It was nearly a decade and a half ago that I read, “Intimate Issues: Twenty-One Questions Christian Women Ask about Sex.” But still, Melinda’s story in one of the chapters stuck with me:
Melinda and her husband were understandably discouraged. She’d never been able to experience sexual climax. But she decided that rather than complain, she’d thank God for every little thing when she and her husband made love. Every satisfying kiss, every enjoyable sensation meant she was no longer wondering whether she’d feel something:
It was wonderful because it changed my attitude about lovemaking…[to] “There will be something to thank God for.” Slowly, I began to tune into my sexual feelings. It has been a long process but I have now experienced orgasm. I believe thanking God had a lot to do with it.
Can gratitude really do that?
Even now, this gets me thinking: What else can thankfulness do for Christian sex?
The truth: A lot.
- Gratitude invites God in. Is that a little too weird? Well, biblically…it shouldn’t be! Song of Solomon’s poem frequently hears from a “chorus”, which many theologians now believe may represent God’s words to the couple—expressing His pleasure over the couple’s lovemaking. After all, God’s the mastermind behind sex and as its pleasure; its all-body, all-soul unity. Thanking Him while making love turns our minds to its Maker, to the author of oneness and all that is good. If our bodies are “living sacrifices” to God as our “spiritual worship”, this doesn’t exclude our private lives. Thankfulness transforms sex into something even greater and more meaningful: worship.
- It creates great memories. Gratitude takes advantage of our brains’ release of oxytocin and dopamine in sex, painting our minds with sexual memories particularly potent and vivid. It helps us mentally catalogue all the good stuff—much like Solomon and his wife loved to recall their best sexual encounters together. And that means incredible sex can last a lot longer than just last night.
- It helps us fall deeper in love, enriching our emotional connection. Song of Solomon—essentially, a manual for Christian sex nestled right in the middle of the Bible—is full of descriptive exclamations from one lover over the other. Gratitude creates positive associations with our time together—like Melinda did. Thankfulness can sand down some of our frustration, our focus on the negative, allowing us to center on what our mate is doing right. You might consider thanking God for every body part you kiss, for whatever you touch and how it reminds you of what your spouse does well: These hands have worked hard to provide for our family (or care for our kids) today. And, as we thank God, it makes sex into a spiritual connection, too.
- It increases our security. As we affirm one another, we feel appreciated; safer; accepted. We’re more willing to put ourselves out there, to try new things, to be “naked and unashamed”.
- It can help redefine beauty. I was unspeakably moved when my husband expressed that he wanted to allow me and my body to form his definition of beauty. It communicated his commitment to satisfaction in what God had chosen as a good gift for him, intentionally muting pop culture’s messages of attractiveness and womanhood. This reminded me of God’s encouragement in Proverbs 5: “rejoice in the wife of your youth…Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love.” Gratitude has the power to transform our ideas of body image.
This week, may you fall asleep counting your blessings.
Note: Perhaps you’re in a marriage where sex is far from encouraging, and currently represents an area of deep pain, rejection, and isolation. Maybe your spouse doesn’t seem to serve or appreciate you sexually. May God give you indescribable courage, comfort, and help in that painful place of giving thanks in all circumstances! Our God is the God who sees
I’m totally #thatmom–the one diving into all the weirdness with my kids, sidestepping a few eyerolls. After five and a half years in Uganda, my family and I have returned to the U.S., where I write and speak professionally, and we continue to work on behalf of the poor.