Today’s Q&A involves a question carried over from last week, in which a man was left by his wife and has begun dating again. Here’s his situation:
I am a 54 year old divorcee. I should have relationships and sex all figured out by now right? After all I am over half a century old with an adult son and a daughter in High School. However, what I thought I knew about life and marriage was completely upended a couple of years ago when my wife of 24 years at the time abandoned my daughter and me for an openly gay woman. . . .
[He gives more details of the breakup and family circumstances.]
Now that is exposed, I want to tell you where I am now and seek some prayerful wisdom. Some advisers tell me that I need to wait until I am dead, well almost dead to start dating again. I have already failed at that advice, because I am dating and I am enjoying dating. They problem is that the sexual landscape for Christians has changed tremendously during my lifetime. Even very Church oriented Christ centered Christians are having a hard time staying sexually pure. This is even an order of magnitude greater in my opinion for divorcees my age.
Last Monday, I gave a general perspective of the situation, and you can read that post HERE. Today, I want to get into specifics on staying sexually pure.
Remind yourself why you’re staying pure.
After being married and having a sex life, it can feel excruciatingly slow to back everything up to holding hands, then a soft kiss, then a lingering kiss, and then a more passionate kiss . . . etc. It can feel like time-traveling back to high school (or junior high for some of you). But that’s what you need to do.
Remind yourself that you want to be faithful to God’s design for sexual intimacy, that you want to show respect and care for the woman you are dating, and that waiting has true benefits. As Pastor James MacDonald has often said, “When God says don’t, He means don’t hurt yourself.”
If you introduce sexuality into a relationship before commitment, you’re putting on rose-colored glasses too soon. What I mean is that having sex with your spouse makes some things more bearable — like it’s hard for me to be upset about some of the little annoyances from my husband when he just brought me to ecstasy hours earlier. Sex smooths things over.
But when you’re dating someone, you need those glasses transparent so you can get to know this person and how you are together. If you add sex into the mix, you’ll feel prematurely attached and less able to see them clearly. So take it slow. I realize it may feel like you don’t have that kind of time, but slow isn’t years. You can back off, take your time, and still make progress in the relationship. And if and when you marry, you will be glad you waited.
Study scripture on purity.
I’m on a campaign for myself and other wives in 2016 to memorize more scripture, because this is one of the best ways to arm ourselves with truth. When you’re dealing with a specific situation, like staying sexually pure, find Bible verses that help you remember God’s plan and your own goals. Study them and memorize ones you can bring to mind in the moment.
For instance, we’re often given this passage as a scripture about marriage:
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. (Ephesians 5:25-27)
But tell me, guys, how can you present your someday wife as “holy and blameless” if you disregarded her sexual purity before you put the ring on her finger? Or what could you possibly say to someone else she marries about your actions with her? You sure wouldn’t want someone treating your eventual wife that way. Take the long view here, knowing that whomever you marry should enter the marriage feeling respected, protected, and loved — as demonstrated by Christ.
Other scriptures to consider:
“It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister.” 1 Thessalonians 4:3-6
“Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me.” Psalm 119:133
“Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price.Therefore honor God with your bodies.” 1 Corinthians 6:18-20
“But a man who commits adultery has no sense; whoever does so destroys himself.” Proverbs 6:32
“So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” Galatians 5:16
“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10
Adopt strategies to stay pure.
A lot of Christians go on a date with the intention of staying pure, but they don’t have any plans for how. So you get to that moment where your God-created, sexually charged body is going nuclear with desire, and you’re somehow supposed to shut that off like a flip-switch. It’s no surprise many fail.
You need strategies (or tactics — I get those two confused) to keep from getting into that my-brain-is-mush moment.
Establish your boundaries. How far is too far? This is the question most asked by teenagers, but don’t dating adults want to know too? Unfortunately, it’s often the wrong question, because what you’re really asking is how close to the land mines can you get without being in danger. Um, get off the mine field. Rather, ask what level of affection is honoring to God and respectful of your date. That’s where your boundaries stay.
Date in public. If you spend your dating time at your house on a cozy couch, that’s all kinds of temptation. But if you’re sitting across from someone at a dinner table or walking hand-in-hand through a museum, it’s not likely you’re going to get busy there. Too many witnesses, aka chaperons. And chaperons aren’t a bad thing. They can keep you honest.
Know your escape routes. Firefighters suggest you know and practice your escape route, just in case your house or building catches fire. And catching fire is exactly what high-intensity sexual desire can feel like in your body — so it’s time to get your escape plan together.
If you’re in a relationship, talk about this with your date. Things like “If I start feeling extremely turned on, I need a break. Can we promise to signal each other if we’re feeling tempted, and we’ll immediately leave and take a walk?” If it’s not a relationship but just a date, have your escape route figured out yourself. Where can you go to cool down? Is there someone you can call to talk you through it? Do you have a memorized prayer to say on the spot?
Don’t throw in the towel. What if you mess up? Does that mean you already crossed the line and should just give up and go for it? Nooooo. This is like any other sin. If you fail, you admit you’re human and need God’s help. You ask for forgiveness. Repent. And commit to God’s plan in the future. If you mess up again, rinse and repeat. God isn’t giving up you, so don’t give up on Him. Just recommit to purity.
Is staying pure until marriage impossible these days? Is it too hard to wait? Actually, Jacob waited for Rachel for seven years (see Genesis 29). SEVEN YEARS. In the face of that, do we have any good excuse?
What we do have is a Savior. We cannot do this on our own, so seek out all the Christian resources you need to stay sexually pure. Pray to God, study scripture, seek accountability. And may God bless you accordingly.
“Jesus replied, ‘What is impossible with man is possible with God.’ ” Luke 18:27