About fifteen years ago, I heard this statement from Dr. Harry Schaumburg, the author of False Intimacy: “You can only be as sexually mature as you are spiritually mature.” At the time, this statement made no sense to me but it obviously intrigued me as I remember it so many years later.
In my experience, it seemed like the opposite – the more holy you are, the less experienced or sexually mature you will probably be. Just think about titles like “adult film” or “mature rating.” These misnomers make it seem as if the thirty year old who has been with dozens of partners would be the definition of sexual maturity.
Our understanding of this depends on how we define sexual “maturity.” Would we have defined Hugh Hefner, the founder of Playboy as sexually mature because of his many sexual experiences? God defines maturity differently in every area of life, including what it means to be “sexually mature.” A better definition is this: sexual maturity is a person’s capacity to experience the fullness of what God designed sexuality to be and represent. With this definition of maturity, I’ve come to see how true Harry Schaumberg’s statement is. Whether you are single, married, or divorced, your sexual maturity isn’t tied to sexual experience but intricately dependent on your spiritual development.
There is a good chance that you have connected with Authentic Intimacy because you have a sexual struggle or pain point. Perhaps you struggle with temptation and shame. Maybe you doubt the goodness of biblical teaching on sexuality or you are struggling to experience sex as a true blessing within your marriage. While psychological and relational advice may help, your ultimate healing and freedom must include spiritual growth.
Below are four ways that growing in your relationship with the Lord will, in time, accelerate your sexual healing and maturity.
Discernment: Growing in the knowledge of what is good.
- How far is too far to go in a dating relationship?
- Is it wrong to masturbate?
- Does God approve of sex toys in a Christian marriage?
- Should I ever attend a gay wedding?
- My coworker is transgender. Do I use her requested name and pronouns?
While there are many things in the Bible about sex that God is very clear about, there are other things (like the questions above) that are not so clearly addressed and require discernment.
How do you know the answer to questions like these? You could do a google search or ask a friend, but God ultimately desires to give each of His children the wisdom to navigate complicated questions about sexuality (and every other area of life). The author of Hebrews expressed his disappointment in the maturity level of the Christians to which he was writing. They had stalled in their growth and lacked discernment about spiritual things. As a result, they needed spiritual milk. Milk is pre-digested food, like carefully explained sermons. These Christians had known the Lord long enough to be not only digesting their own spiritual food, but to be teaching other people. The author tells them how to grow in their spiritual discernment and maturity, “Solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have learned to discern good from evil.”
If you have lived in your city for a few years, you know the layout of the streets and neighborhoods. You don’t need Siri or Google Maps to give you step-by-step directions. Instead, you navigate through your deep knowledge base. This is how God wants to give you discernment in the area of sexuality. Young Christians need rules to follow because they lack understanding. As we mature, God shows us the landscape of His heart, leading us to discernment.
It’s wonderful that you are seeking guidance from ministries like Authentic Intimacy, but God also wants you to be in the Scriptures constantly so that you can discern what is right and so that you can be equipped to help others walk in truth.
Question: What would it look like for you to use Scripture constantly, becoming mature in discerning good and evil?
Faith: Growing to trust in God.
In her thirties, Sarah, a Christian wife and mother, began to give into her same-sex attraction through a series of sexual relationships with women. It would be many years before she would confess these affairs to her husband, but she battled shame and the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Eventually, she confided in a Christian counselor. Through months of counseling, Sarah began to understand how her draw to women went beyond sexual desire. Because of the sexual abuse she suffered as a child, Sarah couldn’t trust men, including her husband, with the most vulnerable aspects of her.
Resisting temptation had to go beyond saying “no” to Sarah’s sexual desires and attractions. Her journey to freedom and stability in her marriage required her to grow in learning to trust the Lord through addressing the pain in her past.
Your struggle with sexual sin and brokenness will always intersect with your faith in the Lord. You will ask questions like:
- Where was God when I was assaulted?
- If I follow what the Bible says about sex, does that mean I’ll be lonely forever?
- Pornography is my comfort. If I stop using, how will I cope with the anxiety and pain of my life?
One day, some religious people asked Jesus, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” Instead of listing the sins they should resist or the good deeds they expected Him to recite, Jesus simply said, “The work of God is to believe…” Yes, this work of believing in Jesus began when you gave your heart to Him, but it also needs to continue. You must believe that He sees you, that He is able to meet your needs, that He forgives and cleanses you from sin, and that He is infinitely better than porn, that relationship or fleeting moments of sexual pleasure. And you will have to work to believe. View every trial, struggle and temptation as an opportunity for your faith to be tested and refined. Trials in themselves don’t grow your faith. It is the work of surrender, prayer and trust that matures your faith through trial.
Question: Is your faith in God greater today than it was a year ago?
Self-control: the ability to choose what is good.
As I write this, my husband and I are on Whole 30, a meal plan that eliminates foods like sugar, dairy, processed foods, and every source of grain from your diet for thirty days. When people find this out they say, “Oh, that must be so hard!” It’s really not, for two reasons:
First, I’ve adapted my diet over the last few decades to eat healthy foods. Whole 30 isn’t drastically different from how I normally eat. If I had tried Whole 30 several years ago, I’m sure it would have been far more challenging. At this point, my body doesn’t feel well when I eat rich or processed foods.
Secondly, there are a lot of great things I can eat. I love fruits, nuts, salads, eggs, fish and meat. My taste buds have adapted to truly enjoy these healthy foods. Grapes taste as sweet as candy, and pistachios are better than chips.
The same thing is true when you work to overcome wrong sexual desires and impulses. Whether you battle selfishness in your marriage, lustful thoughts or pornography, God wants to change your character so that your heart is trained to crave what is good. Sexual maturity requires you to say “no” to junk sex (like porn, hookups and even unhealthy sex in marriage) so you can say “yes” to intimacy.
Although you will not always hear this truth in our world, your flesh is not your friend. That doesn’t mean your body or your desires are bad, but your sin nature will turn your desires against you. Paul explained to the Romans that each of us are in a constant battle to either be controlled by the flesh or by God’s Spirit. As you choose God and deny your flesh, you will eventually begin to truly desire what is good. This takes time… this takes maturity.
Question: What is one sinful thing you used to crave but no longer desire with the same intensity?
Love: The heart to choose the best thing.
I was recently talking with a young Christian man who is sleeping with his girlfriend. Because of his church background, he knows that sex before marriage isn’t God’s plan but he justifies his actions by saying, “I really love her!”
How limited is this young man’s understanding of love! In having sex with his girlfriend, he is engaging in something very unloving, setting her up for shame and potential heartbreak. If he truly understood love, he would treat her with dignity and respect, refusing to take something sexually that can only be experienced without shame and guilt within marriage.
So much of what we think is “love” is really a whitewashed version of getting and doing what we want. The loving aunt who blasts her transgender nephew with Scripture verses. The loving wife who uses sex as a form of rewarding her husband’s good behavior.
Only with supernatural help can we learn to love as Jesus loves.
The most sexually mature people are those who, by the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, are great lovers. They are gracious, humble, forgiving, never demanding, holding to what is true, and fully free to celebrate in what God declares to be good.
Question: How has learning to love as Jesus does impacted how I steward my sexuality?
Regardless of your age or marital status, God wants you to be sexually mature. This means that you are not tossed and turned by every wind of culture. Instead, you have a solid understanding of God’s purpose for your sexuality, you have the faith to trust Him, the self-control to say yes to what is good, and you have a life that is a reflection of Jesus’s love.
Contrary to what culture and media portray, the most sexually mature people are those who have a sincere relationship with God. And remember that spiritual maturity is not necessarily correlated with time. Timothy, who was young, was more spiritually mature than many of the older people in his church. The process of growing in the Lord requires a persistent desire to be transformed by the renewing of your mind through godly community, biblical study, prayer and surrender.
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