Song of Songs 8:4 – “Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires.”
I have a single friend in her thirties, that by the grace of God, has never been awakened. She will tell you that she loves the Lord and that no matter how long it takes, she intends to wait until she is married. She will also tell you that she knows she has been fortunate because honestly, it has been easier for her than many others to stay pure. As a kid, she did not accidentally stumble upon the pleasures that her body is capable of. She has not had a boyfriend that got her heart pounding, tested the waters, or pushed the limits. Amazingly, she was never exposed to movies, books or pornography that whet her appetite and curiosity enough to take things into her own hands. And no one has taken what was not theirs to take, and then left her with the challenges and confusion of a body that knows arousal and pleasure even against one’s soul. She looks forward to marriage and to thoroughly enjoying sex, but her body has not been awakened and so it just makes life…simpler.
Honestly, most of us are not that fortunate. Many kids accidentally discover the pleasure their body holds and begin a life of self-comfort at a young age. Media screams sexuality – from music, to movies, to magazines, to books, to live streaming video of pornography – it is everywhere. Dating provides all kinds of challenges as limits are pushed and hormones surge. 30% of women and 20% of men experience some kind of sexual abuse. And so in some way, shape, or form, many of us are awakened before marriage – whether we want to be or not. Just because we have been awakened, does not mean that we cannot begin a journey of purity… it might just be a little harder.
I have to admit, I don’t have all the answers to the challenges of living in singleness.
I do know that God made us sexual beings from birth.
I also know that God’s design for sex is to knit husband and wife into One in marriage.
We went through some biblical principals that impact our decisions about masturbation last week and so I thought this week I would simply share some actual examples of real life situations, my thoughts and what might have been helpful in those situations.
Teenage boy struggling with wet dreams
A man shared that when he was a young teenager, he began having wet dreams. No one had ever talked to him about wet dreams or masturbation, and he was filled with shame and confusion. He felt in a sense that he had lost control over his body because without warning he could wake in a sticky mess. In order to prevent embarrassment when he slept over at camp or a friend’s, he would masturbate the night before. It did not take long to figure out that masturbation felt really good. As he became interested in girls at school, he began to use images of girls in his mind when he masturbated. Having a release helped clear his head so that he could focus on other things again. By luck, as an older teen he attended a church conference that addressed masturbation and wet dreams. He was completely relieved to learn that he was “normal.”
What a difference a little communication would have made. Years of guilt and fear could have been avoided. This young man could have been encouraged about how amazing God made his body and that some day he could share this with his wife. When he first began masturbating, he did not lust, his body simply responded to physical touch that felt good. He could have been challenged to keep his eyes pure, respect girls, and to not lust and use them for his own gain. He could have been encouraged to pray or reach out to a friend to talk when he felt restless, lonely, or unsure. He could also have been warned about masturbation gaining control and encouraged to pray for discernment. An open healthy conversation with a parent about masturbation could have opened up communication lines to help with future hard issues. Can you imagine what a difference some healthy conversations would have made?
Woman discovered her body at a young age
A woman shared that as a young girl in gym class, she discovered the pleasure that her body held while climbing a rope. It awakened in her a knowledge of what her body was capable of and at night when she was lonely or bored she would touch herself. She never really thought much about it, until she overheard a couple of girls talking at school, “how only ‘those girls’ did it.” Suddenly she was filled with shame and felt dirty. For a time, she avoided touching herself, but when she became a teenager and started reading romance novels, the story lines once again awoke her body. What her body felt was amazing, but it left her feeling guilty and dirty afterwards. This was her secret, never to be shared with anyone else.
It is not unusual for a young girl to discover her body at a young age, quite by accident. Many times, it is in no way associated with lust, but is simply physical touch that feels good. Societal messages that girls don’t enjoy sex or masturbate has filled women with shame that rolls all the way into marriage. That shame can make it harder to step into the freedom that God extends causing wives to struggle to enjoy manual stimulation or mutual masturbation in the marriage bed.
Conversations with girls are probably harder than with boys, because with boys, at least you usually know what is happening. Most girls are never talked to about masturbation unless they are caught in the act, and then it is simply disgust. Can you imagine what a difference it would make in a woman’s life if she was told as a girl what an amazing body God gave her, and how she was going to have so much enjoyment with her future husband? Could we have conversations with daughters as they begin reading romance novels about how it might awaken a body and why? Could we warn them about lust or setting up false expectations for a husband? Even a conversation about how nothing should control us and praying to God for discernment about whether things are out of balance would be huge. We have to look for opportunities for healthy conversations with our daughters.
A woman shared that she had been married for over 10 years and then went through a divorce. While she was married she had an active sex life and really enjoyed sex. She knew her own body and how to make it purr. After she got divorced she was lonely. She yearned to get remarried, but had been waiting years for the right man. Her body missed sex and masturbation had become a regular way to comfort herself and even to fall asleep at night. She did not picture others during masturbation, she simply focused on the pleasure of touch. She felt guilty about masturbating, and wanted to follow God, but really was not sure if what she was doing was wrong.
Honestly, for an older woman that desires to marry in the future, one of the ways to keep her body healthy, is masturbation. Stimulation of the vagina keeps the tissue supple and regular orgasms encourage circulation. But God never intended that we become dependent on masturbation to sleep or to curb loneliness. It is important for this woman to wrestle with whether things are out of balance and to ask God for discernment. Is she reaching for masturbation when she should be praying or calling a friend for company? Is she dependent on masturbation to sleep? Is what she doing honoring to Him? Does she feel like she needs to hide from God? Prayer and discernment with God will provide the answers that she is looking for.
There are no easy answers for masturbation in singleness.
It is important not to shame young kids for the bodies God gave them. It is equally important as children age to have conversations that address lust and control – how to respect others, discern truth and then share practical ways to help navigate this world. We need to be compassionate about the challenges of living a pure life in this sexualized world, but we also need to communicate that our God given sexuality is a good thing. Singles need to hear that within marriage, sex is powerful and it is good. We need to open up communication lines. Masturbation holds power that it should not hold when it is hidden and covered in shame. We need to step up to talk about masturbation in healthy ways – encouraging healthy conversations with others, sharing practical advice, and extending grace. Most of all, we need to bring God into the equation. God will give us discernment and answers for our particular situation if we ask. He will give us strength when we need it, and He will extend grace when we need it.
In a respectful way, would you be willing to share examples of discernment around the area of masturbation in singleness so that others might learn from your experiences? How could you have lived in the tension in a Godly way? What messages from parents, the church or friends would have helped?