In the midst of my “transition year”, I’ve found myself learning some new things.
For a long time I felt like I was sitting on the bench watching the game and all I wanted to do was play. I felt the ache of wondering if God had forgotten about me or if I just wasn’t the type of person he was looking for. I felt like he didn’t see me. Even as I sit here and write these words, tears well up in my eyes because I know that deep ache, that deep longing to be seen and known. I know the deep ache of watching your friends get married, of holding one baby after another wondering if that will ever be your story. I know the ache of wondering if there will ever be anything for you, if what you do really matters and wondering if you were gone, would anyone notice. I know the desire to have meaningful friendships that give you life and the struggle to find a place to belong. And I know what it’s like to walk into parties and church and other special occasions alone, I get what that can do to a person after they’ve done it for the 20th time.
What will the rest of your life look like?
What’s next for you?
Any way you frame it, this is the question I’m pretty sure almost every new graduate is facing. Please map out what the next 10 years of your life will look like! Um, I’m sorry, I can’t even map out the next 10 days!
At first, I was overwhelmed by this question because I felt like I needed to have something profound to say. Oh, I’m thinking about doing a masters or I’ve got a few things lined up, I’m just weighing out my options. Of course there’s always the number one Christian cop-out – “I’m praying about it.” And actually, it’s true.
But here’s the thing – I think most of us are asking the wrong question. We don’t realize that the way we ask about someone’s plans is actually inferring that they have to have a plan. It’s sending the message that what we are doing at the time isn’t good enough. It’s actually communicating this idea that we need to know what comes next or what the next 10 years will hold and here’s the question I have for you – why? Where is the adventure in knowing exactly what I’ll be doing for the next 10 years? I’m not against having goals; I think goal setting can be very important. But having goals is different from knowing exactly what your life will potentially look like for the next 5 years.
Why don’t we ask questions like: What’s God teaching you right now? What are you loving about life right now? Do you have people around you that are pouring into your life and that you do likewise? What are your dreams for the future? What is filling your mind these days?
We are not promised tomorrow, next week, next year or 10 years from now, and so I’m much more interested in knowing where a person is at right now then where they’ll be in a couple of years.
Some of us have this expectation that when we graduate, we know what job we will do and of course we will do it for the rest of our lives. But the world just doesn’t work like this anymore. What I originally went to school for is definitely not what I’m doing now. But nothing is ever wasted. My previous experiences have shaped who I am and brought me to the place I’m in now.
So to answer your question of what’s next for me? I’ll let you know when I know, but in the mean time why don’t we talk about what’s happening in the now.
(insert high intensity, cliff hanger music here)
The answer is….YES!!!! Come May 3rd, I will be walking across the platform to receive my degree….hooray!
I moved to the city 3 years ago. I was looking for adventure, for meaningful friendship, and for love. I also wanted a degree and the whole expanding my mind through knowledge thing was somewhat attractive to me at the time.
So I saved my pennies and hoped OSAP would cover the rest and in good faith I moved from y small country town to the big city of Toronto. I remember having a few conversations with some of the locals and I would laugh when they’d question why in the world I would ever want to move to the city, as if it was hell itself. But I needed something different, new faces and sidewalks and subways. I needed to know there was more then what I had come to know.
Well a few years later, I can proudly declare that I have survived my Bible college education, I have managed to go on some pretty neat adventures, meet some fabulous new faces, navigate public transit….and I’ve still yet to find love, but there is hope.
Here are a few things I’ve learned in the past few years about life, Bible College, taking risks and living in the city…
- It’s highly conceivable that the major you start with won’t be the one you end up with and if it is, you probably have changed it more than once because after all, university is about trying new things, testing out new ideas and changing your mind!
- You will make lots of friends and acquaintances while you’re in school and sometimes it’s hard to know which ones will stick and who the good eggs are. Be intentional about your friendships or you may come to the end of your degree and look back and wonder if some of the people you spent your days with really know who you are at all. So be a good friend, ask questions, take an interest, get to know people’s stories and let people enter into yours and don’t be afraid to let the bad eggs go.
- Geese just might be the worst creatures known to man.
- Toronto is one of the best cities in the world. I love venturing downtown and I am continuously amazed by the endless possibilities of things to see and do. Sometimes just going downtown with no agenda is the best adventure of all!
- It is possible to attend Bible college without getting your MRS or your ring by spring! Seriously, I’m living proof that not everyone finds their soul mate in Bible college and do you know what, that’s ok. Sometimes it’s just nice to know that there is more waiting beyond the Christian school bubble.
- “Christian sports” is a total oxymoron! Anyone who has participated in Christian athletic leagues can probably vouch that it’s way worse than many regular leagues.
- The “freshman 15” happens to a good number of us, and trying to get rid of it while still eating cafeteria food is almost impossible!
- Sometimes the best friendships you will make are the ones you least expect to happen; the ones that catch you by surprise.
- Debt sucks….make a financial plan and suck your educational experience dry so that you leave no stone unturned. At least when you’re paying off your education you will know it was worth it.
- Your university experience will change every year. Every September new people will come through the doors, new leadership will take charge, new classes with new profs will begin. What was last year will be no longer and the easiest way to tackle this hurdle is to just go with the flow and embrace the newness, until it becomes familiar. But you will look back when you’re done and see that the changes made for a more eclectic experience.
- If you can, go to counselling. Your twenties are prime time to work your junk out – even those of you who think you don’t have any. It’s actually one of the healthiest and caring things you can do for yourself, so don’t let the stigma scare you off. Schools often provide free counselling services to their students and honestly, there’s no better time to process your life and your stuff then while you’re in school and have someone willing to listen and care.
- Find a mentor….find someone who inspires you and who you think can speak into your life. Ask them if they’d be willing to mentor you for the year and then commit to meet with them regularly. This was something I did my very first year of school and it’s been one of the most impacting relationships of my entire life and it’s helped me get through the really tough moments of my time at Tyndale.
- Ask questions. When I was in college, I was nervous and it was hard for me to ask a question out loud because I worried about what people would think. A few years later when I started university, I found my confidence and would regularly ask my profs questions during lectures. This was one of the most freeing experiences for me and I honestly believe that being able to ask questions has helped me have greater success academically and spiritually. There’s a good chance that if you have the question, someone else in the class has it too!
- Grace changes people. This is a lesson that I’ve learned first hand this year. It is one thing to talk about grace but it’s another thing to have someone offer it to you when you don’t deserve it….and this is the stuff that breaks down people’s walls and that gets at the deep stuff. And so we need to have grace for others and for ourselves….because sometimes we just can’t do it all, even though we want to.
- There’s a really good chance that the place where you come out will not be the place that you thought you’d come out at. This fact in itself can be cause for great distress, disappointment, and even anger, not to mention panic attacks! While I obsess over the other people who seem to have their lives figured out, I often wonder if this type of uncertainty or lack of direction is just part of life for some people. I wonder if living in this sense of the unknown can actually be one of the greatest adventures of them all. I’ll let you know in a couple of years if I find this to be true.
I have these moments where I think back to when I began this adventure and I don’t know where the time went? I am reminded to live fully present right where I am, because life goes by too fast. I’m so thankful for the adventure of the past few years and although I go forward with some uncertainty and a little bit of worry, I’m hopeful and excited for what the next chapter of life will hold and the new people that will stumble across my path.
So cheers to hope and living fully right where you are! 🙂
It was a slow Saturday at work a few weeks ago when I overheard a rather disturbing conversation outside. There was a group of boys, one older man and a few young adult guys sitting around a table after having just played some type of sport for an hour or so. I figured it was some type of outreach group where you use sports to share Jesus. I think I was right.
After the sports were over was when they sat the boys down for the devotional. They gave them pizza too – a good way to get boys to sit still. I listened as one of the boys, probably around 11 or so shared his testimony. He talked about the time when he learned about the rapture and how when Jesus comes back, those who didn’t accept him will be left behind. He talked about how he didn’t want to be one of those people left behind so he accepted Jesus into his heart. As I listened to this boy, I couldn’t help but feel completely disturbed. The older man spoke after the boy and at this point I figured he would try and clear things up a bit about the rapture, but he didn’t. Instead he went on to talk about the rapture and how to not be left behind.
In that moment it took every bit of self-control not to march out into that hall and give that guy a piece of my mind and tell him that the rapture isn’t even biblical! To say that those left behind movies are nonsense!
But whether or not you believe in the rapture isn’t the point. The rapture itself is not why I felt so distressed that day…the real reason is that I couldn’t help but feeling like this is a shining example of how people miss the point. You have a group of young guys sitting around a table, some of them probably knew little about Jesus, and of all the things you choose to talk about, the rapture wins. You have this brief window to tell these kids about this Jesus guy and instead of inspiring them, you make Jesus out to be a bargaining chip – choose Jesus or get left behind.
And we wonder why we have kids growing up with an inaccurate picture of Jesus and wanting nothing to do with faith.
This weekend is Easter and tomorrow many of us in the Christian faith will celebrate Good Friday. It’s the day when Jesus was crucified; when he said “father forgive them, for they know not what they do”; when the veil was torn in two. It wasn’t a good day for Jesus but it was a good day for us. It was the day when God poured out everything to reach us, to give us a chance at real life. This isn’t a story of choose Jesus or go to hell, this is a story of love and sacrifice and making a way where the was no way. On Sunday we will celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. It is the ultimate party day of the Christian faith because it represents everything that Jesus offers us – hope, new life, and freedom from death!
The Easter story beckons me to remember that following Jesus shouldn’t be about avoiding the rapture or escaping hell – the story of Jesus is about how to live out the kingdom fully right here and right now. It is about being invited into something that we just don’t want to miss. Jesus said he came to bring life to the fullest – this is the truth of Easter.
This is the story I wish those boys could have heard. I wish they could have heard about this Jesus who wants to give them life, and not just save them from death.
This is the story I hope you experience this weekend. I hope that it won’t be about death or escape for you, but I hope it will be about life and celebration and resurrection.
Don’t let yourself miss the point or you might just miss the party!
Apparently today is not just a day for April Fools pranks, but also for engagements.
It’s a dangerous move choosing to announce your engagement on April Fools Day. In fact, I’m still wondering how many of the engagements that appeared on my Facebook newsfeed this morning are actually legit? I’m forced to play detective and read the comments and search for picture proof of the actual proposal act. I blame April Fools for not being able to trust my own friends who are declaring that they are engaged, pregnant and/or moving!
Perhaps I would just assume that everyone is lying or “joking” but then I’m caught off guard by that one story that is in fact true! Now I question every other post again. Ugh, you’ve got me!
This has made April 1st just another day to lie to your friends, waste their time and cry wolf. When you’re really engaged, do you think I’m going to believe you?
(Sigh) Ya, I totally will.
So for those of you who got engaged, congrats!
For those of you who pretended, I hope you know that your single, naive friends might be planning their revenge! 😉
Happy April (and hopefully the arrival of Spring) to the rest of you non-engaged, non-pregnant, non-movers! 🙂
When 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.
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.
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.
~ ~ ~ ~
Matthew 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.
I’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?
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.
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Keith 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.
In 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.
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.
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Bethany 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.