Virtues: The Pleasure of Purity
This post originally ran on September 17, 2009. Please enjoy this series from my early blogging months.
Disclaimer: This is a rather candid discussion about marital intimacy.
Among my current reading list is Feminine Appeal, Seven Virtues of a Godly Wife and Mother by Carolyn Mahaney. This is part four of a discussion on the seven virtues of a Godly wife and mother she amplifies in her book.
The seven virtues she finds revealed in Titus 2:3-5: Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.
The Pleasure of Purity
Disclaimer: This is a rather candid discussion about marital intimacy.
My choice of magazines tends to fall into home improvement or housekeeping magazines. So, the kind of subject matter broached in women’s fashion magazines and the like never really cross my line of sight. I was recently volunteering for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer 3-Day Walk in Boston, and while working in one of my assigned spots, I came across a woman’s magazine. I don’t remember which one it was, but it was a big name.
There was an article in it about women fantasizing, and had a little blurb about a thirty-something married mother grocery shopping and seeing this young strapping bag boy and – hey – it’s okay to have a little sexual fantasy play out in your imagination. It will even get your engines revved for your husband.
I couldn’t even believe what I was reading. I wasn’t even able to finish the article, I was so disgusted with just the introduction.
It isn’t that I have a problem with sex. Sex is a wonderful, glorious, beautiful thing when it’s enjoyed in the way intended by God, the creator of the universe and the inventor of sex. However, as much as God created sex for our enjoyment, he gave us rules about sex, and those include that it be enjoyed after marriage and only between a husband and a wife.
Now concerning the things of which you wrote to me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband. Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. But I say this as a concession, not as a commandment. For I wish that all men were even as I myself. But each one has his own gift from God, one in this manner and another in that. But I say to the unmarried and to the widows: It is good for them if they remain even as I am; but if they cannot exercise self-control, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion. 1 Corinthians 7:1-9 (New King James Version)
Even though the next virtue in the referenced text is “pure”, it is not to say that a wife should not be sexually intimate with her husband. There is no sexual purity more pure than an intimate, committed sexual relationship in marriage. Marital sex is a time of deep bonding and intimacy.
In fact, the Bible often uses the word “know” to describe marital sex. In Genesis 4:1 in the Latin when Adam knew Eve the word is cognovit, or complete knowledge. The Hebrew and Greek have similar meanings. It is the most intimate communication a husband and wife can share, and as time within the marriage passes and that knowledge deepens, the stronger the intimacy and “knowing” is gained.
Contrary to the advice of the so-called “experts”, any kind of sexual straying outside of the confines of a personal involvement with your husband is sinful. Anything from fantasizing about the bag boy to all out adulterous sex with another man constitutes a lack of purity. And again, contrary to what the so-called experts tell us, none of it spices up your sex life. Any of it separates you from your husband and keeps you from abiding in your husband. If there is one area in which men are tuned in to their wives, it is sexually. He may never show you how that affects him, or ever even say a word about it, but he will notice and it will affect him.
Sexual temptation is going to strike everyone – man, woman, young, and old. It doesn’t have any prejudices. We should never assume we are above temptation. And we should never assume that we are “safe” enough to indulge in even a little extra-marital fantasizing, which in any language is a form of fornication.
STATISTIC: 50% of married women and 66% of married men in the U.S. commit adultery (combined, these statistics indicate that about 83%—five out of six—of marriages involve at least one adulterous partner).
There are ways to avoid sexual impurity. As faithful as we thought we have been over the years, my husband and I were embroiled in the world, and our entertainment choices were rife with sexual immorality. We should avoid reading, viewing, or listening to anything that arouses impure thoughts or goes against any Biblical convictions. Gregg and I just cleaned out our movies and book collection. In this way, Gregg offered up his eyes to me instead of to a parade of scantily clad actresses.
As far as me personally, I used to write romance novels. I had to really rethink all of my manuscripts and revamp them; beat those weapons against purity into plowshares, tools that will be used to glorify God rather than to incite illicit or lustful thoughts and feelings.
Women who read secular romance novels often discover lead male characters who are larger than life. “If only my husband would talk this way, or do these things, or act in such a manner as this fictional character,” they think. A grateful heart is a happy heart. Does this mild fantasy lead to an ungrateful heart for what your husband does do, how he does act, what he does say? Is this a form of emotional impurity? Does fantasizing about fictional characters lead to resentment against the living breathing man in your life?
I will behave wisely in a perfect way.
Oh, when will You come to me?
I will walk within my house with a perfect heart.
I will set nothing wicked before my eyes;
I hate the work of those who fall away;
It shall not cling to me. Psalm 101:2-3 (New King James Version)
Even when we’re at home alone, we need to guard our thoughts and our actions.
Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. 1 Corinthians 6:18 (New King James Version)
Notice the verb “flee”. The Latin is fugite from which we get our word fugitive. The order here is not stand and face. Not battle for your life. Not even walk. FLEE. RUN. ESCAPE. HIDE. If sexual immorality was something we could handle, as humans in a fallen world, God would not have instructed us to run away from it. We need to identify people, places, times, websites, books, songs, movies, TV shows – whatever it is that can lead to a sexual temptation, and remove it from our lives. If we find ourselves tempted, then we need to find a godly mentor who can counsel us and help hold us accountable.
Our sermon last Sunday night revolved around temptation. Our minister cited a well known Christian counselor who has spent years in practice and written numerous books on the issues that Christians face. According to this counselor, he had worked with many many Christians, many of them national and international leaders within the Christian community, who had all succumbed to sexual temptation and had even been involved in extramarital affairs. He said in every single case, when the affair presented itself, the person was alone. When Jesus was alone in the desert, that’s when Satan tempted Him. We need friends. We need peers. We need Christians we can trust and go to, who can hold us accountable. Don’t face temptation alone, don’t hide your sin. It’s a way that you will fail. Confess your sin and let your friends help you grow in purity.
The Sex Secret the Experts Never Share
In Debra Evan’s The Mystery of Womanhood, Robert Farrar Capon states:
The bed is the heart of the home, the arena of love, the seedbed of life, and the one constant point of meeting, It is the place where, night-by-night, forgiveness and fair speech return that the sun may not go down on our wrath, where the perfunctory kiss and the entirely ceremonial pat on the backside become unction and grace. It is the oldest, friendliest thing in anybody’s marriage, the first used and the last left, and no one can praise it enough.
The number one way to avoid sexual temptation outside of our marriages, the secret to sexual purity, is to keep an exciting, ongoing, sexual relationship with our husbands. In the Southern Baptist Journal of Theology, Dr. Daniel Akin says, “One of the greatest gifts a person can give his or her mate in marriage is exclusive and exciting sex.”
Carolyn Mahaney breaks it out in three parts:
- Be attractive.
Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel— rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God. For in this manner, in former times, the holy women who trusted in God also adorned themselves, being submissive to their own husbands 1 Peter 3:3-5 (New King James Version)
Be attractive is not speaking to just physical beauty, but to also the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit. Let the Holy Spirit work through you. Take up the mantle of the seven virtues as provided in Titus 2, and you will become the most beautiful person in the world to your husband.
2. Be available.
1 Corinthians 7:1-9 above, “Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”
3. Be anticipatory.
Think about making love with your husband. Plan for it, look forward to it. Husbands need more than just their physical needs met by passive submission from a bored wife. They long for us to enjoy sex with them, to be eager, enthusiastic, and excited.
I realize that not all wives will be receptive of this message. Pleasure, sexual marital pleasure or otherwise, may not be on the forefront of your mind as you think about your relationship with your husband. It is very likely at the forefront of your husband’s mind because God designed him that way.
He isn’t sick, or perverted, or broken, or any of that. He is a man and crafted by the hand of the most amazingly creative inventor in the known universe. The hormone that is responsible for sexual desire is testosterone. Both men and women have testosterone, just as we both have estrogen. But men have, on average, about 800 times more testosterone than women. Sometimes more (like in the mornings!) and sometimes less (like after a particularly stressful day). Even so, that is roughly the difference between a Chihuahua and an Elephant. If you had an Elephant raging around in your body all day and all night, as opposed to a Chihuahua occasionally yipping at shadows in the next room, you would think about the Elephant a lot, too. Try paying more attention to your Chihuahua.
If you are having trouble finding sex to be a pleasure, remember that God designed sex to be pleasurable between a husband an his wife. Read the Song of Solomon, a beautiful, loving tribute to a sexual relationship between a husband and a wife. God wants us to derive pleasure, find bliss, experience intimacy, so if that isn’t your situation, turn to Him. Whether you don’t feel desire for your husband, or if there is sexual sin that is in the way of your marriage – or anything in between, God can heal your marriage, renew your desire, empower you to change.
Gregg and I have discovered over the years that as we have grown in strength and devotion to God, our marital relationship has grown exponentially and proportionately. I think Carolyn Mahaney says it best:
Purity within the marriage covenant is intended by God, not to inhibit our pleasure, but to enhance our pleasure.
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