Why Christians Don’t Know How To Talk About Sex (and what we need to do differently)…

holding-handsSo…

I like sex.

Quite a bit.  Am I allowed to say that?

I’m going to jump right into this thing.  I’m assuming that most who read this blog are interested in a Jesus perspective on all sorts of different issues, and are willing to ask and think about tough questions.  And since I know Darcie, I’m assuming that if you’re reading this, you’re an intelligent person who is ok living with tensions and has a decent BS-o-meter.  So let’s talk about how we view sex.

We’ve got to start to reframe the sex conversation in a couple of ways.

Because as I was growing up, it was the mark of true Christian faith.  You could pretty much be as mean as you wanted, but you were the poster child for Christian faith if you stayed a virgin. That pretty much fits with many ways that we often understand Christian faith.  Don’t drink, smoke, swear, sleep around, or do anything else that sounds remotely fun, and you’ll be a good Christian.  Wooohooo!  Sign me up!

But seriously, if you’re in the position where you are choosing to wait (or trying your best to choose to wait!), sometimes it can feel like it’s torture, like God is simply telling you that you’re not allowed to have fun like everyone else, and deep down, if you knew that you could deal with the guilt and get away with it- you’d totally go for it and have a fun one night stand.

Those feelings are natural.  I dealt with them too.  But here’s what I’ve learned as a married, sex-having person…. choosing to be intentional about sexual decisions is about waaaaaay more than not having fun.  It’s actually about how God has wired us.

I have this inherent belief that Jesus wants us to have fun. Yes, there’s serious sacrifice in there.  But I think Jesus invites us to a way of life not because he wants us to be miserable and always have to struggle to follow the right rules, but because he actually wants to set us free.  Living, I believe, is the word he used for it.  Fully living.

I also tend to think that God created us intentionally.  And I tend to think that for the most part, following Jesus makes sense.  Real life sense.  More sense than we realize.  Not just in deep spiritual ways, but in totally normal, practical ways.  Forgiving people makes sense because you’re not free when there’s bitterness in you– your emotions are wrapped up with that person.  Being generous makes sense because money can create this jail that stops you from being able to live freely in God’s world because your emotions are wrapped up in your stuff.  And having sex with the person you’ve committed your life to makes sense because, well, you’re free to have your emotions wrapped up fully in that person, and not in someone else.

This whole sex thing is not just about the spirit.  It’s about the body.  More studies are now being released that are showing the chemicals that the brain releases during sex- not just chemicals of pleasure, but chemicals of connection. When you have sex with somebody, you become connected to them in a unique way.  There’s an emotional and psychological connection that is significant, long lasting, and wonderful.  Except…. when it’s with someone you’re not going to keep having sex with forever.  Then it sucks.

I feel like I got this incredible gift by struggling through the whole not-having-sex thing.  It was way harder than I expected, and I got pretty close a few times. But here’s the crazy thing- I become bonded to my wife. I learned how to have sex with her.  And my emotions were able to stay wrapped up in her, instead of trying to unwrap them off of someone else.  There was and is complete freedom, and it’s wonderful to be free in that way.  Many people aren’t.

I’d love it if we were able to start talking about sex a little differently.

First, can we start talking about sex in terms of what we’re doing instead of what we’re not?  The outside world looks on the Christian approach to abstinence as strange because we don’t know how to talk about it.  It’s looked at as a limitation on freedom- maybe we can express it as an expression of freedom.  We’re actually living the way our bodies were intended to function- free from significant heartache and emotional hurt that comes when our bodies make a commitment that our hearts and minds aren’t able to make.  I’d love to see those in the abstinence camp be able to comfortably talk about their abstinence as doing something, rather than not doing something.  If we knew how to talk about this stuff, maybe others would be able to hear the wisdom in it.  That being said, we are a culture that LOVES instant gratification, and sex is nothing if not that, so waiting will always be a radical and countercultural thing.  It’s cool though, because Jesus was both of those things too.  

And second, can we please stop it with the judgmental spiritual superiority that those who abstain give those who don’t?

I’m going to say it- having sex before marriage is not the end of the world.  Jesus specializes in helping bring life in hard situations.  Abstinence is not the mark of true Christian faith, nor is premarital sex the unforgivable sin. Waiting makes life a whole lot easier later on, without a doubt. But you are not damaged goods.  Seriously.  People who are trying to maintain purity and end up having sex deal with a lot of shame and guilt already, not to mention all the emotional weight of being connected intimately to multiple people.  That journey is tough enough, and there is emotional baggage that many of us have to carry from sexual brokenness and find healing for.  I’ve seen it so many times. It’s a hard enough journey. Please don’t add to it!

Ok, one more sex tip for single friends who are choosing to wait, and feel like years are beginning to pass you by…. you know, the really good sex-having years….. Rest assured that sex is like wine.  It ages really well, and you have plenty of time.  Sex is great.  But the freedom Jesus gives us – in sex, in life, wherever…. is even better.   Hang in there.

~ ~ ~ ~

unnamed-1Keith Miller lives in Newark, Delaware, with his wife, Bethany and 3 little people they made.  He pastors the LifePath Church community and loves the adventure of figuring out how to follow Jesus in a world that’s gone nuts.

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The Type of Sex Worth Waiting For: Looking Back After 9 Years of Marriage…

to-my-future-husband-600x400In middle school, I decided that True Love Waits. I got a purity ring that I wore on my left ring finger as a reminder that Jesus was my first love and I was saving sex for marriage. In high school, I decided to completely Kiss Dating Goodbye. Why waste my time dating before I was old enough to consider marriage?

You see, like many young Christian girls in the 90’s, I had a master plan. Once I was settled into my Christian college, surrounded by mature men, it would be Boy Meets Girl and I’d Say Hello to Courtship. (I may have been a Joshua Harris groupie.)

I prayed for my future husband, I wrote letters to him, I daydreamed about who he might be. During high school, I was proud of my unconventional choices and content in my singleness. I wasn’t just saving sex for marriage, I was saving my heart.

I was a purity rock star.

I knew finding the man I was meant to marry might be tricky, but saving sex for marriage? That should be a piece of cake for a girl like me.

Not true.

I met the man I would one day marry midway through my first year of college, and I knew almost immediately that he was perfect for me. Keith was handsome and funny and charming. He was outgoing and able to draw me out of my shell. He had a compassionate heart, felt a calling into pastoral ministry, and, get this…. although he had gone on several dates in high school, he had never really had a girlfriend! I felt like I had struck gold.

I was so excited to share all the newness of a romantic relationship with Keith. We met each others’ families, we talked about the future, we prayed together, we laughed together, we cried together, we wrote letters, we professed our love, we held hands, we kissed…we held each other…we touched each other….

And we found ourselves tempted in areas we had always been strong.

It had been so easy for so many years! But that was before I truly fell in love. That was before I knew how intoxicating love could be. It really is like a drug sometimes.

Even with the best intentions and the most pristine track records, things get messy when you fall in love. As humans beings, the physical, emotional, and spiritual are intricately woven together. With attraction as an undeniable part of our relationship, it seemed nearly impossible for us to limit our physical relationship as we grew closer in every other way.

For over three years, we fought to keep our virginity intact, and it was only by God’s spirit that we were able to wait. It was certainly not by might, nor by power; we were weak.

After two years of dating, one year of engagement, and nine years of marriage, I am so thankful that I was able to discover sex by discovering my husband. And while I cannot compare sex outside of marriage to sex between a husband and a wife, I did experience physical intimacy outside of marriage. And even with what could be considered best case scenario physical intimacy (we had no prior relationships and ended up married to each other), I know firsthand that physical intimacy between a husband and a wife is so. much. better. Why? Because marriage is like a protective bubble where it is just the two of us, fully committed and totally free.

And that type of sex is worth waiting for.

~ ~ ~ ~

unnamedBethany is still happily married to that guy she met in college. They moved to Delaware in 2011 to start LifePath Church and have loved watching God do amazing things over the past three years. Bethany is a stay at home mom to her twin boys, Kylan and Judah, and her 2-year-old daughter, Sariya. She enjoys doing creative, messy things which makes her kids happy and her house very, very sad. 

No Regrets: One Married Woman Looks Back on Her Choice to Save Sex for Marriage…

Holding Hands

I was 22 years old and I knew everything. I stood on my desk in front of 23 grade 8 students and said one word. Sex. That’s all it took to get their full attention as well as many giggles amidst a prepubescent group of blushing kids. One word that carried so much weight and so many misconceptions. One word that could silence a room or start a heated debate amongst my circle of Christian friends. One, three letter word that I seemed to know everything about while at the same time knew absolutely nothing. One word that would end up looming over me for a very long time.

I signed a contract. You all know the kind. The kind that is written on the back of a bookmark or a track or a pink paper heart that is intended for you to stick inside your Bible to remind you every time you are in the midst of a make-out session in the back seat of a car. You know the kind. A binding agreement between me and God to keep myself pure and honourable and pristine for my future spouse. I can almost guarantee that it wasn’t that contract I signed at the end of some Teen Challenge event that challenged me to make a decision that would impact the next 20 years of relationships. Whatever the reason, I made a decision to save myself for my future husband. It sounded so easy and so righteous at the time. However, I never imagined that God would send me on a journey that would last much longer than I intended or planned.

I realize that sex before marriage is no longer a topic of prevalence with young Christians today. Some may have justified it while others may have made the same decision that I made as a teenager. Whatever the stance, whatever the Biblical perspective, and whatever the convictions, I have never had any regrets. I made my decision to wait for one simple reason: to honour my future husband as God intended.

You see, my future spouse was always real in my mind and in my heart even though he may not have been by my side for the numerous weddings I attended as a single person or even as part of a couple. I longed to honour him with all of my thoughts as well as my actions. This of course did not happen. I messed up and I did things and thought things and acted upon things that were in no way honouring at times. However, something deep within me knew that by offering all of myself in this physical way, I would be offering pieces of my heart along with it. Yes, I wanted my future husband to receive all of me as a gift physically, but more so, I wanted to offer him a full and complete heart.

I met several amazing men on my journey that loved the Lord and honoured me in every way. However, it took over 34 years for me to meet the man that I am married to today. The man that I chose in the midst of my journey. At the ripe age of 18 I never imagined it would take so long to experience this stage of life. In fact, my plans were always so different from my Lord’s. Was it easy to wait? Absolutely not. There were temptations, and failures, and forgiveness, and fears, and even more temptations. However, the longer I waited, the more I wanted to wait. The more I prayed for him and wanted to honour and respect my future husband in this way.

I believe that waiting to share this most intimate and God-honouring gift until marriage is possible. I am proof. I am proof that I made many mistakes over the years and pushed the limit of my convictions more times than I am proud of. I am also proof that waiting for marriage does not make the actual act of sex any better or worse or in between. It will not make you the star of some romantic movie on your honeymoon. In fact, it may make things even more awkward and uncomfortable, yet despite the physical act, I can say that I was proud to have the majority of my heart in tact. I would challenge teenagers and young adults and 40-somethings who have not married yet, to wait. Waiting is not something we like to do with anything in life. We are impatient people. We want what feels good now. We want to impress the opposite sex and be appealing and desirable. However, I challenge you to wait because the rewards will come in the end and those rewards will be plentiful.

I cannot speak for others nor can I claim that sex before marriage is happening more than it ever used to in “my day”. I can make assumptions. I can also challenge others to save themselves as a gift to give their future spouses that no one else can give. Along with giving him or her all of yourself physically, you will give him or her a heart full of life, desire, curiosity, and wholeness.

No regrets.

~ ~ ~ ~

View More: http://carolynbentumphotography.pass.us/camryn-kuhnCari is happily married to Kevin who hails all the way from Atlanta, Georgia. She is also the proud mama to their three beautiful children – Avery, Skylar and Camryn. Cari spent most of her twenties as a teacher and then moved onto become a principal. Now she enjoys devoting most of her time to making home for her family and can often be found scheming up creative adventures that she’ll embark on with her three little ones. Cari also spends time mentoring many young women who are struggling with many of the things she’s been through. 

Up All Night to Get Lucky: Meet Josh, a 28 Year Old Guy Choosing to Wait…

unnamed

About a year ago, I moved to a new city. I lived on my own. It was a big city,  and I could easily get lost. For the first time after having grown up in the church, gone to a small Bible College, touring in a Christian band and living in some kind of spotlight for much of my life, I was just a guy in a city.

And one day it hit me, I’m here and nobody knows me. If I wanted to I could go out to a bar, pick up a girl, sleep with her,  and no one would “catch me”. It would be fun, boost my ego and be physically fulfilling.

For the first time in my 28 years, I had to decide how I wanted to live my life. I was still a virgin and finally had to answer this question for myself, “Why am I waiting for marriage?”

It’s easy for me to think I believe something, but when I am challenged with an opportunity, that’s when I find out what I actually believe. I know I’m “supposed to” wait for marriage to have sex… but why? Do I actually care? Does the Bible actually say that? And if so, do I actually believe it?

I believe that the Bible condemns sex outside of the marriage union. I believe that from start to finish, the Bible shows the intimacy that sex creates and that it belongs between two people in marriage.

I believe it because I see it in the Bible,  but I also believe it because of my experience. While yes, I am a virgin, I have had some exceptionally intimate and sexual moments. At the time, I told myself these moments were purely physical… but in retrospect I can also see how they affected my mind and my soul. I was very selfish. Whether you think the Bible forbids sex outside of marriage or not, it does tell us to love. And love and selfishness are complete opposites.

I know how intimate those moments were and I know that I don’t want to share another moment with anyone other than my wife. That was my selfishness at work. When I choose that path it not only affects me, it affects women, their husbands, my future wife, maybe their kids, maybe my kids, potentially more… Intimacy outside of a marriage is selfish, plain and simple. It may feel like love in the moment, but it’s not;  love puts the other person first. Let’s say (for the sake of argument) I wind up marrying the person I’m sleeping with – I am still engaging in an incredibly intimate and spiritual moment that may not be mine to engage in. Love, true love, is selfless and true love wouldn’t risk for a second, taking away a special moment from someone they love, or implanting a memory that will forever be with someone who is trying to be intimate with someone else. I know that there are memories that will forever be with me, memories I wish didn’t live in my dreams and at the back of my mind. And I never want to do that to someone again, especially someone I love.

If you were wondering, I didn’t go to a bar that night (or any night after) and try and pick up a woman to try to sleep with her.  As it turns out, I do believe it is best to wait. And it’s not because I’m “supposed to”, It’s because I want to. I want to live a life of love and selflessness – because that’s what Jesus taught me. I want to honour my wife and honour Jesus with waiting. I do have my mistakes, and I can’t take those back. But each day, each time I choose love over selfishness, and waiting over my wantings, is another moment, another gift I give to my wife, whoever that may be and another example of the life Jesus is calling me to live.

~ ~ ~ ~

1461215_10151745803800998_65942097_nJosh is a 29 year old artist from Eastern Canada. He likes to make music, write, cook, design and take photos of things, and brew coffee… but mostly he just wants to dance. He is all over social media and you can find him at “/joshuaamharris” www.atlanticreative.com, www.atlanticcommunity.cc

*Cover photo taken by Joshua Harris of his sister, Linsey and brother in-law, Greg. For the record, they both waited and are “so SO glad we did” :).

I Pledged Abstinence but am I the only one?

Feb_00_WaitingForSex_bokeh-burger

I recently wrote an article for Converge Magazine. It was featured on their website this week. It deals with all of the stuff we’re talking about on the blog this month.

Here’s an excerpt from the article…

It’s pretty normal these days for Christian guys to have sex before they’re married. You’ll be hard pressed finding a guy who is still a virgin,” my brother says.

Somewhere along the way we had started talking about guys who sleep around. As if it’s normal talking about sex with your 22-year-old brother.

I grew up going to church. Actually, my Dad was a pastor, so I pretty much grew up “in the church.” So I heard the “save sex for marriage” talk at least once a year, usually during Valentine’s week. I even signed my abstinence pledge card in Grade 8, the one where you commit to wait until you’re married to have sex.

Being temped to be promiscuous was never an issue for me in high school, probably because I kept most boys at a distance, and probably because my self-esteem was at an all time low during those years. Plus, Grade 8 pledges are serious business.

It was during college when the idea of saving sex for marriage became something more than a pledge. Since I had friends who were sleeping around and who weren’t afraid to talk about it openly, I got the chance to ask lots of questions. It was during this time when I solidified my view that sex isn’t about only the physical.

But am I in the minority? Is it pretty normal for Christian guys (and girls) to be sexually active before marriage? And has waiting become so overrated that we just aren’t willing to do it anymore…

Read the rest here (I’m Waiting To Have Sex: Am I The Only One?).

I would love to know your thoughts!

“I’m Sexy But No One Knows It”: Thoughts From a 29 Year Old Virgin…

I’ve posted on singleness many times. I’ve been single for the better part of my 29 years on this planet. There was a brief stint in high school (like 11 days brief) where I technically had a boyfriend, though I’m not even sure at this point that I count that. I’ve dated a bit, but haven’t been out on more than two dates with anyone since then.

And this is the shocking part.

I’m OK with that.

But I’ve never once talked about celibacy in this platform before. I’ll be honest when I admit that I’m a little nervous to write this. And I’ll also admit that it’s one thing to write it with the intention of handing it over to Darcie, but I’m nervous to post it on my own blog….to my own readers.

I’m single. I’m also a virgin. I have a few reasons for having made that choice, and for having maintained it all these years. And this may be surprising, but the reasons for still being single and a virgin run deeper than “because the Bible tells me so,” although that’s a completely valid reason.

v-is-for-virgin

Firstly, I’m single mostly by choice. I haven’t found anyone yet for whom I’m willing to give up the independence I’ve grown to love deeply. But I also have a lot of experience in watching absolutely broken relationships, as well as phenomenal ones. As a result of the combinations of those, I’ve made a conscious decision not to settle. If it means I’m single until the day that I die, I’m ok with that.

Before I came to grips with this for myself, before I was really ok with that (even though I’ve been saying it for a long time), I had many people tell me that it’s better to be single than in a bad relationship. I knew deep down that they were right…I did. But it was very hard to internalize that. When you look at a good relationship though… a really good relationship… you see the things that are worth waiting for. They respect each other. They have each others’ best interests at heart. They share a common love of Jesus (when they’re Christians — I’m not at all saying that healthy relationships don’t exist outside of Christ, they do…I just don’t want to be in one of those). They know how to disagree with each other. They share common values and aren’t completely opposed to each other on really key things like how they raise their kids. They’re friends — they know how to relate to each other in all circumstances because they do life together. They share a sense of humour. They’re equally committed to the success of their relationship.

I am holding out for a relationship with a man who can share that kind of relationship with me…. even if it never happens. In the meantime, I have incredible friends – I’m so blessed. I have a family who loves me dearly. I have a church community that I love. I have great interests and things that I invest my time in while I continue to become the best version of myself I can be in Christ. I’ve waited this long, I don’t intend to settle for less than wonderful.

Now…something that goes hand in hand with this is that I’ve never had sex before. Absolutely, it’s something I’d like to do at some point…and I won’t talk about that any more….but I made a decision really early on in my young years that just like the Bible instructed me to do, this was something I’d like kept for my husband. It’s my sincere hope that when I do find a husband, he’s done the same for me, though I hope if that’s not the case that I can be full of grace and understanding.

But for me it’s more than just a “because the Bible tells me so” kind of commitment. I’m a product of the youth group era where we glued paper together and showed the damaging effect sleeping around can have…we get all torn up and we’re damaged. And then I grew up and realized how terrible of a message that is without the other half of it — we’re covered by grace and there is beautiful redemption in the arms of Jesus if we didn’t make it to marriage. I have an issue with the amount of shame that was pushed on us while I was a teenager, and it pains me to know that we’re still preaching the same rhetoric without the love and grace.

Anyway — beyond the Biblical reasoning, beyond the possible diseases, beyond all of those typical reasons…my biggest reason for keeping sex inside of marriage (if I ever get there) has come in the last couple of years, when I would say I’ve really owned this decision and made it for myself and really thought it through. My biggest reason has come from something really profound that a couple of friends of mine (who are married to amazing men) have expressed to me. The type of relationship you have with your partner outside of the bedroom will impact the type of relationship you have with your partner inside the bedroom. It would stand to reason then that it’ll be better if I wait until I’m in an awesome relationship…and if I’m holding out for a God-glorifying relationship before I commit to giving up my singleness, why wouldn’t I hold out for the God-glorifying sex that goes along with that?

I think that the people who claim that you can’t really know someone until you’ve slept with them (I had a guy try to pull that one on me after we’d spoken on the phone once… ick!), are wrong. Because while I know that this isn’t a popular stance in the culture I’m in, God’s designs for us aren’t meant to be culturally popular. In fact, normally they’re counter-cultural…. and I’ll trust the designs of my Creator who knows best for me before I’ll take the advice of my culture.

~ ~ ~ ~

1415764_10100315611180360_358670549_nLaura is a 29 year old primary teacher living in South-Western Ontario. She grew up in the Niagara Region in a great church with a great church family, but really had to start owning her own faith in God since she moved out on her own and started teaching in 2008. She loves to write, sing, play the fiddle, watch movies, and read. Laura would gladly quit her day-job and write full time if someone would hire her. Please check out her blog where she writes fairly frequently at http://thisblogisepic.wordpress.com

The Sessions on Sex: Where’s Your Starting Point?

purity_ringI’ve come to believe that in North American Christianity, saving sex for marriage does not matter anymore.

There are a number of reasons why I’ve come to believe this.

To begin with, I’ve heard it first hand.

I go to a Christian university and I’ve been around the church scene my entire life. So, I know for a fact that the number of people I meet who are saving sex for marriage is a much smaller number than those who just don’t think it’s a big deal, or who think it’s actually important to have sex with their future spouse to test compatibility, or who have made a “mistake” in their past relationships, and will most likely choose to make the same mistake in their future relationships.

Second, I hear less and less being taught about this issue in Christian environments, including churches.

I can’t remember the last time I’ve been in a Christian service, study, or talk of some type and heard someone talk about the importance of waiting until you’re married to have sex. There has been a strong movement to elevate the importance of singleness but I hear little talk about what it means to be single while still being a sexual being.

Thirdly, we’ve moved the standard.

For a long time, a person’s virginity was assumed on the wedding day. Abstinence was encouraged to the point that youth were chaperoned by adults whenever they were in the presence of one another. Young people were challenged to sign a purity card, pledging to save sex for marriage. Boundaries were the focus of many youth group talks. Perhaps we grew tired of these things and have decided to push back, or perhaps in an attempt to be more culturally relevant we’ve placed the subject of these things to the back burner. Somewhere in all of this, the standard has been moved with only the sole proof that it’s getting harder and harder to meet a Christian young adult who is still a virgin, and who thinks it’s even important.

Fourthly, there’s been a family shift. 

It makes sense that if parents haven’t waited, then they are most likely not teaching their kids the importance of waiting. Like it or not, the kinds of values kids are raised with actually does affect who they are as young adults and adults, whether it be negative or positive. If kids are raised to believe that there is great value in saving sex for marriage, if they are raised to have open and honest discussion around this topic, then there is a good chance they will think long and hard about their choices, when it comes to relationships and boundaries.

Here’s the thing, I don’t believe that having sex before marriage is the unforgivable sin, I don’t think it makes you a bad person. The reason I believe that waiting until marriage to engage in a sexual relationship is important is because I think this shift in Christian culture to not wait actually harms our relationships, our definition of love and our ability to persevere through difficult things. 

So for the month of February, I’ve invited several guests to weigh in on this topic and some themes surrounding it, based on their experiences and personal beliefs. I’m looking forward to engaging with this topic a little bit more, and I hope you’ll consider engaging with it as well. I encourage you to think about where your starting point is. Does waiting to be married to engage in sexual intercourse matter? Are Christians settling when they allow themselves to be sexually involved with multiple partners? If you’re engaged to be married, then is sex ok? What are your thoughts?

As always, my desire is to engage with these topics in a healthy way that promotes positive discussion and thought, so let’s keep any comments in this spirit too.

So with that, where’s your starting point? Are you for or against premarital sex? Why or Why not? Have we moved the bar?

Welcome to February – a month for the sessions on sex!