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If you watch a lot of TV you might have the impression that the best sex is found outside marriage. Yet research reveals the pleasures of married sex are far better than those experienced during premarital sex or sex outside marriage. Would it surprise you to know that research suggests married women have more orgasms than unmarried women?
When you consider that sex was invented by God and not Hugh Hefner, the findings of these surveys not only reflect reality but also the biblical teaching that sex was designed for our enjoyment within marriage. In other words, God isn't embarrassed by sex or ashamed of it, and when we engage in it within marriage, He's pleased.
For some of you, this article may be difficult to read. There are few issues in life that can create more hurt, disappointment, frustration, and bitterness than sex. You may have been sexually abused in the past and have trouble believing you can ever trust again. You may have been sexually active long before your marriage. You may be in a marriage that lacks any intimacy -- emotionally or sexually. You may be divorced and struggling with your natural desires.
The Bible teaches: Since everything God created is good, we should not reject any of it. We may receive it gladly, with thankful hearts. This includes your sexuality. God created you as a sexual being; it's part of who you are and you can accept it without guilt. Physical intimacy between husband and wife is a sacred activity with profound spiritual implications.
God created sex as a physical expression of the spiritual and emotional ties between a man and a woman, where the "two shall become one." You hear and read a lot about soul mates, but very little about the soul ties created by sex between a man and a woman. It's a mystery to understand, yet God designed sex to create a spiritual oneness between a wife and her husband.
If you view sex as nothing more than a physical event, you're missing its full meaning and missing out on the satisfaction and enjoyment God planned for you. Surveys have found a correlation between the intensity of a woman's spiritual convictions and her satisfaction with sexual pleasures in marriage. The gospel truth is that there's a connection between sexuality and spirituality, and that's why God reserved sex for marriage.
Truth be told, God put a sex manual right into the pages of the Bible, in the form of a love poem called "The Song of Solomon," which shows the relationship between a man and a woman from their courtship to their wedding night. That's why it's amazing to me that the church is generally known for being against sex: The Bible couldn't get a G rating on the subject! "The Song of Solomon" is a how-to on reaching marital maturity and deep physical intimacy by paying attention to such details as privacy, unhurried time, complimenting each other, affectionate touching, having special places together, fragrances, intimate talk, and the safety of total commitment. This affection creates the atmosphere of intimacy; sex is just the event.
"The Song of Solomon" stresses the need to be intentional about your sex life. It rejects the myth that sex is just doing what comes naturally; that path will only lead to self-centeredness because you'll just do the things that please you without considering the needs of your mate. At the risk of being labeled politically incorrect, men and women are simply wired differently. When it comes to sex, men are like a light switch. They turn on quickly. Women are more like an iron; they take time to warm up. Another way to think of it is that men are like microwaves while women are like Crock-Pots.
The only way to learn the needs of your mate is by talking about them in specific detailed ways. Speaking candidly, I know this from personal experience. When Kay was a child, she was sexually molested and it left her broken and wounded. How could anyone find joy in physical intimacy after such an evil experience? Being a typical male, I thought counseling was there to help Kay heal, but once there, I had to face a lot of my own issues.
But it was absolutely worth it: We not only learned to communicate with each other but also began to see the incredible power of "two becoming one." We learned to be specific in expressing our needs, even sexual needs, to each other. Rather than asking vague questions, we learned to be specific in our requests. You'll find that the atmosphere of emotional intimacy this develops is well worth the risk of being open, honest, and specific.
You don't have to be perfect to be loved by God. No matter what you've done -- or in the case of abuse, no matter what someone else has done to you -- God still loves you. I can say with confidence that no matter how big your problems seem, God's purpose is even bigger. I have seen God melt wounded and hardened hearts, replacing bitterness with forgiveness.
To be honest, sexual differences don't get better by ignoring them or avoiding them, and deep, authentic intimacy won't develop haphazardly. You might need some counseling. Don't be discouraged: Every couple struggles with making sexual adjustments in their marriage. Bob Baker, who heads the counseling ministry at Saddleback Church, says it takes patience and time to build a satisfying love life. In order to truly understand the desires of your spouse, you must allow yourself to be taught by your spouse, just as your spouse must learn about your desires from you.
So don't give up! It takes time, but it's never too late to begin intentionally building an intimate atmosphere of affection in your marriage. Consider this encouragement straight out of the Bible: "Let your wife be a fountain of blessing for you. Rejoice in the wife of your youth. She is a loving doe, a graceful deer. Let her breasts satisfy you always. May you always be captivated by her love."
The Hebrew language of this biblical passage suggests we should "be intoxicated...be ravished...be enthralled...be exhilarated..." by our spouse. In other words, let your wife steal your senses away. Now that's the Bible talking about sex; that's God talking to us. God's ideal for intimacy in marriage is that it should be fun and fantastic.
May it be so in your marriage.
You can learn more about living the Purpose Driven Life by going to www.purposedrivenlife.com or by e-mailing Rick Warren at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally published in Ladies' Home Journal magazine, March 2006.