Wednesday, March 6, 2013
Purity and the Perfect Marriage
I did a little unofficial (obviously) poll with friends and brave Facebook followers and learned that we all have our hangups when it comes to sex.
Every last one of us.
Lust, purity and modesty come with a lot of baggage, especially purity.
Regardless of what we believe about sex, no parent wants their child to have sex before they are ready, so on some level purity is relevant to believers and non-believers alike. According to a study done in 2009 by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, 88% of unmarried 18-24 year olds have had sex and 80% of unmarried 18-24 year olds who identify as evangelicals say that they have had sex.
I think with numbers like that it's safe to say that we need to amend how we talk about sex with our kids.
Some of us signed "purity pledges" as teenagers or were gifted purity rings by our parents to help remind us of the promise we made to God, ourselves and our future spouses to wait until marriage to have sex.
Some of us thought long and hard about why we shouldn't have sex before marriage and then went ahead and did it anyway.
Some of us didn't have a choice when an abuser stole it from us.
Some of us waited until our wedding nights and found sex to be everything that was promised to us and them some.
Some of us found out on our wedding night that sex is downright miserable and anything but what was promised.
Some of us cried ourselves to sleep because we couldn't figure out why we couldn't put the years of "don't" behind us, "flip the switch" and enjoy sex, because "now we can".
Some of us got pregnant before we got married and then spent years wondering how we could ever possibly have a good marriage with the stain of that sin on our hearts.
Many of us are still deeply wounded because of what we believe about sex.
Those of us who grew up in the church heard youth group sermons and bible studies where leaders told kids that if they had sex before marriage that they would be giving an inferior version of themselves to their spouses. By having sex before marriage, their marriages would face more challenges because of their sexual baggage. Their marriages would fall short of God's perfect version of married life because they didn't save their virginity for their spouse.
Here's the thing, though: all of our marriages fall short of God's perfect version.
The second Eve sank her teeth into that forbidden fruit while her husband looked on eagerly awaiting his bite, God's vision of perfect marriage became the complicated entanglement we know and love today.
Imagine the surprise and frustration when those who waited to have sex still found themselves battling issues in the marriage bed. They did everything right! They abstained from sex! And yet they struggle to be able to enjoy sex without guilt even within the context of marriage, as God intended.
Those of us who didn't wait wonder if our marriages would be better if we had, because most discussions about sex before marriage include admonitions about how those who don't wait are thwarting God's perfect plan for marriage. Every time I hear that I cringe a little because, while my marriage is at times hard, I struggle with the idea that it is anything less than the amazing blessing God intended it to be.
When I hear someone say that my marriage can't be what God intended because we had sex before we were married, what I am really hearing is, God's grace can't extend as far as that sin. Whether we mean to or not, that is exactly the message we are sending our young people
I wholeheartedly believe that sex within marriage is better and what God desires for us. It is an act of obedience to God, not a ticket to a great sex life or healthy marriage. I believe that we need to spend less time focusing on the sin and more time actively seeking and worshipping God. We most effectively avoid sin through focusing on loving God rather than our active determination to thwart sin.
Anyone who thinks we can "achieve" purity through our avoidance of sin is sadly mistaken. If we could achieve purity by our own efforts, we wouldn't have needed the cross to begin with.
Other great reads on this topic:
Virginity Is Not the PointCommitment Free Critics and the Christian Virginity Cult
The Secret Sexual Revolution
Couples Who Wait to Have Sex Have Happier Marriages Study Claims
God Didn't Make Our Bodies Only For Sex
PS: A million thanks to those who answered my really personal questions about their sex lives. Just know that you are not alone. Even if you thought you would be the only one to answer a certain way, you weren't, we are all more alike than we realize.