How Far is too Far?

When I tell people how long my engagement was –a mere four and a half months, they look surprised.

“Well we waited,” I stammer trying to explain.

“Oh, so you dated for many years and then you finally tied the knot?”

“Uuuhhh, no…we dated for fifteen months and WAITED to have sex.”

“What? Why? Are you Mormon?”

“No.”

Blank stare.

And so I explain why we chose purity and a bit of our story (see “Is Purity Relevant Today” for an explanation).  But then the inevitable happens.  The sex questions start.

“Ok, so I get the beautiful romance part.  You guys have this awesome God love, but how did you know the sex part wouldn’t suck? “

And I know what they are really saying is… “What if he can’t perform?  He could be a secret eunuch, or have erectile dysfunction, or be weird, or a thousand other awfuls.  And how would a silly little pure girl know?”  Smart girls apparently try the meat before they buy the bull.

Big gulp.  “I knew his parts worked because for fifteen months he lived in a constant state of anticipation.  No amount of denim can hide that.  When he kissed me goodnight I could tell the man had finesse.  When he cuddled me I knew he was tender. And when I looked into his eyes I saw raw desire -a caged lion waiting to be unleashed on our honeymoon night.

“But how far did you go?  Where did you draw the line?”

When people ask me this I want to weep.  Because it means there is a fundamental disconnect between their belief in God and BELIEVING God.  And I know the difference because I walked down this road too many times.

Here is what I discovered…If I BELIEVE God, I trust that waiting for the booty will be awesome.  I trust He loves me more than I love myself.  I trust He has a chosen a man and/or woman who will delight me.  And ultimately I trust if I follow his guidance I won’t be unsatisfied.

If I believe in God but make up my own rules I am operating under selfish tendencies.  I take because I feel entitled.  I corrupt because God is withholding.  I use sex to get my needs met-attention, power, control, release, and manipulation.  Sex becomes an act. 

When I remove God, who is love, out of the mix I remove real love from sex.  You might love sex.  You might even feel loving towards the person you are sleeping with.  But let’s be honest here…real love is patient, it is kind, it does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud, it does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking.  It does not rejoice in evil, it always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres. (From 1 Cor. 13)

When was the last time your hook-up encapsulated any one of these?

Real love doesn’t leave you wondering if the guy is going to jump out of bed in the morning and bail before you smell the Folgers.  Real love showers your front door with rose petals on Valentine’s Day instead of a text at 4:00pm saying “Happy Heart Day.”  Real love doesn’t push for a blow job because it’s technically not intercourse.  And real love doesn’t leave a girl in the dark wondering how he feels about her. 

I wasn’t disappointed on my wedding night (don’t want to boast here).  But even if there were issues, I am confidant my husband would have been open with me.  Love does not deceive.  So when I hear about people who played by all the rules and waited for sex and then had problems, I have to ask if maybe they substituted rules instead of relationship: if authenticity and vulnerability were masked by a fear of being known?  The idea of naked and unashamed is not merely sexual -it includes full disclosure.

Purity is about love.  About treating someone the way you want to be treated -with honor and respect.  It’s not about how far you can bend the rules.  That’s just a warped form of legalism. 

How far did Tim and I go?  We kissed.  We necked like high school kids at a Drive In theatre and there were too many nights to count when Tim actually got up to run to the restroom and called me from his car ten minutes later.  Like Joseph he fled from temptation, even though half the time I didn’t even know he was struggling.  He also had a group of guys holding him accountable.

But everyone’s limits are different.  If you can’t kiss a girl without ripping off her clothes then don’t kiss her.  Give her a peck on the check.  If holding hands makes you crazy…well then you might need some professional help.  And if you tell me you can go really far without any issues, you’ve missed the point entirely.  (Re-read 1 Cor. 13). 

Waiting might look different to each individual and/or couple but purity is the same. It’s not about how far is too far -it’s about choosing to BELIEVE God has got your back and marriage is well worth the wait!

Comments

  1. Sam, Tim is my new hero – the man must have Herculean will power to date that long without sex (in addition to accountability). Based on your experience, what do you think is the ideal or necessary amount of time to date and be engaged before marriage?

    • Steve, once again you’ve identified a great topic that needs to be addressed and I might have to write a whole article to answer your question.
      So stay tuned…I’ll get to work on this.

  2. Sam, I really feel like this is a huge topic that needs to be shared and discussed. Maybe you are only hitting the tip of the iceberg. I can’t help but feel like there will be more to share from the Lord through you and your experiences.

    You are the first person I have ever met that has been able to describe what it looks like from both sides! That is such a gift! How awesome to be able to share that! How blessed we are that we are able to read the words you write that are applicable to today.

    I can totally see this as a workshop or even a book (best selling) on the subject!!

    I believe you are on to something really BIG here!! Seriously. If Christian adults cannot grasp the true concept then how will they ever pastor their children? OMG!!

    I will pray for the individuals responding to the blog who are confused and have ?? and for you to continue to tap into the “flow” of the Holy Spirit that speaks to your heart on this subject because you are divinely appointed to communicate this.

    God Bless you!
    Michele

  3. So true – “real love is patient, it is kind, it does not envy…” A little mea culpa here – I recently got into a super-tempting situation and ended up sleeping with a girl I’m dating. I’ll make every effort to stop and tell her I’m going to have to wait or stop seeing her – put up some boundaries. It’s super hard when she’s ready to go. My biggest concern is – this probably doesn’t sound very spiritual – that sex will “blind” me or somehow interfere with me getting to know who she really is. Well, now you know I’m a horrible person – or at least merely human. How are you supposed to wait while dating *and* engagement? In addition to reigning in the wild horses in this area until the big night, what other things makes for a happy marriage? What differentiates the really happy couples from those who are just getting by?

    • You are right about not getting to know someone. Tim and I went to a blended family seminar and they showed how once a couple starts sleeping together their level of knowing each other stalls. Physical intimacy is so powerful it masks and chemically alter our brains so that we often think we like the person much more then we actually do. That’s why it’s for after marriage -when you need the grace! Before marriage, you need to have laser vision to see if you can hang with this person for a lifetime, but after “I do” you want to have rose colored glasses and let much of the little stuff slide, choosing instead to focus on lifting up the marriage and not tearing down the individual person.
      Our culture has this so twisted, it’s no wonder divorce is so rampant. We don’t know the people we marry and then we are dissapointed when they don’t meet all our needs (something they were never intended to do).
      I know the physical waiting is excruciating. It’s much easier if you share the same value. Most people won’t last if they try and do this alone. My husband got me on board when he told he would not marry me if we slept together. That was a big incentive for me. But I think a big reason we made it is because we put ourselves in a position to succeed. He always went home by midnight. We didn’t fall asleep in each other’s arms (dangerous when he woke up), if Tim got too heated up he jumped up and went home. Eventually, it got a little easier…but not much.
      I don’t think there is a secret here, just self-discipline and boundaries that helped us to succeed. We tried to focus on our love and future instead of the moment at hand. It was a temporary sacrifice for a long-term treasure. But it wasn’t easy, I won’t kid you here. But it was worth it.

  4. Thanks for the encouragement that it’s worthwhile and your comment on being realistic about boundaries – I appreciate your honesty and directness on this.

    And, thanks for not hammering me with judgment. I wouldn’t admit this to 99% of men on church staff because in my experience most “Christian” men (especially in churches) love to attack/judge other men on this type of thing with a vengeance rather than supporting real change. That’s probably why so many men don’t share what they’re struggling with – fear of being attacked or judged by their own.

    • No judgement from me my friend. I think God woos us with his love. He never forces us. As you choose to follow him because you know the alternative stinks, I want to encourage you not point fingers.
      Keep your head up and press on!
      Sam

      • He never forces us, and always loves us. Except for the threat of burning us in hell for all eternity. And burning our children too, as per the 2nd commandment. But other than that it’s up to us and he loves us.

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