I grew up in a dysfunctional non-Christian family, but my mother raised me to be responsible, conservative, and cautious, to the best of her ability. Though I was not explicitly taught to wait for marriage before having sex, I knew that this was the right thing to do. So I waited.
Oh, no, it wasn’t easy. I chose to wait—not because of God (I didn’t know Him then), but because of myself. I waited because I was afraid of the dire consequences that premarital sex could bring. I waited because I was afraid it would lead to a child growing inside me. I waited because my family was dirt-poor. We were hardly able to feed ourselves daily, and I didn’t want to worsen our plight; another mouth to feed would have added to my mother’s heartaches.
Naturally, I thought it was through my own sheer strength that I was able to preserve myself. Now, I realize that it wasn’t so: God had protected me from falling into temptation by constantly reminding me of my family.
Waiting for True Love
When I became a Christian, I became familiar with the tagline, “True love waits”, which encourages sexual abstinence. It resonated with me. It sounded noble and wise, and it made sense. True love means waiting to do it only after you say your marriage vows, and saving yourself is the best gift you can give your spouse. And so waiting became the solution to keeping myself pure.
Then I met and heard of Christians who had signed pledge cards, worn purity rings, and spent their whole lives waiting (a decade or two)—and had gotten tired of it. They felt left out, isolated, and lonely. Some became weary of waiting and watching friends enjoy sex outside marriage. It was as if they had given up something exciting, desirable, and adventurous before settling down. So they dumped the cards, the rings—and their virginity too.
Others who saw marriage as the answer to their discontentment rushed into it. They got hitched on an emotional high, expecting their spouse to satisfy their longings. Then they realized the bitter truth: the marriage bed wasn’t enough to fill the void. Expectations weren’t met, and hearts got broken and disillusioned.
Yet others adhered to the promise they had made to stay pure only because they feared God’s wrath. As a result, their relationship with God was reduced to law-keeping—a joyless affair. Some even treated God as nothing more than a matchmaker in their quest to finding true love.
While I have nothing personal against the tagline and it may even offer a good reminder to stay pure, may I suggest that we shift our focus from the vow of abstinence to what it truly means to follow Jesus. Waiting is not the way to purity. Jesus is. The One who can thoroughly fulfill us is already ours; we are already His. He is not the way to get to someone who can make us happy; He is the One who can make us happy. Our true satisfaction rests on God, not on marriage or sex. No matter how good these things are, they will not fulfill our true internal longings; only God will.
The Right Perspective
God created us for intimacy; He designed us to have relationships. Part of that design is sexual intimacy, where we become one flesh with another human being. It is a beautiful act that God ordained to celebrate our marriages. So it’s not surprising for us to have this desire to be one with another person—but it is to be enjoyed only within the boundaries of marriage.
Yes, we should abstain from sex outside marriage because God wants that. But we cannot sustain this by simply waiting for the day when we are given the license to have sex. As a friend of mine who is a pastor once said, “Making a commitment to purity is easy; keeping that commitment is a challenge.”
This statement rings even truer today. Remaining pure on our own strength in our current porn-saturated, tolerant-of-promiscuity culture is next to impossible. If you’re waiting for marriage to have sex, you might find yourself asking this question: How far is too far?
I know this because I asked the same question over and over again at different points in my life before I was married. And though I waited, I was constantly thinking of ways and means to give in to my natural tendencies. The fact is: we have innate and intense desires that make abstaining very hard. Some people are able to control those desires, but most don’t— as evidenced by our society’s current deteriorating state concerning sex.
How about we approach this issue with a different perspective? How about, instead of focusing only on the value of abstinence or being married or experiencing sex, we seek our value in God? Because by doing so, we will long to please Him and we will begin to ask ourselves this question instead: How can I honor Him with my mind and my body?
How Can We Get There
To initiate this paradigm shift and find our worth in God, these are a few of the things we can do to feed the Spirit and starve the flesh:
- Spend quality time with Him daily through prayer and reading the Bible;
- Serve Him in the call He has given us;
- Surrender our struggles to Him daily;
- Surround ourselves with strong, godly people who can encourage us and keep us accountable, and
- Disciple someone who is new to the Christian walk, if the opportunity arises.
And above all: be motivated to know Him more and enjoy Him through our daily encounters. Make Jesus the center of our world. I can say from personal experience that, as we revolve our lives around God more and more, the inclination to act on something that would dishonor Him becomes lesser. We’ll find the strength to resist temptations; we’ll become increasingly predisposed to do the right thing even when it is extremely hard and even if no one is watching. Abstinence and sex become inconsequential because we are too fixed on God to even think of them. Our relationships become more about how God sees them and what God wants to do with our lives instead of trying to derive happiness from them.
I want to leave you this final encouragement: saving ourselves is not the best gift we can give our spouses. Our relationship with God is. For when human love fails, God’s love is enough to carry you both ’til death do you part.
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