The purpose of this post is to offer a word of caution toward a trend we have noticed in young Christian couples. It comes from a place of confessed weakness, and lived experience. It is for that reason we ask to be heard.
When we decided to get married, Jennifer had one more year left of college, that, for all intents and purposes, we would pay for out of pocket. On top of that, Levi was an English major without a concrete job prospect. At ages 20 and 21, we were thought by many to be too young to make such an important decision. It was, however, a decision that likely saved our relationship. That is the purpose of a covenant. It restores and secures relationship.
A motivation for marriage that is often looked upon with either slight suspicion or outright mockery is the one of sexual attraction and desire for intimacy. The image conjured up is of two sexually tense adolescents who can’t muster up the self control to keep their clothes on. So they opt for marriage as a solution rather than the culture’s advice to be sexually expressive as two “consenting adults.” Even the working Christian assumption can be that sexual attraction shouldn’t be the basis for pursuing marriage.
And we agree with that last sentence–with conditions.
If the sexual attraction is occurring within a relationship that at least looks to the Christian faith as a reference point, and God Himself as at least significantly interested in the two individuals separately and together, then it is valid. Following the desire for sexual intimacy toward marriage is not only a valid motivation, but a right motivation.
There should be a desire that is nurtured for no division between two persons, to know what it is to cross a dark distance on a bed, to not allow the sun to go down on anger with one another. To count on them returning home to you day after day.
The pervading thought in many Christian circles is that we ought not to rush into marriage unless this is truly the person we are to spend our lives with. This is entirely valid. But if after a period of time where there has been expressed commitment, faithfulness, tears and forgiveness–what we could call maturing love–what is giving so many Christian couples pause at the possibility of marriage?
Our encouragement to you is this. Why are you waiting? We waited until we did because we couldn’t live independently with Levi not yet finished college. But many Christian couples are in positions where the option of at least full time employment is possible, and many are already living independently. We went up against all worldly wisdom, but God blessed it. We chose to get married at the first possible opportunity that we could begin a life independently. We got engaged half way through Levi’s final year, with a plan to get married a few months after his graduation. Levi got a job three days before our wedding.
Money is the determining factor when money is a functional god. Our choice to get married freed us from the tyranny of being afraid of money.
With all that said, we are opposed to a newly apparent trend among unmarried Christian couples to go on extended overnight trips together alone. Done with good and wise friends, trips that you are both on can be a great thing. However, a trip alone together purposes to create intimate space. One would be hard pressed to think that this could not be part of the motivation. We ask you to ask yourself, what is your motivation for going on a trip such as this? If your purpose is intimacy, why is this pursued so casually, and marriage pursued so circumspectly?
To be direct, Jennifer and I, at several points, nurtured certain patterns and habits that compromised our sexual purity. These failures came in the form of making a conscious decision that we were wise enough to navigate sexual passion within a closed space, a private space, where we were alone. This often happened at the end of a long day alone in a dorm room or at one of our homes, long after parents had fallen asleep.
Though we did deeds in the dark, the possibility of going on a trip alone together did not even appear to us as an option that God would permit through the vision of marriage put forward in His word and the witness of His Spirit between us. A trip like this was a space we’d only plan to create in our marriage. Episodic moments of intimacy were stumbled into consciously, but they were not part of a planned itinerary.
Do you want your marriage marked by the high and exalted language used in the Scriptures? “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife and they shall become one flesh;” “What God has joined together, let no one separate;” “But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights and likewise the wife to her husband, for the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise, the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does;” “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
In the face of all this, we consider private overnight trips to be a purposed disregard for God’s wisdom on these matters. True, intimate love exists within a covenant, not experimental cohabitation and its attendant experiences.