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A little note before I start off on this post: this blog has officially been up for a year! Woohoo!

Ergo, I decided that what better way to celebrate my first blogoversary with a post on a hot topic in Christian circles when it comes to singleness: sex.

Back when I first became a believer and was reading books like “When God Writes Your Love Story”, sex was something I honestly didn’t think about all that much….or at least, I didn’t think I did, anyway. Even though I was a teenager, I tended to think about all of the other things I wanted about marriage: companionship, someone’s affection, someone to come home to, and and, oh yeah, someone who thinks I am attractive (very much something I couldn’t fathom at age sixteen). Sex would just be a byproduct, an added bonus.

Now, I realize that it was actually more important to me than I had thought, because, of course, for women it is in many ways a fulfillment of feeling connected to our husbands. Although obviously I can’t speak directly to men’s experience, I’ve talked to some and read books/articles on the subject that indicate that it’s similar for men – but that sex is how they get a sense of connection with their wives. Just like most women need an emotional connection in order to give sex joyfully, so also men need sex to feel connected to their wives and feel fulfilled. Interesting.

Christian singles today do not live in the same culture as even ten, fifty, a hundred years ago. That is certainly obvious. The sexual revolution created deep undercurrents of social pressure in the name of ‘freedom’ that were repressed beforehand. In response, movements like True Love Waits that advocate celibacy until marriage, were put into place. These are well-intentioned programs, but in my opinion they do not take into account the fact that, for many young adults, prolonged celibacy is just not the norm anymore. Young Christians are told that they need to keep themselves pure before marriage because one day God will provide them with a sexy, adoring spouse to bless them for their behavior; that their wedding night and subsequent honeymoon would be mind-blowingly awesome. And sometimes He does. And other times – and more often, I would say – the reality is that some of those same people grow up to be 30, 35, and 40 with no sexy spouse in sight, wondering why God chooses to ignore the fact that they have been so faithful to Him with their virginity. It’s unfair. And unlike what some of these movements and often many Christian books suggest, sexual desire and passion is not just something to be repressed and stuffed down forever. One of the greatest tragedies of singleness is the inability to express ourselves sexually in a healthy way, and to be appreciated for that part of us. It is a realistic loss; and to some extent it is beneficial to grieve it each time we experience the pangs of loneliness and physical desire that, for the time being and perhaps for at least the near future, we are not able to act on in a way that honors God.

If I may be blunt, this is one of the things about following God as a single person that is really hard, and just plain sucks. It drives me crazy that Christian women who married at age 18 (!) write books addressed to young girls about the preciousness of sexuality, when they had to wait almost half the time that some of their readers do. And the real kicker is when they describe the doe-eyed virgins as a “lilies of the valley” and the ones who had made mistakes, “the thorns” (I’m talking to you, Leslie Ludy). What. The. Heck.

I am not by any means suggesting that having sex before marriage is just “going to happen” or that it’s not an issue that God cares about. Premarital sex is sin in God’s eyes, mainly because it wrecks us emotionally – and sometimes physically – and it is for our good and His glory that He wants us to follow this commandment. But. The reality is that there are many single Christians – myself included – who have made their own mistakes sexually. They have realized that their desire for sexual connection seems so natural, so powerful, that no book on being “lily white” will take it away. There have been times when my desire to fall asleep in someone’s arms has been so strong that I have cried myself to sleep. And other times, I have decided to take matters into my own hands and made decisions that settled for a counterfeit of the real thing, making me feel more bereft than over. Honestly, sometimes, I don’t know which is worse. I don’t think that thousands of singles of marriageable age going without sex is part of God’s idea of “good”. I think that, although there are no easy answers, it is a direct effect of sin, and that it truly is a tragic repurcussion.

I used to be very judgmental on the sex issue when I was younger, thinking people who couldn’t control their desires were beyond help. It was only when I experienced some of the things that I have that I realized that it’s just not that easy. It is not easy to stay a virgin if you have the means not to. And while God certainly does command us to do so, if we do make mistakes in that area, redemption is entirely possible. I’ve experienced it myself and seen it in countless other ways as well. But I am so angry with messages that the key to conquering sexual sin ispursuing some form of spiritual nirvana-esue “lily whiteness”. Bull. Yes, Christians are certainly commanded to have self-control. I’m not advocating sexual immorality or promiscuity in the event that marriage is not provided. However, all I’m suggesting is that the struggle is very real, and very difficult, and there are just no easy answers. Marriage is a safe haven for sexual desire to be expressed, and without it, singles will feel bereft and isolated. That’s just the way it is.

I’m sure that some people reading this will react with a “but sex is about glorifying God!” Of course it is. No one’s arguing that it isn’t. But, if this isn’t blasphemous, I believe that a single going without sex when desired feels a shadow of the kind of raw emotional that Jesus did when He expressed His anguish at feeling abandoned at the Cross. He had basked in the love of the Father up until that point, and when it was removed, He was left feeling bereft. Now obviously His mission was far more important than singleness and I’m certainly not trying to insinuate that they are on the same level, but I think that we can take comfort in the fact that He has felt such anguish. It also suggests that the power of connection and love that is established when we are one with someone – whether physically in sex or as Jesus is with the Father – is absolutely something that God values and understands our pain when we are cut off from it. It is, perhaps, what it most exciting about the idea of the new creation that will be established; the idea that unspoiled and lasting oneness will occur. Sexual desire, I believe, ultimately speaks to our deep seated desire for meaningful connection. But it also is an act of grace – created of course to enable the human race to continue producing, but also to simply give us pleasure. It is okay to crave that. And it’s more than okay, I believe, to feel a real sense of grief when we are unable to experience it.

 

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