To be honest, part of the reason I have pretty much avoided writing about this subject is because I have very little desire to debate others about the role of women in the church. Not because I think I’m right or I’ve landed on some eternal truth, but because I often find discussions such as these to be rather fruitless and distracting. Fruitless in that they do not advance the Kingdom and distracting in that they take our eyes, however briefly, off of Jesus Christ as our Head.
However, I’ve had people email me over my three years of blogging with greetings that begin with “As a fellow complementarian…” Or “As another like-minded egalitarian…” These emails make me laugh because never once have I ever referred to myself as either of these titles, nor would I ever.
But, what happens when you have a blog is that people assume they know you. They assume they’ve got you all figured out. If you write about your marriage a few times, they wrongly believe they have been given a full and clear look into its intricacies and intimacies. One post about my sex life a night in my bedroom does not make. Sorry.
My daughter is six-years old and full of questions. Why, how, huh? All day long. In her questioning, she has inevitably asked me about sex. When I was hugely round and very pregnant with her youngest brother, she asked how he came to be in my belly and how he would make his way out.
After giving the most scientific and precise answer I could, I ended with “Does that make sense?” To which she paused and replied, “Not really.”
I fret not because I know that this initial conversation about sex will be one of hopefully many. Yes, I said hopefully many.
Because I want my children to ask me lots and lots of questions about sex. I want them to feel free to bring up the topic at bedtime, at the dinner table, when we are baking cookies (let’s be honest…this isn’t happening. I’m not Martha Stewart), whenever.
Recently, I had the opportunity to speak to a group of women about expectations in marriage. Some were married, a few were engaged, but most were single.
I had to admit to them that I had very few expectations when I got married. I had never been the girl who dreamed about being a wife or having a husband. I knew what marriage looked like when I was growing up and was certain I wanted no part.
So, I imagine that when it came time for me to say “I do,” I had been so set free by God from my former ideas about matrimony that I was essentially a clean slate. Can you imagine? A bride with no expectations?
We’ve heard it recited at wedding ceremonies, taught from the pulpit, and thrown around at marriage conferences. It has become almost cliche. We believe this verse intellectually–two becoming one. But, we also know that this verse is referring to much more than flesh. We don’t know how, but we know it. We understand it for what it is: a mystery.
How can, and do, two people join as one? Physically we know how it is possible (In this regard, the verse is quite literal). But, how do two become one in the spiritual and emotional sense?
A little over a week ago, the Pentagon announced that under Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, they are lifting the 19-year ban on women serving in front line combat positions and potentially elite commando jobs. The decision opens up some hundreds of thousands of potential job positions for women in the military, and could come to include positions in the Navy SEALS and the Army’s Delta Force.
When I first heard the news, my reaction was twofold. First, I was a little surprised–surprised that the decision came down and curious to know if there really were thousands of women currently serving in the military who were waiting to enter the front lines.
Second, I was certain that, what some saw as progress for women, others would see as an assault on the gender roles between men and women and as an attack on the military, as a whole.
Look, I’m gonna be honest and please don’t hate me, but Jonathan and I rarely fight. I think I can count on one hand the number of times we have really “fought,” and that is simply amazing for over 7 years of marriage.
So, now that I sound like the biggest marriage-bragger-snob-lady-ever, let me also say that I know that we are a rarity and more often than not, most couples argue on occasion. And sometimes, just sometimes, a good fight is necessary in marriage.
I also admit, that when Jonathan and I do have a battle royale, we have rules. That’s right. There are rules of engagement, which have become the parameters for our “fighting.”
Over the last year, I’ve had numerous husbands email me and share with me their heartbreaking, if not tragic, sex life stories. They explain how their wives, who were once willing to engage in sex 2-3 times a week have now become completely closed off, never wanting any type of physical interaction.
They tell me how much they love their wives, how attractive they still find her, how much they long to please her–be it emotionally or physically.
Some of these confessions are so raw, wounds so gaping, that I cry as I read them. Some are so personal and candid that I cannot read on and I pass them along to my husband and ask that he be the one to respond.
But, in all, I’m left feeling the sadness of their stories weigh upon my heart. How is it that two people who once felt the hope and promise of love–including sexual love– now live a sexless, passionless existence?
How do you get from one to the other? From a well-spring to a dried-up well? From a spiritual joining to an almost systematic dividing?
Of course, it is not just men who have written me expressing their pain and loss. Women write too (albeit far less) and share about their husbands lack of a sex drive, his disinterest in them physically, his addiction to pornography, or his excuses about being “too tired.”
Having a blog means at a certain point people will start asking if they can send you their books to read and review. I try to avoid book reviews because for one, I find them boring and secondly, I don’t like many of the books sent my way.
However, a few weeks back I received an advanced copy of How to Turn Your Marriage Around in 10 Days by Philip Wagner, Sr. Pastor of Oasis Church in Los Angeles. I started to casually peruse it like usual, expecting just another “marriage miracle” book and I have to say, this book might actually be the real deal.
Turns out, Wagner and his wife have been married 27 years and have counseled couples all over the world. So, it’s no surprise that his book is full of practical, candid, and relatable advice. So much so, that it inspired me to write a post in response.
Now, I don’t need to turn my marriage around in 10 days, but Wagner acknowledges that even if you have a great marriage there are still valuable lessons within the book’s pages.
My favorite chapter dealt with priorities. As I was reading I found myself saying things like, “Oh, snap” and “Oh, he just went there.” Wager pulls no punches and cuts straight to the point:
Does prioritizing time with friends speak about your spouse’s needs and wants, or yours? Do your checkbook entries reveal money spent growing your relationship, or escaping it? What is the priority of your life?
Now, I don’t know about you, but I strongly believe that where we spend our money is a reflection of our heart. I never thought about actually spending money to grow my marriage, but in reality, that is exactly what Jonathan and I do.
We save to take much-needed-child-free-vacations. We have date night every week and have committed that if ever there was a time when we would need to pay for babysitting (cause’ grandmas are awesome and free) we would. We spend money to prioritize our relationship.
Wagner goes on to say,”“Is your marriage business-centered? Children-centered? Friend-centered? Ministry-centered? Or is your marriage itself the priority?
Often times, Wagner explains, we are afraid to prioritize our marriages for fear that they will become idols. We believe in not neglecting our marriages or not letting them slip down on the list of priorities, but that is not the same as creating a marriage-centered life.
My husband has told me from day one of life together that I would always remain his number one ministry. Our marriage takes precedence over our children, our church, our friendships, our extended family. Some people find this idea uncomfortable or out of order. But, assuming both spouses are living Christ-centered lives, the next and logical priority must be one’s marriage.
My children, family, friends, and church will see a healthy marriage. That is our witness of Christ. In prioritizing our marriage, we are painting for those watching an intricate and powerful portrait of Jesus’ love for His bride. When we consider that some statistics suggest that the average marriage lasts only 7 years, why would we wait to begin cultivating marriage-centered lives?
I appreciated the questions Wagner poses on priorties and I submit them to you, as well:
Think about what takes your attention away from your marriage. Is it your career, money, friends, hobbies, or goals? Is it your ministry or Church? How will you prioritize your relationship? What will you give up in order to have a marriage-centered life?
I didn’t come to Jesus a virgin. Instead, I came to Jesus with far more sexual experience a girl of 16 should have. I also came to Jesus, however, somehow knowing that He didn’t care about any of that. He saw me as a virgin. It was a new day.
So, I suppose on some level, I expected the church to talk about this fact, too. I expected to hear rousing sermons on the gift of sex, ordained by God, pleasing to Him when experienced between man and wife. I expected to hear exactly what it was I was now waiting for, having once had sex, only to give it up in pursuit of Christ.
But, those messages from the church never came. Different ones did, however.
I think a youth pastor once talked about what not to do–how to not let things go too far with your boyfriend–so as to remain a virgin. You know, since virginity was the prize and all. Virginity, it seemed, was what all young Christian people were to aspire to.