Every girl loves a good love story.
But as my Facebook stream is flooded with posts about 50 Shades of Grey and how excited women are to see it Valentine’s weekend, my heart breaks.
How craftily the enemy has slipped into our eReaders, our movie-going, our thoughts, and our dreams.
I know because I’ve been there.
The Tale of an Innocent Reader
I can’t remember the title of the first steamy romance novel I read.
But I can still picture the stack of small, cheap paperbacks lining the bottom shelf of my little bookcase in my bedroom. They were “Christian romance novels,” gifted to me by a well-meaning 40-something single woman who received a new trio in her mailbox every month.
Though the plot was predictable–fierce attraction, big problem, come-to-Jesus moment, and happily-ever-after ending– the sexual tension in the book leaped of the pages, tamed only by the occasional references to Jesus and strong morals. As an avid reader, I stayed up late at night devouring page after page.
I read because I wanted to be cherished by a man, like Christy was cherished by Todd.
I wanted to be protected by a strong man, like Scarlett was protected by Rhett.
I wanted to rescue a man, like helping my brother’s good-looking non-Christian friend come to Jesus.
I wanted to be sexually alive, as my body began feeling tingling and excited in all new places.
I wanted to escape reality, which I easily did as I curled with a book in my upstairs bedroom.
So I devoured all the “Christian romance novels” I could find.
…I was nine years old.
How I Broke Up with Romance Novels
This is not an easy post for me to write, because for years the enemy used the shame and embarrassment to silence me.
Even after throwing away all my trashy “Christian romance novels” (which I place in quotation marks simply because there is no such thing), I battled the thoughts and fantasies for years. YEARS. Agonizing nights of singleness that tempted me with the enticing lure of sexual satisfaction with the slip of my imagination. Painful battles of the will after watching a chick flick with my girlfriends. Pages and pages of journaling through my struggles and praying for victory.
I thought this would be a lifelong battle, but gradually I found myself battling sexual temptation less and less often. The more I said “no” to the enticing thoughts that came to mind, the less alluring those thoughts became.
I filled my mind with fighter verses and carried them in my pocket to review at every bus stop and every waiting line. I got up for a glass of water during steamy scenes at friends’ movie nights, and I refused to read the magazines’ Top 10 Tips to Look Sexy Tonight.
And then I got married and was convinced the battle was forever won.
But I was wrong.
Why Purity Until Marriage Is a Bad Idea
There’s been a strong movement in the church to encourage purity until marriage, telling young adults to “save themselves” until they get married. And while the intent behind this movement is good-willed, it’s missing something HUGE.
Purity isn’t something you protect until marriage… it’s what you protect for the rest of your life.
The problem with thinking of purity as something to be protected until marriage is it assumes that once we’re married all temptations go away. But nothing could be further from the truth.
The thought patterns, the expectations, the books we read and the movies we watch before we get married feed into our experience as wives and lovers. They inform how we expect our husbands to act, to love, to speak, and to come to our rescue. And after the newly-wed glow wears off, we discover that our husbands don’t measure up to the made-up Perfect Prince Charming in the romance novels we’ve grown up with. We yearn for something more exciting.
Enter erotica, now known as “mommy porn.”
While our men battle for the purity of their eyes and minds by turning away from pornography, we fight for the purity of our hearts and minds by filtering the entertainment we read and watch.
Fifty Shades of Grey and other erotica that have hit the shelves of mainstream bookshelves invite women into worlds of pleasurable fantasies and romantic plot lines. They take advantage of our five core longings to lure us into book porn; rather than satisfy women’s longings, these books exploit them for financial gain.
More than ever, women today need to fight for the purity of their marriages not just against the outside forces of the world but against the temptations that target us directly.
Fighting Erotica with Real Love Stories
God loves a good love story more than anyone else. After all, He wrote the most beautiful love story of all: Jesus pursued us when we were cold and indifferent, and he gallantly fought our enemy to the point of death, just to be with us forever.
And here’s the kicker: sexual intimacy, in a mysterious mind-boggling way, is a picture of the longing, passion, and beauty of Jesus Christ and His Church. And Satan will do whatever he can to twist, pervert, and destroy that. He’s a roaring lion looking to devour marriages, and you may feel that your own marriage is being attacked.
Sisters, it’s time to live in Grace & Truth and fight back. We won’t just sit by and let the enemy attack our marriages, our husbands, and our own minds. We won’t pretend this isn’t an issue in our own lives. We won’t be silenced by the shame and embarrassment that Satan throws our way.
Yes, we’ve made mistakes. And yes, many of us have been hurt and abused sexually. And absolutely yes, none of us are “qualified” for this fight. But God has called us and He will equip us (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).
We fight the lies of erotica with Truth: the truth of Jesus’ love story with His church (as revealed in Scriptures), and the truth of real-life love stories of men and women who honor God in their marriages.
Over the next weeks, I’ll be sharing with you real love stories and resources to help you pursue passion in your marriage, protect the purity of your sexuality (both before and after marriage), fight sexual temptation, and celebrate God’s design for sexual intimacy in marriage.
If you’ve read Fifty Shades of Grey or other erotica, please know that there is hope for your marriage, and it’s not found in romance novels. It’s found in God’s grace and His Truth.
Pulling Back the Shades: In this candid, short book, Dr. Juli Slattery and Dannah Gresh address the five core longings of women’s hearts (that I referenced above), erotica, and intimacy. With tenderness and humility, they reach out to women who long for both sexual and spiritual fulfillment and tackle some hard questions with solid Biblical teaching and transparent stories.
Whether you’ve read Fifty Shades of Grey or simply have personal questions that you’re embarassed to ask but dying to find answers to, Pulling Back the Shades is a wonderful resource you’ll want to check out today.
PLUS For a limited time, you can trade your shades! From the Pulling Back the Shades website:
Women from around the world are invited to mail us their copy of Fifty Shades of Grey. In exchange, we will mail you a copy of Pulling Back the Shades for free!” Simply go here to find out more. http://pullingbacktheshades.com/