Sex is messy. And the messiness of sex is not primarily physical (although it is that). The meaning of sex, especially in a woman’s heart, has taken on such emotionally heavy content that you can’t be sure the person you’re talking to understands what you mean without a big explanation.

How did a little three-letter word come to be so messy?

Imagine the first man and the first woman. Adam wakes up from his sleep missing a rib. But what he sees before him almost takes his breath away. For all the beauty he has known in the moments since his creation – magnificent sky, majestic mountains, birds singing, animals showing strength, playfulness, and affection, even meeting God Himself up close and personal – nothing has “popped” his brain like the creature standing in front of him.

And Eve? Her whole being lights up in an instant. Her first moments of awareness are filled with fireworks and rapture. She is made to be Queen, and she feels nothing but joy as she awakens to that reality. Gazing up at her is a man stronger, more viral, and more completely good than any of us can imagine. And he is hers! The attraction is complete. From the moment of her creation she feels wanted, important, cherished – loved.

I don’t know if God was visibly present to Adam and Eve at that moment. But I’m sure He was watching. God filled Adam and Eve with all the joy, creativity, strength, and beauty of Himself. They were completely healthy, senses fully alive, more glorious in every way than any human being around today. Think two eighteen-year-olds, multiplied 100 times over.

And they were naked.

So don’t tell me that with all the “fully alive-ness” they were created with,

and all the hormones that God gave them coursing through their veins, that it would have taken very long for Adam and Eve to explore each other – completely. Children’s Bible story books may picture Adam and Eve with garments of light or carefully placed plants hiding the important parts. But the Bible says they were naked. (Genesis 2:25) Nothing in God’s green earth – as wonderful as it was – could have taken their attention away from each other in those first moments.

So how did we get from that – to this?

  • Young girls in Southeast Asia, India, and right here in the USA being exploited, used, and abused sexually
  • Wives feeling fear, disappointment, shame, or pain at the mention of sex
  • The physical pain of PID (pelvic inflammatory disease), death from cervical cancer or AIDS, infertility, and shame – all from sexually transmitted diseases
  • Women being raped as a weapon of war

And that’s just a brief snapshot of a few highlights. Oh, how far we have fallen!

Sex in a Woman’s Soul

So as a woman, it’s no wonder that our souls carry both the glory and the shame, the exhilaration and the pain, the desire and the terror, the beauty and the horror – of sex.

Here’s a few meanings sex might hold for you:

  • Something that solidifies closeness, intimacy, connection, bonding, being with someone
  • Being known, wanted for who you are, desirable
  • A means of wielding power over men, the ability to control, using your body to get others to do what you want
  • Disappointment, loneliness, being unwanted, not good enough to attract someone
  • Dirty, contaminated, spoiled, damaged, like there’s something very wrong with you because of what you’ve done, what has been done to you, or the secret desires you have
  • “Good girls don’t” – sex is something to keep suppressed, to not think about or do, to say NO to, to avoid
  • A reminder of your fallen-ness – with physical pain, STDs, shame, or unwanted pregnancy
  • Makes you feel like a “piece of meat” – men want you only for your body, only to satisfy them, leaving your heart unseen
  • Violence – rape, incest, domestic abuse, childhood abuse, the way you are controlled
  • Something “out there” that you want but can’t legitimately have as a single woman
  • Loneliness and sadness when your husband doesn’t want you, and may want other women or pornography more than you
  • “Too far gone” – feeling as though it’s too late for you to experience really good sex, so you’ll get what you want to make you feel good wherever you can
  • A means of comfort, satisfaction, joy, mutual giving, feeling cherished
  • A reminder of, and means of experiencing, the kind of intimacy God desires with you

You could probably add more meanings yourself. And yes, many of us women carry all or many of those meanings in our soul at the same time. There’s a glimmer, a faint soul memory, of the glory we were made for (think Eve). But that very glory has been tarnished over and mixed up with the grime of our sinful world and broken lives to the point where even our desire for the glory feels wrong.

Is it any wonder that we as women often struggle with knowing what to do with sexual desire? Do we run from it, use it to control, give in to it even when we resent it, enjoy it, suppress it? Even when our head knows what God intended, our emotions and our bodies may respond to the idea or the possibility of intimacy with a tangled mixture of hope and shame, desire and dread.

The women who struggle with these issues – perhaps you – write to me frequently. I hear your grief, your sadness, your frustration, your pain, your loneliness, your shame, your sometimes longing for what part of you knows should be but isn’t.

And so we wait, you and I, for the complete restoration that God has promised of this most personal and original part of us. As good as my own marriage is, I know there are many of my sisters who don’t see any way to escape the pain you’re living in – whether married or single.

From my heart to yours, let me tell you that your longing is OK – your longing for intimacy without control, for satisfaction without being used, for ecstasy without the pain. Don’t give up that spark of desire within you, even while you wait.

For you see, God built that into you. And He’s not about to give up on you until he finishes bringing you back to what Eve had in Eden. Some of that can begin here and now. But all of it is there for us in eternity.

Your Turn: Have you wrestled with conflicting meanings about sex in your own heart? What meaning has been the most difficult for you? Leave a comment below. 

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