|The lovely Gothenburg, Sweden|
year back home in Rural Minnesota, with trips and visits to various people and places in between (obviously, England owns a massive chunk of my heart-- we'll call that part my handsome Brit & university friends whom have become my family!). But generally, this means I swing like a pendulum from the extremely conservative heartland of America of my childhood, to what is considered one of the most liberal societies in the world.
To emphasize this tremendous cultural swing, in Sweden I live and work with Atheists. In fact, the percentage of people who genuinely know the saving grace of Jesus in this part of the world is reported by European Christian Mission to be something ridiculous like less than 5%.
It is the strangest thing to speak to educated people in the western world who have only a very vague, foggy idea of what the Bible has to say (if that!), let alone what God is about and what Jesus offers-- all while assuming they know it all already. I find my heart gets routinely beat up by the spiritual climate. But, in turn, I find this calls me to actively seek to protect my heart of faith and learning to offer its hope out to those around me keeps me thoughtful and teaches me the compassion of Christ unlike I've ever learned it before...
I'm thankful for things which prompt me to cling to Him.
In the holding on, I always discover I love Him more than I ever knew when I discover more and more of His love and grace for me.
Anyway, my Atheist friends are especially curious about my sex life (if it can be called that when I'm not having it!). This is a little awkward to write about. But I can honestly say it's a rare day that it doesn't come up in some way in our conversation, so I have learned to be very open and honest in hopes that something I share with them might make them think in such a way that leads them closer to a light bulb moment with God.
In Sweden (as in most of Europe, I reckon) waiting til you're married to have sex-- especially if you are in an on-going relationship with someone you love-- is literally unheard of... I must admit my naivete-- it shocked me to learn that even amongst Christians here, it is rather rare. I have realized now, 3 years in, that waiting for marriage is choosing a lonely path, and just to expect to walk it alone. I always expected it to be hard-- back home it is expected at least of Christians, but it is readily acknowledged to be hard!-- but I don't think I expected it to be so lonely. I literally fascinate my Atheist friends here, and they delight in telling their friends that they know someone who is waiting til she's married to have sex. Yeah. Like a freak. Thankfully, God has given me a good, good man who aspires to being a spiritual leader to me and our someday family and whom reminds me we are not alone in this when I start to feel like a total freak of nature...
The other night one of my Atheist friends was poking fun at me on the subject yet again (It's okay-- it's just that it's fascinating to them) when suddenly the air became serious and he asked something he never had before. Basically, "Why?"
And it felt so good to be able to explain.
|My handsome man being all studmuffiny!|
But knowing my God's heart, knowing that He never ever acts outside of His measureless love for us, knowing that He designed us and knows how that design best works, I trust Him when He says this is the best way. For me, it's not about being good, but about being loved... and also, it's about being loving.
Charles and I have spoken from the beginning about wanting to love and serve one another well. We really believe that by delaying gratification in this way, we are serving one another by not using one another for our own momentary selfish gain-- even if we are as much in love as we are. One of my Atheist friends explained to me that she doesn't regret any of her sexual encounters because they gave her what she was needing at the time... I think it's that self-focused attitude that we are trying to avoid, really. In the long run, it is most loving of us to sacrifice what we want right now, or "what we're needing at the time", for the greater good of what we can have if we wait-- a deeper sense of commitment in our marriage, which then lends itself out to a deeper sense of stability for our children, etc. We feel that by choosing to be committed to one another in this way (by not sleeping with people whom we are not married to and namely, by not sleeping with each other before marriage), we are not just avoiding STI's and unplanned pregnancy, as is often the argument for abstinence, but we are strengthening our commitment to one another in our marriage someday (assuming we finally get married someday, but that's another post entirely!). It's tremendously hard character development to choose this long wait. It goes against everything in our strong biological urges-- to put one another and our Father God above ourselves in this way. But we believe that that character development will come out in our marriage and in how we treat one another in our marriage. And as hard as this wait can be, it's a brilliant 'team-building exercise' to be in it together :) We recognize that being in love won't always come so easily to us. But having worked hard at our characters through this and many ways, and fighting hard for the good of our relationship already now, lays a strong foundation for when the going gets tough and we need to be able to reach into ourselves and find character and integrity and commitment to see us through.
But all that said, what it comes down to in the long run, is choosing to trust our God when He says this is the best way, no matter how hard it feels in the meantime. Knowing the character of our God, we can trust that this long wait will reap benefits for us, in this life and in the next.
My Atheist friends say things like, "But you have to sleep with more than one person to learn what you like. What will you have to compare your experience to and learn from?" Um.... I don't mean to make fun of my friends, but-- what in the world? Surely the fact that they have to ask that question says something already about how their promiscuous lifestyles have stolen from their sex lives. My man and I greatly looking forward to discovering together this realm of making love to one another when the time is right, and we have no worries about being able to figure it out :) We will have the freedom to be totally vulnerable with one another as we learn together since we're starting on equal playing fields and we're coming toward one another out of a place of deep deep love for one another. Sounds kinda like the perfect sex life to me!
"Married couples take time out to please their partners and satisfy them thoughtfully. Love and a concern for one's partner shifts the focus away from the self in a sexual relationship toward the other person" (from an article written about a 2004 study on Christian married sex).
Besides all this, my Atheist friends were amused to find that there had been studies done on the quality and quantity of sex in a Christian marriage.
...contrary to popular perception, married people have much more sex. It quotes a 2004 study of money, sex and happiness, based on 16,000 American adults, which finds that married people have more sex than those who are single, divorced, widowed or separated, and that sexual activity is linked with happiness. .... better sex is the result of love and commitment.
The Rev Canon Paul Hayes, mission and evangelism adviser for the Church of England, said: "Often people think Christians say no to the world, but actually the Christian faith is about making the most of what is given to us, and one of those things is sex. If you commit yourself to another person, along with all the other benefits is a good sex life."To top it all off, after this conversation with my friends here, I spoke to my man about it all and we had a chance to stop and reflect again on why we're doing this thing this way-- which is always helpful. Sometimes-- to downplay it quite a great deal-- the wait can grow a little wearisome!
So... did anyone else out there wait, or are you currently waiting?
Did you have much company in the wait or were you a total freak in your circle?
What was a helpful encouragement to you in the wait?
"Do not arouse or awaken love until the time is right..."
--Song of Songs 8:4
--Song of Songs 8:4
*** I feel like I should have a disclaimer. I don't want to come across like, "Anyone who has sex before they're married is selfish and unloving!" Haha. Girl, if he was as much a heartthrob as my handsome man, I so understand!! :) I am just doing the best I can with what God's shown me, is all. And praying that He gives us the strength and resolve to keep on waiting. If you didn't, there is grace for you, just like there would be for us. You'll find, if you seek Him, that He is a master Redeemer. There's nothing we can do that He can't turn over for His glory and for our good. It's just a whole lot easier on us and on every life we touch with ours if we go after His best for us in the first place :) You are loved, loved, loved. May you know it and live it!
[I borrowed the quotes on the studies done on Married Sex from these articles:]