Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Sexuality and Holiness

I was asked to speak at a youth/young adult conference in Abancay (the next closed city to Curahuasi, but smaller than Cusco) two weekends ago.  There ended up being about 300 in attendance, mostly adolescents plus some parents and youth leaders.
    Thanks to Jessica Skidmore's recommendations I heavily used "Sex and the Soul of a Woman" by Paula Rinehart and "Sex God" by Rob Bell for my talk.  I had an hour and a half total for my talk and questions.  The talk ended up being about an hour and 15 minutes.

Here's the English version (if you're interested I can send you a copy of the Spanish version--thanks to Luz's help and self other native Spanish speakers who helped refine my spanish):

Sexuality and Holiness

                My purpose today is not to force you to live and think a certain way.  I’m here today to tell you the truth.  What you do with the truth is up to you.  It always has been.

Let me start with a couple of stories:

                Maria gathers her clothes off the floor, tip-toeing silently around the bedroom in the early dawn, hoping not to wake this man.  Snoring in quiet, even rhythm, it will be hours before he gets up.   When he can, he likes to sleep until noon, and she has a ton of stuff to do today.  Besides, it’s easier to slip back into her place before her roommates awaken---fewer raised eyebrows and sly smiles to contend with that way. 
                Driving back to her apartment, Maria muses over how their relationship began.  Whoever would have thought that co chairing a political committee would lead to this?  They began as good friends, challenging each other’s opinions with an occasional lighthearted jab.  But one thing led to another, and after a few months, she began to stay over at his place.  It made for less hassle.  How or when or where the relationship turned sexual, she isn’t sure.  She just knows that she is starting to have feelings for this guy, and that this could be a problem.
                There are no guarantees in relationships now.  How many times have her friends drilled that into her?  “You just have to go with the flow” is the mantra she hears.  “Don’t say much; don’t ask for anything.  Just play it cool and see where the relationship goes.”
                The problem is that Maria has already done this twice before.

                Sonja is desperate for something that will curb the panic attacks that descend on her unannounced.  Her job as a news reporter is being threatened by these sweaty emotional monsters.  Sonja has just broken up with a man named Benjamin---a great guy she met last year in college and followed to the city, where they both landed their first jobs.  She feels bad about beginning to sleep with Ben a few years ago.  It violated her convictions as a Christian, but she developed her own way of justifying their sexual relationship.  At least it was better than many women around her.  This was no one-night fling---she and Benjamin were planning a future together.
                Two things caught Sonja by surprise.  She hadn’t anticipated that her growing attachment to Benjamin would be met with a reaction of his own---she was slowly caricatured as this woman “with too much of a hold on him.”  The more attached she became, the more detached he got---until she finally wanted out altogether.  And Sonja had no idea that leaving Benjamin after this investment of herself would feel like a miniature divorce.

                Jose admits, a tad sheepishly, “Having a girlfriend was about making myself feel good. If this woman could make me happy, I was in the relationship.  And if she couldn’t, it was over.  Most of my twenties was about me.”  Jose also admits that he struggled with Internet porn for a few years.  The fantasy of a woman who seemed to offer an unending supply of affection hooked him.  This screen-sized woman wanted him, and she never, ever made him feel rejected.  It was so easy---too easy.  Pornography sapped him of his spiritual strength, turning his relationship with God into a pile of mush that left him going through life in a lethargic, unmotivated haze.  He felt like a man trying to climb a rock mountain on stilts.

                Rose mery says she has always been sexually curious.  Movies she saw in middle school, stories of her older siblings’ late-night capers, and easy access to soft porn left her primed for her own sexual adventures.  When a boy showed interest in her, it was she who upped the ante, moving things to the next level of sexual intimacy.  By the time she left high school, she had been with a good number of guys.
                Now, in her second year of college, Rose mery finally has begun to wonder where her sexual activity is headed.  What is the point? She asks.  Why does she feel numb inside---as though her body is disconnected from the rest of her?
                Rose mery watches other couples and wonders if she will ever know what it feels like to have a man love her--- just for her.  A vague sense of regret and loss she cannot name follows her around.  She longs to retrace her steps and find the innocence of soul she once knew.

                Carla’s introduction to her own sexuality came from the most injurious of all possible routes.  Her favorite brother used to slip into her room at night, just as she was turning twelve, where he held her in his arms and fondled her changing body.  The bittersweet experience of hating yourself while you enjoyed intimacy never meant to be was profoundly ingrained in Carla’s psyche.  Being date-raped in high school just seemed like one more act in a bad play.  With the sexual walls of her life broken down, Carla accepted the terms of the inevitable: a relationship with a man comes with a sexual price tag.  Sex is part of the dues you pay to keep the relationship---and she has had quite a few of those.  The fog and pain after each breakup leads to one poor choice in men after another.
                Carla feels as though she steps in and out of two lives.  On Sunday mornings she plates the flute in a worship ensemble.  She sincerely wants to follow God, but her sexual life feels out of her control.  She can’t reconcile her lifestyle with her beliefs about God.

                In any direction we turn now, women feel not just the opportunity, but the pressure to be sexual.  It has become a cultural obligation of women to provide the best sexual experience possible, as though a woman should be about to shield her heart while she bares her body on cue.  And through all of this, men remain insecure boys; never becoming the responsible men they were meant to become.

What is Sexuality?
                Sexuality is a door that opens onto the richest secrets of your being, a purpose for your life that is larger than you.  Simply put, any notions about sex will lead you to God in short order---and to the meaning of your life.
                Scholars believe that the word sex is related to the Latin word secare, which means “to sever, to amputate, or to disconnect from the whole.”  Our sexuality then has two dimensions.  First, our sexuality is our awareness of how profoundly we’re severed and cut off and disconnected.  Second, our sexuality is all the ways we go about trying to reconnect.  Sexuality is this all-encompassing energy inside us that drives us out into the world in a creative, life-giving way.  It moves us toward unity and consummation with that which is beyond us.  Sex is but the most intimate form that longing takes.
                For many, sexuality is simply what happens between two people involving physical pleasure.  But that’s only a small percentage of what sexuality is.  Our sexuality is all of the ways we strive to reconnect with our world, with each other, and with God.
                Several friends of mine have given their lives to caring for the health needs of the poor and forgotten in Africa and Asia.  They’re in their thirties and single.  But what makes their lives so powerful is that they’re very sexual people, but they’ve focused their sexuality, their “energies for connection,” on specific groups of people.  Some of the most sexual people I know are celibate.  They sleep alone.
                There’s even a phrase that people use with a straight face---“causal sex.”  The rationale is often, “It’s just sex.”  Exactly.  When it’s just sex, then that’s all it is.  It leaves the person deeply unconnected.  You can be having sex with many, and yet you’re alone.  And the more sex you have, the more alone you are.  And it’s possible to be sleeping alone, and celibate, and to be very sexual.  Connected with many.  And it’s possible to be married to somebody and sharing the same bed and even having sex regularly and still be profoundly disconnected.
                You can’t be connected with God until you’re at peace with who you are.  If you’re still upset that God gave you this body or this life or this family or these circumstances, you will never be able to connect with God in a healthy, thriving, sustainable sort of way.  You’ll be at odds with your maker.  And if you can’t come to terms with who you are and the life you’ve been given, you’ll never be able to accept others and how they were made and the lives they’ve been given.  And until you’re at peace with God and those around you, you will continue to struggle with your role and purpose in life.
                There are two dangerous extremes for how to view sexuality.  Angels and animals.  There are these two extremes, denying our sexuality or being driven by it, and then there’s the vast space in between.  But we are not angels; we cannot deny our sexuality, its central to who we are. Nor are we animals: helplessly controlled by our urges. Something significant happens in the creation of people that doesn’t happen in the creation of the animals: people are created in God’s image.  We have a spiritual dimension to us that animals don’t have.  The human isn’t just a collection of urges and needs; it’s a being that God resides in, capable of restraint. 
                Sex, in the context God designed it for, touches the core of who we are.  It touches our deepest longing: to be known as we really are and still be loved.  Even in the physiology of sex, you can see the fingerprints of God and the intentional way he brings a man and woman together.  For example, clinical research shows that for the first eighteen months of marriage, couples have elevated hormones coursing through their bodies, providing a kind of “romance cocktail” that makes it very difficult to get to work on time.  Sex is the major event, and it happens with stunning frequency.  One of those hormones, oxytocin, promotes feelings of closeness and intimacy between two people.  And during sex, oxytocin jumps to five times its normal level.  Every physical aspect of their being conspires to bring them together and to give them great pleasure in the process. 
                Whether this was our intention or not sex creates a bond with another person that continues even after the relationship has ended.  It’s the glue that is meant to adhere couples together for more than 50 years.   This illusion portrayed in every movie that men and women can join their selves by joining their bodies and nothing is altered on a deeper soul level is like thinking you can tramp around on the Great Barrier Reef in your mask and fins and the plant life will remain undisturbed.
                The same principle holds true in the physical world.  If you try to pull apart two objects that have been glued together, parts of one will be stuck to the other.  Both will show the scars of being torn apart.  The world of relationships is no different.  Your heart and soul will follow your body.  Especially for women, if a connection to a man is made and broken---made and broken again and again---she may lose her capacity to bond to someone deeply.  Like glue that has been squeezed out of a tube, everything inside has been spent and she feels numb.  This is the consequence of lust.

                The following are questions you have asked:

¿Does the size of the penis affect sex or marriage?
¿Is masturbation bad or damaging?
¿Why do I have certain desires with a girl or other desires like looking at pornography?
¿Is oral sex bad?
¿How do I escape an addiction?

                The answer is that these questions are asked from the perspective of lust.  And as long as you are asking these questions you will never have the sex you desire and long for.   So then:

What is Lust?
                Lust started all the way back with Adam and Eve.  Lust comes from a deep lack of satisfaction with life.  Lust starts with: “If I had that/him/her/it, then I’d be…”  But Lust promises what it cannot deliver.  By giving into the temptation to eat the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve are essentially claiming that God isn’t good.  They’re giving into the deception that good is possible apart from God, the source of all good.
                The Greek word for lust is “epithumia,” meaning “in the mind.”  Think about the head space we give to things and people we want.  It’s easy for our thoughts to be dominated by a craving.  If I want something to the point that I can’t conceive of being content without it, then it owns me.  Freedom is not being able to have whatever we crave, but is going without whatever we crave and being fine with it.
                There’s so much to enjoy in life, and yet when we’re driven by lust we fixate on something we don’t have.  This is why gratitude is so central to the life God made us for.  Until we can center ourselves on what we do have, on what God has given us, on the life we do get to live, we’ll constantly be looking for another life.  This is why the word “remember” occurs again and again in the Bible.  God commands his people to remember who they are, where they’ve been, what they’ve seen, and what’s been done for them.

Why lust doesn’t work.
                The consequence of lust eventually is loss of appreciation for whatever it is we’re fixated on.  An alcoholic may have once enjoyed the taste, but now he is using drinking to numb and escape and avoid, and the last thing he’s reflecting on is the quality of the brew or the vintage of the grapes.  There’s a progression here.  The loss of sensitivity and enjoyment often leads to what the scriptures call being given over to sensuality.  The Greek word for sensuality is aselgeia.  It’s the absence of restraint, an insatiable desire for pleasure.  When our lusts get the best of us, they trap us.  Whether it’s food, sex, shopping, whatever, what was supposed to fill the hole within us didn’t.  It betrayed us.  It owns us.  And it always leaves us wanting more.  And so we’re emptier, lonelier, hungrier, and more depressed.
                The Greek word for greed is “pleion” and “echo”, meaning “more to have.”  So we have to have more.  But when we get more, it leads to…more.  There’s a false assumption out there that lust can plateau at a certain level and simply stay there.  But lust always wants more.  And consequently, over time, will always lead to despair.  Which will always lead to anger.  Lust always leads to anger.

How does sex become an addiction?
                Sex becomes a search.  A search for something a person is missing.  A quest for the unconditional embrace.  And so they go from relationship to relationship, looking for what they already have.  This search is about that need. 
                Madonna could hold an audience of eighty thousand people spellbound.  Yet one of her former lovers claims that, privately, Madonna is the most insecure woman he has ever known.  “She remains at heart the little girl continually trying to win over her father, searching for love and acceptance.”  How does a woman so successful remain so young and insecure inside, like she’s frozen at fifteen? 
                What hooks the woman is the feeling of being loved, wanted, valued in the warm embrace of some man’s arms.  As women, we offer our hearts to another god when we are willing to dole ourselves out in small pieces for the sake of a man’s affection.  We are asking a man to serve as a stand-in god who will fill us or rescue us and give our life meaning, through the illusion a sexual connection brings.
                For men, there’s a myth that somewhere out there is a woman larger than life, the perfect soul mate, whose love and affection will make him a man.  Think of all the movies built around this theme!  He sees a woman across the room, knows immediately that it is “She.”  He drops the relationship he has, pursues her, feels wild excitement, passion, beating heart, and obsession.   After a few months, everything collapses; she becomes an ordinary woman.  He is confused and puzzled.  Then he sees once more a radiant face across the room, and the old certainty comes again.
                Sexual intimacy is the easiest and quickest route a man knows how to find validation as a man.  But to go there is only to deepen the illusion that a woman’s love is the salve of his soul.  The experience of sexual virility is so potent for a guy that his lifelong temptation is to turn it into a god and to make the woman the center of his existence rather than a person in her own right and his partner. 

                -How Power and Seduction get involved
                Power games.  How easily the world of relationships between men and women devolves in this direction.  Both parties end up competing to ensure they aren’t the ones who get left in the dust, feeling like a fool.  Pain is what drives women to use sex to manipulate.  Sexual attraction becomes a tool a woman uses to get what she thinks she wants.  Innocent wonder can morph into seductive power before you know what’s happened.  Sex outside of marriage has a disturbing tendency to drift in the direction of power and manipulation.  It sinks into sheer human selfishness.  There’s an illusion that women who fall into this believe, that sex equals ownership.  But after years of living this illusion, she just ends up feeling personally and emotionally stuck.      
                But the seductive use of sexual power is a strange thing.  It burns both the lured and the lover in nearly equal measures.  A woman becomes as damaged as the man she seduces.  Manipulation usually kills even the simplest of human relationships.  A man driven by insecurity and jealousy may try to control his partner, but the relationship will always be a shadow of what it was meant to be.  Unless there’s freedom, there’s no trust.  Without trust and freedom, you will never know love.  These are the laws of the relational universe.  We didn’t invent them.  The harder you try to manipulate love, the more it eludes you.

                - Overcoming the Addiction
                Lust is always built on a lie.  To be free from lust we have to begin by understanding the lie, where it comes from, and why it can be so alluring.  Maybe the most powerful thing we can do is pray, “God, give me eyes to see the lie here.”  But when you’re trying to overcome lust it always feels like you versus the craving or addiction; your brain and heart versus your flesh.  You feel like you’re fighting alone against a temptation so strong.  And when we given in, it can start to feel pointless. Why resist today if tomorrow we won’t be able to?  But you’re not fighting alone.
                To understand how to overcome an addiction or craving we can look at stealing, and the advice of Paul to the Ephesians.  Stealing is so addictive because of the adrenaline that is released at the time.  You can’t just tell them to stop, you must replace the addiction with something else.  In Ephesians Paul’s urging them to stop stealing is followed by the command to have the person do “something useful with their own hands, and then give generously to others in need.”  The command is to replace one adrenaline rush with another, a better one, one that’s good.  The command ends with the person who was stealing learning to do something good with their hands so that they can take care of the needs of someone else.
                Stealing is the ultimate in being selfish.  Making something and giving it away is the ultimate in being generous.  This passage is about something central to what it means to be human: it’s about desire.  It’s about a thief finding something they’ll desire more than stealing.
                Whatever it is that has its hooks in you, you will never be free from it until you find something you want more.  It’s not about getting rid of the desire.  It’s about giving ourselves to bigger and better and more powerful desires.  What are you channeling your energies into?
                What is it you’ve given your life to?  Life is not about toning down and repressing your God-given life force.  It’s about channeling it and focusing it and turning it loose on something beautiful, something pure and true and good, something that connects you with God, with others, with the world.  What do you want more?  How do you make your life about that so that you won’t be tempted to give in to this?
                You ask:
¿Is it good to not have sex?
¿Why is sex bad?
¿How can we overcome the challenges that come?

                But the answer is found in asking:
What is the better way?  What is God’s purpose and plan for our sexuality and sex?

                If there were no larger story, no deep mystery between us and God, there would be no such thing as promiscuity.  A woman could sleep with her husband’s best friend and feel no more guilt than when she truly enjoyed a piece of cake.  It’s just a pleasure to be had.
                But there is a larger story.  The Bible says: “Flee from sexual immorality.  All other sins people commit are outside their bodies, but those who sin sexually sin against their own bodies.”  “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit…You are not your own.” So sex is always more than just sex.  It’s spiritual. 
                Only when we perceive that nakedness is as close as most of us will ever get to seeing God in the flesh, that these poor bodies of ours are the natural (as opposed to supernatural) expression of God’s glory, only then can we begin to understand also that sex is the closest thing to touching Him.  This is why God created gender and sexuality and marriage---to serve as a living metaphor.  A relationship between a man and woman mirrors a relationship with God.  What is worship without passion and surrender, the laying bare of the soul before God, with whom you have an exclusive relationship?  Real intimacy in sex is based on trust and faithfulness.  Aren’t those the same qualities at the heart of one’s relationship with God? 
                At the heart of the mystery of sex is a God who pursues you to the end of the earth, not to pin you into submission, but to embrace you at the core of your being with a love that penetrates to your deepest fears, and heals your shame, a love that will not let you go.  We are never truly free until our hearts are ravished in the love of God.  This is what the mystery of sex has been trying to tell us all along.

                -Love God’s Way
                The story the Bible tells is of a living being who loves and who continues to love even when that love is not returned.  Love is handing your heart to someone and taking the risk that they will hand it back because they don’t want it.  That’s why it’s such a crushing ache on the inside.  We gave away a part of ourselves and it wasn’t wanted.  Love is giving away power.  When we love, we give the other person the power in the relationship.  Love is giving away.  When we love, we put ourselves out there, we expose ourselves, we allow ourselves to be vulnerable.
                Love is giving up control.  It’s surrendering the desire to control the other person.  The two---love and controlling power over the other person---are mutually exclusive.  If we are serious about loving someone, we have to surrender all of the desires within us to manipulate the relationship.
                To connect with his creation, Jesus always chooses the path of love, not power.  His entire life is about the stripping away of power and control.  Jesus is about: inclusion, not exclusion; connection and solidarity rather that rank and hierarchy; touch rather than distance; compassion rather than control; weeping and broken, not proud and triumphant.
                “Jesus, who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing.”  There is a weakness that is truly weakness, that has nothing else to it---no depth, no intention, no greater purpose.  But Jesus is intentional in what he’s doing.  His vulnerability is for a purpose.  True love in the form of God naked and vulnerable on the cross asking, “What will you do with me?”  There is a weakness that is actually strength.  Humility is power under control.
                There is a strength that is actually weakness.  Such as a parent who yells at their kids with unrealistic expectations.  This kind of parent is using their strength, but they are actually weak.  The do this because in truth, they are broken, confused, and insecure.  They have no idea what they’re doing, as a parent or as a person.

                -Submission—Dying to yourself so that another may live
                By all the laws of both logic and simple arithmetic, to give yourself away in love to another would seem to mean that you end up with less of yourself left than you had to begin with.  But the miracle is that just the reverse is true, logic and arithmetic go hang. To give yourself away in love to somebody else…is to become for the first time yourself fully.  To live not just for yourself alone anymore but for another self to whom you swear to be true is a new way to come fully alive.
                Submission in Greek is “hupotasso”, meaning “to place yourself under, to give allegiance to, to tend to the needs of, to be responsive to.”  We are commanded to place ourselves under one another out of reverence, or respect, for Christ.  Jesus calls us to follow his example, his sacrifice, his giving his life for ours. 
                At the heart of the Christian world view is the simple truth that people are worth dying for.  We tear up at stories of people risking their lives to save others because we know it to be true deep in our bones.  And when we see someone actually do it, it’s overwhelming.  Jesus says there is no greater love a person can have than to lay down their life for another.  We know this to be true. 
                So the teaching of the passage in Ephesians is to love and serve the people around you, placing their needs ahead of your own, out of respect and reverence for Jesus, who gave his life for us, the ultimate act of love and sacrifice.  Die to yourselves, so that others can live.  Like Jesus.
                The husband’s waiting for the wife to submit is actually a failure to lead.  He thinks he’s the strong leader, but he’s actually weak and misguided.  If he really thinks he’s the head, then he would surrender his desires and wants and plans.  He would die to his need to be in control and do whatever it takes to serve her, to make sure she has everything she needs.  He would die to himself, so that she could live.  He would lay down his life for her, like Jesus laid down his life for the church.  This is submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. 
                Overtime in a marriage relationship you’ve built up reserves of trust and love, and power and control become irrelevant.  The healthier and more whole a marriage relationship is, the less you ask these kinds of questions.  When people are truly living in what’s called “mutual submission,” you lose track of who’s in charge.

                -Agape Love
                There are several different Greek words for love used in the Bible, but Agape is the word used in the context of God’s love for people.  Such as John 3:16, “For God so loved the world…”  In Ephesians husbands are commanded to “agape” (love) their wives like God “agapes” the world.  Agape is a particular kind of love.  Love is often seen as a need, something we get from others.  Agape is the opposite.  Agape gives.  Agape doesn’t love somebody because they are worthy.  Agape makes them worthy by the strength and power of its love.  Agape doesn’t love somebody because they’re beautiful.  Agape loves in such a way that it makes them beautiful.  There is a love because, love in order to, love for the purpose of, and then there is love, period.  Agape doesn’t need a reason.

                -What does it mean to be a woman?
                Recently in some churches’ messages of “just say no to sex” have caused sexuality to be covered with shame.  All that is feminine, beautiful, and attractive gets locked down tight, stuffed in a back closet somewhere, and labeled “bad.”  But this grieves the heart of God deeply.  Our sexuality as women is our birth right---the pleasure and beauty of being female.
                 “Whatever else it means to be feminine, it is depth and mystery and complexity with beauty as its very essence.  Now, lest despair set in, let us say as clearly as we can: Every woman has a beauty to unveil.  Every woman.  Because she bears the image of God.  She doesn’t have to conjure it, go get it from a salon, have plastic surgery or breast implants.  No, beauty is an essence that is given to every woman at her creation.”
                Women, it’s comforting to realize that your innate attractiveness---your beauty---does not originate with you.  As that truth sinks in deeply, you will be able to relax and enjoy being enjoyed by the men in your life.  And that pleasure won’t be reduced to something expressed sexually.  Your beauty finds its source in the heart of God, in his image invested in your being as a woman.  The Trinity incorporates the feminine traits: they move in compassion, gentle correction, and faithful presence. 
                Why is a man attracted to a woman?  What is the nature of this attraction? 
                A woman who knows her beauty understands that she has something exceptionally valuable to give and something important to protect.  So God puts in a man a longing for what you bring to him as a woman, something so not him that he feels far more complete with you in his life.  An intelligent man knows this.  Deep down, he knows he’s on a great search for what’s missing.  “It’s not good for man to be alone.”  Without a woman a man tends to wonder through life untethered and at loose ends, lacking purpose. 
                 As women, we are designed for deep and lasting attachment---as someone’s daughter, mother, aunt, sister, friend, or wife.  No matter what we achieve or accomplish, our lives are empty without relationships of duration and depth.  Psychologically, sex outside of marriage is harder on women than on men.  This is because of how a woman is wired for connection.  Women, you are designed to bring a special capacity for ever-increasing levels of depth and intimacy into a relationship with a man.
                -What does it mean to be a man?
                It’s harder for a guy to feel secure in his maleness.  He’s always asking himself: “Do I have what it takes?  Am I man enough?”  Being a man is more like a prize to be won, to be fought for in “small battles with honor” and proving oneself.
                But a man is put on the planet by God with the responsibility to look beyond his own self-interest and to care for others. A man is someone you can lean on, expect something of, and trust with your life.  In the Bible God has given leadership responsibility over the family and the church, but he’s also set up high expectations.  The law God gave to the Israelites established the basis by which a woman is to be cherished by a man.  No longer could a man covet his neighbor’s wife and get away with it.  He could not enjoy a woman’s sexual favor and then write her out a certificate of divorce when he found a younger version.  A woman was to be honored as a lifelong partner.  In the New Testament a husband is told that his wife is an equal partner sexually and that he is required to meet her sexual needs.  He is called to love her sacrificially, “as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”  Furthermore, his prayers will tend to bounce off heaven if he does not live with his wife in an understanding way.  This is the radical way God does business with a man and his sexuality.
                A man is a man because he too was made in the image of God.  When Job had lost everything and was crying out to God, God finally responds with essentially a “Stand up and talk to me like a man.”  This may be God offering Job the greatest compliment he could give him.  God is speaking to a man who thinks he has lost everything.  And God tells him, in effect, that he has not lost the most essential thing of all.  Job is invited to stand before the living God---as a man. 

  Now that we’ve seen how God has designed sex and sexuality to function best, it brings us to the issue of chastity.  You’ve asked:
¿What is chastity?
¿Why is it important to maintain chastity?
¿Is it good or bad for a girl to ask a guy out?

                The answers are found in understanding:
The purpose and role of chastity and its function as a protective fence.
                “Carelessly, thoughtlessly, casually, sex---in the short space of a single generation---went from being the culminating act of committed love to being a precondition, a tryout, for future involvement if any.”
                As one woman lamented, “Why didn’t I hear more about the cost of living as if sex had no consequences, no meaning?  Where was everybody?”
                Some sexual boundaries are respected in all cultures, such as sex between parents and their children; this is called incest.  Why draw lines anywhere if the guiding light is merely satisfying a physical or emotional desire on someone’s part?  Why not?
                Simply put, boundaries convey value.  Of all the things expected of a man (or a parent), protecting the innocence and purity of a wife or son or daughter or sister is right at the top of the list.  So, unfortunately, if women have grown up with few boundaries put in place in the way they relate to men, they often conclude they aren’t worth much.  Boundaries mark something or someone as special, set apart, worth going to a lot of trouble for.  God, then as the ultimate Father, draws boundaries around the experience of sexual intimacy so that it becomes a huge yes inside the protected relationship of marriage.
                Boundaries play a huge role in deepening the relationship between a man and woman.  Without trust, nothing lasting is built in a relationship.  Trust comes from knowing someone intimately before sexual intimacy is involved.  Once sex gets involved, emotional and spiritual intimacy tends to stop growing.  Three reasons boundaries in sexuality lead to more rather than less are: 1) boundaries give your relationship the chance to grow in all the important, foundational ways that make for something lasting; 2) Boundaries convey worth and value to your sexuality, they protect your soul; 3) Healthy sexual boundaries protect the emotional space around the experience of sex in marriage.
                While a search for boundaries is necessary, the source of healthy boundaries is God.  It’s actually quite difficult to come up with boundaries that make much sense apart from God.  A God who loves you gave you a body, and that body has meaning.  What you do with that body matters.  It’s out of this meaning that boundaries come.
                Celibacy is the foundation of a lasting relationship.  It makes room for the practice of showing respect and honor to another.  The self-giving of a relationship without premarital sex allows the two of you to be better together than you could be apart.  Holiness is not God asking us to be ‘good’; it is an invitation to be ‘His.’  We belong to him.  The best synonym for holiness is the word freedom.
                -What is the importance of boundaries for women?
                It’s important for a woman to limit sexual intimacy to marriage because it allows her to be loved for all of her, not just for her body.  It also protects her from plunging into the cycle of lust and addiction---finding her validation in a man.  Additionally, mixing sex in the relationship quickly becomes a selfish means of controlling and manipulating the relationship.  And this can never result in a lasting, meaningful relationship because there can be no trust.          
                Many women don’t realize until too late, but when they mix sexual intimacy in the dating relationship, they are the ones hurt worse.  Afterwards, when ones naked self feels exposed and unwanted, women more often ask the painful, “What’s wrong with me?” As a result of all of this, she feels unworthy of a “good” guy and settles for less and less.  Furthermore, the pain of prying a woman apart from a man with who she has bonded sexually can be wrenching and blinding for some time to come.    And with time, a woman can learn to step out of her body.  So that when things fall apart, she isn’t affected as deeply or so it seems.
                -What is the importance of boundaries for men?
                Many young women feel a tad guilty at the thought of denying sexual favor in its many and varied forms to a man.  Maybe it’s just too hard on him to expect that kind of restraint.  And of course, there is always the fear that he’ll turn elsewhere for sexual intimacy.  Such guilt and fear, though, reveal how little most women understand about the way men come to be real men---and the unrivaled role women play in this process.  Allowing a man to enjoy sexual favors without risking real commitment in marriage invites him to remain a boy inside. 
                A recent survey noted the top reasons men prefer cohabitation to marriage: convenience of a regular sexual partner; someone to take care of the house and dog; they feel ‘less answerable to a partner;’ financial assets are better protected; and it’s the best option for now, allowing time to search for their “soul mate.”  At the center of all of these reasons is self-centeredness.
                The easiest and surest way for a man to feel like a man is to have sex.  It is the quickest feedback loop, a deep physical dose of masculine validation.  The problem comes when a man brings his quest for validation to a woman.  Sexual intimacy only deepens the illusion that a woman’s love is the salve of his soul.  It is not.  Femininity can never confer masculinity.  He must find his own rootedness as a man in the one who made him and in the company of other men.  The masculine journey always takes a man away from the woman, in order that he may come back to her with his question answered.  A man does not go to a woman to get his strength; he goes to her to offer it.             
                Sexual favors before marriage simply stunts the growth of boys into real men who can shoulder the responsibility of others because they have moved outside the narrow confines of their own immediate needs.  In the best of ways, celibacy causes the damming up of a man’s strength and vitality.  It forces him to deal with himself.  He has to do battle with his sexuality to ride it like a wild stallion until its power is harnessed and under his control.  Then he gets the great gift of being able to use his sexuality for a larger purpose.  The promiscuous man knows deep down that his strength is being dissipated.  His virility is confined to the four corners of a bed when it is meant, quite literally, to change the world.
                You ask: ¿Is it good or bad for a girl to ask a guy out?
But the question shows that women don’t realize what a gift it is to a guy when he has to be the one to pursue you.  Men become men by doing battle with their fears, and pursuing a woman well is a process filled with man-sized risks.  At every juncture, a man feels naked and fearfully exposed, braced for the turndown.  But that’s the nature of fear; it only subsides when you walk straight into it.  To grow up inside, a man must get past his fear of woman.  For as we all know, we come to hate the things we fear.
                A man walks into the fire without the blanket of sexual affirmation around him.  He does the thing a man is supposed to do: he pursues a woman to know her in this large, fuller sense with absolutely no expectation that he will be rewarded with physical intimacy.  It is by such means that men become men.  When a man doesn’t depend on a woman for validation, when she is not a mirror of his worth he is able to truly love her because this is what he was made to do---this is what a real man does.  The joy comes in being able to offer himself. 
                That’s the secret all women possess.  They are capable of inviting a man into a relationship so deep and valuable that it is worth the reordering of his entire life.  There is so much to be had in the love of one woman.  Most women, when we know the worth of what we have to bring to a man, will guard it with our lives.  It is the treasure God put in us.

                So naturally the next step would be to wonder about the role of dating and marriage from the perspective of this “Better way” of God’s.  You ask:

¿How do you know when it's the right time to have sex?
¿Why is it important to have sex before marriage?
¿How do you flee adultery?
¿Why do people commit adultery?
¿What is dating and what is engagement?
¿When should one start dating, get engaged and have sex?
¿If I'm dating someone, how can I know they're the "one"?
¿Is it important your boy/girlfriend is a Christian?
¿What is the importance of friendship?

  The answers are found by asking:
So what is Dating and Marriage, and where does Sex fit in?
                -What is the purpose of marriage?
                The purpose of marriage isn’t marriage.  It’s a picture.  A marriage has a mission.  The world is broken.  Relationships and marriages are broken.  It becomes hard to trust that God is good when our significant relationships simply aren’t that good.  A marriage is designed to counter all of this.  Not to add to the brokenness of the world but to add to the “oneness” of the world. This man and this woman who have given themselves to each other are suppose to give the world a glimpse of hope, a display of what God is like, a bit of heaven on earth. 
                If you see me for who I really am, the me that no one else has ever seen, the me that I wouldn’t dare to show anybody else on the planet, the parts of me I’m not sure I want anybody ever to see, if I give you that kind of glimpse into the seat of my being, into my soul, will you still love me like you do now?  It’s our question for each other, and it’s our question for God. Unconditional, absolute acceptance.  From a lover, from God---it’s what we crave.  This is why a marriage is always about something bigger than itself.  It’s two people, in their unconditionally loving embrace of each other, showing each other in flesh and blood what God is like. These two are naked, and they feel no shame.
                We are created by God to live as integrated beings.  Whole.  One.  Not splintered and fractured.  If a guy wants her just for her body, that splits her.  It means that she is good to him only for a part of her.  Being truly naked is hard.  Opening up your soul to someone, letting them into your spirit, thoughts, fears, future, hopes and dreams.  And this rarely happens if you’re having sex early in the relationship.  To pursue being naked, you have to believe that this person is worth getting to know for the rest of your lives.  Being naked is peeling back the layers, conversation after conversation, experience after experience, year after year.  It’s rooted in a belief that the soul has infinite depth and you’ll never get to the bottom of it. 
                The failure to understand the infinite depth of the human soul is often why people who are married have affairs.  They stop exploring the person they married.  They find somebody who appears more interesting.
                The major building block of a close and intimate relationship is trust.  Marriage vows are the equivalent of looking someone straight in the eye and saying.  “As much as I am able, I trust you above all others with my life.”  In the beginning of the relationship we can only offer our “best self.”  But it must go further.  Vulnerability of the heart is always suppose to precede vulnerability of the body (sex).  You will know that you love a man when you feel safe with him, even though the worst is known.
                A woman dies to herself—her dreams and her agenda---when she has children.  But a man does when he takes a wife.  It is important for women to appreciate what love and courtship and marriage mean for a man--- what he invests, the fears he must overcome, the joys he experiences.  Otherwise we women may miss this sweet death he dies.  We may not recognize the doors to relationship and deep connection that we are privileged to open in him.
                -Why sex must be saved for marriage
                Women, sex should be saved for marriage because otherwise you will find yourself down a path that doesn’t take you anywhere you want to go.  Allowing a relationship to turn sexual sends a signal that men read clearly: You don’t have to be responsible.  It tells a guy that very little is expected of him, and sure enough, he conforms to this expectation.  It is no compliment to a man, however.  He knows he is getting away with something.  And part of him realizes that he does not deserve the respect of the woman, which in the male psyche is the validation he most truly craves. 
                The really sad part is that when we women expect too little from a man---when we let him get by with his “boorish self”---we disrespect him.  He is capable of so much more.  And he knows this.  Men rise to the level of the woman’s expectations.  They always have.  So when we see them a sexual objects and when we permit them to treat us as sexual objects, we both become something less than human.
                Additionally, sex before marriage eats away at the very trust that is foundational to the marriage relationship.  Jealousy and mistrust creep in more easily after marriage, because they both know a boundary has been crossed in the past.  Since neither had the strength of will and character to prevent sexual intimacy between them, what’s to keep from crossing a sexual boundary again, only this time with someone else?
                Sex clouds everything.  Combining sex with a serious relationship is like going to an art auction drunk, where you’re intending to spend your life savings.  Many men and women admit after marriage that they did not really know the person they married---not really.  If you ever needed to make a decision with your head, marriage is it.  Who is this person? What is their heart really like?
                Sexual intimacy before marriage is a mechanism of control and is governed by sheer selfishness.  Marriages that emerge from living together are less likely to succeed.  True motives are more evident when sex isn’t involved. 

                -What is the purpose of Dating?
                Dating is based on the longing of a woman to be wooed and won as a woman whose heart is worth going to a bit of trouble for.  Women are made to be wooed and won---dated---by a guy who sees the uniqueness of who you are.  This is the heart of romance.  And it mirrors the great romance of the ages—of a God who turned the world upside down to capture our love and to bring us to our true home in him.  There is a simple, timeless beauty to this courting dance itself: discovering someone you click with, having him go out of his way to be with you, feeling completely at home together, and experiencing an odd, inconsolable ache when he is away.  And through this battle against fear of rejection and inadequacy, he becomes a man.
                The self-giving of a dating relationship without sexual intimacy allows the two of you to be better together than you could ever be apart.  This is the crucial time in which you are getting to know one another intimately, building the foundation trust which is the prerequisite for any lasting relationship.

                -Knowing its “Mr./Miss Right”
                The non negotiable criteria for every Christian is that their “one” has the same or greater love and intimacy with God as they do.  A marriage governed by two different masters, two different worldviews can never reach its full potential---an image of God’s love for us.  The world does not truly understand nor value agape love and submission.
                Trust is foundational.  Can you trust this person?  Trust is the root from which love flowers and continues to bloom.  How do you know you can trust them?  They do what they say and they say what they mean.  What a person says, seems to feel, and does needs to line up pretty consistently.  Vulnerability is the emotional fuel that empowers trust.  It means “able to be wounded.”  Vulnerability is required for any lasting relationship to develop.
                Humility is also important.  When a man lets go of his pride, God gives him a kind of strength that is rooted in something larger than himself.  It is amazing how much strength is communicated through the quality of humility.  And when a woman has found her worth in God, her demeanor reflects not the weakness of insecurities, but the quite grace of power under control.
                It’s important to ask yourself about your significant other: Do they enjoy you?  Do they just plain like you for who you are?
                Women, concerning men you must ask yourself: Can this man be wrong?  Has he moved beyond himself?  Can he take risks for the sake of love?  In a committed relationship, a man will have to do battle with feelings of inadequacy that appear regularly and out of nowhere.  Taking risks for the sake of love tells you that a man is willing to engage in this battle.
                Women, beware of men who are: womanizers (need the constant attention of a woman to function well) or controlled by substances (the addiction will control you both).  Men beware of women who get their validation from men (they will drain you), who are constantly dissatisfied and complaining (you will never be able to make them happy), love drama (they will make your every interaction drama), and self-centered (they won’t have time to truly love you).
                The final question to ask is: How do they use their strength?  Are they living beyond themselves, seeking each day to know and do the will of the Lord?  A relationship focused on the kingdom of God is never boring (even after the kids are grown and gone) because the Holy Spirit is a live and active in this world, keeping our daily lives interesting and full of excitement.

What Should I be doing now?
¿What should I do if I've waited a long time for the right person and haven't found them yet?
¿Is it good to be single for a long time?
¿Is it okay to date during adolescence?
¿How is the character of a Christian teen/young adult?
¿How can I know the will of God for my life?
¿How does dating look in the life of a Christian youth?

                -The importance of Repentance and Healing
                The first step is repentance and healing for any of your past heart breaks.  The cross is central.  It speaks to us of God’s suffering, pain and a broken heart.  It’s God making the first move and then waiting for our response.  The cross is God’s way of saying, “I know what heartbreak is like.”  “I know how you feel.”  Our tendency in the midst of suffering is to turn on God.  The cross is God’s way of taking away all of our accusations, excuses, and arguments.  The cross is God taking on flesh and blood and saying, “Me too.”  This can transform our experience of heartbreak.  Instead of being something that distances us from God, causing us to question, “Where are you?” we see the heartbreak of God’s life.  It’s the place we find out we’re not alone, where we find strength to go on.  Not a strength that comes from within ourselves but a strength that comes from God.  Our healing begins when we see our pain not as separating us from his but connecting us to our maker.  You know how God feels.  Really good, loving people get hurt.  It’s how things are.           
                If you’re living in the wake of a relationship that fell apart.  You have to dig up those moments and acknowledge the hurt before you are going to heal.  The tragedy would be for you to shut down, to allow a wall to be built around your heart, and for something within you to die.  A decision not to risk again is a decision not to love again.  They go together. 
                The source of the pain is the shame of seeing yourself as less than lovable.  People never really change very deeply until someone catches them in their shame.  The story of Jesus and the women caught in adultery holds the secret to how any of us discovers the love of God in the places in our souls we would most want to hide.  Jesus sees, as no one ever has, the broken, sinful places in us where we have sought every other love but his---where we feel like a prostitute, where we think of ourselves as undeserving of love, where we know that no one who saw us this way would want us.  Jesus does not turn away.  He steps right into the mess we have made and offers us not another stone of condemnation but, of all things, mercy.  Without minimizing in the slightest what we have done, he offers us mercy.  We can go home now.   There’s no other way out other than turning to the cleansing, restoring love of Christ.         
                In this grief, we are not merely victims.  No, our grief is the result of choices we have made.  But we can reclaim our heart through repentance and renouncing.  Repentance means that I agree with God about a particular sin or habit or attitude in my life.  I am no longer trying to hide or pretend.  I am willing to give my sin over to God rather than repress it and stuff it down inside.  Repentance straightens me up.  Renouncing is an even stronger word and especially freeing.  It’s saying I close the door of my soul to this sin.  It is no longer welcome.

                -Walking with God Now
                Your most important task now is to walk humbly with the Lord, care for the oppressed and don’t allow yourself to be corrupted by the world.  This means daily time in prayer, in scripture, and doing the work of the Lord.  Also to encourage and be encouraged you should be activity involved in a local church.  These are the building blocks of an intimate relationship with the Lord. Through our relationship with him we find our value, and only then are we at a point where we’re ready to invest in a relationship with the other gender.  But we must wait in patient trust on the Lord’s timing.  If you’re daily listening to his voice within you, you will know when it’s time. 
                What keeps men and women alive as sexual beings during this waiting period grows out of what they are giving of themselves.  It’s not what a person is getting or not getting that matters; it’s what he or she is giving.

                ­The value of Singleness
                There’s a common message in a lot of Christian circles that singles are missing something, that they’re not good enough, that they don’t fit in.  But it’s not true.  Singles are actually able to connect with God and serve God in ways that those who are married cannot.
                By faith singles must continue to live their life’s to their fullest seeking the kingdom of heaven and trusting God and his timing.  We are not promised marriage, or that our spouse will not die young, or that our spouse won’t cheat on us.  We are promised only suffering, just as our Lord and savior suffered.  So in trust we must walk.  Waiting is harder, but it’s the only path that leads somewhere worth going.  We should neither shut down desire nor demand it be fulfilled in a particular way.  The real fear isn’t that we won’t “get any” but that we will go through life holding back the life God has put in us, playing it safe and we’ll miss “giving it.”  The pain of unmet desire can actually enlarge our hearts, driving us to connect with influence more people.


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