Men aren't the only ones who wrestle with sexual temptation. In fact, women today need clear guidance on where to draw the line.
Indulging in a steamy romance novel ... going out of your way to pass by the attentive co-worker's desk ... surfing in cyberspace to find a chat room buddy who'll stroke your ego. None of these seemingly innocent activities could be considered cheating or sexually compromising, right? Or could they?
Where is the line between sexual integrity and compromise? What constitutes marital unfaithfulness? Can we consider ourselves "pure" as long as we've not been physical with another man? Or, does sexual purity go deeper than that?
Even Christians often assume that until they actually engage in intercourse with another person, they're acting with sexual integrity. But our sexuality isn't just what we do, but rather who we are.
God created us with not just a body, but also with a mind, heart and spirit. These four components combine to form the whole of who God made us to be.
Therefore, our bodies are only one aspect that we must guard against sexual compromise. It is vital that we also carefully guard our minds, hearts and spirits.
The Components of Sexuality
Over the last decade, pursuing my own healing from these issues, as well as teaching on the topic of sexual purity, I have come to understand that in some way or another sexual integrity is a battle that every woman fights.
Perhaps Kevin and Ruth's experience can help you visualize this four-component concept. After their wedding, they proceeded into the reception hall where a long, lace-covered banquet table displayed the beautiful multitiered wedding cake, the crystal punch bowl and cups, sterling silverware and frou-frou monogrammed napkins. The only problem was that whoever set up the table forgot to fasten the latch on one of the folding legs. As soon as the red punch was poured into the crystal punch bowl, the leg buckled and everything slid down to the floor with a clatter!
When all four of a table's legs aren't securely fastened, the possibility of a mishap is pretty good. The same can be said of our sexuality. All four components-mind, body, heart and spirit-must be guarded in order for our lives to reflect purity and integrity.
So how can we securely guard our minds, bodies, hearts and spirits from sexual compromise? What things are women prone to do that undermine our sexual integrity? We'll need to examine the most common temptations women face.
Seven Pitfalls to Sexual Purity
1. Unhealthy comparisons. Whether it's the Hollywood hunk, the passionate pastor or the charming neighbor, it's tempting to compare our mates to other men and meditate on the many ways he fails to measure up. But what man can possibly live up to the bright and shining qualities of all others?
When we compare ourselves to the magazine model or the younger, smarter, prettier secretary in his office, discontentment is sure to follow. We can become so disillusioned with our less-than-perfect partners or with ourselves that our sex lives are negatively affected. If you find yourself falling prey to 1unhealthy comparisons, remind yourself of three wonderful things about your husband (or about yourself), then say a prayer of thanks to God for His wonderful creation.
2. Mental fantasies involving others. If you discovered that your husband fantasizes about other women while being intimate with you, would you feel offended? Sure. And most husbands would feel the same way if the tables were turned.
To safeguard your mind from straying outside of your marriage bed, I recommend leaving the lights on and keeping your eyes open during intimate moments together. It may seem unusual at first, but think about it: When we talk with someone, we don't usually turn our backs or close our eyes. We prefer the intimate connection of face-to-face and eye-to-eye contact.
A dark room or closed eyes can hinder, rather than foster, genuine intimacy if our minds are prone to wandering. Remaining mentally and visually focused on your husband during lovemaking will help you feel more connected.
Single women, too, must be aware that allowing their minds to envision inappropriate activities or relationships paves the way for their defenses to become so weakened that they eventually act out their thoughts. Avoid tempting fantasies by limiting their access to your mind.
3. Emotional affairs. Many women protect their bodies from sexual sin, but allow their hearts to stray far from home. Even if the relationship never becomes sexual, for a man to lose his wife's heart to another is a crushing blow. Some women seek to medicate the pain of loneliness or rejection when they feel love is eluding them. Some take solace in food; others in sexual relationships with any willing partner.
Women don't usually intend to get tangled up in an emotional affair. If you find yourself sensing an improper attraction to or from a man, avoid being alone with him (even in a public place) and refrain from conversations that you wouldn't want others to know about, including private e-mails, chat rooms and telephone conversations.
Remember, the heart is to be guarded above all else! (See Prov. 4:23.) Find an accountability partner, and give her permission to ask you the hard questions to keep you from falling into an emotional affair.
4. Pornography and Internet chat rooms. Men aren't the only ones tempted to peep at porn. Many women admit to compulsively accessing Internet pornography, at first perhaps out of curiosity or to see what their husbands were looking at, but later to satisfy their own lustful curiosities.
Looking at pornography pulls our minds away from God's plan for sexual purity within marriage like nothing else. Those graphic images of other people often continue to flash through our minds even when we are making love with our spouses.
Many women prefer cyber sex (or cyber foreplay) in chat rooms with strangers. While it may feel exciting to be intimate with a stranger, divulging and learning new things about each other, such isn't intimacy-it's just intensity-a cheap substitute for the real thing. Genuine intimacy is achieved only by personal contact over long periods of time, such as in marriage.
An unmarried woman demonstrates her love for God by focusing her thoughts on Him and on those things He has prepared for her to do that are pleasing to Him. Cyber relationships of a sexual nature fuel unhealthy appetites and foster a sense of guilt that will inhibit intimacy with the Lord.
5. Romance novels and soap operas. It's no coincidence that I was experiencing the most extramarital temptation during the days that I watched All My Children, One Life to Live and General Hospital while my children were napping. When we put garbage into our minds, we can expect it to rot and create a stench that infects our lives.
Romance novels can have a similar effect, stirring up cravings for illicit sexual encounters. Even though there are some great Christian romance novels out there, if you find yourself feeling disappointed that your husband doesn't sweep you off your feet like the hero in the story, it's a threat to your emotional sobriety and faithfulness in marriage.
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