Thursday, January 27, 2011

Book Review: Sex and the Soul of a Woman

I've been flying through books this month, so I've decided to up my personal reading challenge for 2011. I was originally pledging to read 25 non-fiction books this year, but at the rate I'm going, I doubled it to 50! Quite a goal... but easily attainable if I keep this pace. For whatever reason, I have this incredible thirst right now for knowledge and wisdom - whether it's for spiritual growth or learning more about personal finances... I just can't get enough! So uh, expect more book reviews. And don't forget to come be my buddy on Goodreads if you're a reader too!

The title of this latest book has you curious, doesn't it?! As you may or may not remember, the hub and I are mentors with the pre-marital program at our church. We're basically paired up with one couple at a time and work through an 8-week "course" with them, preparing them for the great adventure that is marriage. One of the subjects we tackle is of course sex and intimacy. I'm sure that's frightening for some, but it's actually an awesome, awesome session. One of the brides-to-be we mentored mentioned this particular book to us, saying it had completely opened her eyes to God's intentions with sex and the sacred beauty that is female sexuality. Christians are always hammered with the no-sex-outside-of-marriage idea. It's just one of those line items on the list of things "good Christians" don't do. But, why? I had answers, but I wanted more. Months later, I recalled this particular bride's recommendation and ordered a copy of Paula Rinehart's "Sex and the Soul of a Woman."

"If sex is a fire, God brought the matches." That's one of my all-time favorite quotes from our pastor at church. We so often want to exclude God from any definition of sex, but he created it. And who knows more about sex than its creator? Yes, this book helps the reader understand why God put boundaries around sex. But Rinehart doesn't deny women's sexuality. "Nothing on the planet is more essentially our birthright than our sexuality - the pleasure and beauty of being female." But she goes on to argue that when sex occurs outside the bonds of marriage, it is cheapened.

Everywhere you look, it seems as though society is telling women that they need to toughen up and behave like men. We should be able to have multiple sex partners freely without feeling a thing. So then you have young women everywhere attempting to amputate their heart from sexual relationships. Sure, you may ultimately become numb to feeling anything... but it's not possible for a woman to only be physical with no strings attached. And as Rinehart explains in great depth in her book, God intended it that way. "God made women to experience the joy of lasting, enduring relationships with men. That we cannot deaden our heart successfully is the best apologetic I know for the truth of how God made us."

Opening your heart and mind to the idea that God wants nothing but the best for you is the first step in understanding God's intentions here. "If you can sense the great, good heart of God in this, you will understand why his desire is to reserve this sort of intimacy as the one place of human sanctuary in your life where nothing but blessing touches you." Sex was created as the "superglue of the soul." God's not trying to rob of us something, he's trying to preserve something incredible for us. Yet most of us, in our best attempt to be "normal," just do what feels right. I mean, everyone's doing it, right?!

Yeah well, look how screwed up the world is. Maybe we shouldn't be taking our cues from Hollywood or even our peers. They had a segment on the Today Show this morning asking if marriage was becoming obsolete, in reference to all the recent Hollywood starlets getting knocked up before getting married. Seriously? I can just see God doing a huge eye roll from his throne. But truthfully, I think it breaks his heart. What we do with our bodies does matter - it matters to God. "Understanding how a man and a woman are bonded in the sexual experience is really built on the significance of the body itself," says Rinehart. "The living God revealed himself in a body, and what we do with our bodies matters." Wow. Convicted, much?

I truly loved this book. It's not just about explaining the boundaries around sex and why they exist. It introduces and expands on God's greatest desires for us, what sex is really meant to be, and guides us through beginning to heal our hearts from our sexual pasts. And most importantly, we learn how truly powerful our sexuality is as a woman. "The beauty, allure, and sexual power you hold as a woman are holy things. They can bless beyond your wildest dreams or, as the biblical writer of the ancient proverbs observed, destroy everything you hold dear. The choice is yours. How will you use your power?"

The last few chapters discuss being able to recognize and love a truly good man. The thing is, sex outside of marriage clouds our judgment. We expect too little from men. "Allowing sex to be part of a dating relationship invites men to be their worst selves." It's not only cheating ourselves, but it's also disrespectful to the guys too. Rinehart says that men will rise to the level of our expectations. They are capable of much more.

I've always felt heavily convicted when it comes to sexual boundaries, but now I have a much better understanding of their spiritual significance. And it has nothing to do with unwanted pregnancies or STD's. All I can say is, where the hell was this book 20 years ago? This should be required reading for every pre-teen girl. Yes, it's a mature read, but I think it's a perfect book for a mother and daughter to read through together. What a GREAT way to open a good dialogue with your daughter about sex. Yes, they'll probably learn the mechanics in school and maybe even be encouraged to "abstain." But help them understand why their sexuality is so sacred and worth protecting. It's directly connected to their soul, their God.

Every woman should read this book. I'm grateful for what I've learned from this book. Heck, if we have a boy someday I'm going to make him read this. He needs to understand the value of a woman. Shoot, this should be required reading for anyone breathing. There are few subjects more sacred.

Next Up: "Rich Dad, Poor Dad" by Robert T. Kiyosaki

Previous: "48 Days to the Work You Love" by Dan Miller

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