Tag Archives: Sexual

“I’m ‘unclean’, if you know what I mean.” [wink, wink]

“If a man lies with a woman and has an emission of semen, both of them shall bathe in water, and be unclean until the evening.”
Leviticus 15:18 (NRSV)

I am fascinated by words and the ways in which our words and language embody our cultural understanding of things. Today’s chapter is the one which causes little boys to snicker, giggle, and poke each other in the ribs if they happen upon it during Sunday School or Vacation Bible School. It’s the ancient Levitical prescriptions for dealing with bodily fluids. In particular, it focuses on bodily fluids of a sexual and reproductive nature.

From a societal perspective, I’m sure these laws of hygiene served an important purpose for the ancient Hebrews. The prescriptive avoidance of what could be infectious fluids along with ritual cleansing, including bathing and washing with running water, served an obvious purpose from perspective of preventative medicine.

What fascinates me this morning is the spiritual and cultural connotation of the natural consequences of human sexuality and reproduction being called “unclean.” If I have sex with my wife (prescribed by God in the Garden of Eden) then we are both “unclean” until evening. You just know there had to be guys, even in ancient Israel, who utilized this to brag about their sexual prowess with their friends: “Hey Eli. Don’t touch me. My wife and I are ‘unclean’ ’til evening, if you know what I mean.” [wink, wink, nudge, nudge, say no more]. Boys will be boys.

When I was a boy, it was common for adults to refer to body parts and sexual references as “dirty.” Almost anything of a sexual nature was references as “dirty.” “Dirty” words. “Dirty” magazines. “Dirty” thoughts. “Dirty” stories. “Dirty” jokes. You get the picture. What a fascinating connection of dots. God’s ancient laws deem sexual emissions “unclean” and my parents seemed to deem all things sexual as “dirty.”

This morning I am thinking about how God’s “good” creation of sexual beings and his command to reproduce (e.g. have sex) transitioned into something “unclean.” I’m thinking about how our fallen nature leads society into all sorts of simplistic “black and white” thoughts and judgements just because it’s easier. I’m pondering how God’s prescriptive rules for the ancient Hebrews have led to all sorts of contemporary cultural and societal connotations from both a moral and spiritual perspective. I’m thinking about how hard it is for a boy to be told by authority figures for the first two decades of his life that sex is “dirty” and then those same authority figures expect that same boy to magically enter into a healthy sexual relationship in marriage when he becomes a young man.

 

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The Art and Progression of Sexual Intimacy

Hard to believe, but I have been blogging for nearly 10 years and have written over 3200 blog posts in that time. On Remember When Wednesdays I repost something I wrote from yesteryear for newer readers. It’s always interesting to me the posts that, as I put it, “get legs” and seem to perpetually drive traffic on my blog.

For today’s Remember When Wednesday, I’m reposting The Art and Progression of Sexual Intimacy. It is one of my chapter-a-day posts from the Song of Solomon which seems to have resonated with readers. It was originally published in September of 2013. Enjoy…

My lover tried to unlatch the door,
    and my heart thrilled within me.
Song of Solomon 5:4 (NLT)

One of the things that I love about the Song of Solomon is the way the relational give and take develops between the young man and the young woman in the duet. Like all relationships, there is a progression of the relationship from the beginning of the song to the end. There is the initial infatuation with one another as they look upon one another and are impressed with what they see. Then there is the growing desire for one another as they seek to be in one another’s presence. In today’s chapter we feel the growing desire and anticipation of sexual intimacy.

The young woman is having another dream, and this time she hears the young man attempting to unlatch the door of her bedroom. Her heart is thrilled (and, I suspect, other parts of her as well). When she gets up to let him in, she finds him gone. Disappointed, she runs through the streets in a frantic search for him. The night watchmen find her and beat her up. You can see in the dream the anticipation of intimacy, the disappointment that it has not happened, and the intense feelings of personal pain and injury that she has not been able to consummate her love.

I have learned over time that sexual intimacy in marriage is best built with anticipation, just like the progression in Solomon’s song. While sex occasionally occurs at the spur of the moment, motivated by a surprisingly sudden surge of hormones, the truth is that there is typically a subtle song and dance that happens between me and Wendy. A glance and casual touch at the breakfast table hints at the possibility that this day may come to a passionate end. Hints are dropped by the wearing of things that the other has commented pleases his or her eye. A dab of cologne on a day that none is typically warranted. There is the casual touch in public that lingers a moment longer than usual. The mind is engaged. The eyes are engaged. The sense of smell is stimulated. The ears hear coded messages: “I shaved my legs today.”

Playful thoughts flitter in and out of each other’s minds during the day. Anticipation builds. A regular evening dinner takes on new layers of sensual meaning as each become aware of what I mentioned in yesterday’s post: There is a connection between senses. The feeding of one appetite will invariably lead to another. The main course tastes so good. The wine seems downright decadent, and savoring the dessert feels almost sinful.

One of the things that Solomon’s song subtly conveys to me is that the climactic, sexually intimate event of the day does not typically just happen. It happens when husband and wife learn and know one another’s subtle, sensory dance. It is me learning how to slowly feed multiple senses of my wife during the day in the ways she best responds. It is my wife learning just how to tease the deliberate build up of anticipation that will lead to a successful, intimate feast after dinner that night. There is an art to the intimacy between husband and wife that takes on the unique characteristics of the two artists involved in creating the intimate moment.

In contrast, I find that popular media (especially pornography) likes to portray sex like it’s most awesome when easily cranked out like one of those ultra high-speed photocopiers at Kinko’s (yes, pun intended): Get it fast. Get it often. Get it easy. Everyone gets a copy. Sure, you get the picture – but it’s monochrome, impersonal, and unoriginal. Each one is just like the one before. It quickly becomes meaningless and lifeless. You crank out more copies hoping for something different in the output picture, but it will never be an original work of art.

My experience is that sexual intimacy does not become a breathtaking original work of art unless there are two people learning to create something together over time, learning to work together, make mistakes, erase errors, try something new, explore, play, complement one another’s individual style, and develop their own unique style as a couple over time together. As Solomon’s Song suggests, there is a progression. It gets better, deeper, more refined, and even more powerful in ways neither husband nor wife could scarcely imagine, even in the intoxicating infatuation of the early relationship.

Sexual intimacy between husband and wife is a work of art.

A Case for Delayed Gratification

English: King Solomon in Old Age (1Kings 4:29-...I am my lover’s,
    and he claims me as his own.
Come, my love, let us go out to the fields
    and spend the night among the wildflowers.
Let us get up early and go to the vineyards
    to see if the grapevines have budded,
if the blossoms have opened,
    and if the pomegranates have bloomed.
    There I will give you my love.
There the mandrakes give off their fragrance,
    and the finest fruits are at our door,
new delights as well as old,
    which I have saved for you, my lover.
Song of Solomon 7:10-13 (NLT)

In today’s chapter, young King Solomon offers another flattering and erotic shower of compliments on the young woman he is courting. Earlier in the song he complimented her from head to foot. This time he moves from feet to head and you can feel the pent up sexual tension as the images and euphemisms gain a stronger sexual tone. Solomon is hot after this young woman.

The woman picks up the song and we find that she has finally been claimed by Solomon. She will become his wife. Solomon’s words and romantic verses have obviously had the desired effect because no sooner has she been claimed as his bride than she suggests that they proceed to a fertile, outdoor love fest. The chapter ends with the young woman declaring that she has saved herself for him, and for this moment.

There is something beautiful in the build up to this moment. I found it ironic that today is chapter seven. Seven, in biblical numerology, is the number of completion and here in the seventh chapter the completion of the long courtship, the claiming of the bride, and the bride’s invitation to consummate their love. We live in a generation of mobile phones, fast food, ATMs, overnight delivery, video streaming, music streaming, and more information available at your fingertips than has existed in all the libraries in all the world combined. We have been seduced by gratification of our temporal desires 24/7/365. This spills over into our sexual lives in the form of porn, sexting, hooking up, and the death of courtship as we have known it for centuries. My daughter linked this article in a comment to my post last week. I replied that it makes me want to get all the millennial young men in a room and have an intervention.

Do not hear what I am not saying. I do not intend for this to be the rant of an old man against technology and the younger generations. Rather, in contrast to where our culture seems to be heading, I hear in Song of Solomon the wisdom, art, and beauty of love that takes time, effort, and creativity to develop. I am reminded that delayed gratification makes the climactic sensual feast deeper, more meaningful and ultimately more pleasurable.

The Art and Progression of Sexual Intimacy

Source: Smithsonian via Flickr
Source: Smithsonian via Flickr

My lover tried to unlatch the door,
    and my heart thrilled within me.
Song of Solomon 5:4 (NLT)

One of the things that I love about the Song of Solomon is the way the relational give and take develops between the young man and the young woman in the duet. Like all relationships, there is a progression of the relationship from the beginning of the song to the end. There is the initial infatuation with one another as they look upon one another and are impressed with what they see. Then there is the growing desire for one another as they seek to be in one another’s presence. In today’s chapter we feel the growing desire and anticipation of sexual intimacy.

The young woman is having another dream, and this time she hears the young man attempting to unlatch the door of her bedroom. Her heart is thrilled (and, I suspect, other parts of her as well). When she gets up to let him in, she finds him gone. Disappointed, she runs through the streets in a frantic search for him. The night watchmen find her and beat her up. You can see in the dream the anticipation of intimacy, the disappointment that it has not happened, and the intense feelings of personal pain and injury that she has not been able to consummate her love.

I have learned over time that sexual intimacy in marriage is best built with anticipation, just like the progression in Solomon’s song. While sex occasionally occurs at the spur of the moment, motivated by a surprisingly sudden surge of hormones, the truth is that there is typically a subtle song and dance that happens between me and Wendy. A glance and casual touch at the breakfast table hints at the possibility that this day may come to a passionate end. Hints are dropped by the wearing of things that the other has commented pleases his or her eye. A dab of cologne on a day that none is typically warranted. There is the casual touch in public that lingers a moment longer than usual. The mind is engaged. The eyes are engaged. The sense of smell is stimulated. The ears hear coded messages: “I shaved my legs today.”

Playful thoughts flitter in and out of each other’s minds during the day. Anticipation builds. A regular evening dinner takes on new layers of sensual meaning as each become aware of what I mentioned in yesterday’s post: There is a connection between senses. The feeding of one appetite will invariably lead to another. The main course tastes so good. The wine seems downright decadent, and savoring the dessert feels almost sinful.

One of the things that Solomon’s song subtly conveys to me is that the climactic, sexually intimate event of the day does not typically just happen. It happens when husband and wife learn and know one another’s subtle, sensory dance. It is me learning how to slowly feed multiple senses of my wife during the day in the ways she best responds. It is my wife learning just how to tease the deliberate build up of anticipation that will lead to a successful, intimate feast after dinner that night. There is an art to the intimacy between husband and wife that takes on the unique characteristics of the two artists involved in creating the intimate moment.

In contrast, I find that popular media (especially pornography) likes to portray sex like it’s most awesome when easily cranked out like one of those ultra high speed photocopiers at Kinko’s (yes, pun intended): Get it fast. Get it often. Get it easy. Everyone gets a copy. Sure, you get the picture – but it’s monochrome, impersonal, and unoriginal. Each one is just like the one before. It quickly becomes meaningless and lifeless. You crank out more copies hoping for something different in the output picture, but it will never be an original work of art.

My experience is that sexual intimacy does not become a breathtaking original work of art unless there are two people learning to create something together over time, learning to work together, make mistakes, erase errors, try something new, explore, play, complement one another’s individual style, and develop their own unique style as a couple over time together. As Solomon’s Song suggests, there is a progression. It gets better, deeper, more refined, and even more powerful in ways neither husband nor wife could scarcely imagine, even in the intoxicating infatuation of the early relationship.

Sexual intimacy between husband and wife is a work of art.

Burning Down the House

Can a man scoop a flame into his lap
    and not have his clothes catch on fire?
Can he walk on hot coals
    and not blister his feet?
Proverbs 6:27-28 (NLT)

I still have a vivid memory of our daughter Madison reaching for a red hot burner when she was only a few years old. Fortunately, I reached her before her little mits fell on the searing coil. It was the classic scenario of teaching a child to keep away from that which will burn her. She learned the lesson, as most of us do. But, this nearly universal childhood lesson becomes an apt word picture for other life dangers.

Solomon uses the word picture as he asks the poignant questions above in addressing the topic of adultery. Along my journey, however, I’ve found that the same questions can be asked of any illicit behavior that results from indulging the sexual appetite. So I’d like to broaden the topic this morning from simple adultery to things like lustful thoughts, pornography (romance novels and erotica can prove just as spiritually deadly as hard core internet porn, by the way), extramarital flirtations, prostitution, and etc.

Please understand that I am not going on some puritanical, Focus on the Family rant. This is actually a very simple spiritual principle and it’s intensely personal. My life bears the scars from these flames and I write that which I know from personal experience. So listen up, my friend and hear me when I say: If you play games with the dangerous flames of sexual appetites you’ll eventually get burned. It might not happen right away. Like a drug, the aphrodisiac of sexual lust offers a potent high for seemingly little risk. At least, it seems that way at the beginning. But once you start chasing that high and the flames intensify you will not escape without getting burned.

At best your own spiritual life will be slowly reduced to the ashes of a desperate loop of guilt, shame and despair while you struggle to hold together and maintain a spit-polished facade for the rest of the world. At worst, you will burn down your house and scorch your loved ones with you.

Avoid the flames. Learn to control your sexual appetite. If you’re in the midst of the fire and your life is burning down around you then run for help today. It’s not too late. God is a God of grace, forgiveness and redemption who offers springs of living water in exchange for the destructive flames. It may not be easy, but it will be good.