Chapter 1: let’s get real
This book is not for spiritual monks.
If you spend more of your time at church getting to know God’s Word than out in the world living it, you probably won’t like this book. It’s raw and real. If you can’t handle words like masturbation, orgasm, and porn, you should just put it down now. These are real-world words that real people use.
Frankly, I wish I didn’t have to use them. I find a more poetic, subtle approach to sexuality more romantic. Not to mention tasteful. It seems to me that the Bible—while not lacking in sexual instruction, ethic, and purpose—often presents the subject in veiled terms, leaving us unblushed by its modest references to a gift so tender. I’d like to write more like that, and I have in previous books, but not this one.
We don’t live in a modest world. And the fact is, I’m not a spiritual monk.
And you probably aren’t either.
My intention isn’t to shock you as I approach this topic more directly than I have before. And I don’t think I will. It’s not as if you haven’t heard about oral sex or girls kissing girls. My intention is to be relevant and to bring some practical clarity to the sadly common temptations our culture presses at you. I believe this is also a biblical approach. After all, think about the two letters Paul sent to the Corinthian church. While many subjects are covered in these letters and we can’t be sure exactly what was in the letters from the church to the apostle that precipitated his response, it seems that the Corinthians were asking a lot of practical questions about marriage and sex. They were conflicted by the promiscuous culture that surrounded them. So they wondered, “Is it even good to be married?” (Perhaps you wonder that too.) “Because sex is perverted, shouldn’t we also abstain in marriage?” (That one was way off course!) “If my spouse is unsaved, should I get divorced?”
The apostle answered their questions.
One by one.
He clearly addressed their uncertainties and confusion—and I hope to do the same for you. Well, I hope we can find some answers together. If you press into your questions and I press into my research, we can link the two to find some answers to the questions our cultural experiences tend to raise.
You and I live in a rather promiscuous culture, and questions about sex burn through our minds. And while I really hope you’ll build a great sexual theology as you think over what you find in these pages, I also want you to have a practical understanding of how to live it out. So I’ve spent a lot of time with college-aged young women in intimate conversation about the burning questions that run through their heads—the ones the world tries to address in its sexual excess but the church often runs from.
“Is masturbation a sin?”
“How do I know if he’s the one?”
“What if he has a problem with porn?”
“What if I’m a lesbian?”
And hold on to your seat—there’s more!
It is my hope that these very direct, very practical pages will give you the answers you need to live out what you believe. After all, what good is a sexual theology if it doesn’t speak to the issues of this contemporary day and age, where few are spiritual monks?
So what am I if not a spiritual monk?
Am I a girl gone wild?
I am a biblical woman who loves God’s Word and feasts on it each day.
I am a sinful woman who has been healed by the perfecting love of my Savior.
I am a wife and mother who is honored to serve the Father in those roles.
I am an author empowered by the Holy Spirit to write and live out Truth.
I am a girl who occasionally watches The Ellen Show, and I think she’s sweet and funny and generous.
And that’s where it starts to get complicated—when my private, God-loving self interacts with a real world that doesn’t acknowledge Him as God. Just like you, I am trying to live out my faith in a very crazy world. Which is why I’m so glad to have found some tremendous clarity in God’s Word, which gives you and me a very clear definition of sex to consider. This definition answers every burning question and is thoroughly relevant for today. Once I discovered it, confusion over sexual questions was easy to resolve. I even came to understand why as a little girl I was predisposed to dressing up like a princess and dreaming that my prince would one day come. No one taught me to do that. It was a natural yearning as my heart began its search for my life partner.
For me, that dream came to its culmination during a thrilling moment of made-for-TV romance!
I was in college, and I was in love. Had been for two years. One problem: my prince was graduating, while I was obligated to one more year of servitude at Cedarville University. My boyfriend, Bob, had a part in Senior Night, a hilariously dramatic look back at the class’s four years. Naturally I planned to attend, but my heart was so sad. In fewer than twenty-four hours, he would be gone and I would be left behind for a quiet summer of classes.
After a quick bite at Colonial Pizza, Bob and I made our way to the university’s chapel. I found some friends to sit with. He made his way backstage.
I laughed my way through much of the night, but then Dr. Jim Phipps and Professor Meg Wheeler, the night’s emcees, began to talk about all the guys who’d recently been thrown into Cedar Lake. Getting thrown into the lake was every guy’s reward for flashing a diamond in front of his girl and hearing the word yes. A rite of passage coveted by every college couple, lake activity was rampant just before graduation. A yearning washed over me as they talked about all the happy proposals.
“What would a proposal like that look like?” The question was posed. And I wondered along with the audience.
Bob Gresh came out onto the stage…
…with a black velvet box in his hand.
He was searching for me in the audience as the spotlight followed him.
My heart was thumping so heavily that I was certain it was shaking the solid twenty-foot pew I sat on—and everyone sitting on it with me.
“And then I’d take her by the hand,” he said, offering the audience the play-by-play as he approached me.
“And I’d lead her to the stage.” I followed him as he talked.
A single chair was waiting for me. I plopped into it, weak at the knees.
Then my prince bowed on one knee and took my left hand in his. “Dannah Barker,” he asked, looking lovingly into my eyes, “will you marry me?”
My breath had truly been taken by the moment. Apparently so had the breath of everyone in the audience, who had now caught on to the fact that this was real. And some lovesick twenty-one-year-old guy had just put his heart out for the taking or rejecting. The only sound in my ears was my loudly thumping heart and Bob’s nervous breathing.
Finally I nodded and barely mouthed the answer: “Yes!”
Bob slipped a brilliant diamond onto my left ring finger and then stood, pumping his fist into the air in victory. The audience collectively took a deep breath and then jumped to their feet in wild applause.
My prince had come!
I recently reached the milestone of being with him more years than I’ve lived without him, and he has spent all of those years romancing me. It’s never, ever stopped. Girl, this is the kind of guy you want to marry. I’m talking about the kind of guy who welcomes you home from a long trip with lit candles leading the way to a bubble bath so you can relax. I’m talking about the kind of guy who whisks you away to New York City, having arranged for the two of you to spend days visiting every scene from your favorite romantic movie until your heart melts. I’m talking about the kind of guy who texts insane love notes to you all hours of the day. (Last month’s goofiest text was: “I love you more than Cheetos.” Unless you understand how much the man loves Cheetos, you cannot appreciate the romance of that one!)
Do you want that kind of never-ending romance (okay, minus the Cheetos)? Dare to dig in with me for a few raw and real chapters about God, sex, and romance. Let me start in the next chapter by backing up a few years from Bob’s amazing marriage proposal to a time when I was asking a lot of questions myself.