Monday, November 11, 2013

Abstinence Is Realistic, and So Is Grace

I read Matt Walsh's post about abstinence today and it is wonderful and spot on and totally agree with it. Yes, our culture calls hooking up "freedom" and says it is OK to do it whenever and wherever and with whomever and everybody does it and anything less is repression and you are weird and old-fashioned and unrealistic if you don't give in to your desires and to this I say that is a lie from the pit of hell.

Yes, sex is a very special union to be used as a bonding between a husband and wife, the most ultimate expression of the two becoming one. The ideal is that you will never have intimate relations with anybody but your spouse and that the very act of sexual union will be exactly what God created it to be free of baggage and turmoil and a Pandora's box full of regrets or sickening memories or shame or trauma of any kind.

The problem is that we live in a terribly broken world. When people write on the ideal of abstinence, the ideal of a sexual oneness between a husband and wife, they are describing something that many, many will never experience. It is so all-or-nothing. You are clean or you are crap. For anybody who has a history, whether through their own choices or through no fault of their own (One in four females and one in six males by the age of 18 are abused sexually in some way and therefore, to varying degrees, see themselves as dirty and the whole concept of sex through a distorted lens), this is heartbreaking.

It just seems like there are only two options: There is this wonderful, pure as the driven snow, pinnacle of Christian union or there is this cesspool of human swill. There is a division: Those who have kept themselves pure and those who have not. A heaven and a hell, in some regards.

The truth is, everyone is affected by the fall and, to a certain extent, everyone's idea and experience of sex is affected by the fall. The prostitute, the loose and free groovy twenty-something, the horny high schooler, the broken victim of sexual violence, the confused teenager who gave of her body in exchange for what she hoped upon hope was love. Even, yes EVEN, the pure. The virtuous. The virgins. Those who remain chaste until the day they wed, they, too are affected by the fall.

We are presented with a Biblical ideal but we do not live within a vacuum. Even those who "make it" to marriage without becoming "damaged goods" in the eyes of other believers, can struggle and wrestle and find themselves disillusioned as to what sex means and what sex is. Whether because of what we have seen or what we have heard or what we have imagined, even the abstinent can come to the marriage bed with a certain amount of baggage. There is no area of life, not even the Biblical union of sex, where we do not need the grace of God to cover our fears and ideas and needs and selfish inclinations or the idea that we are entitled to having it really GOOD and really OFTEN because we waited.

But I digress. The truth is that sex is crazy and complicated and messy and the church tends to put things into neat and tidy boxes. In one Boat A you have the erotic heathens of the world and in Boat B, the chaste saints of the church, and everybody who is in the middle is left wondering where they fit and whether or not God has anything to say to them about desires and emptiness and forgiveness and healing, and wondering if maybe they will just drown in the mess of it all. 

Several years ago, after my daughter confessed to me that she had lost her virginity, we talked and talked and then I looked and looked and looked for an article, a book, something somewhere to give her hope. To help her know she wasn't the first, and certainly not the last, young woman to give in in a time of weakness and that there was a kind and gracious and loving God there to forgive her and give her a clean slate and a fresh start. I couldn't find one. Anywhere.

It is like Christians with a sexual history of any kind really (whether by their choice or not) are just plain invisible.

Sometimes I think the church doesn't want to acknowledge that these people exist because if it does, then that somehow gives people permission to cast off all restraint and let the party begin. I don't get that. (Is there a fear that talking about grace for those who have sinned is some sort of Get Out Of Jail Free Card? Well, guess what? We are ALL prisoners and Jesus came to set the captives free.)

This is such a black and white approach. All or nothing. If you can't do it perfectly then there is no use trying at all. It is all well and good to point out the lies of the culture. It is all well and good to explain that God's plan for sex is not only for our good but ultimately for our pleasure. But for so, so many people that offers no hope. One strike and you're out. No second chances. No forgiveness. No redemption.

But last I checked, God was in the business of second chances, forgiveness, and redemption. He is the God who is with us in the struggles, who is not shocked our needs and our desires and our insecurities and our past and even our lusts. He is the God who forgives our sins and heals our diseases and cleanses us white as snow and makes all things new.

It is never a "one strike and you're out" with God.

And for those who do withstand the pressure and, through conviction and prayer, remain celibate until marriage, I respect and admire you. But never forget: Abstinence is good and honorable and even realistic, but even you, the sexually pure, need Jesus, too. We really are all in the same boat after all.


  1. Although I have not yet personally read this book "And the Bride Wore White" by Dannah Gresh has been highly recommended to me by several people. I am told that while it is indeed written to help young women maintain their purity it also does an excellent job in addressing the needs and healing of those who have not met that ideal. Rather than treating them as damaged goods with no hope of restoration it extends grace and mercy from God's Word and encourages them to start again from where they are.

  2. I just had a conversation with a friend about how we were virgins when we got married and expected that to give us a pass on sexual problems. I've been married over ten years but we struggle because after the 20 plus years of having purity driven into my brain like a nail, I struggle with being really open to my husband's affection. Thanks so much for your thoughtful perspective on this!

  3. We do the same thing when it comes to raising children. We are told to just train up a child according to the Bible and everything will be great! But never told what to do if a child then rejects God. Another time we need to understand God's love and grace and His restorative power! Thanks again Ginny for your wonderful way of articulating your thoughts!