True Love Obeys: Why We Abstain from Premarital Sex
Years back, when working on my memoir (of "reluctant chastity," yes), I spent an evening babysitting the daughter of some friends. After the baby had gone down, I picked up a volume of collected C. S. Lewis writings they had out, which included advice I've never forgotten. The gist was that it's all too easy to slip into preaching the gospel on the grounds that it's good for you rather than simply that it's true—a tendency that must be avoided. I wish I could remember the reasons he gave, but appropriately enough I only remember the truth itself: truth ultimately has to stand on its authority, not its efficacy.
The same holds with God. Although it certainly encourages me in the hard times to believe that God as my creator knows what's best and is therefore a trustworthy master, I ultimately must obey because he is my master, period. Accepting his terms of reconciliation meant I gave up the right to calling my life and body my own; they're his.
If you're squirming at some of my language here, I understand. We view terms like "master" and "obedience" rather dimly these days, imagining that they run counter to the exercise of our freedom, the ability to be spontaneous and authentic, and so on.
Well, I'll tell you what true spontaneity is. The other night I was feeling so confused and troubled I couldn't find the words to process my emotions. But when the line of a Chopin nocturne popped into my head, I recognized the source, went over to the piano in my living room, and flipped through my book of nocturnes until I found the song and started to sight-read through it.
I don't do this often, and to a careful ear it shows. But because I spent most of my second decade obeying the dictates of piano teachers, the metronome, and the long-dead composers who scored the works I practiced, I can still read the notes on a staff after ten years of idle fingers. And because I submitted myself to those masters, I had the freedom to sit down on a whim and spend an hour making deeply cathartic music.
Those masters took me beyond the self I was, enlarging and enriching my identity in the process. But that happened only because I chose to obey them. Had I refused, I would have been choosing to follow my own fickle whim and desire, the master of self, which constrains in its disregard for the long-term.