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Single, Spiritual & … Sexy? Questions to ask ourselves in pursuit of sexuality and celibacy.

Single, Spiritual & … Sexy?

Questions to ask ourselves in pursuit of sexuality and celibacy.


Sexual and celibate are not words we often find paired. Frankly some of you may be googling terms just to clarify we’re not engaging in heresy of some sort. And I get it. This is tricky territory. How do we approach this topic without creating a ‘license to sin’? How do we make space for the sexual without implicitly encouraging the impure? Before we move further, let’s toss around two concepts that can serve as a wise foundation. First, the term “sexual” in this context is a state of being, not an action or set of actions. Second, while it is normal to feel that rush of protectiveness anytime the topics of sex and singleness may arise together, our tendency to fear often comes from the intensely permissive culture surrounding us. It is true that we live in a time of “if you feel it, do it”. This leads us to naturally fear embracing the sexual parts of us. And if not fear, feel very confused about how to do so. We do not have many, if any, cultural models of delighting in sexuality and still choosing celibacy out of love for God, self and others. Here are a few questions to help you begin to navigate these waters.

1) Is my heart in it?

The topics of singleness and sexuality, of course, elicit many specific questions: Is masturbation a sin? How far is ‘too far’? When am I ready to date? How do I break my pornography addiction? What is the difference between lust and attraction? What movies/tv shows are appropriate? The list goes on. It is true that many of these questions have concrete and general answers. However, some don’t. It is for that reason, when one aims to grow, steward and wisely boundary their sexuality, one must first look at the heart of the matter. Both our hearts and God’s heart. It is only then that we can move into prescriptive territory without bouncing between the sexual extremes: permissiveness/impurity and unhealthy compartmentalization/legalism. Both have dire unintended consequences. Since we do not want to be followers that just tell ourselves what our “itching ears want to hear” (2 Timothy 4:3 NIV), we must be willing to discover God’s heart for sexuality and take the slow, dutiful time to read His Word. In their fabulous book, Redeemed Sexuality, Tim and Dr. Jennifer Konzen encourage anyone studying sexual theology to first stop and read every Scripture involving sex. Every one. To make things easier, I’ve included the list here. Psych! This is a crucial step that we must each take the individual effort to complete. This is the best way to ensure our hearts are “in it”.


2) Do I understand the nature of sexual arousal?

A quick little English clarification- sexual arousal refers to the physiological responses of the body when it experiences attraction, either consciously or subconsciously. Sexual arousal is not the same as sexual fantasies, acts of impurity, sexual temptation or sexual attraction. It is a physiological response out of our control, in many ways similar to goosebumps when cold/scared. Trauma survivors have even experienced sexual arousal (increased heart rate, hardening of nipples, blood rushing to genitals, etc) when being assaulted. I cannot emphasize enough the involuntary nature of this response. We cannot steward our sexuality well, form healthy boundaries, and connect well with others when we instantly shame ourselves for involuntary physical responses out of our control. In her book Redefining Sexuality, Dr. Juli Slattery makes the point that our sexual arousal is God given and designed to direct us upward and outward; upward toward God and outward toward others. It reminds us we are created for covenant and connection. It is something to be celebrated. Over and over God uses sexual language and sexual metaphor to describe His passionate love for us. He even goes so far as to chastise Jerusalem for ‘prostituting themselves’ when they strayed from His love (Ezekiel 16:16, NIV). It is clear sexuality as a whole is both metaphorically and literally intertwined with spirituality and sexual arousal specifically is no different. When we feel these sexual arousal responses and crave touch, instead of shame, we can joyfully embrace and steward the energy into God’s plan for us. For more information on the practicals of how to execute this well, please refer to the resource list below.


3) What does it mean to be sexually broken and what does it mean to be pure?

I truly believe there has never been a human being who has achieved perfect purity other than Jesus Christ. In this way, we are all sexually broken. My husband just finished reading Ghandi’s biography and if I had to bet on a runner up, it definitely would have been that guy. Even Ghandi has a sexual sin pile in need of redemption. In addition to his sexual sin, even Ghandi has a pile of sexual wounds in need of healing. A note for those navigating this topic while also healing from a history of impurity- You may notice an internal hesitation to ask these questions. Maybe you feel unworthy because of mistakes you have made. Maybe you’ve crossed into impurity and the guilt is overwhelming. Maybe that guilt pushes you to stuff, to fear, to avoid, to isolate.


As a society we like boxes- good/bad, pure/impure, leader/follower. We find comfort in rules and labels. In the purity conversation, we have in many ways deemed certain behaviors as worthy of crossing one into the “impure box”, while letting others slide. Those first few experiences with pornography, those were not worthy of a box shift. But when you made out with your girlfriend, man, that moved you over. I don’t think any of us make these choices consciously, I think we desperately want what is best for each other and ourselves. We hate the pain that sexual sin causes. However, refusing to allow the truth of grace to cleanse us of our guilty conscious also causes immense pain (1 John 1:9 NIV) and ultimately delays repentance. There are no boxes. Only repentance and full, washing grace. Let us all “stand in grace” as we prayerfully navigate singleness and sexuality (Romans 5:1-2 NIV). When we have a history of sexually impure or immoral choices, it can feel awkward or even embarrassing to enter into the Lord’s sanctuary with these questions. But that’s the truth of the radical love of our Savior. “Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16 NIV)


Over the next few months, Truth, Trauma, Theology will be releasing more content on healthy sexuality. Prayerfully, these questions will help you create a solid foundation and open the lines of communication. I leave you with Paul’s words to the church in Philippi: “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight.” (Philippians 1:9 NIV) May we all continue to grow in our understanding of healthy Christian single sexuality. Ever seeking, ever pursuing God’s heart and vision for our lives.

Blessings & Be Well,

Lauren


Please direct feedback for future content to lauren@strengthserenitycounseling.com

For any direct clinical questions for Lauren, please call Strength & Serenity Counseling at 319-481-8688 to schedule a consultation.


While I do not subscribe to everything in every following resource, these are wise, Biblical, trusted resources that can help you grow your single sexual theology and answer some of the more specific questions.


Books for Further Study and Consideration:

Soul Virgins by Doug Rosenau: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0985810718/ref=as_li_qf_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=authenticinti-20&creative=9325&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=0985810718&linkId=c22f03531b9573fd6a5c40fa5383361f

Redefining Sexuality by Dr. Juli Slattery:

https://www.amazon.com/Rethinking-Sexuality-Gods-Design-Matters/dp/0735291470

Redeemed Sexuality by Tim Konzen and Dr. Jennifer Konzen:

https://www.christianbook.com/redeemed-sexuality-christian-singles-students-parents/tim-konzen/9781595543516/pd/543516?en=google&event=SHOP&kw=books-0-20%7C543516&p=1179710&utm_source=google&dv=c&gclid=Cj0KCQiAnuGNBhCPARIsACbnLzohwrPaK_EaMPNe5sAQVxPnierx4NIvSXWu_PDzHbdzcYZ_naTrukgaAme0EALw_wcB

Unwanted by Jay Stringer:

https://www.amazon.com/s?k=unwanted+book+by+jay+stringer&gclid=CjwKCAiAtouOBhA6EiwA2nLKH2qmeuT_lqYt3PHcvCRsh1WMJ7LnkMLDpLb8BrLWhXippgiFSPvX4hoCYaoQAvD_BwE&hvadid=499767735543&hvdev=c&hvlocphy=9021910&hvnetw=g&hvqmt=b&hvrand=17583088387370186592&hvtargid=kwd-1185712853250&hydadcr=8344_11335200&tag=googhydr-20&ref=pd_sl_4rik0f1xhl_b

Podcasts/Videos:

Truth, Trauma, Theology

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r0pxtGNg5WM

Java with Juli/Authentic Intimacy

https://www.authenticintimacy.com/resources/37253/388-single-sexually-whole

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