What Does God Approve Of?
Some things, like intimacy, are hard to discuss. Clinical psychologist Dr. Juli Slattery answers the question she's asked most frequently: "What does God approve of?" Slattery says it can now be assumed that the average couple is dealing with porn, and many men and women are affected by sexual trauma, shame, and guilt, which are pervasive in a sexually permissive culture.
About the Guest
Authentic Intimacy. She hosts a podcast called Java With Juli, where she answers tough questions about relationships, marriage, spiritual, emotional and sexual intimacy. She has authored eight books, including 25 Questions You're Afraid to As...more
Some things, like intimacy, are hard to discuss. Clinical psychologist Dr. Juli Slattery answers the question she’s asked most frequently: “What does God approve of?”
What Does God Approve Of?
Bob: More marriages than ever are struggling with issues related to marital intimacy and sexuality. Dr. Juli Slattery says, “There is a good reason why.”
Juli: You can now assume that the average couple is dealing with issues of pornography / there is a good chance there has been sexual trauma in the past—that people are bringing in a lot of baggage, and shame, and guilt about the things that have happened before marriage. We’re dealing with the assumption, now, that there are an awful lot of men and women who are single, into their 30s and 40s, before their first marriage. The game has really changed. God’s truth hasn’t changed, but how we address it and the assumptions we make are very different.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, October 24th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. We’re going to dive right into today and talk about issues that a lot of you are facing in your marriage. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today.
Thanks for joining us. We just ought to say, here at the beginning—we’re about to have a candid conversation on a sensitive subject. It’s one that you sometimes wonder, “Should we even be talking about this?” But honestly, every time we talk to couples about issues in their marriage, this subject comes up.
Dennis: It does. We’ve got a person who knows how to handle delicate subjects like this very, very well. Dr. Juli Slattery joins us on FamilyLife Today. Juli—welcome to FamilyLife Today.
Juli: Thanks for having me.
Dennis: You know, I’m really impressed, Bob, that Juli chose to be on FamilyLife Today. Most of our guests we trick, but Juli actually chose to be on FamilyLife Today and talk about this subject we’re going to talk about. [Laughter]
Bob: She knew what she was getting herself into; right?
Dennis: In case our listeners don’t know who that name is—Juli is married to Mike and has been since 1994. She has three sons—lives in Colorado. She is a clinical psychologist—
—author of seven books, speaker, and host of Java with Juli, which takes place in a coffee shop.
Juli: It does; yes. See, I love coffee so much I had to find a way to work it into my normal routine.
Dennis: Yes. Have you done some Java with Juli on this book we’re about to talk about?
Juli: Well, you know, I think that this book came out of a lot of those conversations. So, it’s kind of sprinkled around, I’d say.
Dennis: Well, our audience is wondering what you’ve written about. Here’s the name of the book—you’re going to get the point—25 Questions You’re Afraid to Ask About Love, Sex, and Intimacy. Why this book? Why now?
Juli: Well, I run a ministry called Authentic Intimacy. A lot of what I do every day is teach, and write, and answer people’s questions on sexuality. Wherever I go—for example, speaking—we will have at least a half an hour, if not an hour, of live Q&A where women can text in their questions anonymously.
From that and, also, meeting with women and the emails we get—there are some consistent questions that women will ask. We just thought: “Hey, why not compile this into one resource? These are the questions that either we get asked all the time or, sometimes, they’re the questions underneath the question.
Dennis: Is there a number one question women are asking today that seems to be a unique question because of the day we live in?
Juli: The questions that are most common, probably, would be the most common ten years ago, I’m going to think—about like: “What does God approve of in the marriage bed?” for example—or as a single woman—“Does God say this act is wrong?” That’s the number one question.
I think, in terms of the changing culture, what I’ve seen—and probably what you’ve seen in your ministry to marriage and family—is that things that were an assumption 15 or
20 years ago are no longer an assumption—like: “Where does the Bible actually say it’s wrong to have sex out of marriage? I’ve never heard that before,”—
—whereas, again, 15 or 20 years ago, those were assumptions that we could begin with.
Bob: When we host our Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways for couples, we always have time where we are with the engaged couples. Twenty years ago, when you got the engaged couples together in the room, you had an assumption, as a speaker, that some percentage of your audience was probably sexually active during their engagement period. Today, when you get together with that group, the assumption is virtually everybody—in fact, I think the statistic I saw most recently was that five percent of women who get married today are virgins when they get married.
Bob: We’re in a very different place than we were two decades ago, as it relates to a lot of the subjects that you are writing about.
Juli: And it’s not just being sexually active; but you can now assume that the average couple is dealing with issues of pornography; that there is a good chance there has been sexual trauma in the past—that people are bringing in a lot of baggage, and shame, and guilt about the things that have happened before marriage.
And we’re dealing with the assumption, now, that there are an awful lot of men and women, who are single into their 30s and 40s, before their first marriage. The game has really changed. God’s truth hasn’t changed, but how we address it and the assumptions we make are very different.
Dennis: There is one other subject you left out of that list, and that’s the multiple choice sexuality that we have today. People used to have to decide whether they were going to be immoral or not. Now, they have to choose whether they are male/female, homosexual male/homosexual female, transgender. There is fluidity about our culture today that really adds a lot of confusion as well.
Juli: Yes; that’s a great point. And I think, even within the last five years, we’ve seen this permission being given to children, to parents, and to teens. I don’t think we’ve seen the impact of that yet. I think, probably, in another five or ten years, we’re going to start seeing these young children that were told, at a young age, that: “You can choose to be male or female,” “You can choose your sexual orientation,”—
—when they start getting into their 20s and 30s, it’s going to be, again, a big game changer.
Bob: Juli, I’m imagining that when you were a junior in high school and starting to think: “Gee, I wonder what God’s plan for my life is. I wonder what I’ll be doing and what—how He’ll direct my life,”—I’m guessing, as a junior, you weren’t thinking, “I bet I’ll be writing and speaking a lot about sexuality and intimacy.”
Juli: No; I wasn’t thinking that ten years ago. [Laughter]
Bob: So, where did this begin to blossom in your life and why this subject for you?
Juli: It began with the Lord taking me, personally, very deep in my relationship with Him, just out of the blue. There was a season of about a year where God was just waking me up in the middle of the night, just drawing me to Himself in a way that I had never experienced before.
At about the same time, I had met Linda Dillow. She began to just spiritually mentor me.
As I was going through that time of seeking the Lord, month after month after month, I actually started to get a pain in my chest / in my heart that would get more intense as I would pray. It was there for months. Linda started to say: “The Lord is giving you a new call. You need to ask Him what He’s calling you to.”
So, I’d just get on my knees and say: “God, what is this pain? What is this call?” One day, on my knees, I was just praying. The words of Isaiah 61, verses 1-3, just flooded through my mind—that “God has anointed me to preach good news to the poor, to bind up the broken hearted, to set the captives free.” I didn’t even know where that verse was found. I Googled it on my phone—found it in Isaiah—and wrote in my Bible on that day: “This is Your call on my life,” and wrote the date and didn’t know where that would lead.
That’s kind of a long story to say that this was not my choice. I was probably the least likely to be a spokesperson on sexuality—
—because I don’t like conflict / I don’t like difficult conversations—but it was so clear that this was what God was calling me to—just the pain, particularly, that women experience all around the world on this issue of sexuality and that God hears that pain, that He hears the cries, and that His truth is able to minister. That’s how all this began; and since then, it’s just been really a daily walk of faith.
Dennis: You quoted what Isaiah talked about. It’s actually kind of a picture of going to a prison—a place of torture / a place of pain. What percent of women today, do you think, are coming out of that prison when it comes to their own sexuality? Is it over 50 percent; do you think?
Juli: For sure.
Dennis: And where are there major issues that they are struggling with right now that you are picking up?
Juli: Yes; I would say that percentage is probably around 80 percent in my experience. I think the reason that we don’t see that big percentage is because the struggles are different.
We tend to categorize and compartmentalize. For example, if we’ve got about 30 percent of women who’ve experienced childhood sexual abuse—probably, the percentage is even higher; but that’s what’s being reported—then, you also have women, who are drawn into pornography, that struggle with lust issues. They don’t know where to go with those.
Then, you have women who struggle with sexual identity. As the research is coming out in homosexuality, you find that about seven percent of women struggle, at some point, with sexual identity issues. That’s more than double the percentage of men that struggle. So, women are being told that their sexuality is more fluid.
Then, you add to that, Dennis and Bob, just the average Christian wife who doesn’t know how to enjoy sexuality—whether it is physically painful; or she’s filled with shame and guilt about this issue / she can’t forgive herself for things in the past. Maybe, her husband is involved in pornography or has been unfaithful.
You add all of those together—and even things I’m not mentioning—and you’re talking about a vast majority of women in churches, I’d even say, who have these hidden issues and nowhere to go to ask the questions because they’re not invited to ask.
Dennis: And one of the things I want to talk about before we’re done is—I want to talk about equipping parents to know how to raise their sons and daughters in this culture and how to cope with damage that’s done to their children—maybe, they’re victimized / maybe, it’s their own choice—but I’d like you to help parents know how to coach their kids / counsel their kids—allow them to come out of the prison / out of the hidden shame—and deal with this without having to go through a long valley in their adult experience.
Juli: You cannot give what you do not have.
Juli: And that’s the first step—is that a lot of parents don’t know where their own issues are regarding sexuality.
They don’t have a practical understanding of how God views sexual brokenness / healthy sexuality. So, they feel very ill-equipped to pass on those conversations and beliefs to their kids.
That’s where you’ve got to start—is: “Who are you—as a mom or a dad, as a husband or a wife, as a male or female—in terms of your own sexuality working through your own brokenness?” Then, once God has really brought truth into your life, you can begin passing that on to your children.
Bob: You know, we talked about the fact that the vast majority of people getting married today have already been sexually-experienced / they’ve already been together as a couple. They’re bringing into marriage—whether they know it or not / whether they believe it or not—they’re bringing in baggage / they’re bringing in scars. They have disobeyed what God has said is best. There is shame there, whether they realize it or not.
I remember, Juli—years ago, speaking to a group of parents and asking this question—
—I said, “How many of you would love for your children, as they are growing up, you would love for them to have exactly the same experience in dating and relationships before marriage that you had when you were growing up?”
Juli: What a great question.
Bob: In a room of a hundred people, you’d see two or three hands go up. Now, that’s got a lot of parents out their going, “I don’t want my kids to follow the path that I went on.” Yet, many of these couples don’t know what to do with the sexual shame, the sexual brokenness, the sexual sin that’s a part of their past that is still influencing their attempt to have healthy marital sexuality.
Juli: And it’s not only the shame that you bring into marriage—that’s a big part of it—but it’s also how you view sexuality. When you have sexual intercourse with someone before marriage, essentially, you are trading a commodity.
You’re saying, “I’ll please you if you’ll please me.” You’re always on trial. What the research is showing—particularly, couples that live together before they are married—they bring that attitude about sexuality and relationship into their marriage.
When you save sexuality for marriage, you’re saying: “This is an expression and a celebration of the promise we’ve made to each other. No matter what happens, I’m not going to reject you. If you don’t please me, I’m not going to reject you. We’re going to work through issues.”
And so, it’s not just the shame and guilt. It’s that residual belief about why we are sexual and why we share our sexuality: “Am I on trial in front of my husband or wife? Are they going to reject me?” or “Is this a covenant and the celebration of a covenant?” People don’t think that way / they don’t talk about that, but that underlies a marriage. Until you get to some of those issues, it’s very difficult to pass on healthy beliefs to your kids.
Dennis: So, to that person who feels on trial—who feels like he or she is under performance with their spouse—what do you advise him or her to do?
Juli: I think it begins by acknowledging that we’ve brought, not only the obvious sexual baggage into our marriage, but we really allowed the enemy to have a foothold here. We’ve allowed him to tell us lies—like: “I can’t trust in your love. You may reject me,” or lies that: “I have to perform for you to stay with me,”—“Those are underlying our marriage. Let’s, as a couple, just get on our knees and ask God to break all of that that happened before we got married and to renew what we are doing here.”
I’ve met with couples who actually will say: “From this day forward, our sexual intimacy is going to be a whole different deal, because we understand it now. We’re going to say: ‘God, forgive us and release us from all of our past. We want to move forward with a new beginning.’” I think that’s a really healthy place to start.
Dennis: I think there is something powerful, intensely spiritual, and healing to a husband and a wife who can bow their wills before Almighty God together, and pray together, and pray for one another, and begin to yield this area of their lives for God to sanctify it, make it right, make it holy—however, you want to describe it as the Bible would—and to allow that sexual dimension of the marriage relationship to be used for His purposes in their relationship; because it is good / it’s not bad—the world is the one who has caused us to think that it’s bad and evil.
Juli: Yes; and even when you mentioned praying together about your sex life and marriage, a lot of people are like: “Really? You can pray about that? God really wants to hear about it?” Yes! He wants to bless it, and He wants to sanctify it. If you, as a couple, would commit—even for a month or two—to pray about sexual intimacy in your marriage, to pray together, to pray before or after sexual intimacy—
—you’re going to see God begin to release things that you didn’t even know were there from your past and bring healing that you didn’t even know you needed.
Bob: A number of years ago, we had a conversation with a young wife. Her name was Heather Jamison—I don’t know if that name rings a bell with you—but on our website at FamilyLifeToday.com, we posted the interviews that we did with Heather. She and her boyfriend became sexually active while she was a senior in high school / he was a freshman in college. She became pregnant quickly. The families got together and decided, “Well, if you’re pregnant, you need to get married.” They got married.
Years into their marriage, significant struggles—not just in the sexual area—but in all areas. Heather came to a point where she recognized: “We have never fully addressed the reality of our sexual sin. We felt bad about it. We were sorry about it.”
But she said, “There’s a difference between that and repenting before the Lord with a brokenness and an understanding of how this was an offense against Him—not just a bad mistake we made—but we offended God.” She goes on to describe how this act of being broken before the Lord about the reality of sexual sin was the first step to liberation for them.
I’m sure you’ve talked to person after person who has had that same kind of breakthrough.
Juli: Absolutely. And this can apply, also, to things like a spouse that’s been unfaithful or a spouse who has been into pornography—to have that moment, as a couple, where you truly realize the devastation that’s been done—not just sweeping it under the rug or saying, “Hey, we got counseling,”—but before the Lord, true repentance and believing that He is able to redeem and heal is the most profound thing that you can do.
Again, it’s something I think we skip right over. We look for the advice of:
“How do we fix it?” Scripture will say, “If you will confess your sin before God, He is going to be faithful to cleanse you.”
Bob: And let me just say—I think a person can tell whether they have really addressed their sexual sin from the past if they’ll just do this simple test. If they’ll say, “Here’s what I did in the past, and I know it was a sin against God,”—and if they can just stop there without saying, “But…”—see, it’s when we get to “I know it was a sin against God, but…—and then, we have all the excuses—“but I was this,” or “I did that,” or—now, all of a sudden, it’s like: “No; you need to be able to stop with: ‘I know it was a sin against God. I know it was an offense against His holiness.’”
You’ve got to get to the place where you really face up to the fact that this is not an excusable act, but this is really a conscious choice of sin that reaps consequences in your life. Until you get there, I don’t think you can get to the liberation.
Dennis: Yes; we’re not talking about a formula here to solve this problem, but we have talked about a couple of things that really do work. First of all, repentance—which we’ve been talking about here—where you do admit before Almighty God: “I’m sorry. I turn from that sin. We confess it together, as a couple; and we turn away from it.”
The other is for a couple to pray together—and I think importantly, out loud—to be intimate with God together, as a couple, perhaps, before sharing in intimacy as a couple or, as you mentioned, Juli, afterward—just to acknowledge that this was made by God in the first place / this is not manmade. This is made by Almighty God, and you want to invite Almighty God into the most intimate area of your relationship.
But there is a third thing that I just want to highlight here that’s so important—you’ve got to begin to erase the past but replace it with the right thoughts about sex today and the future.
I’ve got to just say, “One of the best ways you can do that is by coming to a Weekend to Remember marriage getaway.” Come and hear God’s perspective on sex in a wholesome, practical, edifying way. You hear it at the conference, and you hear it together. It gives you a vocabulary to talk about it, and you realize: “This is good. This is okay; and God does delight in us coming together, as a couple.”
A lot of couples go through a period of their lives and they stay in the valley too long, when they don’t have to stay there—they can find solutions today. There are a lot of great tools. We’ve just talked about three of them here—repentance, prayer, and then, getting God’s perspective on sex at a Weekend to Remember. The key is: “Step out of the hidden places and come and allow God to shine His light on it.”
Bob: This is one of the key issues that gets addressed at the Weekend to Remember marriage getaway. I’ve talked to so many couples there, who have said, “Thank you for being appropriate and yet candid in addressing this.”
I mean, where can you go to get a good, honest, biblical look at what God created—human sexuality?
I’d encourage our listeners—if you have not yet signed up for one of our Weekend to Remember getaways this fall, we still have a couple dozen events happening between now and the end of the year. You can go to our website at FamilyLifeToday.com and look for information about the Weekend to Remember.
Also, look for information about the book we’ve been talking about today from Dr. Juli Slattery that’s called 25 Questions You’re Afraid to Ask About Love, Sex, and Intimacy. You can order the book from us online at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call 1-800-358-6329—1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.” And we’ll be happy to get a copy of Dr. Slattery’s book to you.
Given all of the turmoil that’s going on in our country these days, with the elections and all of the dialogue that’s taking place, we have put together a series of ten devotionals for your family just to remind all of us that the stability that we need in times like this comes from having our hearts anchored in Christ. He is our refuge and our strength. They’re available on the FamilyLife app on your smartphone. If you haven’t downloaded our app, just go to your app store and look for the FamilyLife app and download it. You can pull up the devotionals on your smartphone, or you can download them as a PDF document from our website at FamilyLifeToday.com.
Now, it is a big day today out in Yukon, Oklahoma, where Rocky and Cindy Terrel are celebrating their 24th wedding anniversary. The Terrels listen to FamilyLife Today on KAKO radio. They’ve been to the Weekend to Remember.
In fact, they brought a group of folks to a recent Weekend to Remember getaway; and they are also Legacy Partners. We just wanted to say: “Happy anniversary!” to the Terrels. “Thanks for your support of this ministry.”
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Now, tomorrow, we’re going to talk more about love, and intimacy, and sex, and what’s okay and what’s not, and “How can yours be better?” Dr. Juli Slattery will be back with us. Hope you can be back 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.
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