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3 Ways You Can Be Single and Sexual

Even if you're not having sex, you're still a sexual being.

Did you know that single women are sexual? That your sexuality has nothing to do with whether or not you are having sex? As ridiculous as it sounds, many Christians grow up thinking that they will magically become sexual when they get married. Before marriage, their sexuality should be lying dormant.

Singles are sexual beings created in the image of God. Your sexuality is not compartmentalized, waiting for marriage; it's integrated into all the aspects of your being—intellectual, emotional, relational, and spiritual. It's a core part of who God created you to be.

I deeply believe that the biblical teaching to reserve sexual intimacy for marriage is still relevant for today’s Christian woman. The fullness of sexual expression was created to be expressed only within the covenant of marriage. No amount of modern science or situational ethics can erase the fact that your sexuality is about more than your body. Sexual intercourse is a powerful emotional and spiritual bonding that will always have implications; there is no such thing as “casual sex.”

While God commands you to save sexual intimacy for marriage, your sexuality is something that is always there even when sex isn't a part of your life. Because we tend to only talk about the physical act of sex, we ignore the fact that it's our sexuality that ultimately drives us into relationship, makes us desire marriage, expresses our longing to be known, heard, understood, and protected—our longing to be vulnerable, soul to soul, with another person, and ultimately, our longing to be known by God. As a single person, your sexuality serves a purpose.

Sexuality Draws Us into Relationship

The overemphasis on the act of sex often makes us miss the fact that sexuality is about intimacy and relationship. I was recently talking with a woman in her thirties who had lived a season of life as a bisexual. Over the past few years, she became convicted that her sexual relationships were not what God wanted for her life. Yet she was still confused about what that meant.

“Juli, I still really want to be close with women. I love my friends and hate the fact that I can’t be intimate with them.” As we talked, I helped this young women unravel the concepts of intimacy and sex. In our world, the two ideas have become intertwined. In fact, sexual intimacy is just one aspect of intimacy. I have intimate relationships with men and women, but I am not having sex with them.

A core aspect of our sexuality is the yearning to be known and to share intimately with another person. Yes, that is expressed in its fullness in marriage. Yet, my sexuality as a woman deeply impacts how I relate to others outside the bedroom. Your longing to nurture, to connect, to share, and to trust another person wholly are all aspects of God’s image expressed in your femininity and sexuality.

Sexuality Teaches Us About God

Ephesians 5:31–32 alludes to the fact that sex within marriage is a holy metaphor that points to the spiritual mystery of God’s covenant love for us. Throughout Scripture, sex is used to express aspects of God’s covenant and the degree of intimacy he has with his people. This means that married men and women should be learning mysteries of God as they experience sex together. I believe singles can also understand something deeper about God through their sexuality. Jesus talked about how we will mourn and long for the Bridegroom when he is not with us. We will ache for his presence and have deep longings that are unmet. Singles definitely get this!

When I read the expressions of spiritual longing expressed in some of the psalms, I can’t help but think of a single woman yearning for true intimacy. Here are a few examples:

O God, you are my God;

I earnestly search for you.

My soul thirsts for you;

my whole body longs for you

in this parched and weary land

where there is no water. (Pasalm 63:1)

I long, yes, I faint with longing

to enter the courts of the LORD.

With my whole being, body and soul,

I will shout joyfully to the living God. (Psalm 84:2)

The Struggle for Sexual Purity Isn’t Just for Singles

Married and single women have a lot more in common than they realize. I think we do each other a great disservice when we compartmentalize sexual conversations to single and married women. Do you know that many married women struggle with sexual frustration and temptations?

I’ve met with many young men and women who think that their struggle to stay pure would end with a wedding ceremony. Wrong! Sexual purity is a battle throughout adulthood. It simply takes a different form in marriage.

Your married friends are free to have sex, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t struggling with porn, unmet desires, images from the past, extramarital flirtations, and conflict over sex in marriage.

Why is this important for you to know as a single? Because it helps you understand that your sexuality is not about an “on-off” switch called marriage. It means understanding that being an adult sexual woman is part of God’s design for you as one who bares the image of Christ. I don’t fully understand it—it’s a mystery, but it’s still a reality.

Single or married, yielding your sexuality under the lordship of Christ will always be a challenge. In this season of singleness, it doesn’t help to pretend that you aren’t sexual. Instead, how can you express your sexuality in ways that are honoring to God and that validate your longings for intimacy? Here are a few thoughts:

1. Guard your mind. We live in a culture that is sex-saturated. For many, the accessibility of porn on every mobile device makes it seem impossible to not think about sex. Other women who aren’t tempted by visual porn might consume “emotional porn.” In other words, movies, romance novels, and reality shows that present romance in a light far from reality.

Song of Solomon warns us not to awaken love before its time. You need to know what fuels your thinking and gets your engine running with no where to go.

2. Channel your desire for intimacy in healthy ways. Remember that intimacy doesn’t mean sex. I believe that many women who struggle with sexual temptation are really longing for intimacy more than for sex. Show me a woman who is hooked on Fifty Shades of Grey, and I’ll show you a woman who is lonely. She’s longing for intimacy—the feeling of being known, cherished, valued, and loved.

Although we have hormones and sexual longings, they are not nearly as powerful as our drive for intimacy. The physical act of sex, while beautiful as an expression of intimacy, is a cheap replacement for it. We live in a world that sabotages intimacy at every step while promoting sex as an adequate substitute. No amount of sex (real or imagined) can compensate for a lack of intimacy.

God may or may not have marriage for you in the future, but his will for you is to have intimate relationships within the body of Christ. In some cases, deep friendships can be even more fulfilling than marriage. David expressed this about his intimate friendship with Jonathan. Paul, who was single most (if not all of his life) shares in his writings about many intimate friendships who encouraged him through the years.

3. Take a lesson from a widow. The other day, I noticed an “unsung heroine” among the women of the Bible. Her name was Anna. We don’t know much about her, but here is her testimony recorded in Luke:

Anna, a prophet, was also there in the Temple [when Mary and Joseph brought baby Jesus to the Temple]. She was the daughter of Phanuel from the tribe of Asher, and she was very old. Her husband died when they had been married only seven years. Then she lived as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the Temple but stayed there day and night, worshiping God with fasting and prayer. She came along just as Simeon was talking with Mary and Joseph, and she began praising God. She talked about the child to everyone who had been waiting expectantly for God to rescue Jerusalem. (Luke 2:36–38)

Here was a widow who knew martial and sexual intimacy as a young woman. When she was widowed, she didn’t search for intimacy in another man but by seeking the Lord until she was 84 years old. Her constant pursuit was rewarded with the presence of the living Messiah!

If Anna were alive today, I wonder what her advice would be. I’d love to ask her about her experience as a married woman who then chose a life of singleness, seeking intimacy with God. We so often view “intimacy with God” as a trite suggestion for our loneliness. Yet, Anna was a woman who believed that worshiping and seeking God could be even more fulfilling that the expression of her sexuality in marriage.

Does this mean that we should all become nuns and be “married to Christ.” No. As Paul taught in 1 Corinthians 7, we each have different callings. Some women serve the Lord as wives and moms. However, there is true intimacy to be found in worship and obedience to the Lord. You may sing about it every Sunday, but have you experienced it? Do you know what it is to cry out as David did, “My heart and my flesh cry out for you, the living God?” He will answer.

While marriage is a wonderful thing to seek, intimacy is the greater goal. Allow your sexuality and your longings to remind you that God has created you for relationship—relationship with others and with him.

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

Juli Slattery

Juli Slattery is a TCW regular contributor and blogger. A widely known clinical psychologist, author, speaker, and broadcast media professional, she co-founded Authentic Intimacy and is the co-author of Passion Pursuit: What Kind of Love Are You Making?

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