I remember speaking on this topic at a Christian physicians conference. I began by explaining that marital sex is good and a God-blessed, sacred spiritual act. I said that God wants a couple to build a foundation for their relationship by connecting deeply on mental, emotional, and spiritual levels. This leads to marriage. Only then, as a natural result or by-product of this profound soul connection, does it become appropriate for them to bond in sexual intercourse. This ever-deepening foundation of holistic human connection (not just body connection) is the context for meaningful marital sex. At this point my audience was smiling and nodding in agreement. That’s when I asked some very personal questions and went over the scriptural evidence we had just reviewed.
“If you believe all of this evidence is true,” I said, “then ask yourselves these questions: When was the last time you were making love and became aware that you were engaged in a spiritual act? Have you ever felt worshipful or sensitive to God’s presence while you were having sex?”
The room fell deadly silent. The eyes of the people in the audience glazed over. So I asked, “What just happened here? Weren’t we all in agreement that God created us as sexual beings—that He not only approves of but smiles down on and blesses the marital sex act?
“If you’ve never felt God’s smiling presence during that union or considered the biblical symbolism bound up in your sexuality, what do you think that means?”
This is a good question. There’s something amiss here, and we need to figure out why. When one or both partners in a marriage have been sexually wounded, whether through childhood abuse, rape, pornography, media distortions, promiscuity or marital abuse, they frequently find it extremely difficult to think of sex as sacred.
I would add that the sexual heresies fed to Savannah and so many other Christians about how so-called “God-authored” sexual dynamics inevitably work between men and women also play a limiting and damaging role in our ability to view sex as sacred. As a result, many couples simply can’t believe that the words sex and spirituality belong together in the same sentence.
The wonder of marital sex as it was meant to function in God’s original plan is bigger, more breathtaking, and more all-encompassing in God’s love story (the gospel) than most of us can imagine.
A New Mind-Set about Sexual Expression
This pure vision of sexuality is what God designed sex and marriage to look like when He made humankind in the beginning and pronounced all of His works good. But like everything else in God’s good creation, the beauty and holiness of the sexual bond have been twisted, distorted, and compromised by human sin. Pornography and sexual addiction are a huge part of that destructive process.
Remember, marital sex is meant to be experienced within the wholeness of a person-to-person relationship. It’s supposed to be based on intimacy, tenderness, mutual consent, and interpersonal sharing. As we’ve seen, it’s about becoming one flesh with your spouse. This is why C. S. Lewis observed, “The monstrosity of sexual intercourse outside marriage is that those who indulge in it are trying to isolate one kind of union (the sexual) from all the other kinds of union which were intended to go along with it and make up the total union.”
In our current culture we certainly don’t hear “sexual intercourse outside marriage” called a “monstrosity” very often. Even in the Christian community, a number of single adults now choose to live together outside the bond of marriage. Many a married Christian man (or woman) minimizes his sexual behavior and tries to excuse it instead of holding an image of a sacred union with his wife as the desire of his heart. Wives, too, often think of sex as a carnal act instead of an awesome gift from God.
Many couples can’t even imagine what a godly sexual union would look like. It’s a marvel and a reality that defies description. A good place to start is to simply think about what sacred sex could be as part of your marriage.
Reconciling and Restoring
Barbara and Kyle had been working on reconciling and restoring their marriage for about a year when they made a significant choice to change their thinking. Barbara told me about it one day in our counseling session:
We had reengaged in a sexual relationship with each other but realized that the way we thought about sex wasn’t the way we thought about anything else. In all other aspects of our lives, we had worked hard to study God’s perspective and discern what His will and purpose were for whatever choices we made.
But when it came to sex, we just had it as if it was another mundane thing we did together, like unloading the dishwasher. It was no longer tainted by Kyle’s previous damaging behavior, but it wasn’t a place where we invited God into our union.
It took us a while to even think about God looking on us and blessing us. We had completely compartmentalized our sexual lives from our relationship with God. We were kind of embarrassed to talk about how to experience sacred sex. So we decided to just say a prayer asking God to be present with us, to touch our hearts, to clear our minds of unclean thoughts, and bless our union.
Attitudes and Nonverbal Communication
I can’t say that either of us ever saw a glowing aura or heard a celestial choir singing, but I can say that our sexual relationship changed for the better. It was much more about attitudes and nonverbal communication than about the sex act itself. It’s a mystery for which we are grateful.
We also began to be much more communicative and faithful to invest in our sex life. This was because it now actually meant something more than a positive physical release. It was even tied to a deeper reality about our faith.
Consider how the various emotions of marriage and the physical actions shared between the male and female body show signs of God’s nature or tell a symbolic story about it. He is a God of shared relationship and deep intimacy (the Trinity). He is faithful. He initiates and pursues us—and at our ready invitation, He then enters our lives and enables us to bear godly fruit. He is expressively passionate about His “marriage” covenant with His church, which the Bible refers to as the very bride of Christ.
When our eyes are opened to the Creator’s artwork in our bodies and in marital sexuality, we see obvious intentionality and many unfolding levels of beauty to be celebrated and enjoyed. In a very parallel way, God wants to “marry” each one of us so that we bear his name and the good results (the fruit) of our closeness with Him. Isn’t this like a wedding, the marriage bed, and the human family that grows as a result of marital unity, sacrifice, and erotic love?
Taken from Aftershock: Overcoming His Secret Life with Pornography: A Plan for Recovery by Joann Condie and Geremy Keeton. Copyright © 2020. Used by permission of Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries.
About the Authors
Joann Condie’s career as a licensed and nationally certified professional counselor, registered nurse, and counselor at Focus on the Family has spanned several decades. Her counseling specializes in the sexually broken and wounded.
Geremy Keeton is the senior director of the counseling services department of Focus on the Family and a licensed marriage and family therapist. He has extensive experience in counseling men and couples on topics of healthy sexuality, infidelity, and pornography addiction.