Vol 3, Num 4 :: 2004.02.13 — 2004.02.26
They say that when you grow up you become more like your parents; they say that everyone goes through a rebellious stage—oh, that we would be able to trust our parents, and take them at their word!
When I was growing up, my parents maintained that steady dating was not an option until we were at least 16, and all the way through high school, they encouraged us to hang out with people on “group dates,” where accountability is fostered and friendships develop. It seemed to my rebellious teen-aged mind, of course, that they were trying to limit some freedom. It was not until much later that I remembered the rationale: relationships later in life are likely to be far more wholesome if you don’t see everyone as a potential mate or date, but as someone to interact with and get to know on other, non-physical levels, because physical relationships ought to be reserved for marriage.
Within the first week of high school, I had a girlfriend. My age: 14. I must say it wasn’t much of a relationship. I was so clueless as to what to do, and terribly shy of the whole situation, that I didn’t even talk to her. It ended about two days later. No harm done, right? But the seeds of disorder had been planted.
Throughout high school, I relied on cultural norms rather than biblical norms to govern my dating relationships, developing a reputation as quite a flirt. I suppose it came naturally, and being new to the whole dating game I jumped right in without consideration for moral guidelines: I became a player in the game where “bases” were stolen. My only boundary became a definition of sex as “intercourse by penetration,” all other levels being private and appropriate as the relationship developed.
In another ninth-grade relationship, it took me about a month to hold my girl’s hand and another two weeks before our first kiss, but once those boundaries were crossed, they became non-issues and starting points for (admittedly) gross PDAs.
When I was seventeen, I plunged into a long-term relationship that on the whole was pretty much physical; there wasn’t a whole lot of dialogue or discussion; no building up in faith. That I was a Christian and she had attended church nominally during childhood was about the depth of our conversation and by my behavior, I didn’t compel her to faith or to follow God’s will. This fell apart, and, on the rebound, I dove right into another relationship less than two weeks later.
This time, the girl was from work—we saw each other every day, and I had just started a new beach job. “Angela” was a troubled girl, likewise fresh out of a relationship, and unsure of who she was beyond the fact that she was a sexual being. With a desire to show that I could make a relationship work, and a mistaken sense of what compassion entailed, I envisioned converting her while we were dating; she seemed interested in God and came from a nominal Catholic background, so I figured we would be alright.
They say that repetition is the most effective way to change someone’s mind. Constant exposure to the same thing, with slight variations, can change the mind and convince it to change its convictions. Soon our relationship became strained, because she wanted to “consummate” it with intercourse; already having done pretty much everything else, it was only a matter of time.
By this time, our relationship was long-distance. Angela had returned home, and the summer was over. When we saw each other (about every other weekend), it was for the whole weekend, and since time was limited, we wanted as much passion as possible.
What a mess I was in. Not even 18, I thought I was in love, but it was infatuation. She had convinced me that sex was for love, not marriage; and she blew me away when she announced she had been unfaithful twice during our relationship. What could I do? I forgave, but was it true? It was hard (and still is) to forget.
Bearing the scars of that relationship, my outlook is still affected. I see couples around me and assume the worst; I am constantly tempted to objectify women because that is what I have known. I know that the Bible says that those who cannot resist fornication should marry, for “it is better to marry than to burn with passion” (1 Corinthians 7:9). Having already failed the test, I feel like I cannot trust myself in any form of dating relationship—for the girl’s sake, not mine.
What can I say? I can only offer advice and hope that it is heeded. Test your feelings against the scriptures, and know that, from my experience, an “unequal yoke” is not likely to be a good match; know that your body is made in God’s image and that your soul and body equally make up your character. From 1 Corinthians 6:15-20:
15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! 16 Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.” 17 But he who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit. 18 Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. 19 Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.
I cannot stress enough the truth of this. Honor God with your body and he will honor you. Preserve yourself so that you can be united fully with Christ; and if you seek marriage, do so in a way that honors God.
Take this knowledge and apply it, that it may make you wise; and
6 Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you. 7 Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding. (Proverbs 4:5-7)
What have I learned from my experiences? God’s will is not arbitrary or limiting; following it is a liberating joy and freedom: freedom from sin, and freedom to do what God wants you to do. Rest assured, the Creator knows what works best in his creation! Likewise, the lessons learned by others do not need to be repeated. Question what you have heard, and take it before God’s revealed truth, not before a reductionist, hedonistic culture.
Discussion topic: Biblical chastity?
Are we rightly interpreting Scripture when we assume that sex outside of marriage does not honor God? The letter of the law has little to say, but what about the spirit?