10 Things You Should Know about Sex

1. Sex is God’s good creation.

God in his great wisdom, for his glory and our good, has chosen to place us in a world where sex is a significant part of the human experience. The issue of sex is important and unavoidable because God, in wisdom and love, chose it to be.

Because sex is the creation of God’s hand and exists under the control of his sovereignty, we should approach it with reverence and awe, not with embarrassment and timidity. Sex came from him, belongs to him, and continues to exist through him—to him be the glory.

2. Sex can be dangerous.

Sadly, today sex—a beautiful creation of God—functions in the surrounding culture like a spiritual solvent eating away at the very fabric of the human community. It has perverse power to master your heart and, in so doing, determine the direction of your life. It gives the buzz that you’re in control while, at the very same time, becoming the master that progressively chains you to its control. It offers you an inner sense of well-being while having no capacity whatsoever to satisfy your heart.

It seduces you with the prospect of contentment-producing pleasure but leaves you empty and craving more. Sex holds out the possibility that you will finally be satisfied but instead causes you to envy whoever has more and better than you do. It sells you the lie that physical pleasure is the pathway to spiritual peace. Sex is the work of the Creator’s hands but tends to promise you what only the Creator can deliver. It is beautiful in itself but has become distorted and dangerous by means of the fall.

3. Suffering will impact your sexuality.

If suffering is every person’s experience, then you should expect suffering to impact your sexuality. You will suffer the reality that right here, right now, sex doesn’t function the way that God intended. You will face the redefinition, distortion, and misuse of sex. You suffer the temptation to take your sexual life outside of God’s clear boundaries.

You will suffer being blindsided by sexual temptation at the mall, on your computer, when watching Netflix, or, sadly, even when you’re doing a Google search on your phone. You will suffer women exposing their bodies in public or men treating women like they’re little more than physical toys for their pleasure. You will suffer the hardship of trying to protect your children from all the sexual danger out there, while you work to keep your own heart pure.

Because you know of all the seductive temptations, you will suffer issues of trust with those you love. Some of us will suffer sexual abuse, and others of us will suffer the exhaustion that comes from trying to keep our hearts pure. You will suffer misunderstanding and mockery as you try to stay inside God’s boundaries in a culture that laughs at the thought of sexual boundaries. Paul assumes that we will suffer, and if he’s right (and he is), that suffering will include our sexuality.

4. Sex cannot satisfy your heart.

Sex is powerfully pleasurable, but it cannot satisfy your heart. The touch of another person stimulates your body and your heart, but it never leaves you fulfilled. Sex connects you in powerful and dramatic ways to another person, but it has no ability whatsoever to make you a better person.

Whether we know it or not, every human being lives in search of a savior. We are all propelled by a quest for identity, inner peace, and some kind of meaning and purpose. And we all look for it somewhere. Here’s the bottom line: looking to creation to get what only the Creator can give you always results in addiction of some kind. The thing you hoped would serve you pulls you into its service. What seemed like freedom ends up being bondage. The thing is not the problem; what you’ve asked of it is.

God’s creative intention was to bring glory to himself by the pleasures he created.

5. God is at the center of your sexual world.

Our problem with sex doesn’t begin with lust, with bad choices, or with sexual misbehavior. Our problem with sex begins when we forget that God must be at the center of this part of our lives as he must be with any other. When you have no greater motivation in sex than your own satisfaction, you are already in sexual trouble, even if you don’t know it yet. How have you tended to put yourself in the center of your world of sexuality?

Whether or not you functionally recognize it, at the epicenter of your sexual world exists a God of awesome power, glory, and grace. Sex in its rightful place in your heart and life always begins by recognizing that he is at the center.

6. Sex is deeply spiritual.

Sex is not an a-religious thing. Sex is deeply spiritual. Your relationship to your own sexuality and the sexuality of others always reveals your heart. Your sexual life is always an expression of what you truly worship. Sex is deeply religious. In sex you are either self-consciously submitting to God or setting yourself up as God. In other words, sex is never simply a horizontal thing. Sex always connects you to the God who created your body, gave you eyes to see and a heart that desires, and tells you how you are to steward this aspect of your personhood.

7. Sexual sin starts with your heart.

Here’s where the words of Christ drive us: our struggle with sexual sin is not first a struggle with the environment in which we live or with the people that we live near. Our struggle with sexual sin reveals the dark and needy condition of our hearts. We are our biggest problem.

When it comes to sexual sin, the greatest sexual danger to any human being anywhere lives inside him, not outside. Isolation, changes of location and relationship, and management of behavior never work because they don’t target the place where the problem exists—the heart.

8. Pleasure is God-glorifying.

God’s creative intention was to bring glory to himself by the pleasures he created. Each pleasurable thing was perfectly created and designed to reflect and point to the greater glory of the One who created it. These things were designed to be pleasure inducing but also for a deeply spiritual purpose.

They were meant to remind you of him. They were meant to amaze you not just with their existence but with the wisdom, power, and glory of the One who made them. They were put on earth to be one of God’s means of getting your attention and capturing your heart. The pleasure of sex is meant to remind me of the glory of my intimate union with Christ, which only grace could produce.

9. The pleasure of sex is no substitute for God’s grace.

It’s right to celebrate the goodness of God in giving you sweet pleasures to enjoy, and you should never feel guilty enjoying them as long as you do it within his boundaries and for his glory. It’s wonderful to celebrate the tasty pleasures of food, the stunning beauty of a fine piece of art, the sweet intimacy of sex, or the sound drama of a well-written piece of music. But as you’re celebrating pleasure, don’t forget to celebrate grace.

God’s grace has the power to protect you from asking of pleasure what you should not ask. God’s grace gives you the power to say no to the seductive call of pleasure when it is vital to say no. God’s grace offers you forgiveness when you have failed to do both these things. And God’s grace ushers you into the presence of the One who alone can give you the lasting satisfaction and joy that your heart seeks. So as you’re celebrating the physical pleasures of the created world, take time to celebrate the eternal pleasures of redemption.

10. Sex is intended to point us to God himself.

Since God created both you and sex, it is impossible to properly understand sex and participate in it appropriately if you are practically ignoring God and his existence. By means of creation you are his, and your sex life is his.

Sex that recognizes God’s existence becomes the beautiful, intimate, relational act of worship that it was intended to be. In the midst of all its physical delights, it does not forget God. It remembers that everything enlivened and enjoyed in sex belongs to him. It rests in his control and celebrates his care in the midst of the most intimate of human connections.

Paul David Tripp (DMin, Westminster Theological Seminary) is a pastor, author, and international conference speaker. He is also the president of Paul Tripp Ministries. He has written a number of popular books on Christian living, including What Did You Expect?Dangerous CallingParenting, and New Morning Mercies. He lives in Philadelphia with his wife Luella and they have four grown children. For more information and resources, visit paultrippministries.org.

Graceful Guidelines for Sexual Healing

manupsidedown“Most people in the “recovery” or “therapy” process yearn for sexual healing. I make this statement as a therapist and as a human being who has facilitated myself and many others on the journey.”Michael Picucci PhD, MAC, SEP

Sexual healing is the shame-free revisiting of complex sexual histories, limitations and perceptions combined with new awareness, understanding, and compassion. In the process of this rejuvenation, we learn how to merge our spiritual and sexual energies. The “sexual-spiritual split” is a culturally induced, deep psychic schism that haunts relationships and precludes emotional fulfillment. Resolving this powerful inner conflict is necessary for true body, mind and spirit connections.

These guidelines can be used to illuminate and focus a core healing journey that is central to having life mastery, which is the awareness of aliveness, sensual pleasure and contentment.

FIVE GRACEFUL GUIDELINES FOR SEXUAL HEALING:

1. Increase body awareness 

2. Share sexual history 

3. Dialogue in relationship

4. Create Fusion Exercises

5. Rediscover adolescent awkwardness

1. Body Awareness. Introduce yourself to the possibility of bringing full body awareness and energy to your sexual regions. Some of us have depleted energy levels and a diminished sense of aliveness in our pelvic area and a fullness of energy in the our heart region. Others feel constricted with their heart energy while having an intense pelvic charge. This is particularly evident in early intimacy and bonding. Because of this culturally fragmented energy disbursement in the body, sexual motivation usually has more to do with feelings like neediness, escape from other feelings, and proving one’s self-worth, than feelings of pure pleasure and the normal desire for interconnectedness.

For many, pleasure can only be realized in highly charged scenarios. Often they are avoided because they are dangerous and/or self-destructive. Some of us are just fearfully frozen. Others become frustrated at a perceived lack of ability to negotiate the complexities. Many repeat unfulfilling patterns again and again. Whatever one’s history may be, the following exercises have proven helpful in energizing and awakening sexual aliveness.

In Latin and most Eastern and metaphysical philosophies, the word “breath” is synonymous with “spirit.” Conscious breathing brings energy (and spirit) into the body. This exercise will help improve anyone’s ability to breathe and improve sexual aliveness. First, do conscious, deep breathing exercises focused in the groin. Imagine that you can take your breath all the way down to the perineum, that lowermost part of the crotch between the vagina and the rectum or the scrotum and rectum. In reality, most feel they can’t breathe into their perineum, yet imagination can produce surprising results. This exercise can be done while brushing your teeth, riding in a car, or for a few minutes before or after sleeping. While the results may not be immediate, with a little practice and patience, deeper breathing of this sort will help lead to spiritual-genital integration.

The “rotation exercise” is an exercise that you can combine with the conscious pelvic breathing. Stand up straight, put your feet shoulder-length apart, relax (unlock) your knees, and rotate your hips in a circular motion, stretching out in all directions as far as is comfortable. Imagine that you are standing in the center of a mostly empty peanut butter jar, and you want to use your hip and pelvis, in a circular motion, to clean the peanut butter off the sides of the jar. Keep rotating, first in one direction, then the other. Lower and raise yourself to completely clean the inside of that jar. Attention to conscious breathing will be helpful. Take a moment or two to giddily and randomly move your pelvis, tuning into the energy and spontaneously moving and following your inner current. Just go with the flow for a few moments. You will begin, subtly at first, feeling a renewed aliveness in this region that is sensual, sexual, and centering – all at the same time.

These exercises are also excellent “warm-ups” for more pleasurable sexual experiences, alone or to be shared with a partner. (For additional information and exercises on all of the guidelines in this article see my books: “The Journey Toward Complete Recovery: Reclaiming Your Emotional and Spiritual & Sexual Wholeness” and “Ritual as Resource: Energy for Vibrant Living.”)

2. Sexual History. Begin a process of uncovering and sharing sexual secrets from your past with “safe” people. It is important to do this practice with those who are sensitive, understanding and compassionate listeners. These “secrets” are rightfully too sensitive to be exposed to individuals who will not afford them suitable respect. Along with these secrets there is a need to bring awareness to religious and other spiritually infused influences on your early sexual development and evolution.

I suggest writing a narrative history, or outline, to put one’s sexual development in a historical perspective. This begins with the first remembered “exposure” to sex, sexual energy, or sexual material. Then, as best you can remember, recreate your development with subsequent incidents. This exercise will help put your current sexual expression in an understandable and historical context. By sharing this history with a safe person, one can further heal the sexual-spiritual split.

After sharing “sexual histories in perspective” (in a shame-free setting), your psyche will gradually produce additional memories, further illuminating your history. Shared sexual histories provide a grounding and framework for your present experience while simultaneously creating a platform for new possibilities.

3. Dialogue in relationship. Encourage yourself to risk cultivating meaningful dialogue around sexual issues in dating situations and with significant partners. The deepest interpersonal healing takes place in relationship. Finding and cultivating a safe partner is, of course, pivotal. One can do a great deal of healing with therapists and within community. However, that healing will be limited by the appropriate professional and cultural boundaries of these relationships. To ultimately heal the sexual-spiritual split, we must explore relating to another human being while attempting to bring both polarized aspects of the split to this relationship without walls of shame arising. It is important to work through shameful aspects and feelings of inadequacy about sex with a partner. It is fine to move slowly. “Intention” and “willingness” are paramount.

4. Fusion Exercises. Consciously combine meditative, spiritual, or contemplative experiences with your own sexuality. Such experimentation is a very different and awkward experience for most people at first, but in time one feels a new and deeper connection with both pleasure and release. Sexual experiences often grow from being simply physical (with genital concentration), to becoming a full-body, kinesthetic event that can be powerful and rewarding.

Suggesting a combination of sexual and spiritual experimenting often brings laughter and confusion. People always ask, “How are we supposed to do that?” They often break out in further embarrassed laughter and disbelief when I suggest, “Try experimenting with masturbating (or self-loving) and praying at the same time!”

This laughter is a defense. Notice how foreign the suggestion feels, emphasizing the reality of an internal dichotomy! Think about this in relation to merging your core sexuality with a spiritual, loving union or relationship with yourself or another.

Create rituals with candlelight, mirrors and incense for sessions of self-loving and self-pleasuring. Slowly begin to make a “special time & place” in your life for, and begin to exalt in, your body (however you may perceive it), your sexuality, alone or with a companion, as an ecstatic all-encompassing manifestation of your humanity.

Use your intuitive creativity and responsible, courageous risk-taking abilities to create your own additional practices to merge sexual and spiritual energies. Like flowers growing toward the sun, as we humans experience this fusion in our psyche, our bodies and our defensive reflexes organically grow toward sexual and spiritual unity.

5. Rediscover adolescent awkwardness. Become willing to enter a period of discovery which I call “adolescent awkwardness.” In dating or in a significant long-term relationship, a time comes when the healing of this internalized sexual-spiritual schism must be addressed for the relationship to grow. We must surrender preconceived concepts regarding sexuality and intimacy and join another person in authentic adolescent discovery. Many of us missed a healthy adolescence, and therefore cannot go further into intimacy without visiting this important building block. It is important to give yourself permission to feel adolescent and awkward with yourself and another. It is rich, fertile ground in which to plant seeds of new awareness. Very workable and pleasing possibilities will grow from these seeds.

Appreciate Resistance

Appreciation of our own resistance signals the most important awareness of healing. All of the above exercises will initially bring resistance to the fore. This is good: we want to bring resistance up out of the unconscious, where it has ominous rule, and expose it to a “process of resolution.” By connecting with the resistance, and moving through it, we have the opportunity to discern and untangle the diverse feelings and incidents that have formed themselves into walls of shame.

Whenever shame or blockage surfaces (often feeling like a wall) in a budding or long-term intimate relationship, the struggle to share it is also the process of healthy adolescent development. It is the joining of less mature and more mature aspects of ourselves together in a sensitive, growing relationship. In this process, there is great value in the shame. Shame flirts with us. It lures us while at the same time it tries to hide. As suggested by the author Max Scheler in “Shame and Pride,” “It is from in and under the shame that our shimmering magic emerges.”

HEALING IS POSSIBLE: BELIEF CREATES THE EXPERIENCE

Combining love with sexual expression is an act of higher consciousness. It is important to believe that when two human beings share love’s energy combined with erotic energies, a transcendent experience occurs, one that is often profoundly healing and enriching. This is a very sacred sharing and a goal of a fulfilling sexual experience. Reaching this goal is the result of a conscious give and take, a negotiation of the openhearted experience of interconnectedness. Accepting that this is awkward, we need to learn to communicate our needs, desires and fantasies. Under each of the three currents are powerful and subtle feelings and energies that want to be expressed.

Releasing these expressions help us grow holistically; they teach us about natural aggression and passivity, about our feminine and masculine energies, and about pleasuring and being pleasured. They help dissolve shame, insecurities, and to accept contradictions and complexities. It exposes the need to experience them fully for healing, growth and self-understanding.

Contrary to what some believe about healthy sexuality, we need to learn that healthy loving expression includes the expression of our more shadowy desires as well as our tenderness. The delicate opening up of our repressed sexual histories, variations, deviations, and fantasies is enriching as well as healing. True and spiritual lovemaking is the interweaving choreography of our higher and our shadow selves. A holistic experience involves bringing together aspects of higher and lower self — how beautiful, and so very intimate to do so with open hearts.

EVALUATING OUR PROGRESS

To evaluate your progress in healing the sexual-spiritual split, I encourage you to simply ask yourself: What motives do I bring to sexuality? What do I want from the sexual aspect of my nature?

You will know that the healing is progressing when the answers to these questions emphasize spiritual fulfillment, integrating aggression and passivity, power and surrender, femininity and masculinity, and the desire for personal and shared experiences of fulfillment, pleasure and higher consciousness.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE on Psychology Tomorrow Magazine