Estimated reading time: 7 minutes:)
It was early October. The trees in my parent’s neighborhood were already undressing, but I didn’t think about how beautiful they were.
I was walking on a particular morning through our neighborhood trails, crunching over leaves as I went. Every morning for months I’d been starting my day with a “walk with God.”
Those fall months had a taken a serious turn. It seemed every conversation I had with Him, I was asking Him about abstinence and what I should do.
One morning, in the peak of my frustration, I remember talking with God about how confused I felt. I usually pray out loud. “I love Nathan,” I said. “I want to marry him. I’m already committed to him. I want to show him how much I love him – so is it wrong to have sex with him now?”
Lost in thought, I didn’t notice one of our neighbors was in their backyard eavesdropping. I lifted my head and locked eyes for an awkward moment.
I need to figure this whole abstinence thing out, I thought to myself (beet red from embarrassment).
If you’ve been following along, you know abstinence was really difficult for Nathan and I when we were dating (which you can read about here) and how many of the Christian arguments against premarital sex didn’t hit home for me (which you can read about here, too).
It was a rough few months. We prayed, searched the Bible, asked for guidance, read every article under the sun, fasted, and talked about it relentlessly.
But at the end of it all, we didn’t find “the answer” by stumbling across it or seeking out the wisest Bible scholar.
It truly felt like God opened our eyes to why he intended us for abstinence in a moment – in his perfect timing.
Now, Nathan and I are more convicted on abstinence than ever before. I understand why abstinence truly is God’s desire – but I can honestly say I didn’t have that same understanding when I was in the thick of it.
I hope by sharing what Nathan and I went through, your own convictions and relationship with Christ can be strengthened. I don’t believe the way we, the church, talk about sexuality, purity, and desires is very helpful. It’s unfair to young couples if we don’t prepare them with strong convictions on the subject beforehand.
Before I continue to why Nathan and I were ultimately convicted on abstinence, I want to start with a few clarifications:
- Your sexuality is a gift. Your sex drive is a gift. Sex is good. But just like any good gift, it is what you do with it that matters.
- I didn’t struggle with temptation because the church failed me. Ultimately, temptation is an attack from the devil, and whether I’ve been equipped by the church to handle it well or not, I still have the power to choose to sin or not. Nathan and I were tempted because we are sinful and weak, not for any other reason.
- God doesn’t want you to be confused. In our situation, I believe God opened our eyes at the perfect moment in his timing, allowing us to go through a difficult thing to come out the other side stronger. But He doesn’t want you to be confused about abstinence, and the confusion I had wasn’t from God. If you’re confused, that’s not from God either.
- “Purity” cannot be synonymous with “virginity.” A virgin can behave in very impure ways, ways I’ve struggled with before. And someone who isn’t a virgin can lead a very pure life. But there is always room for repentance, redemption, and new beginnings.
Abstinence isn’t easy. But Nathan and I were able to push through because we were finally convicted. And we arrived at that conviction by asking one simple question:
What Is Marriage?
The whole time, I’d been asking “is is okay to have sex before marriage?” But by focusing on this period before marriage, I neglected to understand what marriage truly is.
One of the reasons abstinence was so difficult was because I felt essentially “married” to Nathan in my heart. Sure, I hadn’t walked the aisle and worn that pretty dress, but I was already emotionally committed to him for life.
When your heart is married, your body wants to get married along with it.
This is why abstinence “felt wrong” for the longest time. Subconsciously, I had convinced myself I was already married to Nathan in my heart, so to withhold sex felt wrong.
But this whole time, I had been operating under the assumption that marriage is only a commitment within yourself. And after asking some tough questions and reading scripture, I realized I was wrong.
Marriage is not an internal decision you “just make.”
Marriage is not sex.
Marriage is not signing legal documents.
Marriage is not wearing a pretty dress and having a beautiful ceremony.
Marriage is not an agreement between two families.
Marriage is a lifelong commitment to love someone, sealed by vows, in the presence of God and witnesses, consummated by sex.
This definition was long coming, let me tell you 😂 But if I had to define marriage in a single sentence, this is what I would say. And this definition ultimately led us to be convicted about abstinence. Let me unpack this to explain:
1. “Marriage is a lifelong commitment to love someone…”
“Love” here is agape. Unconditional. Not romantic, not infatuation. A choice to love someone every day for the rest of your life. That’s a huge deal, and shouldn’t be taken lightly.
2. “sealed by vows…”
This element is hugely important. When we were dating, I felt “committed” to Nathan because my heart and emotions were committed. But my emotions are not consistent, which means a commitment made from emotions is no commitment at all – it can’t remain steadfast.
A marriage must be sealed by vows. Your vows are promises you are going to stick to even when your emotions don’t align. They must be made separate from physical attraction or giddy feelings – they must be written and spoken outside of a tempting moment.
Nathan and I finally understood – if we wanted to have sex, we would have to say our vows first. If sex can only be truly enjoyed within the context of lifelong commitment (which is very supported by scripture), and the only way to commit lifelong is through vows, vows would have to come before sex. Period.
3. “in the presence of God and witnesses…”
Marriage is a covenant, which means God must be present. That covenant was designed by God himself, and he alone can legitimize a marriage.
Witnesses are also essential. You don’t need many – the bare minimum would be 1. But you need people who can witness your vows and hold you to them throughout the years. You need people who can testify to your vows, your commitment, your marriage because they were there.
4. “…consummated by sex.”
And this is the exclamation point of the whole definition: sex does not define marriage, it consummates it.
This means the vows and witnesses must come first. You must make the promise before you can enjoy the fruit of that promise.
The mere fact that the word “consummates” is used so many times in the bible should be indicative to us. “Consummation” in the bible is defined as “the ultimate end,” “completion,” and “finish.”
“Completion” can’t come before – it must come after. “The ultimate end” cannot precede, it must follow. It is the last puzzle piece of marriage, not the first.**
But how can I know for certain abstinence is worth it?
God doesn’t hide his design and intention for our lives. But to a certain extent, you will truly never know if abstinence is worth until you reach the other side.
Understanding the definition of marriage made me convicted about abstinence. For the first time, I understood that God wanted me to abstain and why. It empowered me to resist temptation.
But at the end of the day, you’re going to have to trust that God has your best interest in mind. You will doubt. You will doubt that God knows what’s best for you. You will try to convince yourself God is okay with your sexual sin. No reason or answer will be good enough.
So you will have to obey out of trust.
In the confusion, in the doubt, in the temptation, sometimes the only thing you have left is sheer stubborn obedience. Obedience because you trust God loves you and knows what’s best for you.
We looked at this verse a few weeks ago, but it gives me chills every time: “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13).
Sometimes resisting temptation boils down to a decision to obey, even if you don’t feel convicted. And God will always provide that option for you, that way out. You always have the choice to obey, even when it doesn’t make sense.
Next week, I’m going to share whether abstinence truly did pay off for Nathan and I. We’ve been married for almost 3 months now, and looking back on the issue of abstinence we have a new perspective. I can’t wait to share:)
You are loved and forgiven, friend. Jesus sees you. He is with you. Have the best Saturday ♥️
**I want to clarify: this definition of marriage Nathan and I came to is not scripture. We truly believe this the definition that best aligns with scripture, but I also understand I could be wrong. I just wanted to share our final conviction, the reason we finally chose to abstain.
The truth is, you’re going to have to go figure out the answer yourself! God loves your curiosity and invites your questions, and I can say without a doubt my questioning brought me closer to Christ. Read the bible for yourself – don’t take my word for it. My only prayer is that our hardship can lift others up and guide them in a way that makes God proud:).
Thanks for reading!! You rock 🥰