By Patrick Dunford | Guest Blogger
She was already drunk when I arrived at the party. Her roommates were starting to get worried about her, and I was the only one who wasn’t in some way inebriated. She and I had a class together that semester, her roommates recognized me from study groups and campus organizations and asked me to walk her home. It was a chilly night and she wasn’t dressed for it so I gave her my jacket. I’d had a crush on her the whole semester, she still looked beautiful even in that state. She was rambling about a whole lot of nothing, but sometimes an attractive girl walking next to you makes subject matter of a conversation seem inconsequential. We finally arrived at her apartment and she made a beeline for the bathroom with my jacket still in her hand. I waited patiently in the apartment’s foyer. She emerged from the bathroom in only her underwear, holding my jacket. She looked at me almost expectantly. I remember thinking “God, I hope she doesn’t remember this tomorrow.” So I stepped away from her, out of the door frame, and walked home in my t-shirt.
Relationship speaker Jason Evert often addresses crowds at his talks like this: “Girls, wouldn’t you agree, guys never think about sex?” There’s a lot of nervous laughter and expectant confusion that follows. He goes on to say “We talk about it, we joke about it, we watch movies about it, we listen to music about it, but how often do we stop and think about it? What is the purpose of the gift of human sexuality?” He’s right. My decision to walk away from that young woman wasn’t a result of fear, or nervousness, or promise of a girlfriend’s wrath later. I’d made a commitment long before I ever stepped foot in her apartment leading to my choice to walk away. The decision to wait until I marry to have sex.
Sex represents the some of the checked luggage of all our problems, too large to be stowed carefully under the seat in front of us until the captain has turned off the fasten seat belt sign. With that in mind, I want to lay out first what this post isn’t. It is not a condemnation of anyone who’s had sex out of marriage, if we go by the numbers it’s likely 70-80% of the friends in my life have already. There’s as much hope there in God’s mercy as anyone who has abstained, so give me the benefit of the doubt until the end of this post as to why. This is my challenge on behalf of our beauty and dignity to the common idea in our culture that remaining a virgin until our wedding is at best passé and definitely worthy of humiliation and feelings of inadequacy. It’s a decision I and many others have made out of recognition of the beauty and truth about sex, the law of Love written on the human heart about intimacy.
The relationships we have are meant to be built on a firm foundation. Cheap car parts will last you a few thousand miles and break apart again, even good ones last a short span. So I offer to you a progressive relational foundation built on parts designed for eternity. The first two points are the foundation on which all our relationships are meant to be based. The second two directly address sex and marriage. So, in the words of Salt N’ Pepa which I’m slightly misinterpreting for the purpose of clever pop-cultural reference “Let’s talk about sex.”
1. You were created by and for Love, by virtue of which you are beautiful and have an inherent dignity.
2. We are only able to share this Love insofar as we come to know it and its role in our life. Without this Love as our center, our ability to Love is incomplete.
3. Sex is not this Love, but a gift meant to express a deep reflection of it and commitment to it in our lives.
4. Waiting for sex until marriage is not just a rule, nor is it stifling. It is meant to liberate us to Love others more fully.
We take our own origin from God, exist for one reason and purpose: Love. We see this reflected in God creating the world in Genesis, seeing that all He creates is “good.” You’ll notice the most descriptive pronouncement of any particular beauty is Adam addressing Eve, when he says “This at last is bones of my bones, and flesh of my flesh.” Basically, “Whoah, good one God, this whole Woman idea You had is definitely the best.” Women, you’re the crown of creation, no doubt there. They were good simply because Love made them so. God created these two Goods to share in the goodness He’d already made, and before, during, and after their fall continues to give them the choice to love Him back and choose Him over anything else. Even each other.
Ladies, can’t you just imagine Full-House era John Stamos leaning toward you over a bowl of brand-name greek yogurt, looking you in the eyes, and with a voice like a combination of wine, chocolate, roses, and Ryan Gosling’s 5 o’clock shadow telling you “Baby, you’ll never be my everything.” Isn’t that every twenty-something woman’s dream? No? I guess I only had you until the end there. Let’s take a moment to recover from thinking about that jawline aaaannnd…and we’re back. What I could possibly expect you to find sexy in a man telling you (Gentlemen, there’s tact involved here with the how, so don’t run out and tell your significant others right away) you’ll never be the center of his life? It’s because I want you to consider that if a man tells you you’re his everything, there’s a good chance you’ll end up being his nothing
We saw earlier God calls man to seek, know, and love him. First priority: seek, know, and love God. So Ladies and Gentlemen, I propose this to you: If we do not have our heart and mind set on this priority how can we expect to truly love others, especially a romantic other? C.S. Lewis hammers this idea home with: “You can’t get second things by putting them first. You get second things only by putting first things first.” God is the first thing, our relationship with Him the first principle to address in life. Lewis expounds this point further in a separate essay, reminding us “Put first things first and we get second things thrown in: put second things first and we lose both first and second things. We never get, say, even the sensual pleasure of food at its best when we are being greedy.” If we don’t put God first, we lose the second things.
In his writing Humanae Vitae Pope Paul IV beautifully proposes the reality of love in marriage: “Married love particularly reveals its true nature and nobility when we realize that it takes its origin from God, who “is love,” the Father “from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named.” It takes its origin from God. Its origin. It begins with Love Himself, Christianity directed toward a “whom” rather than a “what.” So we don’t therefore “make love” as a certain clothing brand’s widespread ads command us to do, but as recipients of a divine Love are given the gift of being able to share it. Love is meant to always be pointed back to God who created us, first things first.
And we return now to how this all relates to sex. Humanae Vitae goes on to say:
“Just as man does not have unlimited dominion over his body in general, so also, and with more particular reason, he has no such dominion over his specifically sexual faculties, for these are concerned by their very nature with the generation of life, of which God is the source.”
Where’s he pulling this madly counter-cultural message from? That we aren’t meant to “American Pie” styled masters of our lives and sexual destinies? We hear in the Gospel of Mark (referencing Genesis itself) that “a man leaves his family for his wife and the two become one flesh.” That “one flesh” represents the act of a man and woman consummating their marriage, the baby-making. Even sex, then, is not just about the man and the woman but the “very nature” of the act as creating life. Spouses selflessly telling each other “I love you so much that I am willing to lay down my life for you and bring life into this world.” So here’s point 3: if the sex isn’t open to uniting two as one flesh it’s incomplete. We even go so far as to call some contraceptive methods “barriers,” a distinctly separating connotation!
The openness to life comes as a man and woman grow in Love for God first and by His Love for them Love for each other. He gifts them with the ability to Love and sacrifice for each other, that like Him they might come to desire to share their Love with the result of its progression. That progression being babies, who grow into children who throw their sister’s Barbie Jeep (Mattel TM) down the stairs, who grow into horribly ungrateful teenagers who cause their parents to wait in the E.R. in formal wear because he decided to break rules which caused him to need to run from a certain situation which caused him slam his forehead into a wall, who start to mature into young adults who start to understand what mature selfless Love means, who turn into lovers of God and each other to start the cycle all over again. None of that was anecdotal, probably.
So the final point here, why is all of this liberating? It’s because sex as God intended it is meant as a selfless act. It springs from the root of the true definition of Love: To will the good of another.
Not just to will mutual pleasure or satisfaction, but to tell the one you love “my priority in life is to lay it down for you.”
Women, this is where you’ve been lied to most egregiously. The night I stood in front of that woman in her apartment broke my heart, because I realized something. She didn’t know she was worth selfless, exclusive Love. I am so sorry for what I’ve contributed to that lie myself, for objectifying you and satisfying my own pleasures in the past. If no one has told you anything like the following paragraph before, read it, and ask yourself if it is true. At least ask yourself if you wish it were:
“I am loved by Love Himself. I am worth selfless, complete, and dedicated Love from someone who has put first things first. I am beautiful, not because commercials and beauty commercials tell me so but because the inherent fibers of my being were made out of sheer goodness by True Love. I am worth waiting for, I am worth being sacrificed for, because my body does not define me. I have a heart that deserves knowing first, and a body worth giving to someone who wishes to be united to it to become one flesh.”
It is true. You are worth all these things. Oh, and to my brothers? You’re worth the EXACT SAME THING. Substitute some details like “I’m not a worthy of being a man as a result of wearing Old Spice, having huge biceps, and wrestling bears but because God has granted me masculinity” and we’re there.
So what if I’ve already had sex, where does all this leave me? I promised I’d get here. God is good and infinite in mercy, and perfect in justice. By putting first things first we allow God to redeem our broken sexual lives and recommit. It’s the Backstreet Boys moment of “I don’t care who you are, where you’re from, what you did, as long as you love me.” If I end up falling in love with a woman who admits she’s had sex before I’ll strive to have the strength to tell her the same thing. And man, that’s courageous of her. To turn away from what’s become a life-stealing habit, to fight the lies, and to rediscover dignity or meet it face-to-face for the first time in the mirror of the heart or bathroom wall.
So far, I’ve tried to show you how beautiful this all is. But I have a confession. This is difficult. I am terribly broken, and not free of past sins with my own sexuality. This is a constant battle; thankfully true courage and virtue are formed in fire. As iron sharpens iron, we should surround ourselves with people who will support us in the decision to choose profound Love. Not to only have friends who line up with us on all our beliefs, but to have a core group in the midst who affirm our difficult choices in the name of Truth.
I’ve heard a speaker make the joke that guys don’t start having thoughts about sex at puberty, but from the moment they’re born. I understand that place that’s coming from. I have to make a choice on a regular basis to recommit to this goal, to choose to will the good of others over myself. But to encounter True Love in Jesus Christ is to encounter and learn to love our very self.
First things first.
P.S. You are enough.