My cheeks were still flushed from last Tuesday night’s conversation as I fumbled from my side of the bed to the bathroom early Wednesday morning.
I work in campus ministry and had planned a late-night honest conversation for girls on the True Love Waits movement, which promotes abstinence among teenagers and college students. It gained popularity among many church youth groups in the early 2000’s.
Two friends joined me on Tuesday night. Before I continue, I want to affirm that each of us believes in the fundamental message of the True Love Waits movement:
We believe that God is the creator of people who bear His image.
We also believe that God is the creator of sex.
As its author, He sets its parameters.
So we also believe he desires that His image bearers experience sex within the covenant of marriage not because he likes rigid rules but because, as our Maker, His parameters are for our good.
My friends and I are a part of the True-Love-Waits generation, and I am thankful for those who taught me about God’s gift of sex in marriage. I am grateful that someone encouraged teenage me to think beyond my Friday night date to my wedding day. But The True Love Waits movement left some important truths out of the conversation. We owe future generations a more robust understanding of God’s gifts of sex and grace.
I believe in vulnerability. I believe God powerfully uses vulnerability to free the children of his church from isolation.
But it got real last Tuesday night.
We shared our very different and deeply personal stories about S-E-X. After a two-hour conversation solely on the topic, anyone would have red cheeks lingering the next morning.
But God affirmed the necessity for this conversation: this raw, messy, beautiful conversation.
Here are some of my takeaways from Tuesday night’s talk:
Followers of Christ do not lose their “purity” if they have sex before marriage.
I understand the sentiment. But this language of The True Love Waits movement can be damaging to our understanding of God. A plethora of verses in Scripture exist on the gifting of Christ’s righteousness or purity before God to those who have faith in him.
Is sex outside of marriage a sin, according to Scripture? Yes. But does Christ take back from us his imputed righteousness and purity? No. “If we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself” (2 Timothy 2:13).
Sex before marriage is not the unforgivable sin.
God does not draw a line in the sand and withhold his grace at sex before marriage.
“Sex is a good and sacred gift from God. But the True Love Waits movement sometimes sends the message that it is too sacred to even learn about until marriage.”
Sex doesn’t play out like The Notebook simply because you save it for marriage.
There’s a huge learning curve. Trust me on this one.
Some people don’t have a say in whether they experience sexual activity before marriage.
One in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys are victims of sexual abuse during childhood. One in 6 American women is a victim of an attempted or completed rape. Child pornography is a growing industry, according to The National Center for Victims of Crime and Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network.
A large number of people do not choose sexual activity before marriage. This is missing from the whole True Love Waits conversation, ostracizing those whose choice to wait was taken from them.
Victims of sexual abuse feel alone.
Those who struggle with pornography or sexual activity outside of marriage carry that weight by themselves.
Men and women wrestling with questions about sexuality won’t voice those questions aloud for fear of judgment.
Sex must be up for discussion in order to love and serve one another well.
Sex should not be “too holy” for discussion.
Sex is a good and sacred gift from God. But the True Love Waits movement sometimes sends the message that it is too sacred to even learn about until marriage.
We must create a culture in our homes, churches and communities where younger generations feel safe to openly talk and ask questions about sex.
Otherwise, some of our brothers and sisters in Christ who intend to wait for sex until marriage find themselves Googling answers or asking their doctors for advice during their engagement season.
Sex is not “dirty.”
When sex is conveyed as “too holy” for discussion, it also communicates (intentionally or unintentionally) that sex is also dirty. Again, sex is God’s good gift. For the most part, Song of Solomon is NOT a metaphor for Christ and the Church.
Let’s talk about it as such.
There is no rulebook for physical intimacy.
The question repeatedly asked last week was, “Where is the line when dating?” We want black-and-white boundaries on physical intimacy before marriage so that we do not venture beyond them.
It is my conviction that this “line” is different for everyone, because the Spirit of God in us unsettles us before we cross over our line where affection becomes lust.
Ezekiel 36:26-27 says, “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you… And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.”
The best thing we can do for younger generations is not to hand them a rulebook of do’s and don’ts. This is not the gospel. The best thing we can do is to teach them how to read and study God’s Word and listen to His Spirit.
Sex is a two-way street.
The burden of setting physical boundaries often falls on only the man or woman in a relationship. However, men and women–both in dating and marriage–must set boundaries together. No one should ever feel forced to do something with which he or she isn’t comfortable.
Don’t underestimate the power of prayer.
Temptation is strong, but prayer is stronger.
True love… loves.
One of my two friends shared this last week at the end of our talk.
True love does not always wait. But true love always, ALWAYS loves.
Editor’s note: This essay was originally published at lanieanderson.com.
Read more from Lanie at Faithfully Magazine.