Why did I try and fail to wait until marriage to have sex? That’s a good question – one that I believe starts with my understanding of why sex was worth waiting for in the first place…
I remember attending a retreat that was organised through my church when I was in my teens. The name of the retreat was “Sex and the Sanctuary” (see what they did there), and the young ladies would have separate sessions to the young men, before coming together for particular parts of the weekend. Of the few encounters that I had with church on the topic of sex, my experience at this retreat stands out so clearly in my mind even though it was over a decade ago. Why? Because we were actually talking about sex. Don’t get me wrong, there were no explicit details, but a space was created for conversations that I had never had or heard before.
Even though as young ladies we were encouraged to preserve our “purity” (each of us were given a pretend pearl as a reminder that our virginity is precious… I have a blog post pending about “purity problems” where I’ll break this down further), what I remember most is the conversations where the more mature women of the group who were leading the sessions chose to speak honestly. Some of them who were seated in that room with us, married or not at that time, had experienced sex before marriage. They were actually telling us this, and I’ll never forget the sense of awe I felt over their transparency.
There’s something amazing about the power of vulnerability. When people are strong enough to speak from a place of perceived weakness, others tend to listen. There have been numerous times where I have been listening to sermons and my mind may start to wander, only to have my attention recaptured by the words of a personal experience. Our testimonies are powerful, and the enemy knows it, which is why he is doing his very best to keep us suffering in silence.
As a teenager, and like most young people, I hadn’t even scratched the surface on my journey to truly understanding sex. Yes I believed that my virginity was precious, just like the faux pearl that sat on cotton wool in a little cushioned box as a memento from the retreat. But as to why I shouldn’t give that pearl away prematurely? I had no answers… I just knew it was wrong. God wants us to wait until marriage to have sex. No fornication. Don’t lust. God wants you to wait so wait. Sex before marriage is a sin. All of these thoughts were the theme-tune of my younger years, but there was nothing underpinning my reasoning other than the fear of what would happen if I “crossed the line”.
For so many of us, keeping up appearances is more important than exploring why we do what we do. I had never explored this in detail – I guess I wasn’t emotionally mature enough to know how to at the time. The fact that my resolve to wait until marriage to have sex was based on fear of perceived failure from God Himself, let alone those closest to me, wasn’t enough to keep me from “falling”. Why though? Because as soon as I was in a position where I felt loved, safe and desired – basically everything apart from fear, my resolve began to dissolve….
It’s not enough to love God out of fear. True love is based on an understanding of character, built on a foundation of reciprocal love. Basically, when you truly understand the way that God loves you, you can’t help but mirror that love in return. Similarly, it is not enough to reason not have sex before marriage based on fear. If you believe that God is love, then He is also the God of sex – why else would he put such emphasis on this ultimate act of intimacy as something that He wants us to experience within marriage? If it was something to be ashamed of, He wouldn’t have created the desires we have to begin with. When you truly understand what God created sex to be, and recognise all of the challenges that come with premarital sex, then that puts you in a much stronger position to be able to wait from a place of perspective and valuable insight.
Insight doesn’t just happen by chance, which is why it is so damaging when we don’t talk about this topic of sex. With sexually transmitted diseases and unplanned pregnancies before marriage as a usual weapon of choice, I’m going to come from a different angle. You see, we all come with baggage from all of those years before marriage. That is unavoidable. That is the reality of being human and joining together with another human. Once you are married, your baggage load doubles. Your issues are now shared. The less you have to carry the better, but regardless you both have work to do. A lifelong commitment requires you to sort through the mess and try to make some sense of what needs to change for you to show up in your marriage as your spouse needs you to, and vice versa.
Sexual baggage is one of the most detrimental types of baggage if left to take root in your marriage. In the same way that our sexual connection suffers if other areas of our marriage are lacking – usually leading us to disconnect from our spouse emotionally, spiritually and of course physically, a strong sexual connection can have entirely the opposite effect and knit you together in love in a way that pours from the centre of your being and uplifts your entire marriage.
I believe that God asks us to wait until marriage to have sex not because he wants to spoil our fun, but because He wants us to be free to have an amazing sexual connection with our spouse. He wants us to have a chance at a marriage free of the dead-weight that sin brings. Me and my husband are consciously working through this baggage now, so I’m not even speaking from a hypothetical place. This is our reality. Often we are deceived into thinking that when someone has sex before marriage that it makes them more experienced, but what it actually does is make them more delusional as to what sex was always intended to be. If you have spent years filling a need, and grabbing that sexual high from wherever necessary to satisfy your urge, then what do you think will happen when you get married? Suddenly, it stops being about a selfish thrill and becomes about joining together in a selfless act towards your spouse…
In the right context, sex is a beautifully freeing experience between you and your spouse. Imagine being able to give your all to your spouse during sex and feel as though they are doing the same for you in return while being so intimately connected in those moments. To have a sex life free of the twisted perceptions that we’ve been filling our minds with through porn, masturbation, promiscuity and even just the world around us and the way our bodies are objectified. Imagine not having to worry if you’ll be able to satisfy your husband like his past sexual partners. Imagine not having to feel a blow to your ego if your wife doesn’t scream with a mind-blowing orgasm like the scenes acted out in pornography. Imagine… Well God didn’t just imagine, He knew. He knew what a fight we would have on our hands in our marriages if we allowed ourselves to get lost in having sex without understanding. He knew how many hearts would be broken by unfaithfulness within marriages, when the baggage is too much to carry and neither spouse has ever asked for help. God knew and He still knows now.
To those of you who are yet to experience marriage, it can be easy to look at marriage as the answer to your issues with premarital sex, but the truth is that it is like adding petrol to an already raging fire. It just so happens that the fire is contained within your marriage, but fire has a way of consuming everything before long… Marriage is not the solution – the solution starts with you right now. To those of you who are married, you will have learned by now if not soon enough, that marriage is not the solution. Believe it or not, the solution can still start with you right now. We can testify to that in my marriage!
More than anything, I long for this truth to be something that we share more openly, because so many more marriages would be better for it! We shouldn’t be afraid to learn from our mistakes, because God has a way of using them to reach others when they need to hear from Him most. Be encouraged, and know that God intended all of us to learn the truth about sex – an experience to be celebrated within our marriages. No matter what state your sex life may be in right now, you’ll be amazed to find what God can do with the pieces when you hand them to Him and trust in His ability to work wonders even in the darkness…
Whether you are leaning towards sexual temptation, you are unmarried and sexually active, or you are struggling with the weight of sexual baggage in your marriage, it is so important for you to be able to step back and consider where you stand. If you are entirely comfortable with your current reality, then nothing needs to change, but if you find that you are facing a very real struggle over this then you need to ask yourself why. It is only through confronting this struggle that you will be able to start to find solutions. Hopefully the following questions will help you begin to explore this area of your life in more detail, either personally or with your spouse:
- What was it that led to your first sexual experience?
- Think back to the moment you lost your virginity – how did you feel during and afterwards?
- How do you feel you handle conversations about sex in your marriage?
- If you have had any traumatic sexual experiences, have you ever sought professional help? What are your reasons either way?
- What impact are your past sexual experiences having on your marriage right now? What needs to change?