True Love Obeys: Why We Abstain from Premarital Sex
I didn't know how deep in trouble I was until the words spilled out during a debate at a party. Friends from church were discussing the old evangelical emphasis on "relationship, not religion"—disputing its merit—when I suddenly snarled, "Well, I wouldn't still be practicing chastity if it were only because of [expletive] religion." There was a pause, then after one woman laughed, the conversation moved on, leaving me to ruminate on my forceful reaction.
I've never thought of singleness as especially easy or fun, but now that I'm in my middle 30s, it feels harder. Some days I find myself saying to God, "I want to keep obeying you, I want to make it as long as I can, but I don't know what is in me. I don't know how I would handle certain situations."
Childbearing isn't exactly a race, but sometimes it feels like most of my friends have lapped me multiple times, while I'm still at the start line, trying to overcome a stalled go-cart engine. And that's not all. Even if I weren't having babies, I could still be practicing.
A circumstance like mine is not the sort of thing the abstinence campaigns of yesteryear prepare you for, however well-intentioned they were. As one blogger noted earlier this year, efforts like the "True Love Waits" campaign often hinge on promises that may not be fulfilled and implicitly fault the waiting one when delays happen.
Wait in obedience, and God will bring you a husband.
Wait, and the sex will be better because you obeyed.
Wait, and once you're satisfied with God, he'll provide a spouse.
Whether or not any of these represent official slogans is beside the point; these false promises are the upshot of countless good-hearted assurances offered to single teens and adults by friends and mentors alike. And they all tend to treat the wait as a sort of spiritual penance that one barters to God in exchange for a desired outcome.
In none of those promises does waiting have any value or purpose in its own right. Nor does waiting bear much resemblance to the patience required in other areas of life. When the single season drags on, it's easy to start thinking that you're enduring a unique kind of suffering. Yet, as I've seen friends struggling to wait for a more satisfying job, a child, or a book deal, I've been reminded how many of us have to wait for one thing or another.
But do we say as easily, If you wait obediently, God will bring you a good job, a child, an agent? Or, Wait and the job/child/agent will be better because you waited? Wait, and once you're satisfied with God, he'll provide a good job, a child, an agent? No, no, and no. So what's going on? Why does sexual patience so easily slip into the territory of religion, whereby waiting becomes a means of manipulating and using God to get what we want?