Catching the Little Foxes
About the Guest
Is something putting a damper on your sex life lately? Work? Children? Exhaustion, perhaps? Dan Allender, author of "The Wounded Heart," takes us back to the Song of Solomon and the "little foxes" that can ruin the marital vineyard. In many homes, this can be children, especially if you don't have a lock on your door, but Dan talks about the first and foremost "fox" in our culture-pornography. Hear his suggestion for keeping your marriage vibrant.
Is something putting a damper on your sex life lately? Dan Allender takes us to the “little foxes” that can ruin the marital vineyard. Hear his suggestion for keeping your marriage vibrant.
Catching the Little Foxes
Bob: For those who imagine that sexual sin is a mostly male problem, author and speaker, Dan Allender, says, “Not so fast.”
Dan: We are seeing a very significant rise of women with sex addictions / with pornography issues. So, when we think of it as just a men’s issue—oh, my goodness—the major difference is men look for visual, and women go onto chat room sites where they can create a persona with another person whom they don’t know so there is anonymity / there is a lack of guilt or shame. Then, there’s this indulgence—but it’s all within a relational world.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, September 18th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. How do we maintain marital purity when it comes to sexuality in our marriage relationship? We’re going to explore that today. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Friday edition. This is Day 18 of our 30-Day Oneness Prayer Challenge for couples. For those of you who have already received your prayer prompt today—via email, or text message, or through the My FamilyLife app—you know that our focus today is on commitment in marriage and on taking the idea of dissolving your marriage covenant off the table in marriage. We’re encouraging husbands to pray that God would protect your marriage from any stray thoughts of divorce and to give you a desire for a lifelong commitment with each other—and encouraging wives to pray for husbands—
—that God would give both of you an understanding and forgiving heart, knowing that your marriage will be tested and challenged and that you’ll need those things in order for your commitment to one another to be able to be firm.
If you’re not receiving the prayer prompts each day, via text or email, and you’d like to join us for the remaining few weeks of our Oneness Prayer Challenge, go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link in the upper left-hand corner of the screen that says, “GO DEEPER,” and then, look for the link for the 30-Day Oneness Prayer Challenge. Sign up; and we’ll be happy to send you a prayer prompt each day so you, as husband and wife, can pray together regularly each day.
You know, thinking about commitment in marriage, Dennis, I’ve had the opportunity to talk to a lot of couples about their experience attending one of our Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways. One of the things I’ve heard from couples is that they appreciate the fact that we take a solid hour and talk about intimacy in marriage.
The reason they said they appreciate that is because there are so few places, today, where you can go and hear anything or have that kind of a conversation from a biblical perspective.
Dennis: Right; right.
Bob: And for a lot of couples, this is a critical issue in their marriage; and they’ve got no one to talk to about it.
Dennis: And they’ve never heard a—really—holy discussion about sex. Frankly, it’s one of the best attended sessions in the entire Weekend to Remember.
Bob: People tend to show up for that one—yes.
Dennis: It is late afternoon, and they are very much awake. [Laughter]
Bob: And there is a date-night coming.
Dennis: For all the single people, who are at the Weekend to Remember—because there—about 10 percent of the audience are singles, who are engaged or thinking about engagement—we usually take up a jog around one of the Great Lakes or something like that before Sunday morning. [Laughter]
Bob: Something to burn off a little energy—yes. [Laughter]
Dennis: Well, we have with us the coauthor of a new book called God Loves Sex. Dan Allender joins us on FamilyLife Today.
Dan, welcome back.
Dan: Thank you, Dennis. Thank you, Bob.
Dennis: He coauthored it with Tremper Longman III. It’s an honest conversation about sexual desire and holiness. So, this is kind of a no-holds-barred discussion about sexual intimacy in marriage and why we struggle. And it’s from the book in the Bible, Song of Solomon; and it’s really a very graphic book.
In fact, one of the things it talks about in Chapter 2 is the little foxes that are breaking into the vineyard. They are nipping at the buds of romance and stealing the couple’s intimacy before it has a chance to blossom. Explain what the author was intending by that.
Dan: Well, as best as we know, in that poetic setting, a fox was something that would ruin a vineyard. A vineyard / a garden was a metaphor, really, of Eden, but also, of sexuality.
So, the garden that you are entering of sexual pleasure is also a picture of what the Edenic world was meant to be. A fox is anything that ruins the kind of goodness and glory you were meant to know in Eden. That could be pornography. That could be physical exhaustion that keeps you from being able. It could be children that are screaming outside your door.
Some things are clearly wrong—like pornography. Your children are lovely, but they are also going to disrupt your sexuality.
Dennis: They are little foxes. I’ll never forget the woman who wrote us and said, “Our romance gave us children; and then, our children took our romance.”
Dan: Well, that’s a person who has not bought a very good lock for their bedroom door. [Laughter]
Dennis: Or found the ability to put them to bed and say: “You know what? It’s time for you to go to bed. Mom and Dad are having a dinner downstairs. You stay in your bedroom.”
Bob: And: “I think you may have the sniffles. So, take a little Benadryl® before you go to bed because that might help.”
Dan: Well, we told our children, at one point: “Mom and I are going in to experience connubial bliss. If you want to learn what that is, look it up in the dictionary. And we’re going to lock the door. If anything disrupts us, your whole future, including your college—maybe, even your life—will be ended.” [Laughter]
Bob: How old—how old were your kids when you told them you were going into connubial bliss?
Dan: I think two and three—[Laughter] —I’m kidding—they were a little older. The point is: “Look, we’re not going to hide what we’re doing.” On the other hand, we bought a really good lock; and it is not easily jimmied. So, when you, then, say, “Look, this is part of the reality of living, as a couple, to glory and enjoy,”—you’re beginning to say to your family, “This isn’t something hidden, but it’s also not something that is allowed to be entered in an inappropriate way.”
Bob: I just have to peel this back for a second because there are a lot of parents, listening, going:
“Your kids were aware of the fact that you were having some private time?”and “They might know what you were doing, as your kids were growing up?”
Dan: Well, I think they knew, by at least age eight or nine, what we were doing—yes.
Bob: And if you were coaching parents today, would you say, “Your kids—yes, it’s okay for them to kind of know that this is what Mom and Dad have got going on”?
Dan: Well, let me just be as blunt as I can be. Your children—if they are in any kind of public, private, or still even homeschooled setting—where they have contact with any child that has a smartphone,—
Dan: —then, by usually fourth or fifth grade, they have had an encounter with someone who is showing pornography. Maybe, they looked / maybe, they didn’t look.
The reality that you think you can keep your children from the sexual ravages of our culture by somehow isolating them into a so-called Christian context—all I’m telling you is:
“This is why sex is so important— not to display in front of your children—but to engage as something that they are already being won by the world.” You’ve got to be able to make it clear that this is an area of both privacy—and yet, honor / and yet, joy and delight—and later, as they grow, of an area of struggle for both of you and your spouse. They need truth.
Dennis: They do, and they need a healthy model of what a married couple are all about—it is a part of marriage.
The writer of Song of Solomon made it real clear that you are to go fox hunting. If you are going to go fox hunting, you really need to take an inventory of what the foxes are that are stealing romance. What do you think is the number one fox—if you could generalize today—across all categories of marriage—young married all the way to older married—what would you say is that most prevalent fox that steals romance?
Dan: Well, I know you asked for one, but I can’t. Let me just—
Dennis: Well, I’m not going to—I’m not going to keep you to just one; but I’m saying, “Do you have one that you think is number one?”
Dan: I think it is pornography. I just think the greatest scourge that faces our young/our old is the reality of how we have so cheapened the body that we open it for others to be able to see—whether it’s in the way we dress, the way we see media, the way we hear songs. I’m just not against sex. I’m simply against a kind of misuse that makes it common, and cheap, and violates dignity through some form of degradation.
Number one—there is a kind of cheapening and degradation in our culture that you’ve got to, in one sense, open your heart daily to be able to name, and engage together, and to be able to find that freeing purity and the cleansing work of the Spirit of God—absolutely.
But if we add, then, a second factor—
—most people are so tired in this two-working family culture or in terms of one working and the other staying at home but so exhausted by all that they are doing—you really can’t make love and be exhausted. You can’t really have delight and be so exhausted. Learning how to say: “No, we’re not going to make as much money,” “We are not going to be as busy,” “We’re not going to be involved with as many people,” we’re actually going to tend to our garden.
When you begin to pull up the darkest weed, it is pornography. The more insidious weed, that we don’t often see, is exhaustion.
Bob: So, you would say to a couple, in the area of exhaustion: “Fence out some time / carve out some time—put it on the calendar”?
Dan: Well, I would love to have it on my calendar! [Laughter]
Bob: Well, I mean—and I’ve said to couples about this—I’ve said: “If the difference between scheduling time together and not having time together—if those are your options—scheduling time is just fine.
“In fact, in some cases, to have the anticipation of scheduled time together can be a wonderful thing in a marriage.”
Dan: It’s why sexuality that occurs, when you’re on a trip and you’re no longer in the pressures of the world that you were in—so, you are on a vacation / you’re on a cruise—indeed, often, sexuality is much more playful, spontaneous, delightful—but you can still create that, as you put it so well, by just saying: “We’re not going to just make love from 7:30-8:00 or 7:30-9:00. We’re going to create hours together to be able to talk, to be able to pray, to be able to flirt, to be romantic.”
When we begin talking about sexuality, it always involves this desire for pleasure, this desire for connection, and this desire for romance. When all of those factors are at play, you’ve got a moment of great delight.
Dennis: And one of the things that the Song of Solomon talks about is the anticipation of romance. We think of scheduling something as kind of taking the life out of it. Well, it doesn’t have to. It means you can start planning / start thinking. As a man, think about the things that would esteem, value, cherish, and honor your wife: Maybe, it’s vacuuming. Maybe, it’s doing the dishes. Maybe, it’s taking a walk together. Maybe, it’s reading a book out loud. Do the things for her and with her that would build the relationship.
I want to go back to pornography for a moment because I think we categorized that as a man’s problem. There is a growing side of pornography, however, for women. Describe how it is showing up among women today.
Dan: Well, for example, there was a study once done with about 10,000 people. Eight-five percent of the men struggled with pornography / fifty-eight percent of the women struggled.
We’re seeing a very significant rise of women with sex addictions / with pornography issues.
So, when we think of it as just a men’s issue—oh, my goodness—the major difference is—men look for visual, and women go on to chat rooms. Women go onto, in many ways, emotional fantasies with a partner. In that, the arousal isn’t just a visual one / it’s actually a deeply relational one.
So, as we say, a man is aroused more by visual / women more by relationship—we should, then, actually presume that the kind of pornography / the kind of sites that are available for women are often those chat room sites where they can create a persona with another person with whom they don’t know so there is anonymity / there is a lack of guilt or shame. Then, there is this indulgence—but it’s all within a relational world.
Dennis: Comment on romance novels for women because I understand a number can get really hooked, in terms of a relationship and living in a fantasy world, of players that they identify with.
Dan: It’s a very dark problem. I’m not going to condemn all so-called romance novels but to say, “The very essence is a fantasy structure of being swept off your feet, and therefore, taken—used and taken—by a bad person whom you, over some period, because of the nature of your love—are able to transform.” Do you hear how much gospel goes in that?—so much gospel of wanting to change a heart that is ill toward that which is alive and good—and the desire to be taken—we want to be chosen. We want somebody to pursue us wildly. Yet, what the industry is offering is the very thing that God made us for, and yet, with that turn toward darkness and degradation.
Bob: So, let me ask you a very kind of pragmatic question. A couple in their twenties, sitting down with you—
—one of them would say, “You know, if it was up to me, sex as a daily activity would be—that would be something I would enjoy.” The other one would say, “If it was up to me, every three weeks or so, I am interested; but the rest of the time I am not.” How does that couple every get on the same page?
Dan: Well, we have to begin the process of saying: “Sex daily—maybe, for some unique moments in a vacation life—that’s not only realistic / that’s probably really possible. But on a daily basis, through a whole year, I don’t think the complexities of living in a fallen world allow that kind of time. But every three weeks”—again, I’m not talking about statistical norms; but I am suggesting that indicates a lack of desire /
a lack of your body knowing pleasure and the lack of your own sense of joy in giving pleasure.
Norms are not the issue—it’s, “Don’t judge yourself in comparison,”—but also, know we’ve got a book that’s telling us something of what God intends. None of us may achieve all the kind of arousal that we see in the book of Song of Solomon; but at least, we have to have a category to be able to say: “Let’s not settle. Let’s not just learn to live. Let’s not just assume we’ll live this way for the rest of our lives.”
Bob: And if a couple, sitting with you—a couple in their twenties—and they say, “You know, it’s once every four months for us; but we’re both okay with that”?
Dan: Well, God loves sex; and you apparently don’t. [Laughter]
Dennis: I’m going to switch the subject and just ask you a couple of point-blank questions:
“What is it that you think men don’t really get about women when it comes to sex?” And I want to know the answer to the question of: “What is it that women don’t get when it comes to men about sex?”
Dan: Well, I think many men do not get that their wife really does want sex—even when they seem to be reluctant / even when they are saying, “No.” There is something in their heart, mind, and body that wants, not only the pleasure, but the joy of union. Part of the task of a man isn’t to figure it out so she changes but to, at least, begin with that.
You deal with the log in your own eye. You have no idea what will come to your marriage if you are willing to deal with the fact that, maybe, she has a history of past abuse; but you have brought some heartache into her life that, if you have the courage to begin to address, you will find your wife much more free than you ever would have imagined.
Dennis: So, invite her into a relationship, which is what she really wants. She wants the union—physical, emotional, spiritual. That may mean praying together. That may mean conversations and taking a walk together; but look at the relationship, wholistically—right?
Dan: Amen. What a woman doesn’t get is that every man is afraid, sexually. Every man is afraid of not being adequate enough, competent enough, satisfying enough—and that, somehow, is going to be found out—that he is not really as good a lover/competent as he would like to presume. And that fear—can you see the interplay? Women are far more sexual than what we have presumed. Men are far more afraid than we have ever been allowed to name.
When that begins to be something, in a marriage, that we are allowed to talk about / I’m allowed to say to my wife:
“I fear”—even after 39 years almost of marriage—“that I’m not all that you want / that I’m not as desirable as you want,”—our own fears, our own insecurities, our own past struggles—they are as much there in our sexuality than any other area of our life. Put me in front of a mike—I’m quite competent. Put me in front of my wife, sexually, and I still have a little bit of that question of: “Am I really enough?”
Dennis: And it seems to both—conversation, communication, honesty, not blaming / not shaming the other person, but inviting—that’s something I’ve learned from you, Dan—is really what the Scriptures teach—is that God invites a relationship with us. We should look at our relationship as an invitation to delight in one another. Enjoy museums—Barbara has taught me how to enjoy museums—think about that.
Flower gardens—I mean, “Give me an ever-loving break,”—I never thought, in my wildest imagination—
Bob: And you’ve taught her how to love fishing and hunting; right?
Dennis: I have not. [Laughter]
Dan: Wait a minute! I have gone fly-fishing with both you and your wife.
Dennis: You have—that was the last time.
Dan: And let me tell you—
Dennis: That was a long time ago.
Dan: And let me tell you—her form was a lot better than yours. [Laughter]
Dennis: It was. It was. I agree.
Well, Dan Allender, I think you’ve done a great job on this book. There is much more in here that we’ve not been able to talk about. Your book is God Loves Sex. I just appreciate you, and your writing, and your wisdom and insight, and your friendship. Thanks for being on the broadcast. I want you to come back when you’ve finished your, not revision, but your rewrite of The Wounded Heart; and let’s do some more radio talking about this issue of sexual abuse.
Dan: I would love that—as long as I get to go fishing with you and Barbara. [Laughter]
Dennis: Okay. Bring Becky, and it’s a deal.
Bob: We’ve got copies of the book, God Loves Sex, in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. I noticed, by the way, that you didn’t say, “I’m going to have to check with Barbara on that first.” I’d like to be there when you say, “Hey, honey, we’re going fishing with the Allenders—you and me.” [Laughter]
Again, the book is called God Loves Sex. Go to 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. Or you can call to request the book. Our toll-free number is 1-800-FL-TODAY. So, again, online, FamilyLifeToday.com—that’s the website—or call 1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY.”
You know, when you stop and think about just how vital it is in any culture that husbands and wives love one another / are committed to one another, that they stay together, they support one another, that they build strong families—we believe that the relationship between a husband and a wife is the fundamental building block of all human society / all human civilizations. It’s the very first social institution created by God in Genesis, Chapter 2.
And that’s the reason why we address this issue so regularly, here on FamilyLife Today. We’re committed to providing practical biblical help and hope for your marriage and for your family, day in and day out, on this radio program, on our website, through our resources, and our events. That’s what FamilyLife Today is all about. And we’re grateful to those of you who support our efforts, from time to time, or to those of you who are regular Legacy Partners, supporting this ministry with a monthly contribution.
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And with that, we’re going to wrap things up for this week. Thanks for being with us. Hope you have a great weekend.
Hope you and your family are able to worship together in church this weekend, and I hope you can join us back on Monday. We’re going to talk about marriages where the dark cloud of abuse has become a factor in that marriage. Justin Holcomb is going to join us, and we’ll explore that next week. In fact, you may know someone who needs to listen in. Encourage them to join us.
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 Monday for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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