“Tamara, why are you writing on chastity?”
I’m reading an excellent book by John Michael Talbot - The Lessons of St. Francis-How to Bring Simplicity and Spirituality into Your Daily Life, where Talbot discusses how to apply the spiritual disciplines taught by St. Francis in our modern world and relationships.
As I was reading the chapter on chastity I was prompted to write a blog that relates chastity to the challenges sex addicts face today.
With the hyper-sexualized media that's thrown at us today, many are desensitized. From fashion magazine at the grocery checkout, to billboards on the freeway, to commercials on TV. It’s almost impossible to avoid the near naked images of provocatively posed models vying for our eyes and pocketbooks.
For some of us, this is a serious battle, continuously waged; always careful to look away, preventing possible triggers from being set off. Sober now 5 years from sexual addiction, Praise God today these images are not a big problem; not that I dare let my guard down.
Jesus said, “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman [or man] lustfully has already committed adultery in his [her] heart.”-Matt. 5:28
I take these words very seriously, because I know it only takes one look to lead to... a fantasy, which, if meditated on long enough, can easily be acted out on.
Chastity, along with celibacy, is usually seen as something only practiced by men and women who’ve made specific vows to God.
I’d like to challenge that thinking with the idea of celibacy and chastity to heal or improve sex in a marriage relationship.
Celibacy is critical in the very early days of sex addiction recovery. It’s important the sex addict refrain from all sexual stimulation for a period of 3-6 months, this may vary by individual. (includes sex in the marriage and self-sex). For an addict beginning recovery this is very difficult, but crucial to recovery.
Chastity in a marriage can be as simple as cherishing your sexuality as a gift from God, using it in appropriate holy ways that respect God and your mate, resisting any temptation, no matter how small, when they come your way.
Our marriage relationships are tender gardens that need to be cared for. If we’re not careful, the weeds of fantasy and comparison can easily tear down any healthy growth, if not kill it completely.
Talbot writes from an interesting perspective on sexuality:
“I’ve personally lived through at least three completely different approaches to sex: the freewheeling sensuality readily available to a rock musician; the cleansing fire and spiritual passion of repentance and sexual abstinence; and the rejuvenating joy of marriage, a union through which the church has long honored sex as a sacrament, and which helps me see sexuality as sacred and God-given.”Talbot further notes that many people don’t remain faithful in their marriages because they never learned the value of sexual control.
I heartily agree with this last statement and will even go further to say, when you make a covenant with your eyes, to not look at another person with lust, examining them like they were the roast about to be served up for lunch, you’ll have more desire for the mate God has given you.
If marriage was respected as the sacred covenant that it is, with its vows taken as seriously as our brothers and sisters who take a vow of celibacy, we’d have much healthier sexual relationships.
Similar to Talbot, I’ve lived through three different worldviews of sexuality:
- Relational - sex is part of a loving relationship; without commitment to marriage
- Recreational - sex is purely for pleasure; dispenses with romance and spirituality
- Traditional - sex is exclusive with mutual respect; emphasizes lifelong commitment
For most of my life I used sex to substitute unmet emotional and spiritual needs.
After trying all the world has to offer, sexually speaking, I tell you today, without a doubt, sex kept simply between a husband and wife, with no toys, no fantasies, no porn; is better than any orgy, better than being hyped up on drugs using every toy one can imagine.
If you would've asked me 5 years ago:
"Is 'Meth sex' possible without the Meth?" I would've said, “NO WAY!”
Today, I tell you it is! Because with God, ALL THINGS are possible!!
By God's grace and mercy, practicing the discipline of chastity in mind, soul and body, God has not only restored my marriage but continues to renew our desires in ways we could never have imagined before sexual sobriety.
If you struggle with sexual sin or are just playing with the idea of it, I want you to know first of all you are not alone.
Millions of women struggle with sexual sin even in the church.
Find someone you trust and share your struggle with them; that's the first step to freedom.
Whether you’re single or married; one who struggles with sex or not; I encourage you to make a covenant of purity with your eyes, your heart and your mind.
It will change your life!
Question: What's your world view of sex? How important is chastity to you? What are you doing to maintain a pure heart and mind?