So when I ended up walking around the block with a mama of some teenage girls this week, she turned to me and said that the stats show that there’s less than a 2% chance that her girls, or any high school kid at all, would end up marrying their high school sweethearts.
And under a high noon July sky, while we racked up steps and kept in step, she just laid it all down:
“So, because that’s the case, this is the conversation we need to have. My husband turned toward my daughters’ boyfriend and said:
‘So, Son — how do you plan to treat my daughter who will most likely end up being someone else’s wife — and how would you expect some other guy right now to be treating your wife?’“
And this mother of 4 sons, between 16 and 24, slowed right down, and I talked about how somebody sent me words that seriously gave me pause, words of a woman who seriously regretted waiting until she was married.
How she’d waited until her wedding night and how she wished she hadn’t.
How waiting wrecked a deep and real part of her.
How all those years of “no” made her ashamed of when she finally said her marital yes.
How she couldn’t be intimate after she got married because she still felt she’d be in sin.
She felt the only way she could heal, that her marriage could survive was if she chose: a God relationship or marital relations. Guess what she chose — and your first guess doesn’t count.
Hey — I get it.
I really, really get it.
I waited and, in my own kinda way — I was her.
After getting it into your head that you don’t — it can take a long time after you say “I do”…. for the rest of you to say I do.
There’s a story I know about that, that’s likely never going to be told. You don’t need to know the self-hating, shaming pain of that story – just that there are very caring men who know that a woman’s soul needs to feel a deep safeness before anyone should ever touch a woman’s skin.
And I guess that is exactly the point that I wished I had the language for, that I had far more fully understand in a nuanced way, that I want our sons, our daughters, to understand:
Your skin is the outer layer of your soul.
Your skin and your soul are one in ways that Hollywood and MTV and the mall won’t ever tell you.
Your skin and your soul are profoundly connected and this is a profoundly beautiful thing. There is no shame in this — only the glory of God who made your body art to reflect your soul.
So contrary to what hook-up culture may be touting in the back halls of high schools and behind the closed doors of university dorm rooms —there’s nothing casual about giving away your soul.
The union of two bodies is nothing less than the union of two souls.
Physical oneness is a holy God-created ceremony to express nothing less than a soul oneness.
I guess maybe that is the tender, prayerful question: Why do with your body what you aren’t ready to do with the whole of your life?
I somehow found the words to just say it outloud what had been a personal story for many: After years of saying no, and then after you say I do, sometimes there can be shame about what your body now is supposed to do — instead of beauty in what your soul gets to give.
For some of us, somehow the focus during our youth had been on mere skin — instead of on ultimate soul-intimacy.
But maybe now we could humbly and honestly talk to our kids in ways that may make waiting until marriage make more sense — and would make marital intimacy make real happy love:
The joy of physical oneness is but an echo of the joy of spiritual oneness with Christ.
That is the breathtaking, otherworldly miracle:
“The ecstasy and joy of sex is supposed to be a foretaste of the complete ecstasy and joy of total union with Christ,” is what theologian Tim Keller writes.
“Great sex is a parable of the Gospel—to be utterly accepted in spite of your sin, to beloved by the One you admire to the sky.”
That might just right upend a whole hurting world of us: “Great sex is a parable of the Great Gospel.”
As God calls His people to exclusively commit to Him alone — so we’re called to commit to exclusive intimacy alone—an echo of Belovedness.
As God commits to wholly, unconditionally, and covenantally accept us forever in spite of our sin and flaws, to love us passionately to death —- so physical intimacy mirrors a whole, unconditional and covenantal acceptance of us forever in spite of our shortcomings and flaws, to love us with a passion that is willing to die-to-self.
Hook-up culture may have cheapened it and legalistic cultures may have shamed it, but the real Truth is you can’t contain the otherworldly beauty of it: Physical union is a parable of union with Christ.
Maybe: Scripture’s call to abstain from premarital and extramarital relations is not about controlling the power of sexuality — it’s about reflecting the otherworldly power of God-soul exclusivity.
Our exclusive physical oneness is to be witness of the people of God’s exclusive oneness with God. The exclusive communion between husband and wife is to reflect our exclusive communion between soul and Christ.
They may be saying something different on the university campuses but listen for the holiness of it: Union isn’t merely physical self-expression to feel good— it’s ultimately about soul self-giving to love well.
Physical union is a God-made ceremony to express the exclusivity and intimacy and totality of oneness—- and if you use physical intimacy to express anything less than that, you’ve destroyed its very meaning.
It may not be popular, but I’m thinking it’s deeply powerful: Unless physical union is about making committed, covenantal love— the essence of its God-given meaning is destroyed.
“But, I told my daughter, that she can always trust: No matter what’s happened in the past, what happens in the future — Jesus wants you, Jesus chooses you, Jesus holds you, Jesus keeps you and there isn’t one of us that hasn’t been broken and there isn’t one of us that doesn’t belong, that He doesn’t stop calling “Come, Beloved.”
And I couldn’t stop nodding, couldn’t stop blinking it back: No matter what’s happened to the rose — Jesus desperately wants the rose.
And as us two mothers of teens talked and walked and unpacked our past and what we might hope for our brave kids, I spun that ring on my finger and thought of how 25 years ago, one farm boy wanted and claimed even me and he and I have lived it: Feelings come and feelings go and feelings cannot sustain a relationship.
A relationship needs something stronger than feeling for it to endure and flourish — Relationships need the safety and strength of a binding covenant to thrive. A covenant is the most powerful infrastructure to be powerfully intimate.
And this is the epiphany for us old and married to keep remembering, that keeps renewing and reviving everything through the years:
As the covenant is necessary to be powerfully intimate — so being powerfully intimate is necessary for the covenant.
Just as much as being intimate needs first the ceremony of the covenant, the covenant needs the constant renewal of being intimate.
That ring on the finger can ring us awake: we get to keep renewing the marriage covenant with that intimate ceremony of an old and practiced passion.
And maybe — for those living the grace and gift of singleness-that-is-fully-complete-in-oneness-with-God:
Your naked body deserves the gift of being shared only with someone who is covenanted to never stop loving your naked soul.
When we turned the corner under that July sky and walk in step with grace, it’s there in full, glorious view:
amazing grace that loves all of us all the way up to the sky.