It is easy to lose sight of the fact that sex is a gift to us from God Himself. Sometimes, adults have a difficult time getting their heads around this. Parents may feel awkward at the thought of saying such a thing to their children. But it is true. Sex is a gift and it comes from God.
At times a person might feel that sex is more of a burden than a gift. For someone who grew up in a highly rigid environment, the emergence of sexual feelings might seem more like a curse than a gift. However, I certainly hope that parents do not want their children to grow up feeling this way, even if the parent felt that way as a child or teenager.
Children also need to know that sex was given to us by God, not someplace evil. Satan was not the inventor of sex. Our worldly culture did not create sex. It was the Creator of the Universe who designed sex to work exactly as it does.
Children do deserve to know that sex is a good gift from a good God. So, how does a parent do that, exactly? How does a parent share the goodness of sex with an adolescent without encouraging them to do something inappropriate with their sexuality?
The emergence of sexuality during puberty is simply a part of the larger emergence of all things adult. The body becomes bigger, but not as strong as it will eventually be. Emotions elevate to adult levels but there is not yet adult level ability to control those emotions. The ability to think in abstract terms develops early, but the wisdom to choose wisely comes more slowly. In the same way, sexual functionality appears years before the levels of sexual self-control and selflessness develop that are needed in a marriage relationship.
God gives your children the gifts that come with adulthood before they have the ability to manage them well. Sexuality is not unique in that respect. Sexuality, like all other adult gifts, requires time to learn to manage.
God gives these gifts early so that your children have time to master them before they need to use them.
Developing the Gift
Yes, sex was designed for reproduction and the possibility of one day having a family. That does not mean your child should put sexuality on the shelf until they marry. There are things they need to do to develop that gift, starting at puberty.
Here are a few gifts within sexuality as well as the areas of growth an adolescent child needs to develop for that gift to work.
1. GIFT: Stronger Emotions.
AREA OF GROWTH: Emotional Resilience. Along with sexual feelings, all other feelings are elevated to adult levels during adolescence. The sexual relationship in marriage is deeply intertwined with and affected by emotions. Before a young person is ready for a sexual relationship they should learn to respond well to their newly strong emotions. This will take years and is a primary task of preparing to use their gift of sexuality.
2. GIFT: Longing for Deeper Relationships.
AREA OF GROWTH: Emotional Intimacy. Sexuality causes a person to feel drawn into deeper relationships. Deeper, adult relationships are harder to navigate than the kind of relationships between younger children. However, the rewards of deeper relationships are much higher as they can make people feel truly known and loved. Adolescents must practice navigating deeper levels of non-physical emotional intimacy before they are ready for a sexual relationship.
3. GIFT: Giving Pleasure
AREA OF GROWTH: Delayed Gratification and Selfless Giving. God designed the gift of sex to be enjoyed in marriage in an environment of self-sacrifice. The world teaches our children that sex is about taking pleasure, but God designed sex to be about giving pleasure. Receiving physical intimacy cannot happen if one partner is impatient or demanding. This requires years of learning how to approach others as a selfless giver who is patient with relationships. Learning to be selfless and patient in non-sexual ways must happen before a young person is ready for a sexual relationship. This area of growth will perhaps take the longest for adolescents to develop.
The world teaches our children that sex is about taking pleasure, but God designed sex to be about giving pleasure.
It’s About Practice, Not Waiting
No one is truly ready for marriage or parenthood until these skills are developed. To try to skip these steps is to attempt to use a gift before a person knows how to operate it. An adolescent should not “wait” to be ready for sex, they have things to practice in order to be ready when the time comes!
Here is an illustration. A child opens a wrapped box on Christmas day to discover they have received a gift of a painting set (Let’s assume for the moment this child is really excited about learning to paint). On the cover of the box is a beautiful painting of bamboo shoots, some flowers, and a bird. Inside the box are several shapes of paintbrushes, some paints, a paint mixing board, and a long set of instructions.
The child could attempt to paint what they see on the box right away, but the results would be far from attractive if the child has never painted before. The child has a lot of things to practice before they can use the entire gift as it was intended.
They will need to learn which brushes to use to create which shape of stroke. They will need to practice making simple strokes for a very long time before they can consistently transfer what is in their head to paper. They will need to learn to mix paints to create the colors they want. They will need to learn how to layer paint. A lot of practice of these simple skills is required in order to master the full gift of the paint set and get the results they hope for.
Sexuality Does Not Come Too Early
I have heard parents and youth pastors fret over why God allows children to enter puberty and receive the full set of sexual feelings when He doesn’t want them to have sex for years. This is a misplaced understanding of what God is doing. God gives the gift of sexuality before our children are adults so that they can practice using the non-physical components (emotional resilience, emotional intimacy, delayed gratification, and selflessness) that prepare them for eventual marriage.
God is gracious in allowing adolescents time to master the sub-skills before the full gift is needed.
Does that mean adolescents will not make mistakes along the way? Absolutely not. I made mistakes with my sexuality when I was a teenager and so does everyone else. Remember that mistakes include not mastering the skills of emotional resilience, emotional intimacy, and selflessness.
Your child will make mistakes with their sexuality as well, but that neither surprises God nor does it make Him disappointed in your child. Adolescence is a time to practice emotional resilience, emotional intimacy, and selflessness as well as self-control. That practice will not be perfect, but that does not mean your child should just sit on their hands and “wait” either.
I am writing this blog shortly before Christmas. If you have a child nearing adolescence or who is already a teenager, sit down with them and tell them about God’s gift to them. Explain these three skills they will need to practice so they can eventually enjoy the gift of sex more fully. Sex is a good gift and they have skills to practice so that when the time comes the final gift turns out to be something beautiful.