Last week, we began a conversation on what it looks like to be both sexual and spiritual. If you missed “Sex and the Christian Woman Part One,” read it now. To continue the conversation, how do we reconcile being Jesus-loving, Christ-following, Bible-reading, gospel-sharing females who also have sex drives and sexual desires?
By Ashley Chesnut
“The fact that I am a woman does not make me a different kind of Christian, but the fact that I am a Christian does make me a different kind of woman.” – Elisabeth Elliot
For the married woman, sex is neither dirty nor a wifely duty to be endured. Paul’s instructions to Christian couples in 1 Corinthians 7:2-5 instruct husbands “to give his wife her conjugal rights”(ESV) and for wives to do the same for their husbands. The fact that Paul tells a husband to give himself to his wife implies that women have sexual appetites and sexual needs. In fact, some women have greater sexual drives than their husbands. If you want further proof that the Bible gives married women the green light for having great, frequent sex with their husbands just look at the Shulammite wife in The Song of Solomon who delights in the “fruit” of her husband (2:3-6), invites her husband to have sex (4:16), fantasizes about her husband’s body (5:10-16), and even plans a sexual encounter with her husband (7:11-13). God did not have to include The Song of Solomon in the Bible, but its inclusion in the biblical canon allows readers to learn how God designed sex to be passionate, playful, and pleasurable within the context of marriage.
To be honest, being a single girl writing to married women about sexuality is quite daunting, but I’m just pointing out what the Bible states. However, for additional resources on the topic of sexuality and marriage (by women who are married), I recommend the following reads: What’s It Like to Be Married to Me? by Linda Dillow, Passion Pursuit: What Kind of Love Are You Making? by Linda Dillow & Dr. Juli Slattery, and Pulling Back the Shades by Dannah Gresh & Dr. Juli Slattery.
God has created us as sexual beings and with sexual desires. Great! But what does this mean if I am currently single? I recently finished Pulling Back the Shades, and I starred, underlined, and circled where Gresh and Slattery wrote, “purity is not a no — it’s an ‘oh, yes!’” As a single myself, I totally get having unfulfilled sexual desires. If you were to ask all of my single friends (including the Christian ones), they would tell you that they desire a husband and want to be loved and wanted by a man. We want to be married, and we want to have great sex with our husbands when we are married. If this is you, say “yes” to God’s plan for you, even if that plan involves you never getting married and dying a virgin. And on that subject, to die a virgin is not the end of the world, ladies. You are believing a lie of the enemy if you think that lifelong chastity means that you lack, are deprived, or are less of a person. Do not be deceived. To act as though singleness and chastity are a consolation prize in life demonstrates an idolatry of marriage and a lack of trust in God’s sufficiency, goodness, and plans. As Elisabeth Elliot states,
“Single life may be only a stage of a life’s journey, but even a stage is a gift. God may replace it with another gift, but the receiver accepts His gifts with thanksgiving. This gift for this day. The life of faith is lived one day at a time, and it has to be lived—not always looking forward to as though the “real” living were around the next corner. It is today for which we are responsible. God still owns tomorrow” (from Let Me Be a Woman).
Purity does not mean that I ignore or repress the fact that I have sexual desires. It requires that I acknowledge my desires and turn to God with them. It involves focusing on what God has provided rather than on the things I don’t have and want. It necessitates renewing my mind and filling it full of things that align with Philippians 4:8, and occasionally, it entails talking through my desires with a trustworthy, godly female who can help me examine my longings and remind me of God’s truth. (For more on the subject of singleness and sexual longings, I recommend Fabienne Harford’s article, “Sex and the Single Woman.”)
Maybe you are single but have already had sex. Your appetite has been whetted. You like what you tasted, and it has only increased your desire for something that is currently beyond your reach. First of all, if you have sinned in this area, God offers grace and forgiveness for sin (1 John 1:9). You can drop the shame and guilt because “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Ps. 103:12). He forgives even the guilt of your sin (Ps. 32:5). He wants to heal your hurts and to restore you, but you must turn to Him with your pain, your shame, and your sin in order for this to happen. Everything written in the preceding paragraphs applies to you, but because of your experiences, fighting temptation and pursuing purity will be harder, but not impossible. God promises not to let us be tempted beyond our ability to resist (1 Cor. 10:13), and He provides us with His Spirit, His Word, and His people to aid us.
I am currently trying to curb my soda intake and exercise more, and I don’t do so well with just setting a goal or with negative reinforcement for not meeting my goal. I need positive reinforcement — something I can work toward attaining and reward myself with for meeting my monthly goals. So I have a monthly reward that I am only allowed to get if I meet my goals. Basically, it means asking myself the question: “Do I want this Coke right now more than I want that better item at the end of the month?” (In case you were wondering, for January my reward was a dress. And I did get that dress!)
How do I strive for purity as a single woman who loves the Lord and who also has sexual desires? By a vision of the long-term and a desire for honoring Christ and my future husband (if God has that for me someday) that is greater than getting what I want when I want it. At the end of the day, keep in mind that we do not pursue purity for purity’s sake. We do so because of Who God is and because of the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. 1 John 4:19 states that “We love because He first loved us.” His love prompts us to respond, and one way that we love God is by keeping His commands (Jn. 14:21; 1 Jn. 3:18). Our purity pleases and honors God. While sin hinders our relationship with Him, purity strengthens it.
Ashley Chesnut works on the local disciple-making team at The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala., and earned an M.Div. from Beeson Divinity School. She has a passion for discipling college girls and equipping them to be disciple-makers.