Sexual purity is possible
I am a passionate, sexual, curious middle-aged, single woman who deeply loves Jesus Christ, loves life, thrives on adventures and receives energy and life from relationships.
God also created me to be someone who speaks out on things that many others avoid conversations about. So the time has come to talk about being single, sexual and yet not sexually active.
Sexuality and sex are not words that we often hear, see or read about in our churches, especially when mixed with the words single adult. Yet society screams the words at us constantly in all we hear, see and read.
In fifth grade my attraction to a neighborhood boy was exceptionally strong. My mother quickly noticed the growing amount of time we were spending together and in one of our conversations she made several statements that I remember to this day. She reminded me that I had choices about what we did in our time together. Not only did I have a choice in how I treated him, I could be intentional about how I allowed him to treat me.
She emphasized that these decisions had to take place long before we were in an “adoring” moment together, as my emotions rather than clear thinking might have swayed me. She also reminded me that she could still make some decisions for me and that I needed to be home by the time the street lights went on.
What I've learned
As life has gone on, I have found myself in a variety of different relationships with men—as friends, serving on a committee or board together, ministering on a short-term mission trip, casually meeting or dating. As I review where my self-confidence and purity are, I have a great deal for which to be thankful.
In reviewing several of these relationships there have been numerous times when I was greatly tempted to derail my resolve to embrace my sexuality, yet not be sexually active. By embracing my sexuality I mean being feminine, living as a gendered person and allow in myself to feel attraction and desirous of sexual intimacy.
These moments of temptation have involved married men who carry great leadership in the evangelical church, seeking sexual involvement with me outside of what they claimed were unhappy marriages; single men that I have dated with whom passionate moments could so easily become sexual moments; single and married men who travel greatly for their business and expect that a woman who does the same is always open to a sexual tryst; and men in foreign countries helping on short-term mission projects who thought I might be looking for some sexual excitement.
What has made it possible for me to remain sexually pure all these years while interacting with and relating to men?
- God’s grace
- My mother’s willingness to pray, listen, give advice and not shy away from some very blunt conversations on sexuality and sex.
- The prayers of many who love me and know my deep desire to keep this area of my life pure.
- Friends and ministry colleagues who are willing to ask the hard questions to keep me accountable in my resolve to remain pure sexually.
- Great advice from women who had walked the path before me and chose to mentor me. A single woman who had been in ministry for over 25 years said to me at the beginning of my ministry life, “Sherryl, as a woman who will interact with many men in leadership, you would do well to know your boundaries as far as intimacy—emotional, spiritual and physical—are concerned. You would do well to introduce yourself to the man’s spouse if at all possible so she has an idea whom her husband is spending time with at home and on the road. You would do well to remember that visual stimulation is strong for men and you own the responsibility of carrying yourself in a respectful manor in this regard.”
- Great insight from male friends who have honestly shared their struggles and given me glimpses into the male psyche. They have taught me what a struggle it is to remain pure when so much visual, sexual stimulation surrounds them. They have enlightened me on how a man can dearly love his wife, yet compartmentalize that from the affair he chooses to be a part of. They have informed me on how differently men and women approach relationships and define intimacy. They have reminded me that a woman can attract with her beauty but that her confidence, humor and adventurous spirit can be sexually attractive as well.
- A growing love for myself. Jesus commanded us to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and secondly to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matt. 22:37-39), and we often miss the very important equation found in the second command. We are only able to love others once we love ourselves. If I could bottle self-esteem, self -confidence and self-worth, I could make millions since many North American believers find it difficult to believe in themselves.
- A growing understanding of what it means to love and be loved. How respect, patience, kindness, selflessness, humility and grace are integral in loving someone and someone loving you!
Jesus knows that we have to embrace our relationship with him in a way that fully engages our heart, soul and mind and that out of this fully engaged relationship with him we are able to love ourselves and in turn be able to love others.
So far this equation has worked for this single white female who enjoys embracing her sexuality but chooses not to be sexually active. My prayer is that this equation will continue to be the foundation of my life in all the relationships of which I am privileged to be a part.
Sherryl Koop works for a travel agency in Winnipeg, Man., and is involved with the youth ministry program at McIvor Ave. MB Church. This article is reprinted with permission from the MB Herald, the Canadian MB Conference English language publication.