Dear Me…

I’m turning 30 in September.
I know.
Me, a 30-year old.
I’ve been trying to rack my brain around what it will feel like not being a 20-something anymore. I’ve also been trying to figure out how my 20’s went by so fast? They say your 20’s are all about learning and getting experience and trying new things and they say your 30’s are about doing, because you have the confidence from everything you learned in your 20’s. I’m not sure if that’s true but I hope to find out.
 
There are some things I wish I would have done differently in my 20’s. There are some things I wish my 20 year old self would have known. If I could write a letter to my 20 year old self, I think this is what I’d say…

 

Dear Me, 



Happy 20th birthday! I know, it feels big! You’re done high school, you’ve travelled a bit and you’re wondering where life will take you next. You want to be older, to thrive and to be loved. You want to know more about Jesus and you want to experience truly knowing him. 



There are some things I want to tell you. You won’t listen to me because you think you know best and you’ve watched too many fairy tale movies and you’re so stubborn, but I’m going to tell you anyways. 

 

Your 20’s will be full. 

Full of laughter. 

Full of travel.

Full of family.

Full of worry.

Full of moving from one place to another.

Full of weddings.

Full of friendships that come come and go.

Full of learning.

Full of heartbreak. 

 

They’re not going to be like you planned. I know you want to be married by the time you’re 25 and you have this picture of what your life will look like when you get there but it’s not going to look like that. And you’re going to have a bit of meltdown over it all. 

 

But here’s the thing, you’re going to be ok. 

 

The heartbreak of things not turning out like you hoped will make you deeper, make you love more, make you empathize in new ways with people. Darcie, don’t fight this, embrace it. The best plans are often the ones you don’t plan. 

 

Yes, you’re going to travel. You’re going to go to some places that if I told you now, you’d have a stomach attack and worry yourself sick and you might not go. But you have to go because seeing these places, going on these adventures will expand your mind and your view of the world. You have to go because these opportunities are a gift from a God who loves you and who, despite what you sometimes feel, sees you right where you are. You are not forgotten. 

 

You are going to have people come into your life that remind you of all the good in this world. They will challenge you and pray for you and walk with you through the highs and lows. 

 

You’re going to feel lonely. The type of loneliness where you’re in a crowd of people but you still feel like the only one. So when you feel lonely, do some things that feed your soul. It’s ok, I give you permission. Cuddle up on the couch and watch your favourite movies. Go the mall and buy that outfit. Go for a drive, listen to your country music and cry. Crank the worship and praise God in the storm. Call Mama love, she makes everything better. And sleep. You don’t do well when you’re tired. 

 

I know you feel like you have to prove yourself. I know you feel like the odd one out. I know you feel ugly and fat and like no one will ever love you. You have to fight these messages or they’ll paint your view of life. You don’t have to prove yourself, God will give you a place you thought you couldn’t have because of your gender. If you feel fat, girl, get to the gym and exercise and put down that ice cream! And seriously, you’re going to learn to exercise and you might even love it (trust me on this). And one more thing, God don’t make ugly. 

 

A few other things I wish to tell you:

-See a counsellor, work out your junk

-Find a mentor, go after meeting with that person that inspires you

-It’s ok to go on a date with someone and not marry them

-Your stomach disorder won’t ruin your life

-You can travel alone

-Spend more time with the people you love

-Be fully present where you are 

-Go after Jesus, don’t settle for a faith that doesn’t breathe 

-Wear the shorts, it’s hot

-Share your stories, it will help others share too 

-Don’t give up on the church

-Embrace all things Jewish (haha, you’ll understand later)

-It’s ok to not always be ok

-Choose Joy

-Name your thankfuls 

 

I know all of this won’t make sense to you now but one day it will. Be brave Darcie girl, you don’t have to worry so much. Don’t stop loving with your whole heart, even when people hurt you, keep trusting, keep forgiving because the story isn’t over yet. 

 

You’re living the everyday adventure! 

 

Love always, 

Your older (and somewhat wiser) self 


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Is being known really worth all the work?

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I recently had coffee with a good friend of mine who also happens to be an avid writer. He was telling me how he’s gotten into the habit of getting up at 5am before everyone is awake and all is quiet just so he can have time and space to write. I admire this in many ways. Mostly because I’m the exact opposite of a morning person. I could set my sights on waking up early to write, but I doubt I’d be able to string two sentences together, let alone have them make any sense.

For the most part, I do my writing late at night. When all is quiet and all I can hear is the hum of the air conditioner and the oscillating of the fan. I take in the day attempting to be fully present, and then late at night I sit in my Papa’s chair, which has been passed down to me, and I rock and ponder the day. And sometimes, I want to write it all at once, and sometimes it comes slowly.

It’s funny how we are the same and yet we are so different. One of my favourite things about getting to know someone is learning their quirks. You know those little things that make people weird in their own way. Like sleeping with a fan on all year round, or having to have the toilet paper rolling a certain way, or taking a water bottle to bed, but you forget that there’s one there from the previous night and when you go to change the sheets, you find 10 in the bed! Learning a person’s quirks is what makes me feel like they are really known to me.

It is those quirks that also test our patience and grow our capacity to love someone. It’s one thing to love certain quirks, it’s another thing to know there are ones that you hate. The ones that get under your skin and on a bad day, can make you erupt. In many ways, I feel like I’ve become a student of relationships. By that I mean, I’ve become an observer of how people who are in relationships engage with one another. I listen to how they speak to one another, I watch to see if they actually have fun together, if they build one another up when they are together and when they are apart. I watch to see if they are still trying to get to know the other person after they’ve been together for a few years. Do they really see one another when they are together? Is the other person their safe place?

Over the years, I’ve talked to person after person who tell me things that they feel they could never talk about with their significant other because they don’t feel safe enough to bring it up, or they just don’t talk about things like that. I see patterns form early on in relationships where one person gives and the other just takes. And it doesn’t usually start out this way. So what happens to cause this disconnect, or this breakdown of continually seeking to know the other person? Do we get too busy? Do financial burdens get in the way? Do we just think we know everything there is to know about the person? Do their quirks that we don’t like silently build a wedge into the blind love we once felt?

I think this disconnect is what makes me afraid of marriage. I can control how connected I am, but I can’t control how connected the other person is.

The husbands and wives who after 15 years of marriage, still talk about their spouse when they’re not around like they are their absolute favourite person in the world; the couples who are continually asking each other questions because they want to know the other person more; the boyfriend who looks at his girlfriend, after dating for 7 years, and makes sure she knows that he really sees her ~ these are the small glimpses that make me desire marriage. To spend a lifetime getting to know someone who just wants to get to know you, now that sounds like something worth committing to.

Much of this can be said of friendships (not the romantic kind) too. I’m learning to live with a new roommate and we are having to be really intentional about making time to sit down and talk about things that bother us or things we really appreciate. We both want our home to be safe space, but I’m finding out that creating safe space with someone else takes a lot of work. Taking the time to ask the second question; finding out how that person receives love best; checking in to see how they are really feeling ~ many of these things don’t come naturally to us and so when we first start doing them, it’s weird and unnatural. But this is the stuff that builds friendships and relationships where grace and love flows so freely that it makes others want what you have.

I’m not a morning person, a 9am start is hard enough for me! But I’d like to think that if someone I loved a whole lot really loved having coffee together in the mornings, I’d at least make an effort a couple times a week to get up early just to sit together and drink coffee.

It’s funny how we are the same and yet we are so different.
Many of us long to be known, but are we really willing to put in the time and effort that knowing takes?

It’s my challenge and it’s my fear. But somehow, I think it might be worth it.

What I’ve learned About Life, Surviving Bible College, Taking Risks and Living in the City…

tumblr_lp4wngn5Z21qaxnreo1_500The moment of truth finally came this week. The answer to the big question – did I pass all my classes and will I be able to graduate?!?

(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…

  1. 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!
  2. 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.
  3. Geese just might be the worst creatures known to man.
  4. 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!
  5. 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.
  6. “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.
  7. 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!
  8. Sometimes the best friendships you will make are the ones you least expect to happen; the ones that catch you by surprise.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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!
  14. 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.
  15. 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! 🙂

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?

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.

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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.

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.

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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. 

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

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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