Today's post was written by a student who came through Brook Hills' college ministry and who served as a college small group leader at Samford.
I am equally sorry for the confidence I had in saying “I will never have sex before marriage” as I am for the premarital sex itself. There was hardly a hint of doubt, even up to the moment of consent. I still was never going to be "that girl."
As long as I can remember, an implicit awareness of my sexual nature has been a part of my life. I wouldn’t have called it that as a five year old, but almost by accident, I discovered masturbation at an early age. It became a routine part of my life up through high school and into college. However, I kept it to myself.
Yes, I was quick to flirt with boys and talk about my desires, but I would never touch them. I wasn’t going to get close enough to actually do anything “really stupid,” and at the time, I attributed it to my self-control. However, it was not my exceptional willpower. It was that I never really liked any of them—a fact I was unaware of until I met someone my first year of college. I had grown up in church and decided that as a good Christian girl (a reputation I had managed to maintain despite living a double life through high school and not recognizing my need for a Savior), I should attend a Christian university. In my first year, I met a boy. Oh, and I liked him. I really liked him. In his autobiography Seven Storey Mountain, Thomas Merton insightfully describes the sentiment:
"That’s how I felt. And so I fell into this kind of immature love. And having trained myself again and again to give into my physical desires, I slid quickly into everything I told myself I was too good or too pure or too self-controlled to do. It did not take years…it took a few months. I was not as strong as I had thought."
I began to use my body for manipulation. When I felt unloved or like I was going to lose him, I used sexuality to lure him in and try to gain assurance for myself that he still desired me. This method of "testing," however, was never going to yield accurate results—it was based on desire of my body and my sexuality dissociated from a desire of myself as a person.
Long story short, it was not the kind of love that could stand the test of time. There was no discipline, selflessness, or sacrifice—simply put, it wasn’t love. But it led me to realize my need for a Savior. I recognized not only my sin, but also my sinful nature. I was entirely ungrounded and enslaved to my passions, and I couldn’t just try harder to fix it. I came to place my faith in Christ as my righteousness—not a beginning of my righteousness or an aid to whatever righteous acts I could add on, but my full right standing before God.
My faith in Christ did not take away the consequences. Many are still with me. The fear of getting close to someone again. The memories that make me more careful than most of my friends to what I watch, read, and listen to. The loss of the fun, innocent moments of “figuring things out as we go” that I could’ve had with my husband. There are consequences, but there’s also a sweetness of having a recognition of my weakness and the foolishness of pride, leading me to take comfort in the love of God as something I don’t have to earn or test or manipulate because while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Rom 5:8).
Sexual desire is not the enemy. If it were the enemy, then the solution would be to kill or suppress it. And then somehow to reawaken it for your wedding night…best of luck! No, sexual desire is great. Nakedness is great. Sex is great. In His infinite wisdom and understanding, God designed it all.
The fruit of the Spirit is not love, joy, peace…and muted sexual desire. That would be distressing news for the number of women, many of whom have walked with the Lord longer than me, who still struggle with sexual desire. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal 5:22-23). Keep in step with the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh (Gal 5:16). It takes more self-control than I think we sometimes want to admit. I think we wait for a supernatural removal of our physical desires, but self-control and patience regarding those desires are supernatural gifts from God. Crucifying the desires of the flesh is not an easy task.
Look at pain regarding sexuality as a way to press in and wait for God. Infidelity, prostitution, pornography, rape, and secondary issues such as shame about one’s body and insecurity associated with a previous sexual relationship…things are not the way they should be. This leads us to groan together with all of creation, waiting for restoration and redemption when all things will be made new. We anxiously await the return of Christ and our prayers that “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” transform our hearts and lives as we desire to participate in the process—doing God’s will in our lives as we wait for full redemption.
But then…there are the moments when we realize that we are part of the problem. The moments that we realize that the world is not as it should be because we are not as we should be. Our body insecurity turns into hurtful comments toward others. Our sexual acts with this boy or that boy (or this or that girl) don’t only have repercussions for us, but also repercussions for him or her. We promote the pornography industry by turning to videos and images in our times of weakness. We’re part of the problem.
However, the gospel is not about our righteous acts. It’s not about cleaning ourselves up and fixing the world. The gospel is about the cross. It’s about our absolute dependence on the blood of Christ for our right standing before God. For “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Rom 8:1, 3-4).