Tag Archive: intimacy

We continue the Aslan Jesus series with a post from my friend KleinFrans [he’s not!]:

aslan“It isn’t Narnia, you know,” sobbed Lucy. “It’s you. We shan’t meet you there. And how can we live, never meeting you?”

“But you shall meet me, dear one,” said Aslan.

“Are – are you there too, Sir?” said Edmund.

“I am,” said Aslan. “But there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there.”

― C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

This weekend, my lovely wife Michelle and I enjoyed an amazing weekend out at the Knysna Oyster Festival on the east coast of South Africa. On Saturday morning we ran the half marathon along with 6000 other forest enthusiasts (the whole race is run through the Knysna forest).

What really struck me this time was how much the running clothes, gear, strapping and shoes have changed over the last 5 years or so. Not just the colours but the technology that goes into this gear; the shoes are lighter, made for more impact absorption but also more bounce (?!), more aerodynamic running shorts/pants/shirts, lightweight earphones to keep the loud breathing from reaching your ears and 16G of music to last you at least 5 times as long as the battery will last.

I am a back of the pack runner. I will never win a race and neither did 5999 other runners. In fact, only 4633 crossed the finish line while only approximately 1076 runners broke 120 minutes. Looking at these stats, evidence is starting to stack up against all this technology “helping people run faster.” The simple fact is we don’t. We run the same. Yet, we still look for obtaining the best shoes, lightest clothes and more streamline gizmos. Every day, we spend our time looking for a lot of unnecessary things that helps little (if at all) in streamlining your life apart from making you feel better about yourself.

I look at my everyday life and wonder at the end of the day, what did I spend my time on today? More importantly, what did I spend my time on today looking for and advancing the Kingdom of God (Matt 6:33). Did I actively spend my time today getting to know Jesus? 

In the Sermon on the Mount, (Matt 5-7), Jesus is basically setting the standard for the divine kingdom of God and in Matt 7 he brings the sermon to a conclusion. But look here at Matt 7:21-23

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

Note who the people are on whom the eternal door is closing (and there are “many”):

First of all, they say “Lord, Lord.” Kurios is the word translated in the Septuagint of the Old Testament for the name of Jehovah. These people are saying that they accept He is God and all that his deity involves. They say “Lord, lord” indicating their passion and commitment to Kurios.

Secondly they say three times, “in thy name, in thy name, in thy name.” We have been doing it for you Lord. It is respectful, it is zealous. They’re zealous in their public ministry of word and work. It sounds so good.

But the “safe Jesus” isn’t around when Jesus quotes from Psalm 6:8 and says in verse 23: ” And I will declare (confess, homologeo); I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness (iniquity).”

What a shock! Many did signs and wonders in Jesus’ name ! Depart from me !!! 

But look closely at the word “knew” (or know). The word “know” is used in the Bible of an intimate relationship. And Jesus says, “I never had any intimate relationship with you. Yes, you were around and I saw you doing things and running around in the church/community but I never had that intimacy with you.”

“Depart from me!!” Instead of living by these righteous principles that Jesus preached at the Sermon on the Mount, you always continue to do lawlessness. And instead of doing God’s will, His righteous standard (Matt 5 to 7), you always work lawlessness. Look at the Pharisees and the scribes; they were the MOST religious and professors of religion of their day! They had “churchianity” down to a science.

James (1:22-25) basically spells out the formula: faith minus works equals zero. Professing Christ means absolutely nothing if your life does not back it up. 

So what are you spending your time on? Running around doing things that matters little to the kingdom of God or are you “knowing” Christ actively?

“Depart from me” or “Enter into the joy of your master (Matt 25:21)”

“…that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there.”

― C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

[For the next part on Jesus kicking some Pharasaical butt, click here]

little did i know when i responded to someone’s comment about how much sex should take place in marriage [ironically in the comments section on a blog i posted on ‘Singleness’] that this would get as much attention as it did…

…and not just people viewing it, but people talking about it and i appreciated some of the comments so much that i felt like they deserved their own blog and so i am simply copying and pasting as is, some of the responses the ‘How much sex in marriage?’ blog received, and hope to do a follow-up post myself sometime soon as this feels like something we are interested in knowing more about…

Joel had this to say:

I like the way you tackle these difficult questions, thanks Brett. As a newly married guy I can stand behind your sentiments about having the right focus in terms of getting away from ‘me-centered’ attitudes towards sex or anything else. When I think of petty arguments my wife and I have had they are usually because one of us is being very selfish, and lets be honest selfishness is not attractive and is not going to get you anywhere sex-wise.

Leanne shared this:

I enjoyed this response. I think I might have something to add. When one partner feels they are not getting enough sex, let’s say its the man as that is more common, he tends to see himself as sexually unfulfilled, a victim, and his wife as the problem. Perhaps he even sees her as selfish or manipulative. What I think is important to remember is that both partners in a marriage should ideally be sexually fulfilled . This means the wife too. Is she not losing out just as much as her husband even if she has no interest in sex? Should her husband not have compassion on her and be aware that she too is suffering and missing out on the joy of sexual fulfilment? In this kind of situation it is important that the husband realise that he is not the only one short changed and that his wife is not the problem, at least not of her own volition and certainly not in isolation. Sensitivity is needed to understand the problem, be it biological (lack of libido, depression, discomfort etc), psychological (poor self image, upbringing etc) or relational (resentment, not feeling safe or loved etc).

I think very few women with a healthy libido in a loving marriage would withhold sex. And by that I don’t mean to say that there is no place for sex when you’re not in the mood sometimes. That’s for another conversation. I’m not saying that a woman can’t be sitting with a strong libido and deliberately withholding sex from a loving, sensitive husband, just that it’s far from the default explanation.

The problem needs to be addressed with sensitivity by both partners, seeking to understand more than to be understood, with the humility to expect that there may be another perspective to one’s own. And that the problem is likely to be far deeper and broader than it first appears. Having a fulfilling sex life, even if it’s not what you thought it would be, is something worth fighting for but do fight for your partner on this issue, not against them and be prepared to adjust your expectations and to be very patient… these things absolutely cannot be rushed and the long-term goal is key.

Richard added his thoughts:

I think the most important thing here is not to focus on the sex.. Someone once said to me that sex is a good indicator of whether or not there is a problem in the relationship. I think that if a relationship is done properly, and both people are happy, comfortable and secure in the relationship, sex will follow, however if there are issues elsewhere in the relationship, sex will illustrate that.

The question to ask yourself is, what is wrong (other than the sex) and what can I (yes you, not the other person) do better in order to meet the other person’s needs, because if they are happier in the relationship, sex will usually follow. Unless you have married someone who has never been attracted to you, at one stage you were attracted to each other, so what has changed? Find out what the real issue is, fix that, and the sex will fix itself.

Unfortunately, we are all taught from an early age to look after ourselves first. that does not work in a marriage. If you look after your spouse first, they will in turn find it easier to look after you first, and then you will truly know what it is to love someone.. Then there will be no sex-issues.. I know it is hard work, and not as simple as it comes across, but the idea is a simple one, the practice is very hard.. But well worth it!

Karen had this to add:

Hi. Thanks Brett for your thoughts, I agree with you wholeheartedly. I have been married for 17 years, separated for 3, not willingly, my husband says God gives him free will and he is exercising that. But that’s a whole different topic. With regards sex in marriage, I always felt that it was not the be all and end all of a marriage and that marriage was made up of so many more facets than just sex, but what I can say, in my humble opinion based on walking the journey of discovery of a broken marriage, and that is that sex life in marriage is an indicator of how healthy the marriage is, if I had known that, we could have sought counselling long before the marriage broke, instead I was accepting of my circumstances and the husband God had given me in sickness and health, for richer and poorer, etc….and therefore I did not use this as an indicator that there were serious problems. Many counsellors and leaders in churches that I know, when helping couples will ask what the sexual relationship is like to get an indication of the health of the marriage. So although it is not the be all and end all and both parties should be happy with the amount of sex that happens in the marriage, we have to make sure our marriages are healthy, that our relationship with God is healthy so that we lack nothing, that He fulfills our needs and makes us happy, so that we don’t expect our spouses to make us happy. We should have a firm and solid relationship with God and from there the fruits of the spirit will flow not only to the world out there, but definitely to our spouses. We are to communicate as soon as possible to the problems we feel exist and not ignore them for years on end. A happy and healthy person, makes a happy and healthy spouse and with God as the centre, a happy and healthy marriage with the right amount of sex for both.

Sedrico jumped in with this experienced wisdom:

Brett, being married for almost ten years now has been a roller coaster….it’s never a plain sail experience. The minute a man sits down with himself the better. He needs to admit that sex get less. Yes man, that’s the truth! Men don’t talk about it. They want to either let their buddies know that its cooking in the bedroom. Maturity in a marriage relationship is noticing the how, when and where especially when children are around. Also many couples have stressful jobs and sometimes just a cuddle, a long hug or a massage with no benefit to you is the best sensual experience your wife needs. It is frustrating for us, cause we want that physical thing. So sit down with yourself ‘young man’ study your wife and her moods and study the things she love: I know my Hazy loves Hazel nut chocolates, Monday bbm messages on her deadline day (she is a journalist) and me just being there and saying nothing on those off days. Like that song : More than words, you don’t have to say you love me cause I would already know….

Aidan had this to say:

 I think that it is possible to have a good marriage without too much sex if the love is there. If a marriage is based purely on sex, it will only last as long as the sex is there. Once that ends, the marriage will probably end if there is no love. However; a marriage based on love and respect will last no matter if sex is there or not. Ideally there is both.

They say that for all newlyweds, you can mark on your bedpost the number of times you have sex in the first 2 years of marriage and in the years after that, you will probably never reach that amount in the next 50 years of marriage. This is not to say that the marriage is breaking down. It is only natural that it would drop off.

In the natural and Biblical sense, people would marry, and then soon after kids would follow. The roles would change from a courtship type of phase to a more adult and parenting phase where sex is secondary and raising and supporting a family are of primary importance. In today’s environment, we see many young couples on contraception and this interferes with the natural order of things. We are of course living in modern times and people prefer to plan nowadays. The libido is not meant to be at an all time high continually. It is cyclic.

The question we should ask is whether sex in marriage is always an indicator of a bad marriage? I do not agree that it is. Libido is primarily physical for men and more emotional for women. If it is purely emotional then the marriage probably does have a problem. If sex is based on say 50% physical then it is not necessarily a marriage problem. It may be a health problem. It may be hormonal (men and women) and a lot of other purely physical factors.

I believe that when there is not enough sex in a marriage according to one partner, then they should both seek to 1. Improve their diet (zinc, avocado, vitamins) 2. Take up physical activity 3. Actively try to work on it. If that fails then there is probably a deeper emotional problem which would be more complicated to fix. For men, there is also Viagra which could be used if there is a physical problem.

It is important to communicate and try to find the source of the problem as a couple. Both are in it together and should find a solution together.

Fred brought up this point:

Problems with sex in marriage (and this take a number of forms, eg. wanting too much, only enjoying kinky sex, having sex but not ‘being there’, or no sex at all) can sometimes be connected with abuse earlier in life, in this case it is likely that help from professionals trained in sexual counselling (such as Relate in the UK) can help and patience will be required to pull through.

Then Julie came on and asked a number of questions that were largely around what type of things are permissible in marriage such as different positions and styles and in response to her, someone identifying herself as ‘A Friend’ shared some of her story:

Dear Julie,

I understand your frustration. Sometimes, you just want somebody to give you a yes or no answer to matters that aren’t specifically laid out in scripture. I think you’ll find, though, that God is pretty clear about several things: that marriage (and sex) is meant for His glory, and that He cares deeply about you and fulfilling your life purpose (living an abundant life in Him). He also gives us the Holy Spirit to guide these questions. So, I really encourage you to seek God’s will in this area, to find out if certain aspects of sex are sinful and self-serving, or if they are pleasures for us to enjoy with our spouses. You might find that you feel distant or close to God in these areas of life- and that might be an indication of the Holy Spirit’s leading.

My husband and I are newlyweds (5 years now), so I can’t claim a lot of wisdom on this. But, I have found that the more honest we are with each other, and the more we aim for each other’s pleasure and not our own, the better. I was assaulted many years ago, before I was married, and we have learned (through trial and error and many conversations) that it helps if my husband asks before even touching me. If I dream about my attacker, he wakes me up to hold me and to tell me that it is him, my husband, and that I am safe. We also learned that sex is better in the morning, during broad daylight. We learned that for me, a couple of times a week seems like a lot, and for him, a whole week between sex seems like a long time. It also helps him to know that when I don’t feel like sex, its often because I feel unlovable, not because I am not aroused by him. I had to tell him that (he doesn’t read minds- weird huh?). Because he is privy to this information about me, he validates me without expecting sex in return, which makes me love him more. He now feels very loved and appreciated when sex happens more often than i have expressed an expectation for. These observations are unique to us. Other couples have different strategies. But, we would not know these things if we had not explicitly talked about them.

It might seem unsexy, awkward, or an extreme mood killer, but talking about your expectations for sex (preferably when you’re clothed and not in the moment) has been really helpful to us. We have both been surprised at how deeply and overwhelmingly we have felt loved by the other because of this honesty.

there are a lot of interesting and, for the  most part, helpful thoughts and ideas here and so thank you to everyone who came on and commented [including a bunch of others i didn’t use] – i definitely think i will have some more to share about this, but there is plenty of food for thought here already and lots of space in the comments section below to engage with the ideas that were shared here. i think one important thing to note is that each marriage is made up of two very unique individuals and so sex for them will look different and although we can find helpful principles and guidelines to make it easier or better, it is not likely that we will find a blanket ‘this is how sex works’ to cover each and every sexual relationship out there.

how about you? was there a thought or idea that particularly resonated with you? was there something said that you strongly disagreed with? something we left out?

please come and have your say.

[for some more thoughts on your thoughts by Brett Fish and the beautiful Val, click here]

[Dani is a friend that tbV and i met while working with the Simple Way and she currently lives in San Francisco, which is just across the water from us, this is a piece she wrote a year ago which was published in Sojo.net and which she offered to share with us]

Dani Scoville

When my intoxicated friend leaned in to kiss me, I didn’t think I was just the most readily available girl. No, I convinced myself that his true affections for me were coming out. But the next morning, when I realized what it actually meant, I felt less worthy of being loved than I did before.

This wasn’t the first time I lied to myself in the moment and felt awful later, but I wanted it to be the last. I told my friend that wasn’t going to happen again, but I didn’t attempt to process why it happened. Then I was asked to organize an event around the intersection of spirituality and sexuality.

As I began reflecting on my past sexual interactions with men, I tried to bring God into the conversation for the first time.

It was easier to punish myself with guilt, follow youth group-style sexual boundaries or just say, “forget it” and do whatever I desired. I was reluctant to process my sexuality. Not only would it be a lot of work and uncover a lot of past hurt, but what if it unraveled foundational faith and lifestyle beliefs?

Up until six months ago, I had never questioned my decision to not have sex until I was married. I just did what I thought I was supposed to.

Once I began to reflect on it, though, I realized I was angry that God was asking me to wait. Or maybe it was OK to have sex, and God hadn’t told me sooner! I envisioned what would happen if I didn’t wait.

I decided that I would give my current relationship six months. If we were in love, I would give in.

But no matter how I attempted to deconstruct sex outside of marriage, I still felt that this change in my standards would result in me putting an unhealthy amount of expectation on that man to marry me. I knew that I would feel all those years of waiting were cheapened. Because, for me, sex holds an intense emotional and spiritual association.

I didn’t know all this until I questioned. And now, the only way I can envision having sex with someone is in a safe and committed context. This has also led to the more recent realization that I needed to revise my sexual boundaries in dating.

I listed all the events of the past year: what I enjoyed, what made me feel used, and what I needed to allow myself to enjoy. After I processed the last year, I thought about how my desire to be loved and accepted by a man was rooted in a desire to be love and accepted by God. If I first believe that I am God’s beloved, then I would be confident in my interactions with men, knowing I’m already loved and accepted.

So I drafted another list: this one of boundaries self-confident me would ideally want and be able to stick to. A week later, I met a guy who walked me home and kissed me good night at my gate. Rather than slam the gate in his face to make sure he didn’t come upstairs, I told him I was interested in him but that I wasn’t going to invite him in. When I woke up the next morning, I felt great.

I didn’t expect that deconstructing my sexual boundaries in the name of faith would cause me to develop boundaries. But these new ones aren’t oppressive, because they come from an understanding of myself. No one else came up with them but me. Now when the temptation to get a momentary intimacy fix is there, I’ll have my own voice and story reminding me to not give in and wait for something rooted in love.

[Dani Scoville lives in San Francisco and is an active member of ReImagine, a community focused on integrating the teachings of Jesus into daily life. to read more of what Dani writes, check out her blog, ‘Through the Roof Beams’ here]

[For another story on Singleness, meet my friend Beverley by clicking here]

[For an inspirational post titled ‘I don’t wait anymore’ click here]

imagine this in badly drawn stick figures if you will:

God and man (as in mankind/people) in harmonious relationship walking together in the garden, the place of creation, unified in relationship, God somehow receiving something from this engagement with His creation.

something happens – man decides to choose self over obedience to God and relationship breaks down – we have the word ‘sin’ but really it is simply an indication of relationship gone wrong, breakdown of engagement, distance and an obstacle or barrier between man and God.

man is banished from the place of creation and heads out by himself, left to his own devices (which quickly leads to murder) and God sets in place His plan of restoring the way things were in the beginning.

Round [1] – God appears to individuals and start to show them a blueprint of the way things are meant to be – God calls a man and then a nation, Israel, and says, “you will be a blessing to other nations.”

Round [2] – God shows up from time to time in different manners and disguises to an individual and they pass on the messages He speaks.

Round [3] – God moves into a tent – well not quite, but the people are struggling with such an abstract picture of God and so as Israel wanders around the desert, God allows His presence to settle in the tabernacle, in the holy of holies chamber and communicates through the priests, and particularly the high priest on one special day every year.

Round [4] – the people settle, eventually making it to the promised land (after much trial and disobedience and grace on God’s part as time and time again they continue to choose their way over His, but He remains faithful to the restoration process) and so God settles (well, not really) and makes the building of the temple His place of encounter with the people, still through the chosen order of the priests.

Round [5] – a lot of time has passed and it has been a while since God appeared directly to anyone, altho the messages of the prophets, talking of a time in the near future when He will come and bring justice and mercy once again and they hold tightly to that. suddenly, God arrives on the scene – having sent messengers who are for the most part ignored, ridiculed and executed, He decides that a personal visit is in order and so Jesus shows up [God, and yet Son of God] and once more walks among the people – He declares that God is wanting an intimate relationship, using terms like ‘abba’ (daddy) and ‘Father’ to address God directly – and then dies in an act that somehow destroys the sin, obstacle, barrier that has stopped man from really getting close to God.

Round [6] – as Jesus is leaving, He speaks of His Holy Spirit who will come and live in those who choose to die to their own lives (wants, greeds, agendas) and follow Him and His ways – a few weeks later, as the followers of Jesus are hanging out together, this happens dramatically and like a cloud of fire the Spirit settles on them and they (and 3000 other people who happened to be in the vicinity) are transformed forever.

this is obviously a very simplistic way of telling the Bible story, but i was just struck once more this morning at our church gathering how it went from a place of intimacy and engagement to a place of separation and that there was the process of God speaking through a man – to the tent – to the temple – to God coming down – to us becoming the temple and having God live in us, preparing us for another day when it will be returned to the way it was.

This excites me.

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