I may or may not know you. Even I do know you, we may not know each other well. Who am I to be giving you advice? Isn’t that a little presumptuous of me? Perhaps. But, please know I have no desire to preach at you. If I could, I would invite you to Starbucks and we would sit outside, me with my chai latte, and you with your mocha frappucino. Or maybe a pumpkin spice latte. We’d have this conversation face to face, going back and forth instead of just me talking to you. If we ever get the chance, take me up on this. I’d love to get to know you. But for now, this will have to do.
You probably go to church regularly, you may even attend Bible studies and volunteer. You’ve probably heard all the right messages: about how you’re supposed to wait until marriage for sex, how your virginity is precious, how you should only date Christians. Maybe it all seems simple to you. Or maybe it doesn’t. I don’t know.
Your leaders are realizing just how not simple this is. Recently, the National Association of Evangelicals made headlines for their willingness to accept money from an organization that promotes use of contraceptives by unmarried people. It’s sparked a debate within the evangelical community: would promoting contraceptive use among unmarried people mean promoting sin?
I have an opinion, but I don’t know the answer. Regardless, that’s not what I want to talk to you about. Church leaders, if they haven’t realized this already, are going to need to start asking why things have gotten to a point where it’s safer to assume that single Christians are sexually active than to assume they’re remaining chaste. You have a different question to ask yourself:
What would lead you to abandon your morals?
My vulnerable area is loneliness. I think for a lot of people, it’s loneliness. Not everyone struggles with this, but I think a lot of singles do, and that it’s worth talking about. God made us to be connected to each other, and for most of us, God gave us a desire to be deeply connected to another person for life. Yes, there are some to whom God has given the gift of singleness, but most of us do not have that gift. We want to be known, to be accepted completely, to share life. Sex is not just physical pleasure. It’s an act that requires two people to be incredibly vulnerable with each other. It’s relationship in one of its deepest form. That’s why the Hebrew word for sex is yada, which literally means “to know.” Yada is the word used to describe how deeply God knows us.
Some have suggested that churches need to do a better job demonstrating how beautiful marriage is, and that when you see how beautiful marriage and purity is, that you’ll have a reason to avoid sex outside of marriage. I could be wrong, but I suspect that you already know that marriage is good. I’d even venture to guess that you want to get married someday. But someday isn’t now. Seeing healthy marriages doesn’t really help when the desire is be known and accepted now.
You may not ever find yourself struggling with whether or not to have sex outside of marriage. But loneliness can make you do other funny things. Maybe it’s being willing to loosen your physical boundaries just a little bit. Maybe it’s being willing to stay with a guy that you know isn’t good for you. There have been times in my life that I’ve been so lonely that if the cute guy sitting next to me in class had asked me out for a drink, I probably would have said yes. If he had wanted to make out later, I probably wouldn’t have objected (I thank God that he did not ask me out for a drink!). That’s an embarrassing little confession to make, but I hope it illustrates the point: loneliness can really cloud our thinking.
I don’t know in what ways you will find yourself struggling as you live to please God in your relationships. I wish I could give you some sort of advice that will make it all easy. But I can’t. It doesn’t work that way.
But if you were here with me right now, I’d tell you it’s okay to struggle. I’d tell you it’s okay to be confused. And it’s okay to not know the answers.
I’d also tell you this: My door is always open to you. While I know that a friend is not the same as a boyfriend or a spouse, I will always be a friend to you. I’ll be here for movie nights, for Skype chats, and Starbucks outings. My shoulder is available for you to cry on when the loneliness gets overwhelming. And should you ever make a choice to not stick to your standards, I’ll still be here for you. Because I believe that God’s acceptance of you doesn’t depend on whether or not you make all the right choices. You are always valuable, no matter what choices you make.
I’d also encourage you to be that person for others. That you’d be a friend to the lonely, a shoulder to cry on, a listening ear. Because navigating dating, relationships, and waiting for marriage isn’t easy. And while community isn’t going to make the loneliness go away, it’s certainly going to make living through it a lot easier.