It’s funny. When I first realized I had this passion for healthy sexual dialogue in the Church, two things greeted me. The first was this relentless insecurity that told me I was useless in the arena of sexual conversations as a single person. The second was others’ remarks, often subtle and well intended, reinforcing a cultural belief that single Christians just don’t talk about sex.
Sometimes, on hard days, I still believe these thoughts. Others, and I live for the others, I’m simply determined to sit with single people in their questioning and longings and frustrations and say: me too.
We all have these innate sexual desires. Mystery and confusion surrounds them. And yet, they exist and they are normal. They are actually God-given and beautifully purposeful. As single people, we are often left wondering what to do with them – how to honor God, increase in holiness, and what that actually looks like in the day-to-day. My goal, as a single person, is to create a space to talk about this very normal, human aspect of our lives.
The Cost of Suppression
The most common response that we, as Christians, give to sexual desires is suppression.
One definition of suppression is the restraint of a thought or activity by something more powerful. The problem is that the ‘something more powerful’ that attempts to push sexual desires out of existence is often shame.
It’s different than guilt. Guilt says, “What I did was bad.” We look at a behavior, an addiction, a decision, or a choice and recognize it was not beneficial to our holiness. Guilt can produce helpful change while maintaining our feelings of self-worth and belonging. Shame, on the other hand, says, “Who I am is bad.” Shame tells me that I am dirty, I am wrong, I am weak, and I am worthless. And so often, we link having sexual desires with being dirty or wrong or weak or worthless. We restrain them, or push them away, by shaming our very selves. Shame attacks our identity.
The problem isn’t just that we experience shame. The problem is that our response to this shame is often to hide. We feel embarrassed, unworthy, or unwanted and so we choose to isolate, to stay silent, to detach. In our shame, we hide.
Why does this matter?
It matters because I believe that in God’s graciousness, he gave us sexual desires with a purpose in mind. And hiding from them goes directly against that purpose. Sexual desires reveal our most basic need for connection to him and others. As we long for intimacy and the pleasure it provides, there is this ultimate longing deep within us for connection. It forces us out of hiding from others and helps us press into relationships. It has the capacity to draw us into a holy, sacred space with Christ. It also enables us to better understand God and his Triune nature.
What this means for the single person.
In singleness, we have a choice. We can choose to suppress them, isolating from others and staying silent on the matter, or even indulge them. Or we can see that our sexual desires are meant to drive us to relationship with God and his people. In that, we can begin to redirect our desires towards friendship, worship, honest conversations, and other healthy patterns of interaction. This gives us a greater understanding of the communion of God with himself. We draw deeper into human connection meant to increase our knowledge and enjoyment and reflection of God.
I’m not saying this choice is easy. I think it’s much easier, and immediately pleasurable, to indulge my sexual desires. I also think ignoring, pushing away, and shaming our sex drive is just natural as Christians – it’s engrained in us and looks a lot like holiness. But both of these options miss the point entirely.
What I’m talking about requires a mind-shift. It requires seeing our sexual desires as purposeful, even grounds for holiness. It means seeing God as gracious to give us the very desire to draw near to him and others. The choice to connect instead of isolate requires self-discipline, extreme courage, authenticity, and a genuine longing to know and reflect a holy, relational God.
So I implore you, do not will away, suppress, or shame your sexual desires. Instead, recognize their intricate role in your holiness and connection. Let them draw you to come out of hiding, be vulnerable, build same-sex and opposite-sex friendships, commune with God, relate to family members, and commit to being honest and open in each realm. This is why they matter for singles.