MY LAME MARRIAGE
Where’s the Spark?
You know, it’s really interesting, I think, that there are actually some people who firmly believe that the words “God” and “sex” should not appear in the same sentence together, much less the same conversation, or certainly not in a sermon in church. Can you believe that? There are those people out there. As a matter of fact, I want to introduce to you one of them this morning. Her name is Ruth Smythers. And Mrs. Smythers penned a helpful little booklet called Instruction and Advice for the Young Bride. I want to share with you just a little taste of Mrs. Smythers’ insight into marital intimacy. You ready for this?
One cardinal rule of marriage should never be forgotten. Give little, give seldom, and above all, give grudgingly. While the ideal husband would be one who would approach his bride only at her request and only for the purpose of begetting offspring, such nobility and unselfishness cannot be expected from the average man. The wise bride will permit a maximum of two brief sexual experiences weekly during the first months of marriage. As time goes by, she should make every effort to reduce this frequency. Feigned illness, sleepiness, and headaches are among the wife’s best friends in this matter. A good wife should expect to have reduced sexual contact to once a week by the end of the first year of marriage and to once a month by the end of the fifth year of marriage. By their tenth anniversary, many wives have managed to complete their child bearing and have achieved the ultimate goal of terminating all sexual contact with the husband.
Let’s have a word of prayer for Mr. Smythers, shall we? Is that sad? Now, let me give you a little back story to that. Mr. Smythers was a pastor. She was the wife of a pastor, counseling young brides with this garbage. Now, I want you to take and compare and contrast Mrs. Smythers’ approach to sex in marriage with this from the Bible. This is from Proverbs chapter 5. I want you to just listen for a second. God says in Proverbs 5, “Drink water from your own cistern, running water from your own well. Should your springs overflow in the streets, your streams of water in the public squares? Let them be yours alone, never to be shared with strangers. May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth. A loving doe, a graceful deer, may her breasts satisfy you always. May you be ever captivated by her love.” That’s what God says about the gift of sex.
Now, this morning we’re going to take a look at this. I want to invite you to go ahead and pull your outlines out of your bulletin. You’ll notice there that we’re dealing with the question this morning, where’s the spark. And if you are just here for the first time or new to this series, you need to understand that this message fits into the arc of this sermon series called my lame marriage. What we’re looking at is how to take ordinary, everyday marriages and make them extraordinary. That’s what God wants to do. That’s his desire for marriage. And so this message has been set up by where we’ve been over the last couple of weeks. If you haven’t heard those messages, you need to get those to understand the foundation and the baseline that supports where we are today. Because the fact of the matter is that God is radically pro-sex. Can I get a witness? That is a good thing.
Mrs. Smythers’ perspective on sex sadly is what a lot of people outside of the Christian faith think is a real Christian view on sex. And nothing could be further from the truth. It is God’s desire for people to experience an incredibly fulfilling, satisfying, adventurous sex life. And he shows us that throughout the entire Bible, but just from that passage that I just read in Proverbs chapter 5. And so this morning we’re going to take a look at how do you really and truly partake of that running water, that nourishment, and that refreshment that is the sex life God intended people to experience?
Because the fact of the matter is that within marriages, all of us ask from time to time where’s the spark? I mean, it is going to happen. There is no way that it is always going to be rose petals and candlelight, chocolate covered strawberries and Barry White. The fact of the matter is that the spark has to be kept alive. And I want us to use this imagery that God’s given us in Proverbs 5 as he talks about a well of running water, that refreshment, that nourishment. And the fact of the matter is that every single one of us here this morning has the opportunity to experience this as God intended, but we need to understand how that happens.
Now, there are some of you that God has called to singleness, but that is a lifestyle. The Bible talks about the spiritual gift of celibacy. And for you, this is not a challenge. This is not something that just overwhelms your thoughts every waking moment. The Bible says that you are to be commended. That is a gift that God has given to some people. There are other people that he has not given the gift of celibacy to. That’s okay, too. The fact of the matter is we have to figure out what to do with this gift.
So if you will, take your outlines. You’re going to find that we’re going to begin by digging a well. What does it mean Biblically to really and truly dig this well of sexual fulfillment and enjoyment as God has given us? First of all, it begins when every one of us values sex accurately. We’ve got to place an appropriate and an accurate value on this gift of sex. The Song of Solomon is an entire book of the Bible devoted to sexual fulfillment and enjoyment. There’s some people who said, well, that’s an allegory that God has given us to describe what it’s like when God enters into a life relationally. Wrong. It’s not an allegory. It’s a Biblical, godly endorsement of the act of sex and all that goes into making it a gift. Don’t allegorize or try to hyperspiritualize that, because it’s tough to read the Song of Solomon in that way. But throughout the Song of Solomon, from time to time amongst all of the endorsements of sex, God says this, in Song of Songs 8:4 is one example. He says, “Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you, do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires.” The fact of the matter is that the gift of sex is to be guarded. It is to be protected within the safe confines and cocoon of covenant marriage. One man, one woman, for life. That is God’s design for ultimate sexual fulfillment.
Now, a lot of people will say, well, you know, that’s kind of narrow-minded and quaint and old-fashioned, but understand why God has done that. This is a gift and an act of love on God’s part. God understands that when you give part of yourself to another person, there is nothing more precious that you can give. Let me ask you a question. Guys, I want to ask you, how many of you men at one time went out and bought a ring and put it on a woman’s finger, asking her to marry you? Just raise your hands real quick. Okay. I have never seen a room more full of great poker players in my life. It’s amazing. We start talking about sex, this is what y’all look like. The only thing missing is a bunch of mirrored shades on y’all. You look like you’re playing Texas hold’em this morning.
Just relax a little bit, all right? I want you to do this. Go (sighs). Just do that. See? It’s okay. Just say the word sex with me. Sex. It’s okay. It’s all right. My goodness. Just relax a little bit, all right? When you went and bought that ring, in guy school, they don’t teach us things about clarity and cut and facets. We don’t know jack about that stuff. But you go and find out because you don’t want to get taken, because you know somebody’s going to say, well, did you get a good deal? And you’ve got to be able to go yeah, man, I did all the research, blah, blah, blah. Here’s the deal. I don’t care how expensive a ring you place on her finger. I don’t care how big a diamond, how many. None of that matters.
At the end of the day, the most precious gift that any of us can ever give is ourselves, is the gift of our soul. And that is what happens in God-honoring marriage. You give your soul to another person. And marriage is the protective covering for that gift. You don’t just go give that to anybody and everybody. You’re not standing in line at the grocery store and ask somebody in front of you, excuse me, do you have 10 items? And would you like my soul? You don’t do that. You give your soul when you know that it’s going to be given in a safe context. And marriage is the safest context.
Once that commitment and that covenant has been entered into, then you are in a position to give all of yourself. And when you give yourself sexually in any way, shape, or form to another person, you are giving part of your soul. And God says we need to understand the value that that has. When we take it and give it outside of the context of marriage between a man and a woman, we are endangering the gift. That’s why he says value it. Understand what’s going on. And this is something that transcends marital status. This is true for those who are married. This is true for those who are single or maybe divorced. You have the opportunity starting right now to dig a well. Where you have been in the past God says can be irrelevant. You can start right now and say this is the well that I will dig. I will provide a safe environment for this gift that God has given me.
Look at Hebrews 13. “Marriage should be honored by all,” everyone, “and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.” We need to understand that we have an opportunity to dig this well, to begin to establish patterns and relationship habits that will allow us to go to this well to partake of the water that God says is the most fulfilling and the most satisfying sexually.
Now, I’m not going to tell you that sex outside of marriage is always bad. That’s not true. I’ve heard Christian teachers stand up and go, you’re not going to enjoy it. You might. It’s entirely possible. But I will tell you this. It will never, ever be everything God intended it to be outside of marriage. It will never completely satisfy and feed your soul. Because God has given us this gift and also showed us how to protect it and how to guard it. So it’s important that we get that. Dig the well.
Second of all, protect the well. Once you have that well established and you are married, then you need to guard it, I need to guard it tooth and nail. Look at what it says there, back to Proverbs 5. “Should your springs overflow in the streets, your streams of water in the public squares? Let them be yours alone, never to be shared with strangers.” This is something that marriage guards and protects. And I happen to believe that we should apply the Vince Lombardi theory to sex. The best defense is a good offense. The best guard within marriage, the best defense for sex in our marriages is to have a great sex life in marriage. That’s what God wants. If you’re satisfied sexually at home, if you’re satisfied sexually relationally between husband and wife, you don’t have the time or the desire to go anywhere else. You don’t have the time to let your streams flow into the public streets, as the Bible talks about. You’re satisfied there. How does that happen?
First of all, communicate freely. Husbands and wives, we must be able to talk about sex to one another. We’ve got to be able to talk about it. Song of Songs, again, look at how they talked about it, this husband and wife. This is the wife speaking initially. She says, how handsome you are, my lover. Oh, how charming, and our bed is verdant. That’s the woman talking. She loves this relationship, this experience with her husband. Then the husband says, how delightful is your love my sister, my bride. When he says my sister, he’s talking about the relationship that they have that preceded the act of sex. So don’t get creeped out by that. It’s nothing immoral or anything. He’s just saying we had this intimacy that provides the foundation for this that is so verdant and delightful. How much more pleasing is your love than wine and the fragrance of your perfume than any spice? Talk about it with each other. Open up. Share with each other. If you’re satisfied, affirm the satisfaction. If there is any hint of frustration, talk about it lovingly and openly.
And now you don’t have to bring something up out of the blue. You can reference this sermon. You can go, can you believe what that skinny red-headed guy said this weekend? I don’t know about that. What do you think? Then you’re into a conversation, and you didn’t have to bring it up. I did the dirty work for you. But communicate and talk to one another. Wives, tell your husbands what you need romantically, what you need in order to feel that your bed is verdant, to feel that he is charming. Husbands, charm. Be charming. At one point, you were. At some point, you bathed in stuff and went to pick her up for dates, you brushed your teeth, you withheld bodily functions. You did all of those things that were charming at one point. Charm her.
Wives, if you don’t feel charmed and pedestalized, lovingly let him know that. Let him know that, you know what? I could use some more of that. Husbands, communicate to your wives. Tell them this is what I need. It’s great, but maybe more than what Mrs. Smythers talked about would be good for us. But you’ve got to communicate. We have to be able to talk about it. Also, connect frequently. Connect frequently.
Now he’s gone from preaching to meddling. Now, here’s the thing. Frequent is a relative term. One couple’s frequently could be another couple’s exhaustion. But because you’ve opened up the lines of communication, you can talk about it. This is what God says. This is not my opinion. I know some of you women, you’re sitting there going, this is such a man thing. Watch this. This is what the Bible says. Do not deprive each other, except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. So Mrs. Smythers’ conversation about feigned illnesses, irritability and headaches, out the window. There’s no place for that.
Now, I know, too, that from time to time, the stereotype is that the husband is always ready and it’s the wife that’s not. I get that. I heard a long time ago men are microwaves, women are crockpots sexually. And there’s a lot of truth to that. But there can be times when that’s reversed. And I recognize that. We’ve got to communicate and connect frequently. If either one of the husband or the wife is not satisfied, then it’s not working. Together you have to get on the same page. You have to talk about it and connect frequently. What is frequent? More than likely, one person’s frequently is different from the other’s. But talk about it. God says don’t hold each other off except for prayer. If you’re praying, great. But then come back together again. And then also as we guard the well, conceal appropriately. We need to conceal this gift. This is the most intimate of intimates between husband and wife.
Now, the fact that it’s there is nothing to be embarrassed about. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. But what goes on, when it goes on, those things need to be absolutely concealed, private. 1 Corinthians 7:4 says, “The wife’s body does not belong to her alone, but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone, but also to his wife.” See, I have given all of myself to Julie. She has given all of herself to me. In the Biblical model of satisfying, fulfilling sex, we are one another’s in marriage. Husband belongs to the wife, wife belongs to the husband as they belong to each other, as they belong to themselves. So I’m not going to reveal part of myself, because that’s Julie’s. That’s hers. You don’t need to reveal anything of yourself. I think that also speaks to how we dress, how we attire ourselves. That’s to be concealed. I’m not talking about you know, flannel, button up to the collar, hi, how are you doing, I’m concealing appropriately. But outside of those intimate of intimates, outside of that, then we’re concealing, because it’s not ours. It’s not just ours. Belongs to our spouse as well. So that’s important.
Women, you need to understand, guys are visual. That’s just a fact. It’s not good, it’s not bad. It just is. And so whether you’re single or married, how you attire yourselves, guys, it’s true for you, too, us as well, but let’s just be real. I mean, the fact is it’s a greater challenge for men to keep those thoughts out of their heads than it is for women. So we’ve got to consider those things and protect this well by concealing those intimate things appropriately. Now, within the marriage relationship when it’s just the two of you, knock yourself out. Flaunt it. Read the Song of Songs. I mean, they were familiar with each other’s bodies.
Remember we talked last week, he loved her teeth. They were like shorn goats. And elsewhere she talks about his legs being like alabaster pillars. I mean, they knew each other. They were familiar. That’s great. But outside of that, conceal it appropriately. Now, and only now, enjoy the well. Just enjoy it. I mean, if you’re married and you have valued this gift accurately, you’re protecting it fiercely, now comes the point where you get to just enjoy the dog out of it. And when we talk about pleasure in the sexual realm, the natural tendency is to think about what we are receiving. But God says Biblically, in order to get pleasure, give it. Give pleasure to get it.
Song of Songs again, the husband says, “you are a garden locked up, my sister, my bride. You are a spring enclosed, a sealed fountain. You are a garden fountain, a well of flowing water streaming down from Lebanon. And then the wife says, awake north wind, and come south wind, blow on my garden, that its fragrance may spread abroad. Let my lover come into his garden and taste its choice fruits”. And that is some of the tamest scripture that I could find to share with you out of Song of Songs in mixed company. This is a couple who enjoys the well. And that’s God’s desire. He wants husbands and wives to use this gift to fuel and to feed their marriage. It’s also a barometer. The fact of the matter is that our sex lives serve as a barometer for the health of the relationship. You know, if the relationship is going well, more than likely, the sex life is going well. And if the sex life is not going well, then it’s going to impact the rest of the relationship.
As we’ve seen over the last couple of weeks, there’s a lot more to marriage than just sex, but we ignore sex in marriage at our own peril. It is a significant part of the equation in God’s economy. And it’s his desire that we enjoy it and we enjoy it to the fullest. Here’s the reason God is pro-sex. He invented it. God invented sex. When Adam and Eve were naked in the garden and came together sexually, it didn’t surprise God. He knew what he was doing when he created us as sexual beings. He didn’t create us as just procreational beings. He created us as sexual beings. And the fact of the matter is that that act is representative of every part of marriage. Why do they say that couples consummate their wedding vows? It is because sex is the consummate act. It consumes every part of who you are. It is spiritual first and foremost. It is emotional. It is physical. It is psychological. All of those facets are there in that act, and that represents the beauty of marriage which God has created to help us understand at least a shadow of how deeply and profoundly he loves us, of what it’s like to live in a relationship with him, that fulfillment, that satisfaction, that security, that peace, that pleasure, that joy. That’s what he wants to communicate. That’s what he wants us to experience through marriage.
It’s really interesting to me that no matter what subject you talk about, whether it’s marriage or money or relationships in the family or work, all roads lead back to the cross. Everything that God is about takes us back to relationship with him. That is what he is about. He is about that intimacy. And that intimacy with God flat out is damaged by sin. I know that when we talk about sex in particular that the vast majority of us have not lived up to God’s ideal. And we can look back in our lives and see times where we have taken that gift out of context and out of that safety zone.
But you need to understand that God is all about making that which is old new. Look at the life of Christ. He took an exchange with a woman who was literally caught in the act of adultery. Can you imagine the embarrassment and the shame in that? And Jesus said to her, where are your accusers? Who condemns you? And because he had run them off with love, she was able to look around, and she said, no one. And he said, no man condemns you, and neither do I. Go and sin no more. That’s the message of Christ. Whether it’s sexual sin, whether it’s relational sin, whether it’s financial sin, whatever it may be, Jesus says I’m not here to condemn. I’m here to love you.
Now go and sin no more. Receive this peace and this forgiveness. That’s what he’s about. I want to ask you if you will, bow your heads for just a moment. If you have never received that forgiveness, as a church family, we want to just make you aware of an invitation that God has given you.