Body and Soul

bodyandsould_headerSex is far more than just a physical act. It’s also a spiritual and emotional union.

by Sheila Wray Gregoire

A few years ago, in an attempt to curry favour with me, my husband bought me several Diana Gabaldon novels. The nurses on the hospital floor where he worked were gushing about them. So he forked over the cash, hoping it might bear dividends for him in our marriage.

And it did. The romance focuses on a swash-buckling 18th century Scottish Highlander who knows his way around both the bedroom and the battlefield. He’s fierce and brave, but when he comes into his wife’s arms, he melts in adoration. And after reading them, I melted in my husband’s arms, too. And I did a few other things he greatly appreciated.

But then Keith went and wrecked it. He dared to pick up a novel to see what all the fuss is about. “My darling,” he read, in his best Scottish accent. “I must possess ye, body and soul!” He then collapsed in fits of laughter, magnified by me flinging pillows his way in disgust.

You men should stop laughing and listen to us for a minute. We women tend to understand relationship a teeny bit better than you do. Relationships, after all, are our reason for being. We’ll do just about anything to feel loved, while you men will do just about anything for sex. That’s why women put up with users and abusers, and men are more prone to one-night stands. Women, can cheat, too, because we’re just as corruptible as you guys are. It’s just that our particular weaknesses lie in different directions.

And what we women instinctively recognize is that sex is far more than just a physical act; it’s also a spiritual and emotional union. It’s that union that we so desperately want.

You yearn for it, too, just not as overtly. After all, God designed sex with a spiritual dimension. Read the old King James, and you’ll come across that archaic phrase, “Adam knew his wife Eve, and they conceived unto them a son.” The Hebrew word “knew” is the same verb that is used in Psalm51, when David cries out, “Search me, O God, and know me.” Sex is fundamentally about knowing someone; it’s a joining that supersedes just the physical.

Unfortunately, like every other good thing, this was distorted. The early Gnostics took it to an extreme, declaring the body bad and the soul good. This idea then infiltrated the church, and sex became shameful, because the body was shameful. Now we’ve come to the opposite end of the spectrum. We live in a pornographic culture that thinks the body is the end all and be all. If it feels good, we must do it! An alien would think our world’s number one challenge is how to make sex more fun, because the covers of all the magazines advertise “Ten New Things to Try” (as if there were anything new under the sun) or “How to Leave Her Begging for More.” It doesn’t matter who you do it with, as long as you do it right!

Wrong. And Christians know that. Sex is only right in a committed marriage relationship.

But do we really understand why? It seems like the church’s new motto when it comes to sex is: “There’s freedom in Christ!—as long as you’re married—so go have fun!”

When I speak or write about sex, the most frequent questions I get are all about technique. Is it okay to do this? What about sex toys? What about pornography? We’re just as focused on the physical as the world is!

The reason that our culture is focusing on more and more bizarre sex acts is that people have nothing else. They don’t know the wonder that comes from truly knowing one another, body and soul, because relationship is taken out of the picture.

Why would we try to mimic them? When we reduce sex to the next orgasm, we’re missing out on its true potential. I’m glad sex is physically fun. I’m all in favour of fun, and if we can increase the fun, let’s go for it! But if that’s all we’re doing, all the time, we’re settling for potato chips and missing the steak. Sex is not only a way to feel good; it’s also a way to say “I love you,” “I need you” and “I belong to you.”

If sex has never been about saying I love you” in your marriage, it’s not too late to start. Talk to your wife while you’re making love. Let her know it’s her you’re thinking about. Spend some time, by candlelight, just touching each other and whispering to each other. Look into her eyes in your most intimate moments. What you’ll find is that the high that comes from really “knowing” your wife is much deeper than the one that comes from the latest sex experiment. And that’s what makes sex really good—body and soul.

Sheila is a frequent writer for “What Women Want” in SEVEN Magazine. She is the author of several marriage books, including Honey, I Don’t Have a Headache Tonight: Help for women who want to feel more in the mood. You can find her speaking at marriage conferences around the country, or at

The article above was featured in the May 2009 issue of SEVEN magazine.