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A married man’s perspective on cultivating sexual integrity within marriage

“What do you think the average is for Dutch couples?” I asked Hans after the small talk questions ran out. The late afternoon dusk on the farm was sufficient enough to hide the color of my face. Besides, the fire gave proper warmth to cause my face to glow anyway. “I don’t know, per week?” he stalled to allow me to help him out. “It is actually expressed per month, that should give you a hint.” I waited for him to give me a number, so I could tell him the actual statistic. Then he surprised me, “Well, we are averaging five times a week, that should give you a hint!” We both laughed at his cheekiness, yet I was curious for his wisdom. 

I know him well enough to know that he has a good marriage and that this is the result of intentional behavior: practices to cultivate a healthy sexual relationship marked by integrity. This encounter set me on a path of recommitment to grow in understanding and application of what is needed for my marriage.

When my wife joins a few days later, we huddle up on the couch opposite our friends. The conversation that unfolds goes nothing like I had imagined. I had hoped Hans would start telling my wife how she needs to give me more sex (I had entrusted my dissatisfaction with ‘our average’ to him). Instead, the questions are aimed at me, dissecting my false beliefs and proportionate behavior from the truth, revealing the blockages to intimacy I am causing.  

What I discovered is that after almost 20 years of marriage we had issues that we did not address anymore. We just walked carefully around them, so that we would not get in a fight and hurt each other. Yet the road to intimacy is communication and transparency. It is like the streets in the New Jerusalem: “pure gold, transparent as glass.” (Revelation 21:21 ESV) It requires us both to share our emotions without getting offended, to set ‘hearing the other’s heart’ as our goal. When we commit to this, we create a safe place and uncover the naked truth.

Cleaning out the land was an important theme in the Old Testament. Idolatry caused the people of Israel to stumble time and time again. While reading the books of Kings, I notice how most kings did what was evil in God’s sight. Even the ones that did good often still left the high places intact, allowing the worship of other gods to continue. As leaders we are an example and we are accountable for those we lead. Is our ‘land’ clean, did we remove the high places and cut down the Asherah poles?

In my home I have locked the porn channels for the TV. It cuts down the pole of temptation. I have not installed an internet filter (yet), because my concern is that it affects our speed and ease of finding what we are looking for. I talked to my kids about my motivation to not have a filter, but if I discover it becomes a temptation…

From the couch conversations with our friends I learned two other important lessons. First, I need to know who I am and where I am going, identity and purpose. Transparency is all about discovering who you are created to be. Painful memories and traumas can hinder us from developing emotionally. Our brain is wired to avoid pain, instead to sooth it with a short-term distraction. The antidote is inviting Holy Spirit to speak the truth to us as Ted Roberts suggests in “Pure Desire”, not to ignore the painful emotion.

Beyond addressing those painful emotions and finding healing in our identity, we also need to hear God for our purpose: what is driving us, why are we here and where are we going? In Youth With A Mission, we embrace a set of 18 values underlining our beliefs. Value number three says that we are “committed to creating with God through listening to him (…) We are dependent upon hearing His voice”. As leaders in YWAM we know our stories, model this ‘hearing’, and act on it too. The difference between the wise man, building his house on the rock, and the foolish man, building his house on the sand, is: “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them” (Matthew 7:24 ESV).

Secondly, the exchange I had with my friend showed me the importance of having friends or mentors who can speak into your life. Genesis 2:18 (NIV) says “It is not good for the man to be alone.” Friends who dare to ask how your sex life is, not to laugh about it, are indispensable. Do you have a friend or mentor asking you these questions? Are you that person to someone younger in life, or marriage, or faith?

Sex is something God created; He encourages us to enjoy it – just read through Solomon’s Song of Songs, together as a couple. I believe that many people today have no clue what sex is about. I hope you do, but let me give you some implications. God often uses marriage as the description of His relationship with His people. For example, with Hosea, who needs to prophetically marry a prostitute. In Ezekiel 16:7 and 8, God says: “You grew up and became a beautiful jewel. Your breasts became full, and your body hair grew, but you were still naked. And when I passed by again, I saw that you were old enough for love. So I wrapped my cloak around you to cover your nakedness and declared my marriage vows. I made a covenant with you, says the Sovereign Lord, and you became mine.” (NLT)

Looking at the communion that Jesus institutes, it resembles the culmination of the new covenant, just as sex does for the marriage covenant. The Bible ends with the eager anticipation of the wedding between the Bride and the Lamb. The bride shining with glory, because she will finally be one. When we engage in sex in a healthy context we have the privilege to mirror this creative glory.

Many months after the conversation on the couch Hans asks me how our intimacy has developed since that intense evening. “How is your average now?” He says with a grin. I confess that I have discovered that it is not that simple. Of course he knew this all along. “The goal of intimacy is not to have more sex. The goal is to know each other, connect heart to heart.” “Exactly,” I respond, “and the road we need to keep travelling is that of transparency.”

Christiaan Baas is a husband to one wife and a father of four (aged between 12-19). The fifth of ten children, he was born in the Netherlands in 1978. Christiaan did his DTS in 2008 and currently serves as the Chair of the Family Resource Center in the U of N and is part of the Core Leadership Team for Family Ministries International.
“My desire is to see strong families changing this world from the inside out, as fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, carrying God’s presence.”

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