Marriage and Servant Hearted Sexuality

It’s not always what we do that matters the most, but how and why. Here’s why servant hearted sexuality matters.

Marriage and Servant Hearted Sexuality
Photo by Katie Salerno

I’m very passionate about relationships. I think relationships and in particular the marriage relationship addresses so many of the needs and issues in the human heart. Conversely, when we don’t do it well, it probably introduces and exacerbates all the problems of life to a point that it can change a person forever.

I’ve been having a YouTuber/TikToker pop up in my YouTube and Facebook recently called The Dadvocate. Most of her clips are unashamedly “womansplaining” men to other women, as the behaviour of men is often confusing to women. She also does a really great job at keeping things equal and putting the men who perpetuate crappy behaviour and abuse in their place. I haven’t gone through all her material extensively but I will say she’s been pretty dead on with a lot of the things she’s said about how men think and feel about certain issues.

But one thing she regularly touches on is how much sex matters in a marriage relationship to both men and women, and how this continues to be a factor in the conversation of marital happiness, infidelity and divorce.

She’s far from the only person highlighting this point. It’s such a mainstream and large issue that it’s importance is covered on talk shows from Oprah to scientific journals and psychological journals. It’s also the topic of many books and almost daily covered for several hours in TV shows in both comedic and dramatic approaches.

I’m a married Christian, and the world is pretty aware that the Christian faith has a lot to say about sex. However, what seems to come across most loudly is what the Christian faith (or interpretations of the faith) are against in the area of the bedroom. Instead, I think what we need to do better at getting across what the faith puts forward as something that really, really works and is so important.

And that is servant hearted sexuality.

Here are some thoughts on what servant hearted sexuality looks like and why it matters.

Abstinence before marriage vs. abstinence after marriage

I’m a big fan of the 2000s-2010s cast of Saturday Night Live. Kate McKinnon, Kristen Wiig, Andy Samberg, Charlie Day, Jason Sudekis, Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Jay Pharaoh (amazing) among others make me laugh so hard. So it should be no surprise when I say I also enjoy the movie Mean Girls.

There’s that famous dig at American or Western sex ed in schools on the subject of abstinence (AKA you will get chylmidia and die). I think it’s pretty well known that the Christian perspective is that abstincence before marriage is recommended.

However, what needs more air time is that abstinence after marriage is definitely not recommended. There’s an image of prudish, reproduction only frigid sexually malnourished marriages as the norm in such households.

But this stereotype does no hold true to what the authors of Scripture describe as the desired state.

In fact, the early Christian writer Paul instructed the church of Corinth and all future readers that even if you have a super spiritual reason for abstaining from marital sex, it should never be a long period of time and you should come back together as soon as possible.

As an aside, in general I think Christians should be more well known for what they are for over what they are against.

It matters to you because it matters to them

I really liked Dr David Schnarch’s observation on sexual desires in the book Intimacy and Desire. Had it recommended to be by a psychologist a number of years ago and definitely has a lot of great thoughts for a person of any faith persuasion on the topic of sex. And I really liked an equalising argument he made to all people whether you’re a higher or a lower person for sexual desire – it’s that every aspect of your relationship and marriage is characterised by the same dynamic.

There’s likely one of you who values sex more, and you might feel annoyed at how much it seems to matter to the other person.

But there’s also likely one of you who values being heard and having your feelings listened to more. There’s one of you that’s higher desire for going out, seeing people, being touched. One of you who likes adventure more, who wants to see the world, who wants to go and try that new thing.

And in all the other areas of your life, and indeed in the bedroom, there is no success in your marriage until you adopt an attitude that if it is important to them, it is important to you.

And whether you’re the higher desire partner or the lower desire partner, your goal is the same – the enjoyment and respect of the other.

Servant hearted sexuality.

Your goal is to serve the other person

In the same letter mentioned above, the apostle Paul reminds married people that your body is no longer your own.

My wife and I recently watched the final session from The Potter’s House International Leadership Summit 2023, where Bishop TD Jakes and his wife Serita concluded their entire conference with a capstone feature on Winning at Home. Entire video below and well worth watching to the end, especially with your partner if they’re with you.

Serita makes a very poignant observation about marriage vows, and how important the following line is:

Forsaking all others

That’s what happens when you get married. From the romantic and sexual perspective, no one else is an option any more. That means that the responsibility and indeed the privilege of getting to be that person for the other falls to us.

Your marriage is a team, You two are a team. It’s our great honour to be able to be able to do anything we can to serve the other.

Yes it’s important that it’s also your turn. But it’s also important that we serve our spouse like we said we would, in sickness and in health, no matter what season of life we’re in.

They’re our standard of beauty. As I wrote a little while ago, If your wife isn’t your standard of beauty, who is?

As a further encouragement especially to the men out there – I talk to a lot of men who speak with a real sense of sexual entitlement about what they should and shouldn’t get. And I would encourage you with three simple words both inside and outside of the bedroom that would provide a marriage and sexual culture that would mean your sex life is much healthier:

She comes first

And it’s worth understanding that different seasons of life it will look differently. High stress periods at work or in home projects, pregnancy, birth, no children, young children, older children, empty nest season, illness, anxiety or mental health challenges, and everything in between – your sex life isn’t always going to look or be the same in nature or frequency. But it should always be an area, as we are encouraged to do so for the emotional, physical, spiritual and relational aspects of our relationship as well – greater love has no person than to lay down their life for their friend.

You should never be stretched into an abusive situation

I also want to give mention that service is a willing decision on your part. Servant hearted sexuality isn’t servant hearted if you are physically or emotionally forced into doing so.

Servant, not slave.

Even God doesn’t force you to make the decisions you make.

Rape and abuse are never okay, especially towards the person you said you loved. More on this topic in Are You Actually A Christian? and To The Man Who Wants To Be The Head Of The House and How A Warped View Of Forgiveness Enables Abuse and Destroys Lives

Sexual freedom – freely receive, freely give

The most powerful picture of a healthy marital sex life and servant hearted sexuality is found in the Song of Solomon, or the Song of Songs.

If you follow it, it’s a beautiful picture of a husband and wife and their desire for each other. It’s held up as a model of what healthy should look like.

And in the song, the Shulamite woman asks the wind to blow her fragrances to her lover and invite him in. She wants him to peruse her garden and enjoy its delights. Her words, not mine.

And he says the same of her.

This is the point, and a point Jesus also makes centuries later – freely you have received, freely give.

This is the model of the Christian life, and I wonder if you’ve given any serious thought to how much this ought to be your attitude towards your husband or wife in the bedroom. Where your core attitude could be in your sexual relationship as it is hopefully in all other aspects of your relationship – “How can I serve you in this area?”.

In the Song they are generous with their bodies, but also very clearly with their words, their affections, their time, their emotions, their honesty.

If that isn’t the ultimate desire for all of us in our marriages for them to be a true place of freedom and safety, then we’ve missed it. And the absence of such generosity in a marital relationship is often the subtle missing ingredient to truly enjoying what is one of life’s greatest privileges.

A relationship so healthy that you can’t help but share the same perspective as the wife in this story, that she became in his eyes as one who found peace.

Does your wife say the same thing about you in your sexual relationship? Does your husband feel cherished the way you say you want him to?

And in truth, what happens in the bedroom reflects the state of the entire relationship. Chances are if you aren’t serving or being served in the bedroom that this attitude is also pervasive in other areas of your relationship.

But you and I have it well within our power to decide to be servant hearted husbands, servant hearted wives, servant hearted people.

I love a quote from the late great Zig Ziglar who said this of marriage:

I have no way of knowing whether or not you married the wrong person. But I do know that if you treat the wrong person like the right person, you could well end up having married the right person after all. It is far more important to BE the right kind of person than it is to marry the right person.

I was also surprised after watching The Good Place for the first time that one of the characters makes a similar conclusion around the conversation of soul mates – that if they exist, they’re not found, they’re made.

NB. I did explore the concept of soulmates in Have You Missed “The One”?,

I think there is a plan at work in all our lives, and whether or not destiny was or wasn’t involved in who you ended up marrying, I know for sure that is within our power to help that person become the best, most joy filled, most fulfilled version of themselves. And from the bedroom to the battlefield we can stand together as a team in full support of the other as we journey through life and all that comes our way.

Service is our greatest responsibility and one of our greatest joys.

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