“Just wait for marriage,” so I’ve been told. So I’ve waited . . . and waited. And as I’ve waited, I’ve begun to wonder, If marriage doesn’t come, what am I waiting for?
I remember the True Love Waits talks in middle and high school. The message was that sex was bad outside of marriage, but once I found “the one,” sex was going to be incredible—amazing even. I was encouraged to find “the one” fast so that I didn’t burn with lust and fall into sin.
The conversations I had with my friends—Christian and non-Christian alike—were the opposite of True Love Waits pamphlets. They freely shared about who they were dating and what they were doing. So I started to wonder if having sex outside of marriage was a big deal. But it became a big deal when they ended up brokenhearted, ashamed, and sometimes pregnant.
In light of teen pregnancy, STDs, and a world brimming with promiscuity, the message I heard was sexual desire had to be in the off-switch until I got married. Once the right guy came along, the on-switch could be turned on and stay on. Marriage sounded like it was about sex and little else.
These mixed messages and my confusion about my desires and sex made my twenties confusing. Especially when I wasn’t dating, let alone on the road to engagement or marriage. I struggled with feeling ashamed for even wanting physical intimacy in relationships. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was disappointing the Lord because I wanted things that were clearly only good in one context.
The turning point came when I turned 21. I was struggling with many things in life: health issues, my lack of relationships, and wondering if God had called me to be single. I was trying to figure out what to do with the overwhelming desire that seemed to burn through me. I finally sat down and opened up to my mom. As I explained through my tears and embarrassment what I was dealing with, she listened patiently.
When I was finished telling her why my life was the worst and why I felt lame for having never had sex or for not being married before I turned 30, she squeezed my hand and said, “Carrie, Jesus isn’t afraid, surprised, or even offended by your desires. But he expects you to deal with them the same way you deal with everything else: in the truth of his Word.”
It was a truth so simple, but it turned my world on its head. You see, I never considered that I should abstain from sex outside of marriage because I loved Jesus more than I loved or wanted to fulfill my own desires. I bought into the lie that sexual desire outside of marriage was a sin. And it’s not. Sin is born when I act out of those desires rather than surrendering them to God.
If I choose to let sexual thoughts and images stay in my mind, leading me to lust or have inappropriate fantasies, my desires usher me into sin. I have learned that the issue isn’t my desires but whether or not they rule me. To keep that from happening, I must go to Jesus in a state of confession and repentance. He wants me to ask for help, to learn how to hear his voice and know truth from a lie. I need to have women in my life who I can talk with and who will hold me accountable.
I’m 33 now and not married. There are days when I struggle with being single. I often feel bombarded by all of the mixed messages of the world and the church about relationships, marriage, and sex. But I’m continuing to learn how to walk in the truth of the Word, not just in these areas but for my whole life.
So, what am I waiting for? Although I choose to stay sexually pure, I’m not waiting for anything. I’m allowing God to use even my sexual desires to teach me what it means to depend upon his strength and love every day.