Sex in the Name of Love

I have been abstinent for more than four years. When I recommitted myself to the Lord and to living a holy lifestyle, someone told me that I wasn’t really living a difficult life of abstinence because I was single. He went on to say that couples who are practicing abstinence together are the real MVPs the only legitimate members of the celibacy team. In retrospect, I imagine he was insinuating that I was abstinent by default and not by choice. I don’t think it ever crossed his mind that a young woman in her 20s would choose a sexless life. Who could blame him? The movies we watch, the songs that we jam to, and the television programs we DVR encourage and entice us to indulge in sex. The more we indulge, the more our carnal desires are titillated and seduced into exploring that which God designed to be sacred.

Sex is a natural, biological act that almost everyone will experience at some point in life. It is the ultimate experience of ecstasy that we will find on this side of Heaven, and once we have tasted that ecstasy it seems almost impossible to go without. When I met my fiancé, I was nervous for this very reason. I knew that sex before marriage was not an option and I didn’t care how fine he was, I would not compromise. Ironically, the fact that he believed in Jesus was not enough to convince me that we held the same convictions about sex. (Yes, there are singles in the church who struggle with sex) On our first date, you could imagine my surprise when he asked me about the purity ring that my father had delicately placed on my right ring finger on my sixteenth birthday. I never anticipated that we would discuss these things so soon, but I’m glad we did. It was then that he told me that he, too, was saving himself for his wife. When he told me of his recommitment to purity, I knew that he was serious potential.

In a world where sex in relationships is the encouraged norm, my fiancé and I have chosen to remain abstinent until we get married next spring. Abstinence is probably one of the most challenging tests we have faced, but there are a few reasons why we know this is the best decision for us.

  • God loves sex.

You read right. God didn’t just create sex for reproduction; He created it for pleasurable connection, romance, and intimacy. Yes, God loves sex! In fact, God intended for sex to be so wonderful, so life-altering, so magical, and so sensational…that only marriage is strong enough to handles its effects (Click to Tweet!). He knew that a connection this powerful outside of the intended confines of marriage could be destructive. Voddie Baucham said it best: [paraphrase] Sex is like a fire. Inside of a fireplace, it’s contained and it’s heat comforts, soothes, warms, consoles. Outside of the fireplace, fire is vicious, wild, dangerous, and catastrophic. The number one reason why we aren’t having sex is because we want to honor God. I believe that one of the reasons why God commands us to wait is because in a marriage, he is the glue that holds it together. Consummation without covenant is displeasing to God and leaves Him out of the equation. He longs for us to protect and preserve the marriage bed because anything else is simply settling for second best.

  • Premarital sex is selfish

It is impossible for lust to be satisfied, yet it constantly begs for more and more. Operating as the opposite of lust, love gives wholly and fully of itself. Tim Keller says that [married] sex is a radical self-donation. Covenantal intimacy seeks to protect and pleasure your spouse. Lustful passion wants to be pleased and pacified without much significant thought of the other person. We get the phrase “true love waits” when we take into account that real love isn’t hasty or irrational. It waits until it’s time to blossom and mature into all that God ordained it to be. No matter how much I love my fiancé, if we dabble into sexual sin it has tainted what God originated to be a selfless donation of love into unbridled selfishness. I am not protecting the heart and soul of my mate when I lie with him without promising to love him until death separates us. I am putting my feelings, my desires, my lusts before him and everything else. Love sees no need to hurry ahead of God; it waits for His perfect timing. Even Jesus waited to give His life—the ultimate self-donation of love—until the Father granted Him permission and announced that it was time. Sex before marriage says, “I’m not thinking of you. I’m not caring for you. I’m exposing you because I’m thinking of myself and what I want.” (Click to Tweet!)

  • Premarital sex breeds distrust and insecurity

Growing up, my mother always said that it is impossible to cultivate a trusting foundation when premarital sex is present. She pointed out that when you see couples who struggle with trusting one another you are seeing the fruit and repercussions of premarital sex.   In a marriage, sex has the power to reinforce the unshakeable covenant that was established; however sex beyond the confines of marriage exposes and deconstructs the trust that may have once stood unwavering. How can this be? Well, it’s simple really. If I give my body to a man who has not committed to me in marriage, then I have given a piece of myself that he did not earn. In the heart of every woman lies a yearning to be deeply desired yet fiercely protected by her man. A woman cannot help but swoon over a man who finds her sexually attractive, yet cares enough about her heart to practice discipline over his own body. When a man denies sexual indulgences because of his fear of the Lord and his love for his woman, she can trust that his accountability to the Lord governs him more than his sexual urges.

My fiancé is very committed to our decision to remain abstinent until marriage. Honestly, that choice is one of the things that has proven his commitment to me. I have no doubts that he is faithful to me because I know who governs him. He is not his own man; he answers to the Lord. My mother and I have had countless conversations about relationships and one of her nuggets of wisdom that I will keep with me is this: Jesus is the only one who keeps a man faithful to the woman in his life. There is no amount of will power that is strong enough to keep a man from physically or emotionally stepping out on his woman. Only the power and conviction of the Holy Spirit will cause a man to withstand temptations (because they will come) and remain faithful to the Lord and to his wife. However, if that man is not submitted to the Lord, then who holds him accountable to his actions and conversations with other women? Something bigger than himself must have a hold of the man, and if he cannot control his urges with you… what controls them when you’re away? These were the types of thoughts that marred my mind when I foolishly engaged in sex before marriage in a previous relationship.

Sex before marriage destroyed my self-esteem. I knew I was sinning against God but I was more compelled by my obsession for affection that I handed over my most precious gift as if I’d forgotten that all sales were final. During that season, my heart begged for more. I had affection but I lacked security. Someplace deep down I was forced to face the reality that I was worth more than empty sex in a relationship that promised no future. I knew that my heart was worth my weight in gold, and more than I wanted to be touched, I needed so desperately to be known. Once sex became a factor, it was much easier for me to believe the lies and excuses that constantly barraged me. Lust caused me to turn a blind eye to the dysfunctional aspects of my relationship and I somehow convinced myself that sex would make me forget about our deficiencies. It only heightened them. I never trusted him because when my heart wanted to be known and understood most were the moments when sex was initiated almost as if to stifle my cry for love. Each encounter became more taxing on my soul.

And then I met the love of my life. He was a man who hung onto my every word when I spoke. He was the man who thanked me just for taking time out of my day to spend it with him. He was the man who chose to hug me after our first date rather than kissing me. He was the man who spent hours with his mentor learning how to best protect me. He was the man who took the time to learn the things that made me cry, laugh, and think. He’s the man who I still catch staring at me as if I’m the only person in the room. He’s the man who, on my birthday in front of my friends and family, got down on one knee and asked me if I would allow him the opportunity to love me for the rest of our lives. He is the one for whom I have been preserving myself, and he has decided to join his life with mine without me ever having to give anything of myself. What sexual sin threatened to steal forever, hope in Christ has restored! He never tried to take anything from me. All he set out to do from the beginning was to give and build and grow. I am better because of him, and on our wedding day he will be worthy of all of me.

One of the most amazing things about God is that we can all come to him and lay our weariness at His feet—yes, even our sexual frustrations. Living a sexless life is not easy, but God always rewards our obedience. If you are struggling with sex, I will pose the question a dear friend of mine asked me: “Ask yourself what is connecting you to the person you are dating. Are you truly compatible from each other outside of the bedroom?” This is important to think about, especially if you are considering marriage.

Remember, there is now NO condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. It’s never too late to make a new decision about sex in your singleness. All it takes is a “Yes” and Jesus will grace you for the days to come. Don’t focus on what you think you’re missing, but all that God is storing up for your good and for His glory.

The Prayer I Almost Regretted

It was at a point of brokenness, heartbreak, and frustration with myself and painful situations that I prayed the scariest prayer to ever leave my lips.

Lord, if he isn’t the man I will marry, then don’t bring him into my life.

Sounds harmless, right? Wrong. I wasn’t mindful that I serve a jealous God who loves me more than my mind can comprehend. I wasn’t thinking about God as my Father who would do absolutely anything to protect my heart from intruders and invaders. I believe He was eager to answer this prayer because in about two years not a single man has tried to win my heart.

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Photo Credit: Glenda Ortero (glendali), royalty-free

I didn’t know that the answer to the prayer would mean:

– lonely weekends void of dates (Scandal re-runs and Words with Friends, anyone?)

– battling insecurities and self-doubting thoughts of inadequacy (Am I good enough?)

– nearly no male companionship (Hey, boys, remember me?)

– struggling with jealousy (I want to be happy for her, but when will I get my chance?)

I don’t think I realized what I was asking for when I made such a serious request. As time had gone by (and still no one on my doorstep with flowers), I had progressively retracted my trust in God and foolishly whined and complained to Him. How silly am I! Who would point their finger at God and complain about the very thing they prayed for?

How dare you answer my prayer, God? You knew I didn’t mean it.

The amazing faithfulness of God blows my mind because He answered a prayer that hurt my pride and heightened my weaknesses, but He’s doing it for my good. Had I not had these moments of solitude, I would never be in the place of learning and valuing dependence on Him. I am remembering and embracing the fact that I need to be single.  It’s in my total singleness that God is perfecting me, shaping me, refining me, and making me whole. Is it for a husband? No. It’s for Him! And if a lifelong partner happens for me in the future, then he will get the benefit of all God is working in me right this moment.

So, the bitterness, jealousy and insecurities are vanishing into thin air by the grace of God. My grievances have been turned into thanksgiving. I am thankful that God was eager to answer my heart’s prayer (this process is torture to my flesh, but my heart is ever grateful) because He knows what it cannot handle. I am thankful that even when my heart ached from loneliness, I was protected from heart aches from unhealthy relationships. I am thankful that when no one is calling my phone or asking me out, I have a God who longs to spend every waking moment with me. He is diligent and steadfast in His love. All the love I need to be whole flows from Him.

It was the scariest request I have ever prayed, but  now I am bursting with joy and hope. I am loved. I am never forgotten. I am protected. I am kept.  I have a God who goes to war for my heart with more strength and intentionality than a girl could hope for in ten thousand warriors. And He is holding my life and my future in His hands.

Leave a comment & join the discussion! What is the scariest thing you have asked God? Was the answer what you expected?

Good Thing Training: Lessons from Ruth Part I

The story of Ruth is a familiar tale about loyalty, honor, romance, and God’s provision. Most Christian women are probably more interested in Ruth’s husband, Boaz, than the heroine herself, but Ruth is a woman whose life we should all venture to study. Her story has been retold and revered for sundry years in countless books and sermons about womanhood and singleness. Ruth was mentioned while I was conversing with another sister in the faith about marriage. Since then I was inspired to study Ruth and discover lessons we can glean from her life as we continue to embark on this Good Thing Training.

 Class is in Session!

Setting the Stage

In the beginning of the first chapter, a devastating famine has struck Bethlehem.  In order to ensure his family’s survival, a man named Elimelech leads his wife, Naomi, and two sons to the land of Moab. Elimelech eventually died, leaving behind his wife and children. His sons, Mahlon and Kilion, took for themselves two countrywomen as wives, Ruth and Orpah. Ten years later, Mahlon and Kilion both died, making Ruth and Orpah childless widows. Naomi, grieving the deaths of her husband and sons, decides to return to Bethlehem after receiving word that God had replenished the land with food. Her daughters-in-law offer to accompany Naomi on her journey, but Naomi insists they stay behind where they can remarry. Naomi attempted to discourage the young women from joining her in Bethlehem, which leads me to our first lesson from Ruth.

Brittany on Why She Admires Ruth

“…her selflessness because she had the opportunity to leave after her husband died. She could’ve gone back to the land of her people, remarrying could have been her primary concern. She wasn’t about that.”
  • Ruth chose singleness

And they lifted up their voices and cried again. And Orpah kissed her mother-in-law goodbye, but Ruth clung to her. Ruth 1:14, LEB

Naomi was insistent upon the young women remaining in Moab because she knew that their chances of remarrying were more likely in the land of their fathers. At that time, women who were widows were often victims of abuse and neglect. It wasn’t unlikely for a widow to be considered insignificant or an unworthy cause in the community. It was honorable for a woman to be married and Naomi was aware of the life that widowhood would offer Orpah and Ruth. She knew that the covenant of marriage would cover and protect them.

Ruth was willing to forsake the opportunity for love and remarriage. This is a powerful truth because there was nothing glamorous about widowhood. Ruth didn’t have any children, she was probably still very young which would have made her an eligible choice for marriage. Yet her loyalty to Naomi compelled her to sojourn to Bethlehem, a foreign land where the possibility for remarriage was neither guaranteed nor promised.

There are often times in our lives as women when we would rather have love than anything else. We value romance and endearing sentiments that make us feel treasured and adored. It’s important to know that there is absolutely nothing wrong with desiring love, romance, and marriage. God is love, His heart exhales romance into our spirits, and He created marriage.
However, the profundity lies in Ruth’s heart toward singleness: she would rather practice faithfulness in the life of her dead husband’s mother than to indulge her own desire to be a wife. What a sacrifice! Consider how it must bless God’s heart when we willingly commit to follow Him even when there is no guarantee that He will grant us every desire of our heart. Ruth didn’t follow Naomi out of obligation, but out of love and loyalty. In the same manner, we should have that intense commitment for God. Our hearts should be settled on following after Jesus in such a way that every other desire pales in the light of His glory.

Brittany on Contentment in Singleness

 “Being content with one’s singleness is a process that takes work and intentionality.  It’s not something that one should expect to happen overnight, especially if just exiting a meaningful relationship. But even in a world obsessed with love and relationships,  it is completely attainable. For most people, it will require a complete paradigm shift as well as a complete surrender to Christ. The paradigm shift is needed because even in Christian circles, contentment in singleness is often thought of as a cover-up by someone who secretly hates singleness. [A paradigm shift requires] …a complete surrender to Christ because He is the one who changes us and gives us complete joy in Him and Him alone. When Christ becomes our Superior Pleasure, we find out that as long as we have a fulfilling, personal relationship with Him, contentment in singleness and in life in general, comes as a result.”
  • Ruth was willing to forsake lesser gods to follow Almighty God

And she [Naomi] said, “See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.” But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.” Ruth 1:15-16, ESV

It is important to remember that Ruth was a Moabite. Moab was the son conceived by Lot and one of Lot’s daughters (see Genesis 19:30-38). The Moabites and the children of Israel were not allies or friends. A commentary I read noted that it wasn’t an abomination for Israelites to marry Moabites, but the Moabites were restricted from the assembly of God (see Deuteronomy 23:3-6). These two groups were commonly in conflict with one another throughout Biblical history. The Moabites served pagan gods, one being Chemosh. In Ruth’s decision to follow after Naomi’s God she had to leave every other god in the dust. Ruth not only abandoned her family and her homeland, but every ounce of familiarity she had ever known. Ruth pointedly tells Naomi that she would adopt her God as her own, denying her allegiance to any other god or ideology. We should learn this lesson: When we decide to follow God, we must leave every other contrary idol, lifestyle, desire, and way of thinking behind. Ruth didn’t know the God of Naomi, but in faith she willingly followed Naomi to an unfamiliar place in hopes of encountering an all-powerful God. Let us be encouraged by Ruth’s example and let go of any old memories, relationships, or behavior that will not benefit us in the next season of our lives. It takes a desire for holiness to pursue God, but it takes great faith to leave lesser gods behind.

  • Ruth was unwavering

Naomi urged the girls to go back to Moab twice, after which Orpah decided to return. Ruth, on the other hand, remained at Naomi’s side. It takes a determined person to say no to someone they love and respect. Naomi was a mother figure to Ruth, yet Ruth was unrelenting in her decision to stay. Usually, if a respected mentor advises against something we have decided to do, we change our minds about our decision. Ruth was fully persuaded that she would join Naomi in Bethlehem and did not bat an eye underneath Naomi’s admonitions. Neither was Ruth shaken when Orpah turned back, and once again Naomi gave Ruth permission to leave, but Ruth held steady. She didn’t alter her position because her friend changed her mind.

Brittany on Naomi’s Insistence on Remarriage

“When people see qualities in you, they realize you would be a good fit for someone else. They want you to be a blessing for someone else. Naomi realized that [Ruth and Orpah] had more to give, [that] their time [for love] was not up.”

We should never base our willingness to obey on our friend’s approval or company. Following hard after God may mean that you have to leave some friends behind. When you both encounter an opportunity to be obedient, and your friend turns back, keep pressing! Don’t relent! Obedience is always worth the journey. Be faithful and obey the Lord’s call for you to go deeper in your relationship with Him. Ruth simply obeyed and followed God out of devotion to Naomi, but she had no idea that Boaz was on the other side of her obedience. 

  • Ruth’s obedience orchestrated opportunity

So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabite her daughter-in-law with her, returning from the countryside of Moab. And they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of the harvest of barley. Ruth 1:22, LEB

Sometimes God beckons us to tread on unknown terrain in order to lead us to a place of unmerited favor. Naomi and Ruth arrived to Bethlehem in time to receive the harvest–the good of the land. Ruth’s obedience and willingness to follow God positioned her to walk into a season of reaping and harvesting. How could Ruth partake of the harvest without first sowing? She wasn’t a citizen of Bethlehem, and she wasn’t a child of Israel; the fruit of the harvest was not hers to possess. Yet, she arrived in time to receive the good of the land. Ruth was planting seeds on the journey along the way–seeds of obedience and faithfulness. Had Ruth turned back, she would have missed the harvest. Had she allowed Naomi to discourage her or Orpah to influence her, she would have missed the harvest. Naomi meant well, but it’s better to follow God’s direction rather than man’s suggestion. Society sometimes says that marriage is the only way to gain significance, and that it is better than being single. Naomi originally discouraged Ruth’s choice of intentional singleness, but Ruth knew that following God would be more beneficial than marrying a Moabite who serves pagan gods. When Ruth chooses to follow the authentic God, He leads her a fruitful place, a new home, and to Boaz. Ruth had no way of knowing that with each step away from Moab, she was aligning herself to the path that would lead her to her future husband… and the God who had captured her heart.

Stay tuned for Lessons from Ruth Part II as we delve into the second chapter of Ruth together.

Question: Which lesson from this post would you consider to be the most difficult? Why? 

Class Dismissed!

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Special thanks to Miss Brittany Boulware for her contributions to this blog post. Please visit her blog: The Beautiful Ashes, and follow her on Twitter: @Beautiful_Ashes. 

 

Read Lessons from Ruth II NOW!