a man and a woman “Who have no natural obligations to each other…but who voluntarily take on the permanent obligations and commitments of a family relationship.” The ability to form a covenant relationship is central to what it means to be created in the image of God. It is a reflection of Christ and His church. Covenants are serious and holy things. If you have never had the chance to study what a covenant is, I encourage you to do so. It will give you a much deeper and richer understanding of both your marriage and your salvation. One of the most important points to note about covenants is that they always have a sign. God’s covenant to not destroy the world after the flood had the rainbow. God’s covenant with us through Christ has baptism. The covenant of marriage has sex.  Let me again quote “Sex and Supremacy of Christ“:

And so it is with the covenant of marriage. Once married, a man relates to every other women in the world as if she were his sister or his mother – people you do not have sex with. He relates to this one woman as his wife, uniting to her in a one-flesh relationship of mutual love, loyalty and intimacy. The sign of that unique covenant relationship is the physical act of becoming one flesh in sexual intercourse. What this means is that intimacy and pleasure of sex is not the reward we receive for getting married. That would be like saying baptism is the reward we get for becoming Christians. No, sex is the sign of the marriage covenant itself. And to engage in sex is to call God as a witness to hold us accountable for our covenantal commitment.

Aren’t those achingly powerful words? Sex calls God to witness. Sex is the sign of the covenant we have made with each other.
This is why it matters when you are betrayed sexually. This is why it matters when sex is missing from your marriage. Because it isn’t just “icing on the cake”, it isn’t just a “nice but unnecessary” part of marriage. It is a sign of the priceless covenant you have made before God, and a reminder to you of the vows you made. It defeats the plans of the enemy to drive you apart.

It’s crucial to realize that “we glorify God when we cultivate sexual desire for our [spouse] and welcome their sexual desire for us.” I know that there are so many couples that are struggling with sex in their marriages. I hear from higher drive wives all the time whose husbands don’t serve them sexually. And the pain in their hearts reflects just how crucial this life-giving, God-glorifying, sign of their covenant is. Sex matters, dear friends. And it matters on a deeply spiritual level.

The purpose of sex is to glorify God. It is to give us a language and a model of the love He has for us, and of our relationship to Him as His bride. The purpose of sex is  as a sign of our covenant before God, and it unifies our hearts. The joy of sex is the pleasure it brings us, and the simple unity of friendship it grants us. Do I believe sex is the only thing in a marriage that unifies? Of course not – there are many things in a marriage that are needed – communication, sacrifice, a willingness to serve, laughter, friendship. But the only physical sign God has given us of our being “one flesh” is sexual intercourse. And I believe it is a cornerstone for a healthy, thriving, God-glorifying marriage.

My prayer for you today is that you would see the great love the Father has for us by giving us the gift that is our sexuality, and that we would be able to honor Him in the way we express it in our marriages. My prayer is that all of us, myself included, would continue to form our theology of sex in a way that brings a solid foundation for make choices from.

So what are your thoughts about this? How do you see sex functioning within a healthy marriage?

Annabel

The theology of sex, pt. II

I cannot begin to write on my thoughts about God and sex without a note of heartfelt gratitude to John Piper and Justin Taylor for their work as editors of the most magnificent book on sex I have ever read. “Sex and the Supremacy of Christ” was foundational in helping heal my heart of fears before marriage, and has continued to be a beacon of hope and truth to me throughout my marriage. Most of what I will be writing today is truths tucked in those pages, and I strongly urge you to buy this book and read it for yourself.

In writing a post about the theology of sex, I feel it is important to note that I am not a “educational” theologian, merely a practicing one. But aren’t we all? In one sense or another we each have our thoughts about who God is, what He is about on the earth, and why it matters. If you are a thinker in any sense, you have asked yourself questions about your importance and God’s importance – and have tried to live your life according to the answers you have found. But even if you don’t realize it, you are living your life according to some form of theology. And it has been shaped by the world, by your experiences, and hopefully the reading of good books (and one Great Book), conversations with thoughtful people, and much prayer.

I believe that a healthy theology of sex must be a part of a much larger thoughtful theology about life. Weak theology creates wimpy Christians, as one pastor states. So many believers go through life without ever taking the time to ask themselves the hard questions about the God who has called them into the light. And when they are faced with challenging or heart-breaking situations they crumble because they don’t have a theology that will stand up to life’s battles. The trouble with this is that we are promised these battles will happen. We are promised that life will be hard, that it will be a fight. We are told that we will be abandoned by those we love, ridiculed by those we admire, and attacked by the enemy of our souls. So once again I urge you, dear friends, to become true thinkers, to have a sturdy mind and work out your salvation with fear and trembling.

So. A theology on sex. I am just going to come right out and state it : I believe the ultimate purpose of all creation and all life is to glorify God. Therefore, I believe the purpose of sex and our sexuality is to glorify God. Now let me tell you why.

I Corinthians 10:31 says this : “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” Romans 11:36 says : “From Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.”
Justin Taylor starts the introduction to “Sex and Supremacy of Christ” with these words, “These are among the Bible verses most often quoted by evangelicals. But quoting Scripture texts is different than shaping a worldview around them.
Today I hope to urge you to see the ink on the pages of your Bible as more than mere words, and to challenge you to apply them to your sex life.

All things to the glory of God.
From Him and through Him and to Him are all things.
All things.

Including sex? I have to answer with a resounding yes.

It is my belief that the ultimate (though not the only) purpose of sex is to glorify God. Sex points to God. As Bruce Marshall so famously said, “The young man who rings the bell at the brothel is unconsciously looking for God.”
We have all been taught that God created sex. And while there may have been many misguided teachings regarding what that means, I believe it means that sex is good, because the God who created it is good. And, as Ben Patterson so beautifully writes, “God is glorified greatly when we recieve his gift with thanksgiving and enjoy it the way he meant for it to be enjoyed.”

So why do I think that sex is made to glorify God? Beyond the very obvious Scriptures that I wrote earlier, and my belief that all things were created to glorify God – I believe that this is the ultimate purpose of sex because God’s glory is the ultimate purpose of marriage – and sex is only blessed by God in the marriage relationship. As I touched on in another post, sex matters.
In Matt 19:4, Jesus asks, “Haven’t you read…that in the beginning God made them male and female?” Our gender, our sex and our sexuality is central to how God made us. Ben Patterson writes, “To say that we are sexual creatures is to say that we cannot be understood except as male and female, and except as male or female. As male and female we make up one humanity. As male or female we make up the two poles of humanity, with our bodies as concrete expression of those poles.” And we are meant to come together, to be one in marriage – through sex.

There is so much more I could write on this, but I want to conclude with this final point. I believe that sex (as John Piper states) is “designed to make God more deeply knowable.” The rich imagery of marriage and sex are used time and again in the Bible to describe Christ’s pursuit of His people (Ezekiel 16 being one of the most graphic). The passion of sex gives us a language to describe leaving others and cleaving to Christ. And our sexuality, and sexual passions give us a way to “describe the promises and pleasures of our covenant relationship with God through Christ.”

God’s great gift to us of sex is also for “pleasure, joy, communion and celebration”. It is what brings new life into this world. And I do indeed believe that all of those things are important to the purpose of sex. But they are not it’s ultimate purpose.

So why does this matter, and what does it mean for the reality of sex in marriage? Because when it really comes down to it, theology must be practical. It must work its way out of our hearts and heads into the day-to-day lives we lead. It must find its form and function in our words, our attitudes, our choices, our marriage beds. I believe that there are some very real outcomes from understanding the purpose of sex, and I am excited to share my thoughts about it this coming Monday.

So I would love to hear from you – what do you think about sex being created, primarily, as a way to glorify God? Does that sound too far off and noble? Or does it give you hope of a bigger purpose to sex than you originally thought? Can you see any practical out-workings of a God-glorifying theology of sex?

I am so excited to continue this conversation with you.

Annabel

Theology of sex

I have sat before an empty screen for a long time. Pondering the words to say to you today that would draw your hearts out. Praying that my tongue would indeed be the “pen of a ready writer”, and that my words would have the power to pull on both your heart and your mind.
A reader recently asked me a question regarding orgasm, and it’s importance in marriage. As I ponder this question, I find myself turning in my heart to deeper and deeper questions. The importance of orgasm – importance for whom? The wife? The husband? Is orgasm important to oneness? To contendedness?
These questions lead me deeper still, to what is really the foundational question we must ask ourselves here. What is the purpose of sex? Until I know its purpose, I cannot begin to answer a question regarding the importance of an orgasm (or any other question, really).

I am writing, today, dear friends, because I cannot escape this question of the purpose of sex, and because I believe that in order for us to really understand some of the finer details regarding our sex life (orgasm being one), we must first begin to think about the foundational theology of sex. Our sexual makeup and our desire for the marriage bed is deeply spiritual. Deeply theological. I am here to make a plea with you today – will you engage your heart and your mind towards a healthy, God-oriented theology of sex? Will you dig deep into what it means to have a healthy sexuality in the light of the truth of Christ?

In the center of the Bible is this beautiful little book about the joy of sexuality. It’s called “The Song of Songs”, and it celebrates erotic love in marriage. God has so much to say about sexuality. He cares about it. He created it. He called it good.

There are many who say that the purpose of sex is to bear children. Others who celebrate the physical enjoyment (read, orgasm) that sex brings us. Still others who say that sex is meant to bond us with our spouse, to create a oneness between us. So who is right? Are they all right? Is there a hierarchy of purpose in sex? Is there anything else missing from our theology of sex?

It is my hope over the next few posts to dig into some of the most radical and beautiful teachings I have ever come across regarding a healthy theology of sex.  I am praying that it is a heart-opening and God-glorifying experience. I hope you will come along, and join in the conversation.

Here are a few questions I want to leave you with today :
What is your theology regarding sex?
Have you ever stopped to consider just what the purpose of sex is? Why did God create it? What is it for?
How does your belief in God’s purpose of sex shape the way you approach it, experience it and think about it?

Please feel free to journal about this, or pray, or share your thoughts. Here is a community of women who love each other & are not afraid to ask the hard questions. I am excited to find some answers with you.

I hold a trembling pen in my hands as I consider what feels like a monumental undertaking. Please pray that I have the right words to share with you my thoughts about this important topic. Because the truth is, I really wanted to just write about orgasm – and instead I find myself digging deeply “where angels fear to tread”.

Trusting you will tread with me,
Annabel