Is Purity Even Relevant Today?

There are many reasons to wait for sex –good reasons, lame reasons, and even churchy reasons.   But there aren’t many compelling reasons to actually deter most of us from the dirty deed. 

Sex feels good and life is hard enough, so goshdangdarnit, what kind of overbearing big brother meanie wants to take away all our fun any-who?

I never had to deal with all the Christian angst of dating the first time around.  I was just a big old sinner.  After a solid year in a sorority much of my anxiety swirling around sex dissipated.  I determined I was a decent person “morally,” compared to the other slutty coeds, because I reserved sex solely for relationships (which might have included friends with benefits too).

I picked up my ex-husband in a bar when I was twenty-one.  Three and a half years later we married and sometime in between meeting him and saying “I do,” I fell in love again and brought another guy into the relationship.

It was Jesus.

About a year into the whole Christian dealio, I tried to get on board with the fire and brimstone “purity” message I heard preached at my church –apparently to scare all the singles into behavior modification.  So I tentatively asked my (then) fiancé if we could cease having sex and wait until we were married to resume our intimacy. 

He vehemently said “no,” Ummmm.  Ok.

Ten years later when my ex-husband departed into the arms of another woman and left me with two small children I finally got my chance to try dating as a Christian.

But I don’t know if I was in any way more prepared despite the Christian sticker on my bumper.

Yes…I had given my heart and soul to Jesus.  I knew all the Bible verses, taught women’s Bible studies and was even enrolled in seminary.  And yet I still slipped up in the sex area.

I wanted to honor God.  I earnestly tried HARD in my dating relationships to avoid sex.  And it worked –once.  I was in one relationship where we were both committed to purity and didn’t compromise (and then I found out he was still “technically” married and that ended fast).  But the other five relationships, during my time as a single Christian woman were a little murkier.  We might not have had intercourse, but then again President Clinton redefined modern sex anyway, right?

When I met Tim Keller, now my darling hubby, I was living in this wishy-washy land of sexual compromise.  I wanted to be pure but I’m not sure I believed it was even possible.  I didn’t meet many men, even supposed good Christian men, who actually walked the talk. 

Pastor Tim Keller was an anomaly –an attractive single straight man of thirty-six years who didn’t grab my boobs on the second date.  And even though he wasn’t wealthy from a worldly perspective, usually a non-negotiable in my materialistic heart, he was hot, clearly loved Jesus and had CHARACTER (something lacking in most of the men I dated).

When Tim asked me to be his girlfriend, about five weeks after we started dating, he slipped a purity ring on my finger and fell to one knee.  He implored me, “to wait for him, to wait for God to bless our relationship, and to give “us” a chance to build true intimacy without sex complicating things.”

It sounded like a lot of waiting and I’m not that patient.

And so I freaked out (internally of course) and smiled and cried tears of sheer terror, thinking “How in the heck am I going to remain sexually pure when this man is so yummy?”

Tim also told me he had a zero tolerance policy for error.  If we messed this up: (A) he would not marry me, and (B) he would resign from the church for moral failure.

Now I didn’t want the poor man to lose his job, but dangling the condition of “sex=no wedding” really sealed the deal.   I was head over heels in love with Tim by then and I wanted to marry this man so bad I would wear a habit and chastity belt with a big lock impervious to his washboard abs if I had to.

But something drastic happened to me during our fifteen month courtship.  Something so radical it rocked me to the core.

First, I became aware of how often I pushed to be physical because I needed reassurance that Tim cared for me and was committed to the relationship.  I saw how I used my sexuality to manipulate, to hold power over and to get the attention I desperately craved.

Without sex I had to learn how to ask for what I needed.  I was able to see how Tim treated me even when I didn’t meet all his physical needs, what it meant to work out our problems with no “make-up sex” to gloss over the deeper issues, and I had to learn how to compromise –because I couldn’t hold out on the booty to get what I wanted.

Poor Tim!  I tempted him in the beginning.  I was so bad.  I wore a pink string bikini to a singles ski retreat we both attended and had the audacity to rock it at the hot tub –heathen temptress that I am.  But he held fast, kept his hands to himself and didn’t get out of the Jacuzzi for a very long time.

And slowly I realized by his not being physical, he was actually showing me he loved me.

Real love.  Not SEX/LOVE…the kind of love that holds your hand when you are losing the fight to cancer.   It’s love that sees beauty under the wrinkles and bald spots. It’s love that protects and heals and cherishes.  It’s the sort of love that doesn’t leave when it gets tough and its old people in the park holding hands kind of love.

And Tim was telling me by his behavior I was worth waiting for.  With every smile he told me I was a beautiful treasure and he would not steal from me until it was time to enjoy this gift from God –within a committed marriage relationship.

And somewhere along the way I started to buy into it.  (Not so easy when you have abandonment issues) And I saw, really saw, for the first time in my life the way God sees me.

Valuable.  Treasured.  Worth dying for.

And I believed it –because someone showed me a glimpse of the divine.

Purity isn’t just about being a good Christian and playing by the rules.  It’s about treating another human being with dignity and respect, even when they don’t deserve it.

Purity restored me. 

I am a different person because of my husband. Tim Keller walked the talk. 

And maybe God tells us to wait for sex not because he’s mean, but because he loves us more than we love ourselves.

Sounds like a compelling reason to me.

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!

%d bloggers like this: