Recently I sat down with a friend, someone I’ve known for a few years but we’ve lived further than is convenient for close friendship. We still get together every so often to catch up and encourage one another and hear about our lives. It’s a really good friendship and I am so very thankful for this person’s influence in my lief.
We were sitting in a wonderful little restaurant and talking, sharing about life, challenges, hopes for the future, and of course, relationships. I shared about the girl I’ve been seeing, and my friend shared about moving in with their significant other.
I was dumbstruck.
Sitting across the table, a million things went into my head as my friend shared that Christians are so judgmental about this, and that my friend actually doesn’t see a problem with living together, and that they are tired of having to defend themselves to every person who finds out. This friend and their significant other are both Christians, so I encouraged them to seek God and didn’t really state my opinion either way about living together before marriage. I really didn’t know what to say in the moment.
Honestly, I’m still not sure it’s my place to tell them what to do. Who on earth am I, a miserable and wretched sinner in so many ways, to pick out this thing that I think I have correct and rail against people who differ about it? I know with certainty I would shut down, close my ears, mind, and heart, and continue in what I’ve been doing if someone told me what to do. I’m fairly stubborn, but in this case it seems to be human nature; we reject unsolicited advice wholesale.
But I have not been able to get out of my own head with this, and decided to write. I’ve also decided what I wish I would have said.
Wow, I feel for you in this. Sometimes I wish I could allow myself to move in with a significant other, but I won’t. Now, I really don’t want to tell you how to live your life, or what to do in your walk with God, obviously your life is yours to decide what to do with, but I would love to share with you why I won’t have sex or move in with a partner before marriage.
When I think about my life before Christ and now following Him, there is such a striking difference to me between perceived happiness and true joy. What I mean is this:
Before Christ, the rules I followed were my own. I ate, I drank, and I did everything for myself. It felt quite awesome at the time. There were wonderful meals, good times, and, to be real, I made love and woke up next to some really wonderful women. We had what any non-Christian would call a good relationship. There were days when my life was everything that I wanted.
But even during the best times, when everything was going as perfectly as I thought it could, even then, when I slowed down I realized there was something missing.
Even when my life was exactly how I wanted it to be something wasn’t right, and though I couldn’t put my finger on it, I knew that I wasn’t happy. I mean, I was happy, but it didn’t seep down into my soul. And I knew that’s what I longed for, a deeply rooted and deeply-seated happiness that impacts everything outside of me from within, not that I pushed down from outside of me for myself.
We run around chasing things that we believe will make us happy, thinking that the outside things will seep into our souls and bubble up into a well of joy and happiness and contentedness. They never do, because they aren’t seeds, and aren’t meant to grow into something. We are left so wanting and dry that we move on to the next thing, or up to the next thing, raising the stakes and going for more and more and more. We don’t realize that the dry and arid ground of our hearts needs seeds, water, and sunlight, none of which we want naturally.
I ate more food and drank more of anything, if it tasted delicious. I searched for women that were more willing to please me how I wanted to be pleased, in real life and in pornography. I sought something bigger to fill the same sized emptiness, and it wasn’t working. There was no joy, no hope, no deep well of happiness bubbling up and impacting those around me. Truth be told, I was dying. The ground of my heart was a desert.
In all this, I perceived I was happy but I had no joy.
So that’s why I don’t want to move in with a partner before marriage, or have sex before marriage (again), or eat too much food, or drink too much of something that tastes great, or so many other things with which I tried to fill the void in my soul. Because, ultimately, nothing in this world gives us happiness on its own, it’s God working through these things to give happiness. When I try to grab this happiness in my own way, it isn’t actually there, I just think it is, I’ve been tricked. God isn’t working through that for me, I’m working for me and destroying the ground of my heart.
These things aren’t bad, but they must be put into subjection to God. Whenever I want something, it’s necessary for me to ask myself, “Is God driving me forward to expand His purposes in this world,” which is ALWAYS why he drives us forward, even in relationships and friendships and eating and drinking, “or am I trying to fill the void myself?”
I’m so utterly horrible at doing this. If I were a super saint or something I might fast for 40 days multiple times a year and pray more and so many other things, because so much of the time I am giving into these impulses to fill the emptiness myself. There’s so little control over these areas for me. But I try! I grab onto God and try my hardest to say “No” to what won’t satisfy in the end and reach towards what is everlasting.
I enjoy good food, I enjoy coffee and tea and an occasional alcoholic beverage. I get so much joy and pleasure out of this life, but my goals are not these things. It is certain that I will have immense pleasure and wonderful nights of love when I am married, but my goal has nothing to do with sexual intimacy. The Westminster Shorter Catechism starts by asking, “What is the chief end of man?” to which the answer is, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.” (Italics added for emphasis)
My goal is to glorify God and enjoy Him. When I start with that at the center, planting seeds and watering and growing a crop in my soul, I find so much joy that I can say no to things won’t make me look different than society, which is glorifying to God. And I know waiting until marriage to have sex and move in together is very different than society.
So, I can’t tell you what to do. Life is ridiculously messy no matter whether you are called into singleness or marriage, are already living together or in any other situation, it’s all just messy. But, if it’s all messy, it might as well be messy in a way that makes people ask, “Why do you do things like THAT?” It’s a sure sign that you are walking “the way,” and that you are enjoying and glorifying God, which is the chief end of man.