This series of blogs comes from FAQ’s from the guys in Summit’s “Preparing for Marriage” ministry. They represent a conglomeration of questions from many different husbands-to-be during the Engaged Discovery Weekend. If you are interested in serving as a marriage mentor or are engaged, click here to learn more about Summit’s “Preparing for Marriage” ministry.
How do you transition from “sex is wrong” to “sex is right”? How do we move from shame into freedom? How do you transfer from guilt associated with sex to pleasure with sex?
It is important to remember that it is not sex that changes. We change when we get married. In that regard, marital sex is like getting your driver’s license. Before age 16, driving a car was wrong (illegal) whether you were good at it and loved the car or not. There was nothing immoral about driving itself. It was only “you” driving that was wrong. When you turned 16 your relationship to driving changed.
So ask yourself, “How did your perspective on driving change once you turned 16?” Chances are you still felt like you were “getting away with something really cool,” wanted to drive frequently, and day dreamed about all the places you could go (although you didn’t have the gas money for half the trips).
Similarly, when you get married sex may feel like you are “getting away with something really cool,” be something that you want to do frequently, and something that you cannot possibly do as much/well as you dream about in your imagination. That’s not bad. That is the natural transition that occurs when an activity moves from being not allowed to allowed; unavailable to available; anticipated to reality.
Admittedly, there is a difference in the general perspective on driving and sex. The association of guilt with driving is not commonly used to prevent under-aged driving like it is to prevent pre-marital sex. So while we may have made a similar mental/emotional transition before, the transition regarding our moral view of sex is more intense than the permissibility of driving.
In this case, I would invite you to read Acts 10:9-33. Here we have Peter, a devout Jewish man, who has been raised to view certain foods (and people) as unclean. God, by bringing Peter into the New Covenant, has lifted these food restrictions, but Peter is uncomfortable (even argumentative) with the transition. In the transition, there are several parts that are socially awkward (v. 25-28). But in the end, there was a greater appreciation for the Gospel that took the primary focus off of food or ethnic differences.
Again, we see parallels to the transition that is in front of newlywed couples. Christian convictions about sex had previously made sex wrong. God, by bringing the couple into the marriage covenant, lifts the restriction. But the couple may still feel a little awkward about the new freedom. Hopefully, however, the greater appreciation for the Gospel that emerges transcends the learning curve and emotional uneasiness that may exist. Use this quote from Ed Welch to help you with seeing the Gospel in the new freedom of sex.
“Our Christian task is to remember that every sexual union is profound. It always points to the deeper union that we have with Christ by faith. Sex mirrors the glory of God in the gospel. It exists because it expresses God’s oneness with His people, His fidelity to us, His ownership of us, His self-sacrifice, and the pleasure we can take in this relationship… Sex is a good thing, there’s no question about that, but we don’t need sex. Humanness, found in Jesus, is not defined by sexual intercourse.” Edward T. Welch in “The Apostle Paul: On Sex” The Journal of Biblical Counseling (Fall 2005).
I think we can take the example of Peter further on this topic. Peter’s understanding of the Gospel’s transformation of food and race was not final in Acts 10. Peter had times when he doubted this new freedom and fell back into his old mindset (Gal 2:11-14). As a newlywed couple your comfort and freedom in expressing love through sex without guilt may grow gradually; two steps forward, one step back.
The greatest grace that you can offer one another in this process is patience. It would be easy to grow selfish, angry, hurt, or defensive if you new spouse went through a spell of feeling morally uncomfortable with sex. In such moments, it is important not only to return to truth (you are now right for sex) but also to speak that truth with the heart of the Gospel (“I want to share in God’s good gift to us with you” vs. “You are keeping something from me that is rightfully mine”).
But that leads us into the, “How do you deal with times when you want sex and the other doesn’t?” questions, which will be discussed in an upcoming post. Does ending the blog like this make me a tease?