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June 1, 2007

Parenting for Intimacy

Song of Songs 8:2-4 (CEV)
2 I could take you to the home of my mother,
who taught me all I know.
I would give you delicious wine
and fruit juice as well.
3 Put your left hand under my head
and embrace me with your right arm.
4 Young women of Jerusalem, promise me...
never to awaken love before it is ready.

I don't know if I've ever made an entry from this book in the Bible. In fact, I feel a little awkward even addressing the subject today. This passage jumped out of today's reading because of something I saw on TV last night.

I'm flipping around the TV channels as usual, and stopped for a moment at "Hogan Knows Best." The Hulkster is concerned with the way his 17 year old daughter Brooke (who's a new teen pop singer), how her "image" is being developed by her managers and record company. He feels that it's too adult, too sensual, and in his words, "As a parent, and as her dad, I'm offended. It's not right." Who knew that Hulkamania would take a stand for common sense.

This got me thinking about how female sexuality is being warped by our culture. We live in a day when being a stripper is an acceptable profession and being an internet porn star can make you rich. The culture "sells" women that to be comfortable with your sexuality you must be assertive to even aggressive, use your sensuality, and be willing to cross boundaries (why else is MTV filled with images of young girls kissing each other or the success of Girls Gone Wild). What has broken down? I think it has to do with the fact that the culture has taken on the responsibility for sex education because parents have forfeited it.

In this book, the most intimate of all ancient writings, we find a woman who has a healthy sexual identity. She is unashamed in expressing her affection for her lover and completely uninhibited. How did she come to be this way? Did her friends show her? Has her identity been shaped by the images of her culture. No. V2 gives us some insight - her Mom "taught" her. Does this mean that her Mom put her through some kind of class or watch some video? Of course not! My assumption is that this woman had an open, trusting and even frank relationship with the primary female in her life. Her mother helped to shape her as a person, gave her a healthy sense of identity and self-esteem. Because of this confidence in who she was, the "beloved" carried this sense of value, trust, and openness into the most intimate area of her life.

There was also something passed down to her from her mother (and father too, I hope). It's a healthy perspective on life. That's seen in v4 - "don't awaken love before it's ready." In a world that confuses lust with love and substitutes cheap romance for commitment, this is a hard choice to make. Young people feel pressured not only by their own hormones, but by a culture that equates peer acceptance with infatuations with the opposite sex. Most adolescent dating relationships become mini-marriages (with physical intimacy included) that end as mini-divorces. Pre-teens and young adults need to be taught how to develop healthy relationships with the opposite sex instead of getting involved exclusively in "dating" relationships. This too is a parent's job.

As my wife and I have the privilege of working with students for 10 years, and now helping to heal marriages for the last 10, we have found this area of sexuality to be a huge area of pain and confusion in people's lives. I don't want that to be the case for my son or daughter. We want them to enter into their future marriages with a healthy sense of who they are and a complete freedom to be that person in every area of their lives, including their sexuality. That it would not be warped by culture or "experience," but to be vibrant, unafraid and un-scarred, able to experience the joy of authentic intimacy.

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