To Know and Be Known
About the Guest
God loves sex. Surprised? Well-known author and speaker, Dan Allender, reminds listeners that sex was designed by God to be a good and enjoyable part of marriage. Dan asserts that God wants couples to experience intimacy and joy through the sexual union, and that sex, in reality, is a big part of how couples can delight in one another and their God. Sex isn't just about pleasure, however, but about knowing the other person wholly and completely.
God loves sex. Surprised? Well-known author and speaker, Dan Allender, reminds listeners that sex was designed by God to be a good and enjoyable part of marriage.
To Know and Be Known
Bob: By the time any of us reaches adulthood, it’s a virtual certainty that we have sinned and/or been sinned against, sexually. Dr. Dan Allender says that’s where the gospel comes into play.
Dan: Where death wanted to win, where shame wanted to win, where sense of despair wanted to win—what violence has been done against you / what violence you’ve done to yourself or to someone else—see, the gospel isn’t about that being covered over so we can forget it. The gospel is, actually—now, we can enter this terrain, where there is much damage, and begin the process of seeing restoration and rebuilding.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, September 16th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. The Bible teaches that God loves us. It, also, teaches that God loves sex. We’ll explore that with Dan Allender today.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Wednesday edition. We are halfway through our 30-Day Oneness Prayer Challenge. We’ve had lots of couples joining us—praying for their marriage each day. I know some of you have missed a day or two—that’s okay. You probably prayed together more in the last two weeks than, maybe, at any other point in your marriage—and that’s a good thing.
So, today is Day 16 of the 30-day prayer challenge. Our focus is on being grateful for your spouse and grateful for the blessing of marriage. There’s an opportunity for one of you to pray—thanking God for your spouse and for your marriage—
—and for the other one to pray, asking God to cultivate in you the habit of expressing appreciation to one another regularly.
And if you did not sign up, back at the beginning of the month, for the 30-Day Oneness Prayer Challenge, you can join in with us. Just go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link in the upper left-hand corner of the screen that says, “GO DEEPER,” and look for the icon for the 30-Day Oneness Prayer Challenge. Log on and join in and be part of the next couple of weeks as we pray together, as husbands and wives.
Now, we’re going to talk today about something—actually, I think it had to be two decades ago, Dennis—that I first heard you share a quote from your mentor on the subject of sex. You know the quote I’m thinking of?
Dennis: I do. Dr. Howard Hendricks said, “We should not be ashamed to discuss”—
Bob: That’s the one.
Dennis: —“that which God was not ashamed to create.” Of course, he was talking about sex.
We have a guest, here on the broadcast today, who—he subscribes to that.
Bob: He’s not ashamed to discuss—
Dennis: He’s not ashamed to discuss—
Bob: —what God was not ashamed to create.
Dennis: That’s right. Dr. Dan Allender joins us on FamilyLife Today again. Welcome back, Dan.
Dan: Bob/Dennis, what a delight to be with you. Thank you.
Dennis: Dan is a good friend. He and Becky, for a number of years, served on the speaker team for the Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways—spoke at I Still Do®—has been just a great friend. In fact, yesterday, we went fishing.
Dan: Didn’t catch a whole lot, but we had a lot of very good conversations.
Dennis: We really did. It was supposed to rain, and it didn’t rain. We just kind of had a lazy day, floating down the White River in Northern Arkansas. Folks, if you haven’t been there, stay away because, if you go there, you’ll really like it. [Laughter] It’s a beautiful spot.
Bob: So, when you say you didn’t catch a lot—what—
—can I get a specific—
Dennis: Well, Dan caught 50 percent more than me. [Laughter]
Dan: And numbers are so unimportant when what you really have is fellowship. [Laughter]
Dennis: Dan caught two, and I caught one. We were fly-fishing all day, and it wasn’t that we didn’t try.
Dennis: We really did, but it just wasn’t to be—and it was—but it was a lot of fun / it was a lot of fun. Dan is probably best-known for his book, The Wounded Heart, which has now sold more than a half-million copies. In fact, in about a year, you are getting ready to come out with, not a revised edition, but a rewrite.
Dan: Really, it’s Healing the Wounded Heart—a 25-year retrospective, asking the question: “What have we all learned about the nature of trauma and abuse?—particularly, sexual violation?” So, yes, I hope to join you again in another year.
Bob: Yes, you can count on it.
Dennis: He’s coauthored a book called God Loves Sex with his friend, Tremper Longman—
—who has his PhD from Yale—brings an interesting perspective to this topic. I want to read kind of an essence of this book to our audience. This will kind of whet your appetite for what this book is all about.
Dan and Tremper say this: “God loves sex. Sex is meant, by God, to be one of the bridge experiences between earth and heaven.” I want to find out in a minute, Dan, what you really mean by that; but let me continue on. “It’s no wonder that the enemy of God is relentlessly committed to fouling both the eminent pleasure and transcendent joy. Evil hates sex and is ruthlessly committed to tearing down the bridge between desire and holiness. Real people have real sexual struggles.”
Man—is that an understatement.
I want to go back to the statement you made that: “Sex was designed, by God, to be a bridge experience between earth and heaven”?
Dan: Well, Romans, Chapter 1, verse 21, talks about the fact that the visible makes known the invisible. That is true of His character / it’s true of the world of heaven. We are given things on this earth that are meant to be revelatory about what we will, one day, know—whether or not we will have sex in heaven is, to me, a very unimportant question. What we do know is that, whatever sex brings, at its most glorious, is indeed but a small taste of what intimacy, and glory, and pleasure will be like when we are with Him.
So, from that vantage, sex, as a powerful human experience, is a window/a bridge into what it is that God wants for our bodies, our hearts, our minds with our beloved / with our covenant partner.
In that relationship, we are meant to know something that really does change us—not just pleasure us—but changes us.
Bob: I remember you and I were having dinner a number of years ago, and it was a fine a meal. You pushed back from the table; and you said, “Every fine meal is a taste of heaven.” It is that sample that we get. I reflected on that, as I was reading Psalm 16, at the end, where it says, “There are pleasures evermore in the presence of God.” Really, all pleasure on earth is a—not an imitation—but a trickle/a foreshadowing of the great joy we will one day know.
Dan: Well, in one sense, communion, itself, is meant to be a symbolic entry into the wedding feast of the Lamb. So, right there, we need to say that sex is the beginning of the Bible / it’s the end of the Bible. Food is the beginning of the Bible / it’s the end of the Bible. It’s what holds our heart from the vantage of heartache but also to hope.
But if we go back to that important sentence you made—“Evil is so committed to the harm of our body and the harm of our heart through the misuse of our bodies,”—we have to say, “Our God loves sex, but we’ve got an enemy that is working voraciously to devour our ability to enjoy our body.” So, it is a war.
Dennis: Dan, you have made, really, a lifetime study out of both the harm done to people through sexual abuse and, then, also, the standard of the Bible that is speaking forth what God intended when He designed sex. Let us into a little bit of what you’ve concluded, as a result of your study of Scripture, in terms of: “What did God really have in mind here?”
Dan: Well, we know, from the beginning to the end, that what He wants is intimacy and joy—that brings honor and glory to one another—but ultimately to Him. All of life is about worship.
All of life is about being able to say: “God, You are so good! I am in awe of You, and I am so grateful for You.”
That sense of “Wow!”—that is meant to be there between a husband and a wife, looking at one another—whether you are early on in your marriage or whether you are in your 80s/90s: “Wow! I get to be married to you. Yes! Yes, thank you—thank you for the kindness, the pleasure, the sacrifice, the warmth that you have offered. May mine be, as well, a salve and a joy for you.”
So, in that sense, you see, sexually—we are not even talking about genitality. We’re talking about the joy of a husband and a wife / awe and gratitude to one another—but ultimately, that is taking the heart of each to one great praise / not to one another—but ultimately: “Thank You, God, for this man,” /
“Thank You, God, for this woman,” that then leads our hearts to even greater intimacy with God. So, our bodies are meant to bring pleasure, but a pleasure that is full of the delight of the glory of God.
Dennis: You’re saying that sex is a part of how we worship God when it is performed in marriage.
Dan: “Whether you eat, whether you drink, give all things to the glory of God.” So, in one sense, the most basic thing you do every day—eating and drinking—I don’t think we are going to be sexual quite as often as we eat and drink—but that frame of reference is: “All pleasures are meant to bring delight—and delight / ultimately, praise and honor to the One who made us.” If that’s the framework, then, we understand both sides of the coin—why evil works so hard to ruin, and why God loves to see redemption in this area.
Bob: Dennis was clear to frame up sex in the context of marriage.
It is not possible to have God-glorifying sex outside of that context; right?
Dan: Well, the book that we are dealing with is Song of Songs.
Dan: Sometimes, because the language of Song of Songs may sound like a dating couple or an engaged couple, it, then, gets interpreted as—maybe, this is actually sexuality outside of a covenantal relationship. Let me just say—as clearly as Tremper and I can put it: “No; sex was meant to occur in an ongoing progress toward consummation of pleasure / an orgasm only in the context of a married male / female relationship.”
So, sexuality is the physical epitome of the very nature of what two souls enjoy together in the knowing. That’s where Scripture will often use the word, “knowing,”—“He knew his wife.” Well, that meant he knew her—not just her name / where she came from—but was a euphemism for: “They were sexually-involved,”—
—but it is also the knowing of heart-to-heart, body-to-body, and mind-to-mind over a lifetime.
I’ve been married almost 39 years. I feel like after—even the last year—the woman I married—oh, she’s revealed herself to be who I knew she was, but in ways that I’m still surprised at who she is revealing herself to be. If I had 100 years with her, I would not have enough time to be able to even begin to grasp the depth, the goodness, the wildness of who my wife is.
Bob: So, let me just go back—because I’m thinking of the 22-year-old guy, who is saying: “Well, what’s wrong with me knowing three women? I like all three of them a lot. What’s wrong with me having that kind of a knowing / sexual experience with them, outside of marriage, on our own?”
Dan: Well, first and foremost, because it’s contrary to the Word of God; but second, the Word of God isn’t just reasonable—it’s actually inviting you to a better life.
And Song of Songs does not directly address that; but it does so in the larger canon of Scripture, in terms of being able to say: “Our bodies are meant to be given fully and completely to only one covenant partner.”
So, if you think random sexual acts will bring you joy—look, I’ve worked with people too long to not know—it factures, it creates emptiness, it creates a level of guilt and shame. Eventually, you harden your heart; and you become indifferent to the use of another human being. That is what you want out of your humanity?—to become indifferent, and hollow, angry, and using?
Even people who don’t love God—when they are given that option of: “This is where it’s going to take you,”—in the same metaphorical sense, probably, one use of cocaine or methamphetamine won’t kill you; but it has the potential.
But over time, you will destroy the very glory of who you are and who you are meant to be if you continue to use something that God did not intend for you to suffer in that context.
Dennis: The desire God has given us to know another person and to be known within the context of marriage demands safety. Your book is actually written from Song of Solomon. In the last chapter, it says, “Put me like a seal on your heart for love is strong.” It’s picturing there the commitment of a bridegroom to his bride that assures the bride that it’s safe to be real, to be open, and to allow me to know you and for me to allow you to know me.
Dan: It’s a stand against death. In one sense, that passage in Song of Songs, Chapter 8, is really saying: “Death does not have the final word.”
That’s what all of us, if we’re honest—my wife and I both had histories of misuse of our bodies, in terms of abuse, but also, promiscuity. We suffered in our marriage as a result of having harm done to us and harm we’ve done to ourselves and others.
Then, to be able to go: “Redemption is so good. It doesn’t just take it away. It requires you, now, to step into where death wanted to win, where shame wanted to win, where sense of despair wanted to win, and then, to reclaim that because of the gospel. Now, you have the courage to step into your own sexual history—how you came to be a man/ a woman—what violence has been done against you / what violence you’ve done to yourself or someone else.”
See, the gospel isn’t about that being covered over so we can forget it. The gospel is, actually—now, we can enter this terrain, where there is much damage, and begin the process of seeing restoration and rebuilding.
Dennis: And there really is hope. What I’m hearing you say is—even though you and Becky came from these backgrounds—where you made errors, and made mistakes, and you brought this into a relationship called marriage, and it caused additional wounds and additional hurt to one another—there really is hope for that person, who is listening right now, who feels trapped in a marriage or who feels like: “You know, my wife and I / or my husband and I are just—we are destined to stay in this downward spiral.” You’re saying the Word of God and the Spirit of God at work in a person’s soul can work the work of redemption. There really is healing possible here.
Dan: We have to look through the Resurrection at death and say: “You don’t get the final word. We know death does not win—nor does any of its siblings—despair, destruction, degradation.”
Therefore, we are able to say, “We will be captured by awe, and gratitude, by delight.” In one sense, to actually say: “The gospel is sensual,” “The gospel”—strange word to use here—“it’s erotic.” It brings a sweet taste of the beloved, and our bodies’ reconnection to His love—that allows ourselves and our partner / our spouse to no longer be bound by shame. In that sense, the gospel demands you defy the harm of the past.
Dennis: In your book, you talk—again, from the book, Song of Solomon, which is in the Bible—a lot of folks don’t realize this. Smack dab in the middle of the Bible—I think God has a sense of humor that He included a book that is clearly about sexual love, and commitment, and relationship—right in the middle of the Bible and commits eight chapters to this book.
But you talk about the dance desire and how that really is the spark of a truly intimate relationship.
Dan: Well, desire is simply anticipation of pleasure. That when we’re able to imagine that sense of: “I get to go fishing with Dennis,”—well, that really got me through some significant unpleasantness over the last couple weeks because “I’m going to go…” Desire is where you dream redemption for yourself and for others.
So, when desire is allowed to come alive for what our bodies are most meant to enjoy with our spouse, sexually and otherwise, we’re actually beginning to allow ourselves to dream redemption, in the here and now. Therefore, a man should look at a woman’s body with a kind of: “Oh!”—awe, delight, and gratitude—and a woman is to look at a man’s body with a kind of: “Wow!” So, when that’s not there, between a husband and wife, we’ve, at least, got to step back and say, “What happened?”
Dennis: Well, I think, Dan, the thing that I so enjoy about your writing and just the way you put things is—you meet people in the real world in which they live—where they’re likely struggling in some form or fashion. You speak to them in such a way to say: “You know what? You don’t have to put up with this.” It’s not that you are going to stop struggling, but that there really is a hope to experience something that is far more satisfying than where you are today.
And I have to say—after 42 years of marriage, I would hate to go back to the beginning. I mean, Barbara and I—the lessons we’ve learned—and the difficulties, sometimes, with which we learned them—has resulted in just a sweet relationship, that still isn’t perfect, but it is so satisfying / so delightful—
—that you think back to those early married years, and you go, “I didn’t know what I was doing.” You know, I really didn’t know my wife—I was trying to get to know her—but now, I do. I feel like I’m doing a much better job, after 42 years—and by the way, I better be—of honoring, cherishing, nourishing—all the things a husband is designed, by God, to do for and with his wife.
Bob: You stop and think about all of the books, the songs, the movies—everything that is pointing us to what are the abuses of God’s good gift of sex. It’s nice to have a book that, instead of talking about the abuses, is talking about the goodness and focusing in on what’s right with sex.
Dennis: And it’s going to give you some new categories. It’s going to jar your thinking. Bob, you know this about Dan—
—he likes to kind of shake things up, and kind of cause you to think, and do some scratching on your head and go: “What does he mean by that? Let’s talk about that.” I think this would be a great book for a couple to read together. The husband reads and underlines through a chapter. Then, the wife does the same thing. They come together, and they talk about a chapter. I think it’d be a great way to just discuss this, and maybe, scratch your heads together.
Bob: The book is called God Loves Sex: An Honest Conversation about Sexual Desire and Holiness. We’ve got it in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can go, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link in the upper left-hand corner of the screen that says, “GO DEEPER,” and look for information about the book from Dan Allender and Tremper Longman called God Loves Sex. Order it from us, online; or call 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY,” and request the book by phone. Again, our toll-free number is 1-800-358-6329.
That’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY.” Or you can find us, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com.
You know, this subject is a subject that is one of the critical / one of the important subjects that all of us face in marriage: “How can we live according to God’s good design for our marriage in the area of intimacy?” It’s obviously not the only issue we face in marriage. We have to figure out things like forgiveness and resolving conflict. “How do we communicate effectively with one another? How do we demonstrate selfless love for one another in a marriage relationship?” These all are vital components of a strong Christ-centered marriage relationship.
At FamilyLife, our goal is to effectively develop godly marriages and families—marriages and families that we believe can change the world, one home at a time. And we’re grateful for those of you who support this ministry—
—you share our conviction that this is an important and worthwhile goal. Thanks for your occasional gifts in support of this ministry—or if you are a Legacy Partner—thank you for your regular financial support of FamilyLife Today.
If you’re able to help with a gift today, we’d like to say, “Thank you,” by sending you the FamilyLife 2016 Calendar. This is a calendar designed to continue the practice of prayer together, as a family, throughout the new year. You can find out more about how to receive the 2016 calendar when you make a donation. Go, online, to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link in the upper right-hand corner of the screen that says, “I Care,” to make an online donation; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to make your donation over the phone. Or you can request the calendar when you mail a donation to us at FamilyLife Today at PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR. Our zip code is 72223.
Now, tomorrow, we’re going to talk about how we continue to love one another and how we continue to experience God’s design for marital intimacy when both of us bring scars, and wounds, and baggage into a marriage relationship in this area. We’ll continue our conversation with Dr. Dan Allender tomorrow. Hope you can be here as well.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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