When I was deep in the dilemma mentioned in Skydiving without a parachute, I discussed the title topic with two Christian friends who don’t know each other. They shared the same view: it’s very unwise. One of them was Elder T, the other a young man about my age. Elder T raised a concern of there being no biblical precedent for such a discussion.
God, in His infinite wisdom and mercy, has given us the ability to discern sexual compatibility before even dating someone. We instinctively know who we’re likely to have sexual sparks flying with, but predicting ANR “fireworks” in a potential partner isn’t so easy. This doesn’t mean God doesn’t care for ANR, as His Word in its original manuscripts contradicts that notion.
I think the title question is like how the Bible doesn’t give a yes or no answer to masturbation, but you and I know that if we consider the whole counsel of God, we realize how the inherent selfishness of masturbation is incongruent with God’s nature. So should Christian boyfriends and girlfriends ever talk about sex? Again, God’s Word doesn’t answer this question directly. But if we bear in mind the holiness of God and the sinfulness of man, how the cravings of the flesh never take a break, and all the biblical exhortations to flee sexual immorality and not put ourselves in situations in which we can be overcome by temptation, and the lack of a Scriptural example, in my opinion, it’s clear the answer is to try as much as possible to defer such conversations until marriage, or at least engagement.
But a reasonable exception can be made for ANRs.
The simple reason is that I believe there is Scriptural support for married believers to engage in an ANR, but in our modern world, there’s no guarantee that it’ll ever happen.
There simply isn’t a sex act like Couples Nursing, and while it certainly has a sexual aspect, to shove it in the box of sex acts is to unfairly represent this dynamic. Of all acts of intimacy which couples can imagine, there’s none that affects one of the participants’ body and impacts her hormones on an ongoing basis like Couples Nursing does. There’s also none that forces one person to be mindful of everything that goes into her body because it’ll affect the other, or makes a husband always think of being with his wife, else she’ll be in pain if they’re separated too long.
Many Christians see Couples Nursing as a very explicit and pornographic act and would consider any pre-marital discussions of this lifestyle totally unacceptable. I also used to think that way, and this prevailing mindset among believers is what scares many Christians from even thinking of discussing it, no matter how carefully. This is what led to my major dilemma years ago. But I’ve since learned that Couples Nursing is unique.
I sure have my male fantasies that’ll certainly make most women uncomfortable. This is not one of them.
God designed women to be less hardcore and explicit than men, so if there’s anything women desire as much as or more than men, that thing most likely isn’t a raunchy, nasty thing. In my 3+ decades of life, I’ve never heard of any sex act that causes a woman to be “emotionally detached and heartbroken” because her husband isn’t interested in partaking, or one that a 50 year old Christian woman desires enough to publicly admit on a dating site that her desire has “lept off the charts” (their words, not mine). The fact is that tons of women around the world want Couples Nursing more than their husbands, often to their dismay, so this surely isn’t some xxx-rated male fantasy. It’s a beautiful bonding act. In my opinion, the phrase “I’m emotionally detached and heartbroken because my husband won’t let me ____” would sound very unusual if one fills in the blank with any bedroom act other than an ANR. Although women certainly enjoy sex, some more than their husbands, I find it very hard to imagine a woman being heartbroken because her husband won’t let her enjoy some particular sex act. Women usually don’t get too hung up on one specific sex act. They have a more holistic view of sex.
Another reason I’ve discovered from experience that has me convinced that talking to potential wives about an ANR in marriage isn’t as risky as I once thought is the fact that most Christians stumble over graphic depictions of human sexuality, not over a three-letter acronym. Anyone who discloses to their date in a godly, mature, minimally arousing manner would most likely not face any heat for doing so, unless the date is sadly caught up in false purity/moralism, rather than biblical Christianity. God’s Laws are rigid yet reasonable. He is firm yet gracious, see Matthew 12:4, cf. 1 Samuel 21.
An ANR is no mere sex act, it’s a commitment. It creates a rare dynamic between couples. Since it shows up in the Bible more than once but is rarely practiced in modern times, unmarried Christians who are intent on being biblical would discuss an ANR. Cautiously.
I’ve been convicted to ask myself the following: what if I were dating Esther, Ruth, Mary Magdalene or the Proverbs 31 woman? Would I bring this ANR discussion up at any time during our courtship? With how much purity would I treat them?
Since Couples Nursing was likely popular in their time, the need to bring it up would be a non-issue, so no, I don’t regret letting a prospective wife know about a desire that would affect her on a hormonal level. I am, however, challenged to treat women with absolute purity, and I’ll never “arrive” in that area.
Going back to the ice cream analogy, one sincere rebuttal I’ve received is that it’s unhealthy for Christian boyfriends and girlfriends to concern themselves with discovering each other’s favorite “ice cream flavor”, as that’s meant to be something we learn only in the process of serving our spouse.
I think this is an excellent point and I’m mostly in agreement, however, suppose the flavor the Christian wants contains other nutrient-rich ingredients, is anecdotally reported to have many health-promoting benefits and is prescribed by the world’s highest nutrition authority, but not as a meal replacement, since nothing can replace the main course. In this analogous scenario, there’s nothing wrong with cautiously discussing only this health-promoting ice cream flavor.
It’s worth pointing out that after the younger friend of mine let known his reservations against such a discussion, he later agreed with me that perhaps it might be worth having exactly once while dating, never to be revisited again before tying the knot.
In His original Hebrew Old Testament, I know God indirectly encourages me to incorporate it into my marriage so I have no intentions of leaving an ANR up to chance. I will actually take Him at His word.
Further, if I practiced an ANR in my marriage, at any given instant, I’d have my wife’s nutrients flowing through my veins. When tempted to lust after other women, I’d have her nutrients flowing through my veins. Thoughts wandering back to women in my life that precede her? I’d have her nutrients flowing through my veins. Mini skirt-wearing co-worker hitting on me? I’d have my wife’s nutrients flowing through my veins. We readily appreciate how deep this relationship is, and how that depth and the permanent sense of connection it creates sets it head and shoulders above other acts of intimacy. Therefore, a reasonable one-time exception should be made for pre-marital discussion of a bond this deep and intense.
Marriage itself is designed to be a great reflector of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
– Matt Chandler, The Mingling of Souls