When I was a teenager I kissed a lot of guys. My high school years were riddled with multiple short-lived romances. In grade 10 I entered a relationship with a guy that lasted almost 3 years. I genuinely thought I was in love.
We liked each other, we had fun and connected – emotionally and physically. I had no regard for the repercussions of our relationship or the heartbreak that would come if we were to call it quits. Which we did. I was gutted. I felt disorientated and disillusioned.
I was a Christian, but had no idea that God wanted to help me navigate my relationships. Shortly after this break up I read a book that changed my life. I made up my mind the next guy that I dated I wanted to marry and well – I did.
“Although, in retrospect there’s a lot I wouldn’t take on board in I Kissed Dating Goodbye, there are still fundamental principles that ring true.”
He was handsome, kind, loyal – and on my wedding night I had sex for the first time. Waiting for marriage wasn’t easy, and I certainly wasn’t perfect. To some it may seem extreme, even strange or outdated. To me, it was, and still remains one of the best decisions of my life.
The book that triggered a revaluation of my choices surrounding relationships was I Kissed Dating Goodbye. In a shocking turn of events, author Joshua Harris recently apologised for any negative impact his book may have had on its readers and issued this statement:
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“While I stand by my book’s call to sincerely love others, my thinking has changed significantly in the past twenty years. I no longer agree with its central idea that dating should be avoided. I now think dating can be a healthy part of a person developing relationally and learning the qualities that matter most in a partner.” – Joshua Harris
In light of his retraction multitudes of media outlets and individuals have spoken out. Cosmopolitan even published an article, “Inside the scam of the purity movement”. Well, I’d like to join the conversation. Although, in retrospect there’s a lot I wouldn’t take on board in I Kissed Dating Goodbye, there are still fundamental principles that ring true. So, I’d like to share my personal story, and answer a few questions.
Why did I wait for marriage to have sex? Was it worth it and did it actually benefit my marriage? What have I learnt about “purity” and sexuality since then? All valid questions. My answers may surprise you. So, here goes.
I Believed Sex was Powerful and Purposeful
Even from a young age I remember thinking, “I want sex to mean something, I don’t want to just do it with anyone, I want it to matter and I want the other person to feel the same way too”.
Like I said, I dated lots of guys, but never went past first base (kissing). Trust me, my heart and body wanted too. But, thankfully I was never pressured by boyfriends and somewhere deep down I had this internal (and personal) conviction I would wait until I was married. I’d seen many friends have to deal with the negative aftermath of casual sex and no strings attached relationships.
I was convinced sex was God’s idea, and He wasn’t trying to withhold something from me but rather trying to guide me in a way that maximised my sexuality, rather than detracting from it. Too many people running around thinking God is anti-sex. No, friend, I dare say that He just knows it’s designed for far greater purposes than a quick fix or a temporary fling.
Sex is powerful, in the same way a fire can either give warmth or bring destruction. Sex with no restraint can cause heartache and pain. Sex is designed for union, intimacy, connection, oneness, pleasure and the re-creation of life! It’s not rude or wrong, but sex with whomever, whenever and however rarely makes for a happy ending.
I believe wholeheartedly that sex with boundaries always ends up best and that biblical principles enhance our lives, rather than limit them.
I guess one major dilemma here for some may be – “Well, I don’t believe in God”. And that’s OK. I would never look down, criticise or impose my own worldview. My biggest responsibility has, and always will be, my own behaviour, and living a congruent life with my core beliefs and values.
It Was a By-Product of my Faith
Somewhere along the way this idea has emerged that saving sex for marriage is just about being a good Christian and appeasing a mean, overbearing God. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Real Christianity is about Christ and what He has done for us, not the other way around. Our behaviour doesn’t determine our status with God. We neither move closer, nor further away based on our performance – but place our confidence in His unconditional regard towards us and imputed righteousness (just a big word for right standing). This is gifted through His son, Jesus. In saying that, remaining a virgin until I got married wasn’t a determination of my Christianity, but it certainly was an outworking of it.
My choices around sexuality had nothing to do with earning God’s acceptance, reaching some kind of “moral superiority,” or placating the glares of judgemental Christians. I did it because I believed His word and His intentions behind it – it was for my benefit and my betterment.
I Wanted to Honour God With All of Me
I believed that I belonged to God.
“Have you forgotten that your body is now the sacred temple of the Spirit of Holiness, who lives in you? You don’t belong to yourself any longer, for the gift of God, the Holy Spirit, lives inside your sanctuary.” 1 Corinthians 6:19 (TPT)
I Was Future-Focused
As a young adult I anticipated that one day I would get married. With that hope in view, I had clear vision and motivation for my future. Of course, I liked guys and wanted to experience love, romance and intimacy like any other twenty-something.
But I was able to delay short term gratification for long term benefit.
I avoided jumping into every relationship that I actually wanted to and kept my eyes fixed on the future. For several years I actually wrote letters to my future husband. Again, that may seem like a really odd thing to do. I get it. But for me, it was helpful. It kept me content, satisfied and fixated on what was one day to come. Whenever I felt like I wanted (or needed) a boyfriend I’d just write to my “future man” and remind myself of the “why” behind the waiting. Because somewhere out there was a man God was preparing for me, in the same way I was preparing myself for him.
Wanna know something funny? I actually wrote about my actual husband Ben several times in those letters. I had no idea the man I would marry was right in front of my face – actually my best friend for many years and on many occasions said, wasn’t the “one.” Not gonna lie, he thought it was seriously strange when I gave him a pile of letters on our wedding day and I had written about him for years in third person. “Can’t wait for you to meet my friend Ben, he’s so great.” He still jokes about it. Ha, awkward.
Saving Sex for Marriage is Not the End Goal, But a Beginning
Waiting to have sex until you’re married isn’t about just making it to the wedding night without sleeping together. Yeah, that’s a good thing, but it’s actually just the starting line to cultivating a life of loyalty (emotionally and sexually) and a healthy, strong and passionate relationship together. It’s the beginning of a lifelong commitment to faithfulness.
Just because I’m married doesn’t mean I’ve never been attracted to someone who isn’t my spouse. (Shock horror, is a Pastor really allowed to say that? Well, it’s the truth so no point pretending).
But, because I am married and love my husband deeply means I deliberately and actively focus my affection, my emotions and my sexual attraction towards my spouse. We fight for faithfulness in our relationship and are quick to kick out any distractions or hindrances that can divide us.
Self-control and integrity are just as important to us now, as it was when we were a young dating couple with a strong desire to be intimate.
You don’t just guard your heart before you’re married, you have to do that every day of your life. So, don’t just think “sexual purity” stops once you get to your wedding day. No friend, it’s a choice that you must choose over and over and over again. Because it was worth it then, and it’s worth it now.
It’s Not Just About Sex
We are called to honour God with all parts of our lives. Your walk with God should never just be about your sexuality – and what you do and don’t do. God is a whole God: mind, body, soul, spirit, and He wants all of you to be happy, healthy and free. Free from fear, free from comparison, free from a faithless life. Whenever we compartmentalise our life we limit the reality of God entering those spaces.
“Abstinence should never take centre stage in your faith – Jesus should, and everything should flow from an authentic revelation of His love…”
God doesn’t just want you to avoid certain external behaviours, while ignoring other hidden ones like bitterness, pride or selfishness. Abstinence should never take centre stage in your faith, Jesus should, and everything should flow from an authentic revelation of His love and His lordship in our lives.
The truth is, the bible clearly values sexuality (and has a lot to say on the subject) but we need to focus less on the purity we think we somehow gain from our “perfection”, and pay more attention to the purity we are gifted freely through His grace. When we do, our thinking, behaviour and pathologies are influenced and ultimately altered.
Saving Sex for Marriage Doesn’t Guarantee a Great Marriage (Or Sex Life)
In the same way it takes more than one ingredient to bake a cake, so it is with marriage. It requires; love, respect, kindness, commitment, forgiveness and fidelity.
Just because I was a virgin when I got married didn’t mean I was guaranteed a “good marriage” (or a hot sex life for that matter). It was something I had to (and still have to) work at and prioritise.
It’s a great misconception that if you get marriage a virgin all of a sudden, you’ll have this mind blowing sex life immediately. I absolutely think it sets you up for a strong foundation and you have far less baggage to work through, but the truth is sex can be awkward, sex can be uncomfortable, but it’s also exhilarating and exciting! Anything takes practice, and everything takes effort. Which is a good thing because it means your sex life is what you make it. Sex is intended to be fun, satisfying and fulfilling – not for just one night, but for a lifetime.
Marriage Doesn’t Complete You
No matter how perfect your Mr Right (or Mrs Right) is, they can’t keep you happy all the time, and the truth is, it’s not their job to. It’s yours, and mine. So, learn to love yourself the way God loves you.
A spouse does not complete your life, they complement it! If you expect a person to fulfil you, you will be bitterly disappointed. God is the only one who completes us. God has to be our source of identity, security and joy or we will eventually be left unsatisfied.
Focus More on the “Why”, Than the What
I think as a young person (and for many years thereafter) I focused on the “what.” Don’t do this, don’t do that. Don’t date – court. Don’t kiss until the wedding day. Don’t go out with someone until you’re 100% ready to marry them. Now sometimes, clear guidelines can actually be really beneficial, but looking back in retrospect I focused more on what to do, not why, or more importantly who. Everything God asks us to do has a purpose attached to it. So find out the the divine design behind sex…and marriage. Read good material, talk to God privately, talk to trusted leaders and friends.
When we only focus on the “what”, and don’t explain the “why”, we turn what should be an inward conviction into an external pressure.
Remove Shame From the Conversation
Shame and condemnation are not the language of God. There’s only one voice that incessantly reminds us of our flaws and failures and it’s not one coming from above. Shame can go to hell and guilt can go there too. “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1.
As a Christian, I absolutely know that God corrects me (like any good parent should), but He never condemns and He never belittles. We need to remove shame from the equation. Shame from past choices or present desires, temptations and impulses. We don’t simply ignore them, we surrender them. We don’t allow our sex drives to blindly dictate our actions, but we’re not ignorant that we in fact do have one! Instead, we yield all parts of ourselves to God and become people led by the spirit, not just the flesh.
Normalise Healthy Discussion Around Sexuality
Sadly, the Church has been known as a place of condemnation, rather than love and honesty. The truth is we should (and need to) talk about sexuality. Young people are bombarded daily with messages about sex that are detrimental, derogatory and devaluing. Sadly, porn is shaping a generation and it’s not for good.
We have to stop avoiding tough conversations and start dialogues that are relevant, real and raw.
I love that at my Church, Kingdomcity, we regularly talk about, unpack and unearth issues around sexuality, dating and marriage. We’ve even recently had a qualified sexologist run “intimate” marriage seminars, host Q & A’s for our young adults and teach on the subject in depth. The struggle is real, but so are the benefits (and so is the grace of God).
Keep Speaking the Truth – in Love
The Bible tells us in John 1:14 “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (emphasis mine).
Love without truth, leads to behaviour with no boundaries and a culture that says anything goes. Truth without love, leads to arrogance, pride and harsh religion. It’s not either/or; God has called us to both.
“Grace is the power to change, the internal conviction that there is a higher way to live, and the empowerment to do that.”
The gospel should never be altered so that it’s palatable and easy to swallow. The gospel is truth – it can be confronting and polarising. It says to us, “God loves you just the way you are, but He loves you too much to leave you that way.” The Bible boldy declares, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” But Jesus took our punishment, so we didn’t have to.
Grace does not call sin righteousness. Grace doesn’t say you can do whatever you want and not feel bad about it. Grace is actually the power to change, the internal conviction that there is a higher way to live, and the empowerment to do that.
Remember, the main message of Christianity will always be Christ and his love for us, not the other way around.
Regardless of your stance on sexuality or Christianity, your education or vocation, your looks or your tattoos(!), you matter and your life counts. You are not defined by your past choices, or your present circumstances. You are not a mistake, unwanted or second best. You are loved. Your life has purpose.
Real purity is gifted to us, not gained through our behaviour. Jesus is not rules or religion or some guy we can only please by being perfect. He is kind, accepting and gentle. He is never judgmental, harsh or mean. He loves unconditionally and changes people from the inside out, not the other way around. He sees past your flaws and failures, and utters with sincerity, “I love you.”
Article supplied with thanks to Sabrina Peters. About the Author: Sabrina is a Christian writer, an avid sex & relationships blogger and part of the team at Kingdomcity church. She is married to Ben and mother to Liberty & Lincoln.