Firstly, thank you so much for your post in Thought Catalog. True to its name, I’ve been thinking. And I want to thank you for your honesty and vulnerability. We need more of both, especially when discussing intimacy.
I’m not writing the first open-letter response to you, but I want to carry on this important conversation you began in my corner of the blogosphere.
Your words struck a chord with me because I’m all too familiar with the church environment you describe. An environment that speaks loudly about avoiding sex, rather than about the God who created sex. I can remember many youth group lessons preaching the message of “Sex is dirty and dangerous – so save it for the one you love.” Our sex talk went something like, “Here’s a picture of syphilis. Trust us, you do not want to get syphilis. Don’t have sex until you’re married.”
A friend of mine and fellow blogger put it well,
“I think the issue is just as much that sex isn’t truly viewed and taught as being a good thing. It’s viewed as something to be avoided before marriage rather than as a very good thing to anticipate within marriage. I think people do this because it is easier to make rules about what we can’t do than it is to have a heart devoted to God and have our desires and actions spring from that devotion (including the desire for sex within marriage.)”
From someone who also “took the virginity vow”, I want you to know that saving sex for marriage doesn’t have to end in pain and regret. And I want to offer a better reason for enjoying sex within biblical marriage.
You see friend, we cannot peg our identity – whether it be “chaste virgin” or “modern woman” – on anything other than Jesus Christ. I just finished reading the book of Galatians in which Paul writes, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28) With Jesus there are no labels. That’s wonderful news because it means our present is not defined, nor our future dictated, by our past.
As followers of Jesus, following His instructions becomes our desire. Jesus says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15) Because Jesus loves me and saved me from sin and death, I’m very interested in learning what He has planned for my life. Ultimately Jesus wants me to be more like Him. The theological word for this process is sanctification; it means to be set apart, to be made holy. That’s the best life God has for us, a life that looks very much like His Son’s – holy and in perfect union with our Heavenly Father.
One of the ways God planned for us to be holy is to only delight in sex within the boundaries of biblical marriage. “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality.” (1 Thessalonians 4:3) That verse isn’t about “abstaining from sexual immorality” for its own sake, but because it leads to “the will of God”, that is “your sanctification.” A way I can become sanctified is to be intimate with only one man: my husband.
And, yes, God designed sex and intimacy between a husband and wife to be enjoyable. Even, to be a worshipful act. Did you know that you can praise the Lord after having sex? More people should. (For more thoughts on that, I highly recommend John Piper’s book This Momentary Marriage. You can download it free on DesiringGod.org.)
I did wait until my wedding night to have sex, but not because of a list of man-centered rules or begrudging obligations. It breaks my heart that many Christians teach works-based salvation, as you describe. That if we wait until our wedding nights to lose our virginity, we will be good Christians. Or if we only wear certain types of clothes, read a certain type of Bible, sing certain types of songs – you get the idea. The only way to be a Christian is to admit your inadequacy to keep God’s law, and to claim Jesus Christ’s life of active obedience in keeping God’s law as your own.
Tragically we can be pressured to save sex for marriage, just as we can be pressured to engage in sex before it.
You close your article by saying, “Unfortunately, I can’t go back but I can give you this message as a culmination of my experiences: If you want to wait to have sex until marriage make sure it’s because you want to. It’s your body; it belongs to you, not your church. Your sexuality is nobody’s business but yours.” Though I appreciate you grant saving sex for marriage can be an individual’s personal decision, I do want to nuance your statement. Our bodies do not belong to a church, but they do belong to God. As I said before, God created our bodies and He created sex. That means God has planned the best way for us to have sex. We need to fall in line with what God says simply because He said it. Thankfully God is good! And His design for sex is for our good. His plans are to prosper, not to harm us. (Jeremiah 29:11)
I’m so glad to read that you have been repairing your sexual relationship with your husband. Obviously, Christians aren’t the only ones who can enjoy sex. I do hope that you’ll come back to the Christian faith, and not a mishandling of the Christian faith that piles on the weight of performance. I hope you’ll come to know Jesus as the one who said, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)
The beautiful truth of the Gospel is that Jesus wants broken people like you and me. He wants women who waited and wished they hadn’t. He wants women who waited and are glad they did. He wants women who didn’t wait. He wants women who are still waiting. He wants all of us. He wants us crooked sticks to make straight lines. And He wants us to enjoy His lavish gifts – including awesome sex.