Do you want to know the question that keeps me up at night? It’s this: How can I honor God with my sexuality in the face of my sexual brokenness and unmet desires?
At Authentic Intimacy, we often use words like sexual wholeness or sexual integrity instead of sexual purity. The first time I remember hearing this distinction, I was skeptical. Isn’t that just a fancy repackaging of the ideas I’d grown up with in the purity movement? But as I started to digest it a bit more, I realized it is possible to walk in sexual integrity, even though my life and past may be filled with regrets.
Sexual integrity is about pursuing wholeness, a daily surrender to God in every area of our lives, including our sexual brokenness. I’m not a piece of chewed up gum or a discarded flower pedal. My purity is bought with the blood of Christ and does not change according to my daily decisions. This gave me hope. Suddenly it seemed possible for even someone like me to honor God with my sexuality.
I’d like to share with you a practical roadmap in the form of an acronym “MAPS” that has helped me understand how I can pursue sexual integrity while also openly acknowledging my sexual brokenness. They are not mutually exclusive. In fact, I think a healthy awareness of our brokenness is actually a first step to sexual integrity.
Think for a moment about the last time you felt you failed to live up to God’s standard. What was your gut reaction as you realized your sin? Did you run toward God like a child assured of His love and acceptance? Or were you like our parents of old who ran and hid, covering themselves with fig leaves because of their shame? The directional movement of our hearts in these moments can be very insightful. If I hide from God, it may mean I still buy into the idea that my purity depends on me and can be lost rather than believing God is safe to run to because nothing—not even a momentary moral relapse—can snatch me out of His hand.
We all have deep God-given longings for intimacy and connection that will either drive us to move toward God or away from Him, seeking satisfaction and fulfillment elsewhere. When I face temptation, it helps to ask myself: If I meet this desire in the way my flesh is urging me to in this moment, will that draw me nearer to God or make me want to pull away? And as I get to know the heart of God toward me on a deeper level, I am reminded that I’m His beloved and there’s nothing I can do to make Him love me any less. I am also learning, in my moments of failure, brokenness, and angst, to move toward Him and call out to Him for help, forgiveness, and mercy in my moments of need. I take great comfort from Psalm 121 that reminds me that God welcomes my need and guards my foot from slipping. “I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip—he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.”
You will always be moving, either moving toward God or away from Him. Sexual integrity means making the choice to always walk toward Him, trusting His promises of love and redemption.
Sexual integrity doesn’t mean that you’ll never struggle (or fail). Rather it means choosing to run toward God and others with authenticity and honesty. We need radical accountability in our lives. Solomon reminds us, “Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!” Paul urges us, “Confess your sins to one another and pray for each other that you may be healed” and “to restore a brother or sister gently and to bear one another’s burdens.” The Bible is full of exhortation to invite others into our lives and struggles, and yet, often the reality of our lives looks very different.
Do you have someone who knows your deepest fears, pains, and temptations?
Do you feel safe confessing your sin to a brother or sister in your life?
Do you have someone who knows the hard questions you want to be asked but are afraid to bring up?
The answers to these questions often determine the extent to which we can effectively battle particular temptations and weaknesses. When we don’t walk in integrity, we split off pieces of our lives that we never share openly with other people. I remember the internal rupture that my sexual confusion and missteps can cause in my life. The shame and secrecy clings like a wet cloak, weighing me down and making me feel inauthentic as a believer.
Now I have a depth of community and two people, my mentor and my counselor, to whom I have given permission to ask me anything. No question is off limits, and when I answer with raw honesty, I know they will hold whatever I say with grace. People like this are blessed barriers to sin in our lives. God desires us to wisely open our hearts to others for our own good.
Our sexual experiences and pleasure are not ultimately about us. In today’s world, that is a shocking—and to some downright offensive—statement. When I'm faced with a difficult choice or am tempted to compromise, I need to be reminded that my sexuality is about something, Someone, so much bigger. Here is something to consider: sexuality is really about the glory of God.
Think for a moment about this: What is our ultimate purpose as believers on this earth? Jesus tells us pretty clearly in Matthew 5:16, “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” The purpose of us letting our light shine or having our good works be seen is not about us at all. It’s so that other people may see and give glory to God. When we live in a way that honors God with all aspects of our lives, especially our sexuality, it reveals the true substance and value that a relationship with Jesus brings to our lives. If we walk humbly, admitting our dependence upon God to live with integrity and repenting when we fall, we put the goodness of God on display.
Living with sexual integrity—surrendered to and embracing God’s design for our sexuality—is about so much more than being committed to monogamous sex or celibacy. It’s about living a life that points to the ultimate wedding and the ultimate Lover, who laid down his life for His bride and presents her spotless without blemish. On my hardest days, this perspective shift gives purpose to the wrestling and shines rays of light into my despair. Perhaps God, in His kindness, is using my choice today to reflect His light a little bit brighter into the darkness around me.
Originally I had written this acronym with only 3 letters: MAP. But as I reflected, I sensed it was incomplete. We can move toward God in our struggle, have radical accountability, and adjust our perspective and still fight to have control over our lives. Ultimately, just knowing these truths is not enough. I know this firsthand as I continue to wrestle with God over broken dreams, disordered desires, and longings that may always be unmet in this lifetime. This is the hardest, often gut-wrenching part of living with sexual integrity: God calls us to surrender. To be brutally honest, I often approach surrender the way a child valiantly tries to delay bedtime, finding a million and one distractions or excuses to postpone the inevitable. Sexual integrity is impossible without surrender. Laying down my deepest longings and placing them in God’s hands takes unflinching trust as I give Him the treasures of my heart. David expresses his surrender this way, “Search me, God, and know my heart; Put me to the test and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there is any hurtful [lit: way of pain] way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way.” David knew that opening his whole heart to God and surrendering to His way was the only way to walk in integrity before God. I tell you, these words are written with tears, penned with the pain that comes from fighting to believe, “Jesus will cost you everything, and He’ll be worth so much more than that" (Greg Coles: Single, Gay, Christian).
Now, when I lay awake at night mulling over this question, I remind myself that God has not left me without guidance. He reminds me in those moments to move toward His heart (even as He moves toward me). I seek out radical accountability, entrusting my heart to others. I fix my eyes on eternity just like Jesus did as He looked to the joy set before Him, knowing that my greatest gain lies in surrendering every part of my heart to Him. Then, broken though I am, my Savior takes the offered pieces of my heart and makes me whole in Him. This is sexual integrity.
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