How Sex Has Lost its Glory: Intimacy Gone Wrong

God created you for something good, a level of goodness we can only begin to imagine now. He built into each human being something of Himself including the need, desire, and capacity for intimacy – knowing and being known. But something has gone horribly wrong. Sex has lost its glory. Sex and intimacy have become confused and because of evil intimacy has gone wrong for each of us in some way.

We could rant about how culture has messed this whole part of life up. But that’s not what this article is about. This is about you. This isn’t a comfortable topic to think about, and it’s especially uncomfortable when it comes to your own story. Let me encourage you to consider your own story with both honesty and compassion, the way Jesus sees you.

You might think, I’m not that bad. I might just need a little tune-up, but I’ll be OK. Certainly behaviors have consequences, and some behaviors have more obvious and destructive consequences than others. For example, no sleeping around, no sexually transmitted infections. OK, you’ve got this under control.

Or you might read “intimacy gone wrong” and feel triggered all over again. Your brain can’t forget the things that have happened to you or the things you’ve done to yourself or others. Perhaps you feel damaged beyond repair. Yup, it’s that bad, so it might feel “safer” to wrap your tail around your nose, patch up your masks, and search for even better ways to hide. But how’s that working for you?

In some way intimacy has gone wrong in your story. Where has that happened? How is your story different from the glory God originally created you for?

Where Are You Un-Whole?

A great place to start is to consider who you blame for the un-wholeness you sense in your soul around relationships, sexuality, and intimacy. Who’s the bad guy? Your father for sexually molesting you? Some older classmate who showed you porn? Friends or “friends with benefits” for expecting or demanding sex, or for being so hard to get? Your spouse for demanding sex or for withholding sex? The cultural norms you picked up that led you to follow a sexual ethic of “anything goes”? Purity culture in the church, for making you either rebel against it or hate sex? God, for making you a sexual being? There could be other villains you emotionally believe are responsible for your struggle.

But worst of all is when your contempt turns on yourself. You secretly despise that 6-year-old child you were for giving in so easily to sexual abuse, or that 10-year-old kid for following your friend in looking at porn and getting hooked. You hate your teenage self for being either so out-of-control or so naive, or your present unending neediness that keeps you running from relationship to relationship. The part of you that wants more from your marriage than your spouse seems willing or able to give seems worthy of contempt. Or you hate the way you hide, making intimacy seemingly impossible even if you have someone willing to see and know you.

You may cover over that self-contempt with bravado, anger, acting out, or “good works.” You may wear yourself out pretending everything is OK. But part of you wishes you were different, that certain parts of your story hadn’t happened, or even that parts of you would just go away.

You’ve Been Harmed. And You’ve Harmed Others.

You’re not alone. You come by that self-contempt honestly. I’m one who agrees with Dr. Dan Allender and others who believe we have all been harmed sexually. In Healing the Wounded Heart he writes, “Evil hates what God reveals in and through the creation of humanity, especially with regard to gender and sexuality. Nothing brings evil greater delight or power than to foul our joy in being a man or a woman through sexual harm or gender confusion on the one hand or dogmatism on the other.”

And the shame perpetrated in such a moment seems sticky enough to last a lifetime.

You’ve been harmed, and you’ve also harmed others. No, you didn’t wake up one day and decide, Today I think I’ll damage someone’s sense of self, exploit their trust, and cause them a lifetime’s worth of shame. But in your attempts to meet your own need for intimacy you used others. The templates in your own brain resulted in you objectifying, fearing, or hiding from others. You acted out distorted fantasies or desires.

You’ve heard it said that hurting people hurt people. Perhaps you showed a younger child porn, enticed someone into an illegitimate sexual liaison, hid from your spouse sexually because of your own junk, or perpetrated sexual harm on another vulnerable human. The possibilities could be endless.

We all accumulate stuff. Bad stuff. What lies, wounds, and empty places are you living with? There are ways you’ve been harmed. There are ways you’ve harmed yourself. And there are ways you’ve harmed others. You’ve been sinned against, and you’ve sinned in response. You’ve sinned against yourself, God, and others.

Intimacy Gone Wrong for YOU?

So, where has intimacy gone wrong for you? Some further hard questions. Remember, honesty and compassion.

  • When you feel shame around your sexuality, how old do you feel? What was happening around that age that may have harmed you sexually?
  • How were you “discipled” sexually? What lies or distortions became embedded in your soul around sex/sexuality as a result?
  • What experiences led you to feel exploited, used, objectified? In what ways has anger or entitlement become attached to your sexuality?
  • How has shame become attached to your sexuality? What hurtful messages have continued to sound in your brain?
  • What decisions have you made sexually, what actions have you taken, that have harmed you? In what ways have you been your own worst enemy?
  • What have you done in grasping for intimacy that has brought harm to others? Who has been negatively impacted by how you have stewarded this part of you? How do you feel about that?
  • How have the lies, wounds, and empty places in your soul around intimacy/sexuality negatively impacted your view of God and your willingness to connect with Him?

Yes, evil is that bad. And evil has been that bad to you.

This is what evil does with the image of God in human beings and the need for intimacy in which humans experience and display deep aspects of the nature of God. And this is how far evil will go to separate you from the One who created you with the need for intimacy in the first place and the only One who can restore you to it.

What Now?

Feeling bad right about now? That’s a place to own for a moment, but not a place to park. Take the next step.

Briefly, pursue authentic intimacy.

And we’ll talk much more about that in articles yet to come.

Your Turn: Where has intimacy gone wrong in your story? Was there anything triggered in you through reading these questions? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

Want More? My conversation in this week’s podcast episode with Joshua Ryan Butler addresses the amazing picture God had in mind when He created us the way He did. It’s mind-blowing enough to be controversial.

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