To The One Who Knows Me As I Really Am…

sistine1When I think about this year, I think about a year that has felt like I’ve been battling the feeling of barrenness. It’s been a season of having moments where I’ve been overcome with shame and inadequacy. It’s been a season of constant worry for the future, with a constant struggle to believe that I can trust God. In my desire to be transparent and vulnerable, I admit that sometimes it feels like I’ve only been hanging onto Jesus with my pinky. It’s like the photo by Michelangelo that depicts God stretching towards Adam and Adam just lazily flopping his hand out. I am that picture.

And yet I believe that the picture is true, God is stretching towards me and somehow has a firm grip on me. I choose to believe that this season of barrenness will give way to new life. I don’t know when or how, but I choose hope.

The other day a few other students and I were leading our class through a worship experience. I opened our time together by praying this prayer over all of us. It strikes me as a prayer that I really need to pray every morning. As I earnestly speak these words aloud, I think there is something that happens in me. I don’t know exactly what it is. Maybe it’s freedom? Maybe it’s this sense of not needing to pretend with God, because I’ve just swung the doors wide open and revealed all of the stuff piling up?

I don’t understand what happens in me when I lay it all on the table before Jesus. But I can tell you that I go through my day differently. And maybe it’s for this reason alone that I need to release my stuff more often.

And maybe it’s what you need to do today too?

To the one who knows me as I really am and still loves me.

Today, I bring all of me –

my hopes and my fears,

my dreams and my doubts;

the part of me that likes to please other people

and the part that genuinely desires you.

 

I bring all of me –

My anger and my past,

my goals and my priorities,

my flagrant forgetfulness of your glory,

and the familiar memories of my pain.

 

Here are my loves,

here are my needs,

here is my hurt,

here is my desire.

 

I bring my gifts as well.

All that I have and all that I am –

the abilities you gave me,

the training I’ve acquired,

the motivation to do good,

the strength of my convictions,

the influence I have with others,

the interests and passions that inspire me.

 

I bring you my stuff –

so much stuff, that I’ve cluttered

my heart and my home with.

I bring you my stuff as well.

I bring all of me –

my relationships and my needs,

my sins and my pride and my portfolio.

My checkbook,

Calendar,

Wallet,

Credit cards,

Schedule,

Time off,

Time at work.

 

My all –

my eyes and the things I look at,

my tongue and the words I say,

my ears and my hands and my feet,

my heart and my mind and my soul,

and my will.

The cursing part,

the complacent part,

the depressed part,

the apathetic part,

the lazy, lonely, misguided, power-hungry me.

 

I bring you my all.

I bring you myself.

Even the hesitation I have to pray this prayer,

even the pride I have for praying it,

Even the fear that you might take me seriously

and expect all of this from me.

Even those things

I bring them all

and offer them, to you here, today.

Somehow in our broken states, Jesus is reaching for us. It’s that picture above. To the one who knows me as a I really am: thank you.

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Engaged and Waiting to have Sex: Is There a Point?

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I don’t know where it came from, or how it came into my possession, but I have this candle. It’s not a particularly nice looking candle. And the scent is entitled Mediterranean Breeze as if it were the happy hour special at a bar in Miami. Either way, this candle has been on my bedside table since early in high school. I remember thinking that I’m going to wait for a special occasion to light it, but I realized that young men don’t have many special occasions in which lighting a candle is necessary. So I decided that the inaugural flame would be saved for the much anticipated night that I lose my virginity. Initially the idea was a bit of a joke, but the candle has seemed to find its way onto many night side tables, through many moves, and bedrooms I’ve had over the years and it’s still waiting to be lit. This candle has become a symbol for chastity in my life and for the discipline I’ve somehow been able to practice. But it hasn’t been easy, and through the relationships I’ve had over the years, being chaste has been a huge challenge for myself and for my fiancée.

Growing up in the church I remember hearing the same messages that ‘True Love waits’ and that the church has a standard for all Christians to maintain their virginity until they are married. And for years I accepted this without any questions. Then some of my Christian friends began having sex with their girlfriends, and the questions quickly followed. I remember thinking “what does the Bible really say about this issue”, so I looked it up and I found what Paul says in Corinthians 6 about staying away from fornication. I then realized how confusing this issue is within the church. For so many people, fornicating might not mean having sex with one partner whom they have been with for many years. And many Christians will justify this by saying, “it’s not like I’m going out and having a one night stand!” And to a certain extent they are right. But why is there still such an emphasis on waiting within the church? And is it really necessary?

It wasn’t until I entered into a serious relationship that these ideas and principles became more and more serious for me, and I certainly had more questions than answers. And as I think about it, I still have so many questions. Darcy (my fiancée) and I will still frequently ask each other, and some of the couples who mentor us, “Do we really have to wait?” And from all of these couples, most of whom waited, but some who didn’t, the answer is always a resounding “YES”. I think the best perspectives that I have been given as to why sex can be dysfunctional in a non-marital relationship have come from my many friends who have had sex before marriage. They explain to me that even in long term relationships, there isn’t the level of trust and commitment that a marriage has. In a dating relationship, you don’t have to vow to the other that you will always be there for them. Whenever I think about this I realize that with Darcy and my current living situations, (with aunts and uncles and parents respectively) we would have to sneak out and commit this ‘act’ so to speak. Something about that just doesn’t sit right. Besides, I have to bring my candle!

The thing with chastity, as with all spiritual disciplines, is that it takes a great deal of faith and prayer to practice. Darcy and I really won’t see the ‘fruits of our labor’ until we are married. For us it really isn’t about what we brought into our relationship as only one of us is a virgin, but it’s about the foundation that we have built together, within this relationship. A foundation of patience and discipline among many other things. This awkward and incredibly difficult period of dating/engagement has allowed us to sharpen the many different aspects of our relationship. And it’s not like we’re both completely hard done by, as Darcy and I are able to moderately express our sexuality in other ways without having sex. And there is something really special about the anticipation that has steadily been increasing towards our wedding date in October. We are able to plan together what that special night will look like. In many ways I know that practicing this discipline has only brought us closer as a couple. For Darcy, she knows that I respect her for more than just being a sexual being and for me it allows me to fine tune patience, which I learn more and more truly is a virtue!

For so long the church has put the emphasis on the sinful act of ‘losing your virginity’. I think it’s time that we start placing the emphasis on the spiritual discipline of chastity with our partners. We need to take time in our relationship to get to know one another and to grow together, and I truly believe that a chaste relationship provides an environment best suited for that growth. We live in a society that wants things right away and wants those things in excess so we are definitely in an uphill battle. I don’t think it’s possible for any couple to go through this alone. This discipline provides a wonderful opportunity for you to welcome God into your relationship. But also for you to involve other people, not necessarily Mom and Dad and Grandma and Grandpa, but perhaps some other married couples around you. Darcy and I have been so blessed by the wealth of knowledge and discipline that God has provided us with through the numerous married couples in our lives.

So, as I said before, all of this won’t come full circle until October when the lights go off and the candle goes on. But I can tell you right now that as Jesus is worth waiting diligently for, so is Darcy. And so is the woman/man in your life. Whether you’ve been having sex or have been practicing chastity for years, I encourage you in this journey toward spiritual discipline. I understand that at this point in our relationship, Darcy and I have just been building the foundation, with that, we have been given an opportunity to practice all of the fruits of the spirit together, heading towards the culmination of our labor when we enter into the marriage vows and a new journey of marriage begins. And between you and me, I hope a candle is lit for a lot of it.

~ ~ ~ ~

1480575_10151728129751793_2070801544_nMatthew Hill is currently a student at Tyndale University in Toronto completing his degree in Biblical Studies and Theology. He’s engaged to the beautiful Darcy (seen in the picture) and they are planning on getting married this fall. Matt is also a huge sports fan, loves music, film, and coffee.

Technical Virginity: Is All Sex Real Sex?

Couple-Holding-Hands1-603x423I’ve loved the conversations that happened throughout February concerning the topics of Christians and sex. Thank you to so many of you who have messaged me personally or talked to me in person about your thoughts on these topics. My purpose in focusing on this subject was to start the conversation, with a hope that others would feel compelled to engage. There’s one more guest who will be sharing with us later this week and will be closing out our series, which I think you will enjoy immensely. Look for this to appear in a few days.

But as we are on the tail end of this series, I wanted to hit on big topic that definitely exists in the land of the grey. The Bible doesn’t speak directly to this subject, although we could draw some conclusions that Song of Solomon alludes to it.

In case you haven’t figured it out, I’m talking about being what I like to call a “technical virgin”…

Perhaps, I’ve lost some of you. How can you be a “technical virgin”? I mean, aren’t you either a full virgin or not one at all?

I was first introduced to this concept when I was in grade 11. I remember it clearly. I was on a youth retreat with a group of peers. One night some of the girls and I were up late talking about boys, like girls do. A couple of the girls were in serious relationships, I mean as serious as you can get in high school. We got on the topic of boundaries and how far is too far. That was the night I found out that several of the girls I knew were engaging in oral sex. I was naive, perhaps sheltered is a better word for my state of being. I was shocked. Over the next hour or so we talked about whether it was right or wrong to be having oral sex, even to the point of bringing in the youth pastor to see what his thoughts were.

The thing that I remember most about that night is that these girls honestly didn’t think there was anything wrong with having oral sex. They were still virgins because they weren’t actually having real sex. Since then, I’ve had conversation after conversation with Christians who are engaging in oral sex or anal sex outside of marriage and believe whole-heartily that because it’s not actual intercourse then it’s fine.

I’ve heard lots of reasoning behind this too…

“You have to do what you have to do in order to try and wait to have actual intercourse”,

“The Bible doesn’t say anything about it”,

“It’s not actual sex” ….and so on.

Let me tell you some of my thoughts on the matter and then I invite you to weigh in…

I have come to believe that all sex is real sex. If you believe that sex is purely a physical act then you will most likely not agree with me. But if you believe that sex is so much more than what’s going on with our physical bodies then you might come to recognize that any time we engage in such an intimate physical act, our emotions, our minds, and our spirits don’t just get left behind. So whether it is oral, anal or vaginal sex – it is us choosing to engage in something intimate with another person. It’s a choice we make to expose ourselves to another person. And I’m convinced that while the world seems to think it’s easy to get physically naked with someone, we have no real clue what it means to be spiritually naked with someone.

And by spiritually naked I mean what it’s like to be vulnerable with someone. The kind of vulnerability where you know that person sees all of your flaws and chooses to love you anyways. When we limit sex to only being something physical, we lie to ourselves and we rob ourselves and the other person of something meant to be so much more.

Having said this, I’d like to give a little context to this series…

First, I think that anytime we talk about sex, there are always going to be what I like to call “grey” areas. Things that just can’t fit into the category of black or white. Grey areas might be stories of people who have been sexually abused and weren’t given a choice to wait; people who chose to be sexually active before they came to know Christ; people who were taken advantage of, and so on. When I write about this topic and when I invite others to weigh in on this topic, it’s my hope that we approach the conversation with grace, realizing we are all flawed and imperfect beings, who come with broken lives and stories with bumps and cracks along the way. These conversations are not meant to bring shame or bring guilt but simply to present another side of the story that gets overlooked far too often.

Secondly, I’m burdened by the fact that I hear far too many conversations and lyrics, and see far too many advertisements and movies that promote sexual promiscuity. I’m saddened that movies like The 40 Year Old Virgin and shows like Grey’s Anatomy make fun of those choosing abstinence, especially because I really like Grey’s Anatomy! The thing is that I don’t really hear anyone talking about the benefits of waiting until you’re married to have sex, and so I decided to talk about it because I think there’s another side of the story that people need to know about. It’s the side of the story where we learn that there are a lot of married people who wish they hadn’t screwed around with so many other people before they finally committed their life to someone. It’s the side of the story where a teenage girl got pregnant and was all of a sudden faced with the harsh reality of adulthood before she was ready. It’s the side of the story where sex is robbed of meaning and love becomes only about how you feel in the moment.

It’s the part of the story we don’t like to hear, because it challenges us and it doesn’t make us feel warm and fuzzy. It’s much easier to believe that if it feels right in the moment then you should do it, and worry about the consequences later.

And thirdly, I want to believe that we are capable of more. I want to believe that we can think deeply about things, that we can love even when we don’t have the fuzzy feelings. I want the students that I’ve worked with to realize that sex is not just physical and when you believe that it is, you are not only lying to yourself but you cheapening one of God’s greatest gifts. And you are the one who will miss out because cheap sex is just that, cheap.

God gave us minds to use and it’s time that we think deeply about the things that have sifted so naturally into our culture because most of it, isn’t actually good for us.

I went to a movie a few nights ago. It was probably one of the most sexually explicit films I’ve   ever seen. There wasn’t hardly any nudity or explicit sex scenes but pretty much the whole movie surrounded the idea of three young guys sleeping around with different women. I was pretty appalled at the whole thing and I hope with everything in me, that those three guys are not an actual portrayal of the average guy, although I do have my suspicions. But more than being disgusted by the content, I was left with the realization of how shallow the lives of those guys were.

The thing about Jesus is that he invites us into a life of meaning. He invites us to live a story that is anything but shallow. It’s an invitation that we can accept or refuse. It’s an invitation that will actually change how we think about the things that happen in our lives everyday. And it’s an invitation that will shatter what the world thinks love is.

I invite you to think about sex through the lens of meaning.

I invite you to actually talk to Jesus about what it means to be a sexual being when you’re not having sex.

I invite you to think about if engaging in premarital sex in all it’s forms is actually what’s best for you and your future spouse.

I invite you to look at your sexual habits and really ask yourself if this is contributing to the kind of meaningful life that Jesus invites you to? And is it the kind of thing that you will look forward to telling your future spouse about?

I like to think that as hard as it might seem right now, trading in these habits for something more meaningful might just be one of the best decisions you will ever make.

So let’s create some space to talk about whatever it is we’re struggling with.

No shame, just grace.

But what do you think….is all sex real sex? Can you be a technical virgin? Do you buy into the idea of there being a difference between being naked physically and naked spiritually? Does Jesus invite us to view sex differently, agree or disagree?