Sex has been on my mind a lot lately.
Singleness, too, but more so, sex.
As a divorced Christian woman, I don’t know how I feel about it anymore. And since sex – along with divorce – is a taboo topic, I want to fling wide those gates.
I was raised a Christian since birth and grew up in a predominantly conservative church. I gave my life to Jesus/was born again/became heaven-bound/got saved/whatever-you-want-to-call-it at the tender age of eight. My formative years were spent twice a week or more in youth group. I learned the horrors of abortion, drugs, premarital sex, listening to the wrong kind of music and what would happen to me if I didn’t accept Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior before the campfire wore down to a mere glow.
I was shown live abortion videos, documentaries on backmasking (Beware! If you play a song backwards it becomes Satanic!) and a 1970’s film depicting the end times entitled A Thief in the Night. I knew all the statistics on teen pregnancy, listened to drug addicts’ testimonies and watched my peers around me fall, one-by-one, making mistakes.
I decided I didn’t want to mess up. I didn’t want to be shamed in front of the congregation for having sex, becoming pregnant or addicted to drugs. I definitely didn’t want to violently kill a baby, invite Satan into my life by listening to the Beatles or end up left behind at the Rapture.
So I obeyed the rules. It really wasn’t all that hard. I didn’t have druggie friends, and I certainly didn’t have any guys banging down my door, trying to impregnate me. Plus, I was terrified of the consequences. I was taught if I broke the rules, I would not receive God’s blessing. Furthermore, I believed in my heart if I messed up – especially sexually – I would alter my life’s course and might even miss out on the person God intended as my husband.
At 15 years old, I signed a contract called “True Love Waits.” It went something like this:
Believing that True Love Waits, I make a commitment to God, myself, my family, my friends, my future mate and my future children to a lifetime of purity including sexual abstinence from this day until I enter a Biblical marriage relationship.
After high school, I attended a Christian college and signed another contract stating I would not drink, smoke, gamble, do or sell drugs, dance or have sex.
I obeyed the rules. It really wasn’t all that hard. Except (gasp!) I drank and smoked a little during a junior year semester abroad, and I definitely danced. I didn’t gyrate my pelvis towards or up against anyone else’s, but I moved pretty well.
I saved gyrating my pelvis for my wedding night, and, in a dimly lit, fairly standard room at a Hilton Hotel by the airport, I lost my virginity to my husband. I was 23 years old.
And I sighed relief, because I made it. I had remained pure. Mind you, I practically crawled to the purity finish line after a two-year engagement, but I was finally free to enjoy sex and reap the benefits of my obedience to God during my youth.
I was set. For life.
Beyond the betrayal, shock and horror of discovering my husband’s infidelities almost ten years later, imagine my disappointment and fear of being thrust (pun intended) back into the big, scary world of dating. I was no longer a virgin. My True Love Waits contract was invalid, but not by my choice. To me, there was no longer such terminology as premarital sex. It was postmarital.
It simply wasn’t fair. My obedience delivered nothing but pain and disappointment.
I have been searching for real, honest answers about sex and singlehood for several years now. In a way, I am still very much the deer-in-the-headlights young woman who is afraid to make mistakes. At the same time, sex and sexuality no longer intimidates me. I am a wildly sexual being. It’s how I was created. That is not to say I cannot exercise self-control. Rather than repress my feelings and desires out of fear, I am learning to express them in a healthy way.
But I’m single. I’m not supposed to have sex outside of marriage.
My no-nonsense, straightforward, brilliant-yet-humble pastor Dr. Timothy Keller delivered a short talk at church a few months ago called “A Theology of Singleness.” His message basically stated that, although we idolize marriage and family in all cultures, singleness is truly a gift. It’s okay if we don’t have a spouse or family right now. We will have all we desire in the future – in heaven. I am still processing that concept. It is nothing like what I was taught, growing up. You find a partner, get married, have sex and kids and your life as a Christian is instantly gratified and maintains purpose. Right?
In fact, it made me think back to my 15-year-old self, signing in bubbly cursive my name on the dotted line of my True Love Waits contract. I autographed that for my future spouse and children, didn’t I?
Wrong and no.
There is no Biblical guarantee I will ever marry or have children. I hope I am finally grasping the reality that all the deepest desires I have for love, acceptance, unity, security, confidence and closure can only be satisfied in the arms of Jesus.
In his book, The Meaning of Marriage, Keller delivers another valid point.
“If singles learn to rest and rejoice in their marriage to Christ, that means they will be able to handle single life without the devastating sense of being unfulfilled and unformed. And they might as well tackle this project right away. Why? Because the same idolatry of marriage that is distorting their single lives will eventually distort their married lives if they find a partner. So, there’s no reason to wait. Demote marriage and family in your heart, put God first and begin to enjoy the goodness of single life.”
But what about sex, baby?
A few mornings ago I typed the words, “Christianity and sex” into my computer’s search engine. One of the first things that popped up was Ten Reasons Not to Have Sex Outside Marriage.
I read the article and began to swear, loudly and profusely.
To be fair, some of the reasons promoting abstinence were spot-on. For example, “We will be emotionally and physically healthier.” Why, yes, dynamic single person, this is true. You won’t need to worry about herpes or genital warts, nor will you be checking your phone every hour after your one-night stand, hoping the guy actually liked you for you, instead of his conquest of your vagina after a round of drinks.
Other reasons made me grimace.
Reason #2 – We Won’t Miss Out on the Blessing of the Wedding Night
There’s something very special about a couple’s first time. In this physical act the two become one flesh. Yet it is more than just physical oneness — a spiritual union takes place. God planned for this exclusive experience of discovery and pleasure to happen only within the intimacy of marriage. If we don’t wait, we miss out on a very special blessing from God.
I’m not going to argue against the specialness of a couple’s wedding night or the very Biblical fact that sex (the way God intends it) is spiritually unique; uniting. But WHAT IS THIS SPECIAL BLESSING FROM GOD? Extra orgasms? Fireworks? A supernatural ability to be über limber? Who guarantees it?!!! When does it happen? How does it happen? Did Solomon get 700 blessings on his 700 wedding nights because he had 700 wives?
I waited to have sex until my wedding night. Thirty minutes later, I was eating a cheeseburger at Carl’s Jr. I suppose you could call that a special blessing. Add a little bacon on top, and it’s a hashtag blessing.
Reason #10 – We Won’t Settle For Less Than God’s Perfect Will
When we choose to have sex outside of marriage, we settle for less than God’s perfect will — for ourselves and for our partner. And if we do this, we don’t know what we might end up with. Perhaps we’ll end up in a miserable marriage.
So, here’s some food for thought: If your partner wants sex before marriage, consider this as a warning sign about their spiritual condition. If you are the one who wants sex before marriage, consider this as a warning sign of your own spiritual condition.
This is the kind of fucking horse shit I was taught as a wide-eyed and closed-legged teenager: that I, alone, will be able to alter God’s will for my life. Are you kidding me? If I had that kind of power, why would I would need God? Furthermore, Marvel Comics would have to start a new superhero series, starring me, “Lusty Spinster.”
…we don’t know what we might end up with. Perhaps we’ll end up in a miserable marriage.
Lady, let me tell you something. I saved myself for marriage and I was SHOCKED at what I ended up with: a lying, cheating, adulterous-turned-bigamist husband. How’s that for a miserable marriage?
If your partner wants sex before marriage, consider this as a warning sign about their spiritual condition. If you are the one who wants sex before marriage, consider this a warning sign of your own spiritual condition.
WE ARE HUMAN. HUMANS want sex. Our spiritual condition is HUMAN. H-U-M-A-N. I actually would consider it a warning sign if someone I were dating didn’t want sex before marriage.
What’s the answer?
I really don’t know. I have always said I am not here to provide answers, just experience. I also do not regard myself a theologian. It seems to me, however, it’s much easier for a married person to stand and preach against intercourse/fornication/coitus whatever-you-want-to-call-it from his or her soapbox or pulpit because (s)he may not be struggling with the same longing/desires/hormones as singles do.
I know, because I was once that person.
Too, just because a person is married does not mean he or she does not have similar struggles, or struggles at all.
Therefore, I feebly offer you Five Reasons This 36-Year-Old Divorcee Wants to Abstain from Sex…Right Now.
1. The Bible Tells Me So.
Not that God wants to steal all my fun. It’s for my own good, probably among the other reasons I will list below. Still, God is reckless with His grace. And grace is a blessing, unlike any other. Definitely better than a cheeseburger.
I must again say – unapologetically – I no longer have the answer about waiting to have sex until I’m married. I have been married. I have had sex. The “specialness” of being a virgin is long gone, and quite frankly, I am relieved.
Sex has fallen from its pedestal where the Church and my young, impressionable mind placed it. Life has taught me obedience to the rules does not guarantee a single thing. Grace has wrapped its loving arms around me and given me yet another chance.
I’m not trying to pick and choose which aspects of Christianity I like and want to apply to myself, but what about people like me who have found ourselves in situations we didn’t choose? I didn’t want sex with anyone besides my husband, but neither of us have that choice anymore; a result of our brokenness. I cannot go back and undo my virginity any more than I can undo my husband’s cheating.
Honestly, right now, if presented with a decent partner who was committed and loved me (and I him), I cannot say I would wait until marriage to have sex. I know the downside, too. If you engage in pre or post-marital sex, you’re not going to be struck by a lightning bolt. But you take a huge risk in getting your heart broken, again and again.
Sex is that powerful. Dammit.
I don’t want STDs. An alarmingly high percentage of the population carries HPV or other sexually transmitted disease. I’d rather remain the small percentage that doesn’t. So, if and when presented with a potential sex partner, I want to know what creepy critters might be lurking up in there.
3. My Heart.
I have a huge heart and a ridiculous capacity to love, again and again. I am guilty of getting too attached, too quickly, even after kissing a man. But what is more dangerous is the bond that arises from a sexual experience. Hormones are flying about and can be mistaken for the L word. I don’t know how dudes do it, but they can separate sex and feelings. I can’t. I want to know a man truly, deeply loves me before he – well — truly, deeply, physically loves me. Furthermore, if I don’t let him all the way into my pants, I have a good shot at spending way less time crying over him when we break up.
Dating sucks. Most guys will give up on you after a short while if you don’t sleep with them. When did this become a thing? I would imagine it would be even more jarring if I slept with a guy on the sixth date, only to find out he isn’t all that into me on the seventh. Not to mention, “Hi, I barely know you, but let’s get naked and try to please one another by fumbling around and doing awkward, funny things that make strange noises and emit bodily fluids.”
I have to trust someone with my heart and my body.
5. True Love Waits.
Aaaaand, I threw up in my mouth a little bit typing that phrase again, but the concept is pretty solid. A man who is willing to take things slow is relationship material. A man who is willing to allow feelings to develop first and wait to have sex is worth it. A man who respects the power of sex itself is probably pretty self-aware. A man who exhibits self-control is likely to be less self-centered.
Our culture is one of immediacy: Please me NOW. Give me what I want NOW. Imagine all the things we miss out on when we expedite the process. When it comes to sex, it is so much better with foreplay. And I consider abstinence – until the time is right – major foreplay.
All in all, I do believe sex is a physical expression of love; a spilling-over of emotions that cannot be verbalized. It is beautiful and lovely and I hope to experience it again to its fullest, in this lifetime.
At the right time.