I am a passionate, sexual, curious, middle-aged, single woman who deeply loves Jesus Christ, loves life, and thrives on adventure.
God also created me to be someone who speaks out on things many others avoid conversations about. So the time has come to talk about being single, sexual, and yet not sexually active.
Sexuality and sex are not words we often hear, see, or read about in our churches, especially when mixed with the words single adult. Yet society screams the words at us constantly in all we hear, see, or read.
In Grade 5, my attraction to a neighbourhood boy was exceptionally strong. My mother noticed and in one of our conversations made several statements I remember to this day. She reminded me I had choices about what we did in our time together. Not only did I have a choice in how I treated him, I could be intentional about how I allowed him to treat me.
She emphasized that these decisions had to take place long before we were in an adoring moment together, as I might be swayed then by my emotions rather than clear thinking.
(She also reminded me she could still make some decisions for me and that I needed to be home by the time the street lights went on!)
As life has gone on, I have found myself in a variety of different relationships with men – as friends, serving on boards together, ministering or doing short-term mission trips alongside, casually meeting, or dating. When I review where my self-confidence and purity are at, I have a great deal to be thankful for.
In several of these relationships, there have been times when I was greatly tempted to derail my resolve to embrace my sexuality, yet not be sexually active. (By embracing my sexuality I mean being feminine, living as a gendered person, and allowing myself to feel attraction and desirous of sexual intimacy.)
These moments of temptation have involved married men who carry great leadership in the evangelical church of Canada, seeking sexual involvement with me outside what they claimed were unhappy marriages; single men I’ve dated with whom passionate moments could so easily become sexual moments; single and married men who travel for their business and expect a woman who does the same is always open to a sexual tryst; and men in foreign countries helping on mission projects who thought I might be looking for some sexual excitement.
What has made it possible to remain sexually pure all these years of interacting with and relating to men?
My mother’s willingness to pray, listen, give advice, and not shy away from some very blunt conversations on sexuality and sex.
The prayers of many who love me and know my deep desire to keep this area of my life pure.
Friends and ministry colleagues willing to ask the hard questions to keep me accountable.
Great advice from women who had walked the path before me and chose to mentor me. A single woman who had been in ministry for more than 25 years said, “Sherryl, as a woman who will interact with many men in leadership, you would do well to know your boundaries as far as intimacy – emotional, spiritual, and physical – are concerned. You would do well to introduce yourself and make yourself somewhat known to the man’s spouse if at all possible so she has an idea of who her husband is spending time with. You would do well to remember that visual stimulation is strong for men and you own the responsibility of carrying yourself in a respectful manner in this regard.”
Great insight from men friends who have honestly shared their struggles and given me glimpses into the male psyche. They have taught me what a struggle it is to remain pure when surrounded by so much visual sexual stimulation. They have enlightened me on how a man can dearly love his wife yet compartmentalize the affair he chooses to be a part of. They have informed me how differently men and women approach relationships and define intimacy. I’ve learned a woman can attract with her beauty, but that confidence, humour, and adventurous spirit can be sexually attractive as well.
A growing love for myself. When Jesus commanded us to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and mind and secondly, to love our neighbours as ourselves, we often miss the very important equation found in the second command.
A growing understanding of what it means to love and be loved, and how respect, patience, kindness, selflessness, humility, and grace are integral in loving someone and someone loving you!
Jesus knew we had to embrace our relationship with him in a way that fully engages our heart, soul, and mind, and that out of this fully engaged relationship with him we would be able to love ourselves and be able in turn to love others.
So far, this equation has worked for this single white female who enjoys embracing her sexuality but chooses not to be sexually active. My prayer is that it will continue to be the foundation of my life in all my relationships.
—Sherryl Koop is presently serving in youth ministry at McIvor Ave. MB Church, Winnipeg. She likes having adventures in foreign countries and exploring ways she can love her neighbours.