One of the reason I think we all giggled as we read through Song of Solomon as kids is because of the bold and unabashed plainness of it all. Breasts are called breasts; thighs are thighs– it’s all so exposed.
NAKED AND UNSHAMED
They are, in the words of Genesis, “naked and unashamed.” There’s no hiding or masking of what’s happening as they admire one another. The book is about their anticipation of marriage, and then, once married, about their covenantal intimacy. As the lovers uncover, discover, and delight in one another, the entangling of bodies is clearly related to their covenantal entangling of souls. Their sexual interactions are a physical expression of the unifying of their hearts.
That in itself is baffling to the average American junior high kid who has been taught through the lens of movies and television that the best sexual interactions are tawdry and illicit, stolen in secret moments, hidden in the dark. Instead of sex as described in Song of Solomon, we’re most used to seeing it as something sneakily used as a litmus test to rate someone else, and, perhaps eventually, to see if you WANT to commit.
Our modern world has boiled sexuality down to the very opposite of what it is meant to be.
Instead of a big-reveal of “naked and not ashamed,” our society does the opposite. Beginning at the very earliest moments of prepubescence, we flirt with the edges, pushing them back-back-back-back-back until there is nothing left that is unique or special about marriage. Kisses? Experienced. Nakedness? Known. Touches and Embraces? Felt. Sex? Had. Sharing a bed and home? Done.
Our society does most of this not just with people they’re not married to, but even, often, with complete strangers hidden in the dark places of the internet.
THE MEANING OF NAKEDNESS
Marriage is meant to be a completely safe place for enjoyment and mutual protection where this risky thing of complete self-revelation suddenly becomes not just acceptable, but GOOD. Instead, American culture has a fixation on revealing ourselves outside of the incredibly rich and satisfying boundaries that God has set.
So I think this leads to a significant misunderstanding of nakedness for many Christians.
God intends is for this physical nakedeness of marriage to be a symbol of all other “nakedness–” no longer are we two separate people.
Nakedness is meant to say:
What’s mine is yours. Domestically. Relationally. Financially. Emotionally. Spiritually. And Sexually. We have joined our lives together and now stand naked and not ashamed before one another. I will not hide from you; I will not mask myself or attempt to conceal what I am or what I have. My flaws and vulnerable places are laid open and bare before you. I am yours; You are mine.
Between the lovers of Song of Solomon, there is this clear, unashamed, unhidden bodily admiration.
Here is where this all intersects with your daily life, wife.
ARE YOU HIDING IN SHAME?
I fear that many wives primarily experience marital sex while shamefully hiding in the shadows.
- Lights out
- Hiding behind fabric and sheets
- Hiding behind excuses and rejections
- Masking the soul your husband has become fused with
- And masking the body (yours) that is (according to Scripture) his.
When we do this, we are undoing the great truths God has wrapped up in our physical nakedness.
For clarity, I am not saying you can never wear a nightgown while making love, or that snuggling under the sheets on a winter evening is wrong. I am, however, encouraging you to consider ways in which you might be avoiding nakedness out of shame or fear. And if that is you, I want to gently nudge you, sister.
Let me urge you to do all you can to shake off the shame you have associated with sexuality.
Perhaps you have shame from:
- molestation/abuse suffered in your childhood
- sexual intimacy stolen in secret moments before marriage took place
- sexual interactions with people other than your spouse
- negative body image
- attitudes inherited from parents or others who have influenced you to wrongly see ALL sexuality as illicit and shameful
- other sexual sin, addictions, or perversions you’ve participated in
BRING YOUR SHAME TO JESUS
Can I just say to you?— THERE IS FREEDOM IN CHRIST, friend.
Shame is a tricky thing because it comes from so many different sources. In the area of marital intimacy, shame comes from 3 primary forms:
- Shame from being sinned against
- Shame from participating in sin
- Shame from wrong attitudes/poor teaching
1- SHAME FROM BEING SINNED AGAINST
If you were:
- taken advantage of
- exposed to things
- used as an object for the physical pleasure of another human being,
there is healing to be found in trusting what God says about you more than what others, or even what YOU, have said about you. Your heart needs to be trained to place God’s opinion (which is actually fact) above all other opinions.
This may look like getting together with a trusted friend or biblical counselor, and laying out, verse by verse, the things God speaks over you, if you are His child. Precious, dearly loved, beautiful, treasured, chosen, created, beloved.
When you lay down your own life and live in Christ, no matter what was done to you, these things are true about you.
2- SHAME FROM PARTICIPATING IN SIN
If, instead of only the shame felt from someone sinning against you, you now carry shame because you participated in sin, that too needs to be brought into the full light of the cross. You can be made new. This is what repentance, the new birth, and a new identity in Christ is all about!
A large number of Christians live with residual shame from committing sexual sin before and/or outside of marriage. If that is you, ironically, (and sadly) that shame is now stealing the full, shame-free joy you COULD be experiencing.
In this way, sexual sin is a joy-stealer and shame-giver, LONG PAST THE TIME when the sin was committed. It lurks in the dark corners of your heart, sucking the life and joy God intends for you within the RIGHT and GOOD use of sex.
This is where a right understanding of REPENTANCE is critical.
Repentance is agreeing with God about your sin. Calling it sin. Judging it fully in your mind as sin. Repentance is not making little excuses about it or treasuring it in your heart.
REPENTANCE FROM SEXUAL SIN IS NOT:
- thinking back on sexual sin with a smile
- calling past sin of any sort “good” in any way
- still being glad you “played the field” before marriage so you were experienced and wiser
- letting sexual memories wistfully come to your mind as if they are still desirable
- looking at past sexual sin with anything other than abhorrence and a desire to never do it again
REPENTANCE FROM SEXUAL SIN IS:
- Moving sin from the mental file marked “illicit/fun/enjoyable/pleasurable” into the file marked “sinful/not what God has for me/wicked/abominable/abhorrent/undesirable”
- Continually turning away from sin, whether it comes up physically, virtually (via the internet/devices), or mentally (via memories, thoughts, and images)
- Turning away from even the physical responses to memories/thoughts/ideas by doing whatever you have to do (this is the “cut out your eye” part of obeying Christ) to help your body agree and live within with the sexual boundaries God has set for you
- Choosing to continually agree with God about what your sin was, and rejecting that sin in any and all future choices.
- Altering the way you think about past sin… no longer treasuring it or calling it “good” and instead re-categorizing those memories and experiences to line up with what God says about each one.
- Turning toward Christ and the sexual boundaries he has laid out for you now, with joy and abandon (for the unmarried, that looks like sexual chastity until/unless God opens your boundary markers to include a spouse… for the married person, that looks like free enjoyment of sexual pleasure with your partner, without shame).
3- SHAME FROM WRONG ATTITUDES/TEACHING
Many women, particularly those in the 40-and-up crowd, carry baggage that comes neither from sexual sin done against them, nor from sexual sin they participated in, but from shameful attitudes surrounding sex picked up from parents, society, and (sometimes) from the church. Though common among that age group, it affects individuals across the age and gender spectrum.
Perhaps it comes in one of these forms, or from one of these messages:
- “Sex was never talked about in our home.” Therefore, it’s sneaky and, at its root, bad.
- “Sex is something boys want, and good girls don’t want.” Therefore, it’s a boy thing, and much to be avoided. Or, conversely, if I want it, I will carry shame and an intense sense that I am wrong for wanting it so much. (Sometimes the husband has a lower drive than his wife, and he can contribute to condemnation and shame for her by implying she is wrong to want it/ask for sex.)
- “Good girls keep their knees together.” Therefore, if I want to please God (whose voice sounds oddly like mom’s/grandma’s) I will do it as little as possible.
- “Sex is for the skinny, fit, and young.” Therefore, if I’m struggling with my weight, or a few months postpartum, or my body is sagging with age and use, I need to hide my body and avoid sex as much as possible.
- “Sex is meant for having children.” So, why keep it up after we’ve had the kids we want? (Many women throw themselves wholeheartedly into the mom role at this point and all but abandon their role as wife.)
- “Sex is a bargaining chip.” Therefore, once I’ve gotten my man, and/or gotten him over the barrel financially/socially, why keep it up? Or, if he’s sinning against me, or generally displeasing to me, I am justified in withholding it. Sex is a tool to be used for control and manipulation.
- “Sex is worldly and wrong.” Therefore, good Christian couples don’t do it more than necessary.
When we get to the root of what we’re believing about sex, we can actually replace those lies for the truth from God’s Word.
We begin to be a disciple of Christ, even in our sexuality.
- We let HIS messages drown out all others.
- We turn to HIS voice as the one that is TRUE.
- We let His design of it, and boundaries for it, guide our beliefs and actions.
In all of these, we trade in our shame, and take on His truth.
WIFE, LEAVE YOUR SHAME BEHIND…
Leave behind shame in whatever form it invades your marriage.
Shame from being sinned against? Gone because of the reality of who you are in Christ. Shame from sin? Gone because of the reality of your sin being forgiven in Christ. Shame from wrong messages? Gone because of the reality that God made sex on purpose, for our good and His glory, to be freely enjoyed within marriage.
These things all would seek to rob us of the beautiful gift of marital intimacy that God means for us to enjoy together with our spouse.
But God’s grace and beauty can shine brightly in your life if you will reject the shame you’ve taken on, and pull your marital intimacy out into the clear light of the truth of God’s Word.
LET YOUR HUSBAND SEE YOU
Look at the Shulammite (the bride in Song of Solomon) and the receptive, joyful way she interacts with her husband:
“Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth!” ~Song of Solomon 1:2
“I found him whom my soul loves. I held him and would not let him go…” ~Song of Solomon 3:4
He admires her, part by part:
- cheeks- 1:10, 4:3, 6:6
- neck- 1:10, 4:4, 7:4
- eyes- 1:15, 6:5, 7:4
- as compared to others- 2:2, 6:8-9
- hair- 4:1, 6:5, 7:5
- teeth- 4:2, 6:6
- lips & mouth- 4:3, 4:11, 7:9
- breasts- 4:5, 7:3, 7:7-8
- clothing- 4:11
- feet- 7:1
- thighs- 7:1
- navel & belly- 7:2
- nose- 7:4
- stature- 7:7
- scent of her breath- 7:8
According to God, inside of marriage is EXACTLY THE RIGHT PLACE for our bodies to be seen and for sex to be enjoyed.
“Rejoice in the wife of your youth… let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love.” ~Proverbs 5:18-19
With that context, let me plead with you:
LET YOUR HUSBAND SEE YOU. Let him see all of you.
Don’t waste this one life you are given.
Don’t waste your marriage.
Don’t waste your God-given sexuality.
If you are married, God has given you an incredible gift of free enjoyment of marital intimacy. Pastor Tim Keller puts it this way:
“Sex within marriage is like magic. It’s like blowing on the coals of a beautiful and powerful flame. … Sex inside marriage… becomes sweeter and more pleasurable and more powerful and more transforming as the years go by. Even when, actually, neither of you look as good as you did before, and … a lot of things that people think have to “be there” as part of sex just aren’t there when you’re in your 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s. And yet, it’s actually a more powerful experience…
Sex is a way of saying to another person, “I belong completely and exclusively and permanently to you.” (Listen to the 2-minute video of this entire quote here.)
If you have been withholding yourself, avoiding sex, hiding behind excuses, or rejecting intimacy because of shame or wrong beliefs about sex or about your body, God can take the years that the locusts have eaten and give you a renewed joy, pleasure, and oneness with your spouse.
When you are naked before your husband, it speaks volumes about your willingness to let him have all of you.
The youthful nervousness that comes along with complete bodily exposure becomes sweet when shared with a loving husband. The stretchmarks and sags that speak of changes our bodies have gone through are made beautiful when revealed without shame to the one with whom we have fused our life. The willingness to let even our wounds and scars and imperfect places be seen speaks to a larger willingness to lay even our vulnerable and unsightly places bare before the one we love.
And while these things all image realities in our marriage, in an even more dramatic way, they shadow the way we do all of these things before our God. He revels in our willingness to give him the vibrant, fever pitch unabashed praises and impassioned questions of our youth… He revels in our willingness to bring our hurts before Him and let His light shine into every place where we feel shame… and He revels in our willingness to bring even our ugliest places to His feet and let them all be seen and let Him love us in our ugliness.
FREE TO BE NAKED AND UNASHAMED
The freedom of marital nakedness is meant to image the freedom we have in coming before the King of Kings. Before King Jesus, we can stand without shame, not because our bodies are perfect, but because He sees us with eyes of love.
May He make this true in our marriages as well.
Christian wife, make love to your husband.
And, can I urge you?, let him SEE you.