In the last post I suggested following an incremental approach when beginning to talk about marriage and sexuality; this approach would then culminate in a series of intentional, more structured discussions. These intentional discussions would be the basis for ongoing conversations about marriage and sexuality throughout the teenage years and beyond. The talk that the father in Proverbs 7 has with his son is example of the incremental approach. He took advantage of a situation when it presented itself. The more formal, intentional discussions have their basis in passages like Genesis 1-2, Psalm 139, Song of Solomon, and Ephesians 5:25-33.
Here are some of the topics you should discuss in these intentional discussions:
Puberty is part of God’s plan for preparing for marriage.Anatomical changes that occur with puberty.
These changes are preparing the body for sexual activity in marriage.
Modest, discreet descriptions of what happens in sexual intercourse.
The role of sexual intercourse in:
Intimacy and pleasure
Expression of unity in the one-flesh relationship
Worship of God
Loving and fearing God impacts sexual attraction.
How to begin loving the husband or wife that God will bring in the future.
Each of these topics deserves thoughtful preparation and planning. While each of these points share common themes that apply to everyone, it is important to make these discussions personal – tailored to the unique life experience of each child. A dispassionate, academic discussion is not helpful in this context. Sexuality is deeply personal, and it must be understood from God’s perspective. But while sexuality is personal in nature, it is not designed to be self-centered. Rather, all of the topics listed above are best understood by remembering that sex is to take place in the context of serving someone else, your marriage partner. Sex is not primarily for personal enjoyment. Sex is primarily for bringing glory to God in the context of a one-flesh relationship between husband and wife. Even then, sex is not only for the husband and wife, because all the components of sexual activity have the capacity to bring another person, a baby, into the world.
While I will not go into graphic detail on each of the points mentioned above, I will make at least one explicit example. You can use the reasoning contained in this example as a guide for addressing the remaining issues. Puberty involves anatomical changes that prepare your children for sexual intercourse. From God’s perspective and mandate, this refers to sexual intercourse in marriage. Our culture has made this issue more challenging in at least two ways. The first way is the overt sexual focus that we have mentioned. Our society is determined to remove marriage as a requirement for sexual activity and to redefine the concept of family. The second way is more subtle but just as challenging. The age for getting married is moving increasingly farther away from the age of puberty. In most cultures in the world today, and up until recent history in Western culture, it was not uncommon for couples to marry within a few years of puberty. Now, 10-15 years is more a likely time span. This underscores the importance of helping your children see that sexual activity is not self-serving, but must be first and foremost pleasing to God. I Corinthians 6:18-20 makes this point with clarity. Our bodies are not our own to use for our own sexual pleasures. Sexual activity is to glorify God. Your children must understand what is happening to their bodies and why, but they must also understand that there will likely be a prolonged period before they may engage in the activities that these changes make possible. You must stress that these changes are happening so that they can bring glory and honor to God. This must not be an extra thought tagged on at the end of the discussion. The physical changes are brought about by God for his honor. Your child’s body is not his own to do with as he pleases.
For example, there are physical changes that occur during sexual arousal. Sexual arousal is to be associated with one’s marriage partner (Proverbs 5:15-21). Therefore, before marriage it is not okay to engage in thoughts and activities that prepare the body for sexual intercourse. Erections in men and vaginal lubrication in women will be part of your discussions with your children. However, the context for these occurrences must be seen as preparation for sexual activity in marriage. If your children understand this, then you have the opportunity to help them avoid the torment that so many teenagers and young adults go through with regard to sexual temptation and lust. This flies in the face of cultural views about sexuality. Since many Christians assume that sexual arousal is normal outside of marriage, they don’t provide any help to their children other than a warning not to follow through with their desires.
As Christians we must do better than this for our young people. I have often referenced Proverbs 6:20-24 in this blog. This passage teaches that your words of instruction to your children will help protect them from sexually immorality and its allure. This is what Proverbs 6:22 says:
When you walk, they will guide you;
when you sleep, they will watch over you;
when you awake, they will speak to you.
“They” in this verse refers to the words of parental instruction. This means instructing your children how to think about the physical changes taking place in their bodies, so that they will please God and not fall into the trap of sexual sin. You want to help your children see the danger of sexual arousal outside of marriage. If their mindset is to live intentionally for the glory and honor of God; if they understand that their bodies are not their own but the temple of the Holy Spirit, the opportunity exists to gain victory when unchecked sexual arousal could otherwise be a dominating pattern that leads to sexual temptation, lust and other sexual sins. This is what verse 24 of chapter 6 implies:
keeping you from the immoral woman,
from the smooth tongue of the wayward wife.
There are a number of appropriate ways to talk about the physical aspects of sexuality and puberty–but they must all be tied to marriage and living for the glory of God. Your child needs to know why his or her body reacts the way that it does in particular situations. But more importantly, your children need to realize that their hearts must be turned to Christ and his ways. Allowing their minds to entertain sexual scenarios about others violates God’s intended purpose for sex in marriage. Loving God from the heart is the only protection from these attacks of the world and the flesh. Only the wonder of knowing and living for God’s glory can overcome the powerful temptations to sexual sin. Again, that is why the incremental approach is important. You can’t just introduce the idea of living for the glory of God when it is time to talk about sexual things. That needs to be a life-long pursuit.
It is possible that you, parent, may not have this view of sexuality yourself. It is also possible that you may have some unresolved guilt about your own sexual history. That is when you must cry out to Christ and experience his forgiveness. He paid the penalty for your sins on the cross and even now intercedes for you. You can know God’s complete forgiveness and healing from your own sins. That forgiveness will enable you to lead your children to honor God in their understanding of sexuality.
So, as you talk to your children, the aspect of other-centeredness is essential. Self-gratification and God-pleasing sexual activity are polar opposites. Yes, it is true that biblically-based sex does have the capacity to bring great pleasure, but having this pleasure must not be the primary goal of sexual activity. That is the light in which you must discuss the changes coming to your child’s body. I pray that you will be able to discuss all the facets of sexuality in light of God’s wonderful provision of marriage and and the privilege of living for his glory and honor. This is only possible as you and your children grasp the depth of what Jesus Christ accomplished on the cross.
In future posts we will look at some of the particular problems that are prevalent today. We will take another look at sexual arousal and attraction.