Early on in our relationship, my boyfriend and I spent an awkward evening drawing up guidelines for our relationship. Hugging? Kissing? Sex?
Sex was about the only one we could agree on, thanks to the Bible’s clarity (Exodus 22:16-17, 1 Thessalonians 4:3-4, Hebrews 13:4, etc.) However, the Bible said nothing about dating rules. Needing guidance, we turned to parents and mentors. We soon realized the Bible drew a clear line between “married” and “unmarried.” There was no gray area for the in-between. Until the wedding day, my boyfriend and I were just friends.
This certainly clarified guidelines. Any show of affection I wouldn’t offer another friend or family member would simply have to wait until I was married. So, holding hands and pecks on the cheek were okay, but “serious kissing” was saved for my husband.
This was easy in the beginning, but as our relationship grew so did physical closeness. I turned to Song of Solomon 8:4 for strength: “Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you: Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires.” I loved the man I was dating, so I had to make a conscious decision to put God’s will first—to seek what God had in store for him and not what I wanted. I grew careful in my displays of affection, lest I stirred up unnecessary temptation or desire.
Time flew, and winter melted into summer. One warm afternoon on grassy hills, he looked deep into my eyes and asked me to marry him. I drew a long, shuddering breath of joy and answered, “yes!”
Three months came and went (my mother was of the strong opinion that engagements should only be long enough to plan a wedding), and as in a dream, we found ourselves a married couple: living in the same home, sharing toothpaste, and learning to show physical affection. Among many marital adjustments, few people ever talk about sex. Unlike in movies, sex doesn’t “just happen.” It can be awkward, confusing, or even painful at first. We realized that sex is a learning process, just like any other aspect of a meaningful relationship.
I’ll confess that before marriage I knew pitifully little about physical intimacy. With hindsight, my husband and I are both very grateful for our “ignorance.” We were able to share the joy of learning together without false expectations. This put us far ahead of other recently married friends, many of whom had expectations of sex drawn from the culture around us.
The problem is that our culture reduces sex to a physical act, neglecting its emotional or spiritual significance. We call sex “love making,” yet we seek self-gratification and forget that at its core, sex is an act of selfless love, a willingness to serve. It is a gift unique to marriage. Before God, I promised my love and devotion to my husband, and every moment of physical intimacy is a physical expression of the depths and joys of that mutual commitment.
This is God’s gift to my husband and I. Yet to those not married, whether for now or for life, God’s presence in your life is no less wonderful. Paul once said, “I wish that all of you were as I am [single]. But each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that” (1 Corinthians 7:7). Singleness and marriage are equally good in the eyes of God. He will use each of us accordingly. My personal story of God’s grace has come to include marriage, but your story is different from mine. So let us each give God the glory, honoring Him with our lives.
Read Christine’s article “The Day He Said ‘I Love You’” here.