Many Christian couples may be hesitant to approach the topic, but it is something that all married couples deal with: s-e-x. Authors Linda Dillow and Lorraine Pintus know that this is an intimidating subject for Christians, which is why they felt so strongly that they needed to write a book about it.
Intimacy Ignited is a verse-by-verse study of the Song of Solomon — what they call the best marriage manual ever written in the Bible. It addresses many of the issues that couples deal with regarding sex ? which seems to be a taboo topic of conversation in Christian circles. This can adversely affect women even more than men, the authors say.
“Christian women are just confused because the world is so different,” Linda says. “They (in the world) overemphasize sex and they exploit the female body, and a Christian woman looks at the world and says if they overemphasize this area, I should de-emphasize it in my marriage because I want to be godly.”
But this view is not biblical, Linda says. “We are excited that we can look in the Scriptures and show husbands and wives that God is a God of passion. He is excited about the passion between a husband and a wife, and He blesses it. He says to delight in it,” she says.
In fact, the authors say, the physical union between husband and wife is something that God uses to teach people spiritual principles. The deep level of oneness that couples experience in marriage is a portrait of the deep spiritual intimacy that Christ wants to have with them.
Lorraine believes one reason that this idea has become lost among couples ? even Christians ? is because “Satan is stepping up the assault of sexuality generally in the world.” As a result, sex has become distorted from what God originally intended it to be.
That is why, the authors say, when they speak at conferences they often have to start at the very beginning and reestablish what God’s view of sex really is. “Very few Christians give themselves permission to really receive God’s blessing on their intimacy,” Linda says.
Another difficulty that couples face is communicating about the physical aspects of their relationship. In their book, the authors provide practical suggestions to help couples discuss their expectations, likes, and dislikes.
“The Song of Solomon is all written in poetry,” Lorraine says. “They communicated using very poetic language. They gave very specific acts, but they used terms like fruit, garden, flowers, wine, and all of these to communicate sexually.” She suggests that couples make up their own private “sexual language” to make talking about it easier and more fun.
Sometimes, Lorraine says, this can mean disregarding ways that the couple previously referred to sex, especially if the terms they used were degrading. She gives the example of a former prostitute who attended one of her conferences. The woman had accepted God’s forgiveness and healing for her past, but she said she didn’t know how to move beyond her past in her relationship with her husband.
“The words they used to communicate things were crass, but now God had washed all this out and she needed to start new,” Lorraine says. Once they began using a new terminology, she says, the woman reported that their relationship became as pure as when they had first married.
In addition to reservations toward talking about sex, many couples must overcome other inhibitions. Often couples find that they, especially the women, feel insecure about their bodies. They may feel like they can’t live up to the images of beautiful women that they see in magazines and on television.
“One of the answers (for this) in the Song of Solomon is for the husband to praise his wife,” Lorraine says. “Tell her that she is beautiful. She is desirable. She is important. She is close to his heart.”
And praises are just as important for the man as well. The woman in the Song of Solomon praises her husband for his manliness and honor. “I think there is an embedded message there for women, that we need to praise our husbands for their character qualities, for who they are as a man,” Linda says.
While the authors emphasize that couples should feel uninhibited and free to delight in each other physically, they also point out that couples should agree together what is or is not appropriate for their relationship. And anything they decide should fall within the boundaries of what God has established as suitable.
“God gives total freedom to one husband and one wife, in private, for life,” Linda says. “When we bring someone else into our one flesh intimacy, whether that person is in our mind, on a piece of paper, in a video, or in the living flesh, we desecrate it.”
She says that couples need to understand their own freedoms and be aware of the way Satan is using things like pornography to destroy marriages. She advises couples to ask three questions to consider whether or not a behavior is appropriate:
- Is it prohibited in Scripture?
- Is it beneficial?
- Does it involve anybody else?
Also, she says, couples should become “servant lovers” and always consider their spouse above themselves. Christians know that they are to look out for others’ interests besides our own, but this principle often gets overlooked in the bedroom.
However, “serve” doesn’t mean one person has to do whatever the other one wants, Linda says. It simply means thinking about what the other person desires more than thinking about himself or herself.
“If both the husband and the wife are doing that, can you imagine how wonderful the intimacy is going to be because he is thinking of her and she is thinking of him?” she says. “It just changes everything.”
The Song of Solomon illustrates this concept. “The first four chapters of Song of Solomon are the ideal,” Linda says. “Then it kind of goes downhill for the next four and you see their selfishness. He comes late at night to make love when she is asleep, and she rejects him so he goes off in a huff. It sounds like it could have been written today.”
Later in the book the couple approaches things differently. The husband praises his wife with his words because he knows that is what she needs, and the wife performs a sensuous dance for her husband because she knows that is his love language.
“So we see them acting as servant lovers to one another after they did it wrong. That’s encouraging because we are going to do it wrong too.”
The authors also discuss sexual woundedness in the book. For people who have been involved in an adulterous relationship, or for women who have had an abortion, the physical aspect of a marriage is even more difficult because they must deal with scars from their past.
“The enemy has sold us a lie,” Linda says. “The lie is that when you come to Christ, His power can clean up all of these areas around your life, but there is one area beyond His redemptive healing, and that’s your sexuality.”
The authors say they have seen many women healed by God. One that they mention in particular is a woman whose parents brought her into satanic rituals at six months of age and she was sexually abused by many men for years, but God set her free from her past.
“She got married, and she looked us in the eye and said, ?My wedding night was beautiful'” Linda says. “That’s a miracle.”
“I want to just take every woman’s face in my hands and say it’s for this that Jesus died,” she says. “Do we really believe that His death paid the price for everything? God can do it in an instant, or He can do it through a process, but He’s about setting us free. God can heal your past.”
This applies to couples’ relationships too. For many couples intimacy fades over time, but God can make that aspect of their marriage new again too. The first step to dealing with sexual issues in your relationship and igniting intimacy in your marriage is to talk with your spouse and seek God’s wisdom through prayer.
“The way we begin all change is this area is not in the bedroom,” Linda says. “It’s on our knees. We just need to get on our knees and ask the Holy Spirit to unleash us so we can be who God wants us to be.”
Perhaps couples can start by reading Song of Solomon together.
Intimacy Ignited includes a Bible study that couples can do together, on their own, or in a small group. For more information about the authors’ books and conferences visit www.intimateissues.com.
Copyright © 2006 CBN.com 2006. Used with permission.
By Belinda Elliott, CBN.com Daily Life Producer.