It started with a dance. There was some flattery, flirtation, and before I knew it a kiss on the cheek led to too much more. Every step of the way, I thought I was totally in control and justified with an excuse for everything that happened. The Bible only warned us against sexual immorality. If we didn’t have sex, how could it be immoral? It all made perfect sense, except for this gnawing ache in my gut I could not explain away. As my mind was racing on my way back to my apartment, instead of the replay of sweetly whispered lies, all I could hear was the Apostle Paul’s word to the Corinthians: “Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial.” Maybe I had done nothing wrong, but if I had done something right I would have felt a lot better. Even with this newly discovered connection, I found myself feeling more lost, alone and empty than ever.
I had grown up in a Christian home with clearly implied boundaries regarding relationships and sex. By the time I moved out for college, this was more by my choice than my parents’. I tested the limits a couple times, just enough to realize that there were parts of myself I didn’t want to give away yet. It wasn’t hard to stay within my boundaries, but then I went abroad. The culture was so dramatically different, especially in regards to how men and women interacted. Suddenly my boundaries didn’t translate and my perfect plan to control my interactions with men wasn’t working. On top of that confusion, I was in a society where feminism simply didn’t exist, and I had no idea how to hang on to that part of my identity in this whirlwind of culture shock.
So I took others’ advice and decided to do what I wanted. I wanted adventure; I wanted to try something new. This particular new adventure didn’t seem to fit in with God’s command of purity, but the more I tried to understand what He meant by “purity,” the less sense it made and the more frustrated I became. This man jumped on my confusion, persistently pushing for more and more, complicating all my attempts to sort through what God wanted, what I wanted, and if or how those two were different. Eventually his shameless tenacity won over this ambiguous rule from an invisible God and so I tried it. I knew this could only lead to trouble, but I wanted to play with fire. Besides, if it turned out to be a mistake, I knew He would forgive me.
It was fun, and it was liberating.
But then things went wrong. I had no idea what I was doing, and it was complicated trying to do whatever I wanted with a guy who was trying to do whatever he wanted. Desires clashed, and although I acted like I was still in control, he was the one writing the rules. Even as it grew painful, I kept trying to come up with excuses as to why none of this was wrong and I could keep acting like I was. I liked the high that came with it, and I could ignore the lows. But the only reality about our two-week fling was that it sucked. Compared to the relationship I had had with God before all this, this was crap.
No matter what I did, though, I didn’t seem able to get myself away from the mess until departure plans unexpectedly changed and God got me out of what I couldn’t get myself out of. God would have been more than justified in leaving me to reap the consequences of my actions; He could have left me in a destructive relationship, but instead He took me back home to safety. The very God I abandoned was the One who was waiting for me. The God I ignored is the only One who listens to every complaint and sees every tear from what happened. Before, I had known all that intellectually but didn’t believe it enough to act upon it.
Just as Eve wanted more fruit than God had already given her, I was sure God was holding out on me. It’s not that the fruit or expressing sexuality are inherently bad or sinful; after all, God created them. Where I went wrong was not trusting God and believing that I knew better than He did about what was good for me. I did not understand that God is a generous God who does not hold back, and in my greed I reached for destructive things.
I reached the end of me. All my boundaries were for naught; there was no line strong enough to hold against what this world threw at me. I now understand that God’s commandments are for our good, not to keep us from having fun, but moreover I understand that it’s not about following commandments. Instead, it is about learning to know the God who loves us deeply enough to protect and provide.
The Claremont Ekklesia: Fall 2013 Issue