To the Christian having sex outside of marriage

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I was watching an episode of the Bachelorette last week. Becca, the Bachelorette, has a very prominent cross tattooed on her hand. She’s mentioned her faith before so I think it’s safe to assume she calls herself a Christian. And this happened to be the episode Colton decided to let Becca know he was still a virgin. I was excited to see her reaction to seeing someone who (may) takes the principles of God seriously. That has convictions he can commit to, standards he’s set for himself.

As Christians, we know one of God’s teachings is saving sex for your spouse. There are numerous scriptures on this subject. Lots of benefits to this as you can see from several of my other posts. But the fact remains, regardless if we know these benefits or not, do we trust God and His Word?

With this mindset, I would assume that anyone claiming to follow Christ would strive for this. It would be widely accepted and expected in the Christian community. Not something taboo or avoided. And most certainly, not something frowned upon.

Becca’s reaction was quite different from what I was expecting. She needed a moment to wrap her mind around Colton’s virginity and referred to Colton as one who isn’t as experienced. A “Christian” being disappointed in someone saving himself or herself for the right person, as if the lack of experience was a bad thing. We can say it’s TV but unfortunately, I see it all around me. I was shocked but not at the same time.

Do people, especially Christians, correlate abstinence with inexperience rather than commitment? Do people really view sexual experience as more attractive- desiring physical satisfaction over emotional commitment? I just can’t believe that is true. Not long term. Not when we get vulnerable and completely honest with ourselves. Not when doubts, insecurities, and comparisons start rising up as we struggle to push them back down.

Christians having sex outside of marriage has become almost expected. I saw it consistently when I was doing online dating- the “christian” box checked, along with the “as long as marriage is imminent, sex is okay,” “in the context of a loving relationship, sex is okay,” or “I accept sex as a natural part of dating” answer given. And it’s something we don’t talk about. It’s something we avoid. We can go down the whole rabbit trail of everyone sins or no one is perfect, but this is a continuous choice with no heart of conviction or repentance seen. It’s simply not logical to group this sin with others. This is a consistent, ongoing sin, justified or ignored in the Christian community.

We now have statements like “I didn’t know you were that type of Christian” or “the Bible is outdated” and “God cares more about your heart” or “I believe in God but I’m not that religious” in an attempt to justify decisions we want to make, as to almost try and take advantage of our loving Father. Funny how we sometimes can talk about how much God loves us but forget to show God how much we love Him…

It’s like we want a convenient god. One there when we want him for his perceived benefits, without having to follow his way. One we can push to the side, as we slip into bed. A god we can mold into our own image. So we cover ourselves in feel good paraphernalia:

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Cross symbol
Fish symbol
Faith
Hope
G >∧∨

We have these cute sayings and symbols on jewelry, tattoos, cars, offices- everywhere but our hearts. Do we understand what they were designed to mean? Are we living them out in our daily lives? Do we really believe what we say we believe?

God is greater than my desires.
I will put Him before myself.
I will remember what He did for me, and choose to use my life to make Him known.
I have a faith in who He is that brings a hope for what is to come.
Faith that He knows what He is doing when He gives us rules.
Hope that His ways are far better than ours.
And that we’ll choose to trust even when it doesn’t make sense, even when it doesn’t feel good.
That He, above everything else, is truly greater than the highs and lows.

The way He loves us and relentlessly desires what’s best for us amazes me. And honestly, the more I realize His love for me, the easier it becomes to follow His ways. It’s become easier to wait for marriage because I know He wouldn’t withhold anything good from me. I just pray and hope you know that type of love. That you realize how much He cares for you and desires nothing short of the best possible plans for you to be so holy and full of so much joy.

I think, at the end of the day, it comes down to not really believing what we say we believe. Because if we truly believe in God and truly love Him as we say, wouldn’t we want to follow Him? Less to do with sexual desires, more to do with our faith levels? Because it’s not our legalistic rule following God is after, it’s our heart full of trust in Him He desires. So I pray you search your heart. I pray you have the courage to cut off whatever sin is still lingering out there and choose to trust that His way is in fact, truly so much better.

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No Guys in 2018: Sixth month update

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First off- how the heck have I made it this long?! I was a serial dater. Not a serial committer, just a serial dater. Jumping from one guy to the next. Giving guys the benefit of the doubt with no real commitment. Actually, if I’m honest, emotional commitment without the relationship label. But is that really even better?

If I could use one word to sum up how I’m currently feeling, it would be seasons. I think this word gets tossed around a lot without fully appreciating what it means. It’s like we are always hoping for the next season to come without fully embracing the season we are in.

I want to date.
I want to get a job.
I want to go off to college.
I want to be married.
I want to have a different job.
I want to have a kid.
I want to have more kids.
I want the kids to leave.
I want to have grandkids.
I want to retire.

Never fully satisfied and constantly searching for more. Aside from a few relationships, I’ve been single my whole life. But I think this is the first time I’ve been able to fully enjoy the season of singleness. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve loved my single years in the past. But I fear I wasn’t experiencing the freedom I thought I had at the time. A relationship wasn’t consuming my life but guys still were. I have never, in all my years, fully realized how much of my time and emotional energy had been spent on guys. Guys feeding my ego, guys as potentials, going on dates just for the fun of it (which I’ve come to believe isn’t a real thing).

But this year feels so much freer. Like really free. What other word can I use to describe it? A control freak who has given up control. A planner open to new possibilities. A deeper trust allowing me to live my best life right now. And most importantly, a life so crazy and full of impossible moments, that only God can get the credit.

I’m surprised by how much I’ve done so far this year. But most importantly, I’m surprised by how much I’ve grown. It’s been a time for me to reset. To really prioritize and be intentional with my time. To push my limits. To say yes to scary moments. To figure out what I want most and what I don’t. To hear God, free of distractions. Knowing that whatever God has planned for me is far better than whatever I could ever hope or imagine. I know because it’s already happening.

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What are your demons?

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Whatever it is that tempts us, whatever it is we struggle with, it’s there for a reason. What pulls at you the most? What is it that puts you in conflict- that has you questioning God?

It’s easy to say you’re good, if you never have the opportunity to be bad- to choose what’s right over what you want, over how you feel. No, good is choosing what is right no matter the perceived cost. The problem is most of us make our decisions based on our vested interest and selfishness is easy to hide. So how can we judge?

While our demons may not be the same, we all experience them in some form or fashion. How we deal with them, how we choose to handle them is what sets us apart. I went through the bulk of my temptations in junior high and high school. It was a war. A war many people, unfortunately, choose not to fight. They surrender. They give in. And most of the time, people on the outside never know the difference- never know the choice you made. Yet, we remember distinctly if we’re willing to face it.

There are times we pray for the temptation to go away rather than for the strength to overcome. And when the temptations linger, we question God, we question ourselves. But I think there’s a reason God doesn’t allow those temptations to go away so easily. If they go away, nothing changes within. The temptation may be gone but we are still left weak. In bondage. But what if instead we chose to take action. Fight. Sometimes God wants to show us we aren’t as weak as we think we are. Not when we have Him. That we are capable of choosing what is right even when it is the hardest. Isn’t that when our true character shows?

This is what I love about my no guys in 2018 challenge. I remember hearing a sermon years ago about a girl who gave up dating for 6 months. I was shocked. I literally said, “ I would never do that. That’s stupid. What happens if you meet your husband during that period?!” I don’t think I was spiritually mature enough at that point to understand the pureness of a heart like that.

For so many years I thought a guy could fill holes in me that God couldn’t. I wanted God AND a husband. I thought I knew myself. I thought I knew what would make me happy. God has slowly but surely been teaching me a new type of peace. I want God and that’s all. Not because I don’t want a husband, rather I want what God has for me more.

I feel what I always knew.

God wanted me to choose Him. Not when it was easy, not when it was comfortable. But when it was hard. Even when my feelings pulled me in a different direction, He wanted to know if I thought He was worth it. If I truly trusted Him as much as I had claimed.

I think I needed to know too.

How easy it is to trust Him when things are going well. How hard it is when things are not. We face these tests everyday. Tests that reveal to us who we really are.

So who are you?

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photo credit: emiel bleidd Defeating Demons via photopin (license)

30 plus 3 and finally free

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Married by 20. And then 20 kids. That was the plan. I was sure of it. My crushes on guys started at the ripe old age of 5. A new crush each year. Brandon in first grade, Brett in second, Shawn in third, a teacher in fourth, Jason, Shane, Doug… and the list goes on and on. In sixth grade I had made a list of all the guys and girls in our grade and coupled them off as I felt appropriate. Maybe that’s’ when my love for relationship topics, matchmaking, and unsolicited advice started.

Moving into my teen years, the Internet started to provide so many tools for my interactions with guys to flourish. I didn’t have to wait to see one in person, I didn’t have to wait for a call. Email, message boards, AIM, and the beginning of social media made a guy available to me at any time to satisfy my emotional needs. To make me feel worthy. To get my temporary fix.

20 came and went. I almost settled down in hopes of sticking to the plan. Thankfully, I realized ‘I had more time.’ I continued to enjoy the single life of my 20’s. I wasn’t too concerned…

Approaching my 30’s was different. I was older now. A real adult. Most of my friends now married with kids. Every song reminding me of my desire to be loved, every chick flick making me wonder when it would be ‘my time.’

“Maybe I need to settle. Maybe I need to learn to commit even if I’m not ready. Isn’t there such a thing as “good enough?” Am I being too picky? Maybe I can grow to love him. No one will be perfect. Just find a Christian, I can work through the rest.”

Thoughts flooding my mind. Talking myself into certain guys. Hope of finding true love dwindling. Rationalizing in my mind how many kids I could have and still be happy. Still have the big family I had craved for so long. Mapping out a new plan. Logically. Systematically. Planning. Seeking control as much as possible. Asking myself, “How can I still make this work? How can I still get what I want?”

But I think part of the problem was not really knowing what I wanted. Do any of us really know what’s best for us? Do we know what will cause us to grow? To make a difference? To feel at peace? To be fulfilled? When we are all alone. When we peel back all the layers of distractions that keep us from being real with ourselves, what is it we really crave? If we could eliminate societal expectations, what would we truly want? If we stopped limiting ourselves to what we could see, what would be our deepest desires?

God wasn’t done working in my heart yet. Still molding me into the person He knew I wanted to become. Knowing I crave something so much more than a husband and kids. Knowing I crave to have the purest of hearts, a love overflowing for people, a dependency only on Him. Chasing a spark that lights my fire when I’ve made a difference in someone’s life, the twinkle in my eye I get when I know I’ve spread a little hope to someone in need.

I’ve been a work in progress. Years of lessons. So many stories. Seeing purpose through the pain of multiple heartbreaks.

I’ve recently hit the point where I’ve changed. You may not notice it on the outside, maybe you do, but my heart is different. My passions long for something more, something deeper. While a husband and kids may end up being part of my story, they aren’t my story.

I can’t tell you what love feels like yet. True love. Soul mate type love. But I still believe it’s out there. And I can tell you what it looks like, based on knowing what love isn’t. I’ve experienced enough to know. Hitting this point at this age would have normally brought me into a state of desperation. No one would have seen that. But it would have been eating me up alive.

A husband…
Kids…
How will it even be possible? Options getting slimmer. Eggs getting older.

But I’ve changed.

I no longer need that text to feel validated.
I no longer need your time to show me I’m worthy.
I no longer need you to know that I am unconditionally loved.

You see 30 plus 3 and finally free has a deeper meaning for me. 33 was the age Jesus died on the cross so we could be free. Free from lies. Free from peer pressure. Free from society. Free from ourselves. Free from sin…

I wish I knew how to describe how I’m feeling but it’s beyond my comprehension. It’s not the peace I used to tell people I had, while looking over at the guy across the room wondering if he was ‘the one.’ The peace that was still anxious. The peace of knowing in my head God’s plan is perfect, but feeling in my heart a longing for human love.

No, this peace is different. This peace has thrown out all my plans. I’ve stopped thinking logically and I’ve given up control. I don’t want to be in charge anymore. I’ve just let go. It’s a peace full of trust and hope.

Hopeful of what is come. Hopeful to see the plans God has for me. Because this life hasn’t been a life of marrying young, with a house full of kids. This life has been so much more to me. Such an adventure. Full of things I didn’t even know I was capable of. Things I didn’t even know were possible.

I really don’t know what the future holds anymore but I am confident of one thing-

The best is yet to come…

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No Guys in 2018: Valentine’s Day was the Best Yet- Week Seven

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My mind has shifted, my thoughts have changed. It’s interesting to look back and reflect on where I was in life and how I viewed it in the past. If you recall, last year I posted a history of my Valentines, with a focus on last year’s being “the best yet.” It was one of my most highly read posts, which you can read here. Was that true? I think so. It goes along with my belief in that each year should be better than the last, each day better than yesterday.

This year I spent Valentine’s Day at work. Making over 500 candy grams for fellow employees. Purchasing candy for my mom and brothers. Receiving a chocolate rose from ‘a brother from another mother’ who thought I might need it. And a few texts.

Simple. Fun. Plain. Nothing spectacular. And yet, there was something that made the day utterly enjoyable for me. And I couldn’t figure it out until I spent some time reflecting.

Every year I seemed to have this desire to be with someone on this day.
Every year I seemed to have hoped for or longed for something- flowers, chocolate, anything that would make me feel loved.
Every year I seemed to look at the “happy” couples of social media and wonder “why not me?”

Every year I seemed to have focused so solely and selfishly on myself without even realizing it.

And it was this desire to get rather than give that fueled my demise. Without realizing it, I didn’t really look at myself this year. My thoughts have changed. I have changed. I was looking to see whose life I could impact, who I could love.

I wanted to give instead of receive.

And I don’t think I could confidently say I’ve felt that in the past years. Sure, I gave and I gave a lot. But it was mostly because I was seeking something in return. Some validation. Some love. Some sense of romance.

Maybe this is what happens when we remove things in our lives that mean too much to us. Things that seem to control our thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Where do our thoughts linger as these things disappear, as these little idols become distant memories?

I think I’m becoming more aware of God and His love for me, and with it comes this fresh sense of freedom. I’m realizing how easily God could bring the right guy in my life at time, at any moment. These chance encounters with guys I’ve had just this past week make me realize how easy and how often we cross paths with so many different people. And how I don’t feel the need to worry. I don’t feel the need to control my destiny. I just have this newfound peace that God could bring whoever He wanted into my life at any time He sees fit. Any time He thinks I’m ready. Any time He thinks it would be best for me.

Because He knows the deepest longings of my heart.
He knows what my soul craves.
He knows what I long to accomplish and achieve.
He knows because He’s placed those desires within me.

These are things I always knew but didn’t always feel. Things I believed, but didn’t necessarily always cling to.

I think I like who I’m becoming.

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photo credit: Neal. The Keeper of Lost Causes. via photopin (license)

No Guys in 2018: The Beauty in the Break-up- Week Six

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This past week I was a part of a pretty cool award ceremony in my community that recognizes 4 leaders who are under the age of 40. After over 75 nominees, I was selected as one of the 12 finalists. Being a finalist was an incredible experience, especially going through it with my best friend as a finalist, as well. I didn’t end up winning one of the four spots. It’s tempting to feel inadequate, not enough, or disappointed. Because you saw something that was a possibility but others received it instead. It’s in those moments that I realize perspective is one of the biggest keys to happiness. Instead of looking at what we have, we oftentimes look at what we lack instead. It would be easy to forget the beauty and honor of being a finalist if I was only looking at the four winners. And unfortunately I think we do this in the dating world, as well.

Do we value our past relationships?
Do we value the love we gave or received?
Do we value the beauty in the break-up?

When we look at our lives, our lives as singles, do we see the hidden blessings God has given us? I fear sometimes we see the married, happy couples instead. The ones dating. The ones just getting engaged. And the married ones announcing another baby is on the way. And we look at these lives and wonder, “why not me?”

But I pray you look at life so differently. I pray you look back at the relationships you’ve had and appreciate the love you’ve experienced. And if you’ve never experienced being in love, maybe you’re meant to experience that beautiful feeling with only your future spouse. Maybe God is guarding your heart. Protecting it.

If you’re going through a break-up. A hard break-up. Someone you thought you’d marry. I pray you’ll see sooner than later how God has something so incredibly better planned for your life. Because while you might not see it now, I know you will. Instead of God keeping something from you maybe He is preparing you for something so much better. Do you trust Him? Like seriously, do you? Because if you do, you’ll know this hurt is but a fleeting moment. That this pain is not without purpose. God is molding you into the beautiful creature He created you to be.

We are so tempted to look at our lives and question the heartbreak, the loneliness, the timing instead of seeing the freedom, the possibilities, and the steps God has laid before us. Just waiting for us to take. For us to trust in His goodness, His love.

Take those steps. And most importantly, look at those steps and see the beauty of the life laid before you.

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photo credit: Mike Kniec Peloton via photopin (license)

No Guys in 2018: Finding Strength Through the Struggles- Week Five

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Lots of struggles lately. Not so much with guys- or lack thereof I should say. But just challenging situations. I fear it’s easy for us to despise these moments. Question what we are doing and where we are heading. I mean does anyone really enjoy times of testing? I didn’t think so but now I’m not so sure.

I’m finding in these moments of what I’d consider less-than-desirable situations, that I’m capable of a lot more than I realized. I’m a lot stronger than I realized. More bold. And even a little bit more feisty;) It’s times when we are squeezed, when we are faced with the decision to press forward or to give up, that our true character is revealed. And it’s making me proud of who I am.

Deciding to give up guys for a year was a struggle at first honestly. It’s something I didn’t think I’d consider, especially at my age. But so far, it’s been one of the best decisions of my life. Kind of freeing. Realizing marriage is a beautiful thing but it’s not the only way to exhibit love. That having a boyfriend is fun but it doesn’t bring happiness. And that God truly is the only thing that satisfies me. Something I always knew but now something I always feel.

I started reading a book called Idols of the Heart with a group of girls online and with my brother in person. Highly recommend it already. It shows the dangers of putting anything before God and how it sets us up for continued disappointment as we search for things and people to fill that void in our heart that God designed for only Him to go.

I’m realizing the amount of time I spent wondering if certain guys were “the one” and now I’m just longing to have that time back. I can’t get it back but I can learn from my past. We all can. Maybe it’s just me but it’s not worth the time. I’m at the point where it needs to be easy because I am strong on my own. Life has enough challenges as it is; I don’t want to add another by having a stressful relationship. Games. Lies. Fakeness. Expectations. Selfishness. Worry. I fear people have accepted this as the norm. We’ve settled under the guise of “we’re all sinners” and “no one’s perfect.” But I don’t use those labels. I sin at times, but I am not a sinner. I may not be perfect but I strive to be everyday.

Break-ups are hard.
Being rejected hurts.
Challenges make you doubt yourself.
Words cut deep.
Disapproval makes you want to give up.
Criticism questions your value.
Disrespect attacks your worth.

But I pray you rise up. I pray you find your voice. I pray you won’t settle. Life is so precious and if you only knew what you were capable of, you would find that strength in your current struggle.

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