When I think of sexual repression and expression, I think of a giant red beach ball being forced to the bottom of a pool. The main problem is that it won’t stay there unless you’re incredibly vigilant to keep something heavy perched directly on top of it. The second that it’s not being forced down with ample weight, it’s going to come rocketing, not just to the surface, but right out of the water!
Think of some of the most infamous sex scandals of our day involving Christians, and this “beach ball” effect has probably manifested itself in those relationships. When sexual desires were ignored and repressed for a long period of time, the moment vigilance waned these desires rose to the surface with great force (and painful consequences). They were suddenly and forcefully “expressed” instead of “repressed.”
A more effective approach to properly managing a beach ball would be to simply let it float naturally on top of the water without tension to go in either direction — up or down, unnatural repression or unhealthy expression. Then it won’t have to fight against such a strong gravitational force, nor will it suddenly soar to scary heights when released. It just floats there calmly and serenely, not causing any harm to anyone.
If we can accept the fact that a beach ball is best managed by simply letting it float naturally on top of the water, can’t we also accept the fact that there is a healthy “middle ground” to managing our own sexual desires? A balance where we’re neither expressing nor repressing unholy desires, but accepting the sexual nature of our own humanity, sublimating sexual desires when necessary, and resting in God’s grace to keep us directly in the center of God’s will? That’s certainly the goal.
Gary Thomas, author of Sacred Marriage, affirms that a healthy sexual balance means allowing ourselves to live in this tension between repressing and expressing our sexual desires. He states:
“Sometimes dam managers opt to let the water flow rather freely; other times they hold it down to a trickle.
That’s what marriage teaches us to do. Sometimes it is healthy and good to let marital passions run free, even if we fear that we are almost crossing the line over into lust. Some people make the mistake of believing that because they have been burned by their passion and their sexual hunger, the antidote is to completely cut it off. They do to sex what an anorexic does to food: I don’t want to overeat and become fat, so I won’t eat at all. This isn’t a healthy attitude — it’s a demented one.”1
Having a healthy attitude, rather than a demented one, toward our sexuality is absolutely key!
1) Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing, 2000), 222.