This may be the hardest blog post I’ve ever written. Single women have been writing to me with one question: “How can I satisfy my sexual desire if I’m destined to remain single my whole life?” In part, this question is coming from women who've recently read Pulling Back The Shades, a candid look at erotica, intimacy, and the longings of a woman's heart, which I co-authored with Dr Juli Slattery. But the truth is the question has been coming my way for a long time and I've managed to dodge it. My motivation to answer is impaled on the horns of a dilemma: do I, a married woman, pass you on to some one else with more "experience" for the answer OR do I tell you the truth which is undoubtedly not what you really want to hear in which case you may happily use my married status to disqualify the advice? Today I'm mustering up the courage to go for the latter.
My answer begins with a question.
I have to ask "why are you asking?"
It seems to me that the question is loaded with that angsty appeal we learned when we were children and mom said it was time for bed, "Ah, mom! One more book...one more page...one more sentence." It is human nature to plead for what we have been told cannot—at this certain point in time—be ours. In this case, "Oh, come on! Can I look at ______...touch _______...just maybe I could ______...." It seems to me the question is wrought with you begging permission from me to wiggle past God's truth about the sacred act of sex being confined to the marriage bed.
Right about now is certainly the moment you'll be rolling your eyes and saying, "But, you're married. You don't understand!" So let me introduce you to the voice of the 30-something single author of "Sexless in the City", Anna Broadway. She wrote the following in "True Love Obeys: Why We Abstain From Premarital Sex."
"Years back, when working on my memoir (of "reluctant chastity," yes), I spent an evening babysitting the daughter of some friends. After the baby had gone down, I picked up a volume of collected C. S. Lewis writings they had out, which included advice I've never forgotten. The gist was that it's all too easy to slip into preaching the gospel on the grounds that it's good for you rather than simply that it's true—a tendency that must be avoided. I wish I could remember the reasons he gave, but appropriately enough I only remember the truth itself: truth ultimately has to stand on its authority, not its efficacy."
The truth is that God designed sex to be enjoyed within the context of a marriage bed. It's as simple and as terribly frustrating as that. While it would be nice if there were a caveat for those who never get married, that would deny the sanctity of the act of sex altogether wouldn't it? The marriage bed should be honored by "all," not just those who have one. (Hebrews 13:4) This is difficult but true.
I realize you have sexual needs that are not being met, but would it surprise you that I've been through periods of that very frustration as a married woman? There have been seasons in my marriage where Bob and I could not find one another let alone meet each other's needs at any level. A good many visits to our marriage counselor and prayer has brought us closer, but I find myself knowing that in the golden years certainly one of us will be gone before the other...maybe in full body or maybe just in mind. Would you have me cry out for permission to alter God's truth then? No. For times of sexual longing, I will choose the answer I'm just about to give to you because it's the only one that's ever worked.
I bumped into a single friend at the Waffle Shop today. (Please don't confuse it with the Waffle House from which I practice an entirely different kind of abstinence. To the locals of State College, the Waffle Shop is what Tim Horton's is to Canadians. Good morning comfort.) My friend, who like all my older single friends admits she's still open to marriage if God brings it her way, told me that the simple fact is that her sexual desires rest quietly when her love relationship with Jesus is tended to with passion. I believe it was God's will for me to hear her say those words because I've been a wimp as I avoided the writing of this next paragraph all week.
Here's the answer you really, probably, most likely, don't want to hear, but desperately need: you don't need an outlet for sexual expression, you need more of God.
No doubt you’ve heard the trite phrase, “Singleness is a gift.” It’s only trite because we misunderstand. (And often those rolling the phrase off their tongues are equally uninformed. Like trying to read the words of Shakespeare without knowing what they mean, they can’t express it through their interpretation because they have none. Just hollow words.)
The very single Apostle Paul knew what he meant when he called singleness a “gift” in I Corinthians 7:6. And my dear friend and single author Carolyn McCulley expresses it well when she writes this about the passage in Sex and The Supremacy of Christ:
“It’s not a gift in the way we might think about it on our birthdays or at Christmas: “Do I like it? Do I want to keep it? Can I exchange it for what I really want?” There are several Greek words that could be translated as gift in English. One word denotes a gift presented as an expression of honor. A second euphemistically infers that a gift is more a matter of a debt or obligation. A third denotes a free gift of grace, used in the New Testament to refer to a spiritual or supernatural gift.”
Carolyn went on to so beautifully point out that the kind of gift Paul was referring to is the third: a gift of grace. The Greek word is charisma and is used to in the New Testament to describe a supernatural or spiritual gift. Other such gifts specifically listed in the Scriptures include faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, speaking in tongues, having words of wisdom or knowledge, being a prophet, pastor, apostle, teacher or evangelist.
Does it seem like a good old round of "One of these things is not like the other" is in order? Don't be so quick! In God's eyes, your singleness is a spiritual gift. I believe that Carolyn has tapped into the missing puzzle piece that the Church needs to lock singleness squarely into its proper place. We just have to look to see what all these gifts have in common.
Do you know what the common denominator is? A person cannot live in the full authority and power of any of them without the power of God's Spirit. Oh, you can pretend to teach or even pastor a church but there's a difference between those who fake it and those who are fueled by the Spirit of God. Some are just barely getting by and will fizzle out, their insignificance leaving us with little or no fruit. Still others: blatant "false teachers" leading people further from God not closer to him. But then...there is the real deal. The person so full of God that their gift of teaching or pastoring makes room for them no matter their personality, background or stature. These are the ones whose gifts change lives. Whose gifts are good for others. (I Corinthians 12:7)
Which are you? Are you the single woman who is just barely getting by who will become an insignificant spinster one day? Or are you the kind that's more dangerous, leading the lost further into their lostness? Or is your singleness fueled by the power of the Spirit so that you are one who uses it for good, leaving a legacy of lives changed?
You cannot use your singleness for God, nor endure it without a deeper abiding in the Spirit. In the next few weeks I'm going to blog about how you can practically meet what I believe are the five deep longings in your heart, but the fact is it will be like giving a brand new baby a steak to chew on unless you first latch on to a determination to be Spirit-fueled. You'll have no spiritual power to chew on what I pass your way if you aren't full of God.
It is my hope that as you learn to tend to your love life with Jesus, you'll find as my Waffle Shop friend did that your sexual desires rest quietly. A short while after we met up, she sent me this:
"Another snare for singles is often to have such an influence from the world that we forget our time here is really short. When you have more of a heavenly kingdom mindset, it becomes easier. We will be in eternity with Jesus so it is less important that we satisfy our needs while on earth. I have always desired to be married, but God has kept me single so far and I can be content in the state that I am in as long as I keep my eyes on Him and not my life or status of life."
More importantly, when we are almost faint under the strain and worry of wondering if singleness is to be forever, we need to be reminded that there is an end to singleness: One day we will be at the wedding feast of the Lamb and we will be His bride. Even if we receive the gift of marriage on this side of heaven, that's not our ultimate goal. It is a shadow and a type of what is planned for eternity and, like all things on this earth, it will have its conclusion in death. Our Father knows the time when earthly gifts will be distributed and when they will be no more; He knows, as well, when the heavenly wedding feast will commence. We can blissfully rest in the knowledge that the future is better than anything we think we've missed now: Jesus is preparing us for the eternal rewards and eternal joys of a future He's told us is too inexpressible for us to understand.