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10 Overlooked Truths of the ‘True Love Waits’ Movement

10 Overlooked Truths of the ‘True Love Waits’ Movement

My cheeks were still flushed from last Tuesday night’s conversation as I fumbled from my side of the bed to the bathroom early Wednesday morning.

I work in campus ministry and had planned a late-night honest conversation for girls on the True Love Waits Movement, which promotes abstinence among teenagers and college students. It gained popularity among many church youth groups in the early 2000’s.

Two friends joined me on Tuesday night. Before I continue, I want to affirm that each of us believes in the fundamental message of the True Love Waits Movement:

We believe that God is the creator of people who bear His image.

We also believe that God is the creator of sex.

As its author, he sets its parameters.

So we also believe he desires that his image bearers experience sex within the covenant of marriage not because he likes rigid rules but because, as our Maker, his parameters are for our good.

My friends and I are a part of the True-Love-Waits generation, and I am thankful for those who taught me about God’s gift of sex in marriage. I am grateful that someone encouraged teenage me to think beyond my Friday night date to my wedding day.  But The True Love Waits Movement left some important truths out of the conversation. We owe future generations a more robust understanding of God’s gifts of sex and grace.

I believe in vulnerability. I believe God powerfully uses vulnerability to free the children of his church from isolation.

But it got real last Tuesday night.

We shared our very different and deeply personal stories about S-E-X.  After a two-hour conversation solely on the topic, anyone would have red cheeks lingering the next morning.

But God affirmed the necessity for this conversation: this raw, messy, beautiful conversation.

Here are some of my takeaways from Tuesday night’s talk:

Followers of Christ do not lose their “purity” if they have sex before marriage.

I understand the sentiment. But this language of The True Love Waits Movement can be damaging to our understanding of God.  A plethora of verses in Scripture exist on the gifting of Christ’s righteousness or purity before God to those who have faith in him.

Is sex outside of marriage a sin, according to Scripture? Yes. But does Christ take back from us his imputed righteousness and purity? No. “If we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself” (2 Timothy 2:13).

Sex before marriage is not the unforgivable sin.

God does not draw a line in the sand and withhold his grace at sex before marriage.

Sex doesn’t play out like The Notebook simply because you save it for marriage.

There’s a huge learning curve. Trust me on this one.

Some people don’t have a say in whether they experience sexual activity before marriage.

1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys are victims of sexual abuse during childhood. 1 in 6 American women is a victim of an attempted or completed rape. Child pornography is a growing industry.*

A large number of people do not choose sexual activity before marriage. This is missing from the whole True Love Waits conversation, ostracizing those whose choice to wait was taken from them.

Sex should not be “too holy” for discussion.

Sex is a good and sacred gift from God. But the True Love Waits Movement sometimes sends the message that it is too sacred to even learn about until marriage.

We must create a culture in our homes, churches, and communities where younger generations feel safe to openly talk and ask questions about sex.

Otherwise, some of our brothers and sisters in Christ who intend to wait for sex until marriage find themselves Googling answers or asking their doctors for advice during their engagement season.

Victims of sexual abuse feel alone.

Those who struggle with pornography or sexual activity outside of marriage carry that weight by themselves.

Men and women wrestling with questions about sexuality won’t voice those questions aloud for fear of judgment.

Sex must be up for discussion in order to love and serve one another well.

Sex is not “dirty.”

When sex is conveyed as “too holy” for discussion, it also communicates (intentionally or unintentionally) that sex is also dirty.  Again, sex is God’s good gift. For the most part, Song of Solomon is NOT a metaphor for Christ and the Church.

Let’s talk about it as such.

There is no rulebook for physical intimacy.

The question repeatedly asked last week was, “Where is the line when dating?” We want black-and-white boundaries on physical intimacy before marriage so that we do not venture beyond them.

It is my conviction that this “line” is different for everyone, because the Spirit of God in us unsettles us before we cross over our line where affection becomes lust.

Ezekiel 36:26-27 says, “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you… And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.”

The best thing we can do for younger generations is not to hand them a rulebook of do’s and don’ts. This is not the gospel. The best thing we can do is to teach them how to read and study God’s Word and listen to his Spirit.

Sex is a two-way street.

The burden of setting physical boundaries often falls on only the man or woman in a relationship. However, men and women – both in dating and marriage – must set boundaries together. No one should ever feel forced to do something with which he or she isn’t comfortable.

Don’t underestimate the power of prayer.

Temptation is strong, but prayer is stronger.

True love… loves.

One of my two friends shared this last week at the end of our talk.

True love does not always wait. But true love always, ALWAYS loves.

*Statistics are from The National Center for Victims of Crime and Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network.

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When Theology Feels Inadequate on Valentine’s Day

When Theology Feels Inadequate on Valentine’s Day

I’ve had conversations recently with Christian friends who are single, and I sense in their voices the frustrations: the glib apologetics to view singleness as a gift; extended family members’ not-so-subtle prompts to ‘settle down;’ and feelings of being overlooked or undervalued in their local churches.

If this is you, my guess is that you know the “right” answers today and every day. You’ve likely wrestled with what you believe and feel you have your theology worked out as it relates to seasons of singleness and marriage.

But some of my close friends have been honest with me that this knowledge can fall short when friends have dinner reservations with significant others or roommates have waiting for them on your doorstep a vase with several red roses and a small stuffed puppy with a heart sown to its lips.

Last week, I came across 1 Corinthians 7 in which Paul (the writer of 1 Corinthians) promotes singleness.   Paul’s letter to the Corinthians made me ask, “How do his words inform both my season of marriage and my friends’ season of singleness?”

If you are single and still reading, I am certain of this: you and I share the same Valentine today and every day. Because in every season—married or single—our greatest Valentine as followers of Jesus is always Jesus.

As I read Paul’s words about singleness, I was convinced they are just as much for me as they are for you. The goal of our lives in Christ is never all-out devotion to singleness or marriage but to the Valentine of our souls:

“I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord… the unmarried woman is anxious about the things of the Lord… I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint on you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord.” -1 Corinthians 7:32-35

The soul that wholly loves its Maker—the One who loves it most—is “free from anxieties” and “undivided” in its devotion.

Yes, dating and marriage distract from and compete for the soul’s affections, and this is what Paul seems to be driving home. But single or married, the soul’s purpose is unchanging.

I think through this as I read: singleness or marriage must not be the gift itself. No, the gift must be more. Maybe the gift is ultimately this freedom from anxiety. Maybe it’s this fixed devotion to our Maker in this weary world with all of its expiration dates:

“This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short. From now on let those who have wives live as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy has though they had no goods, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.” -1 Corinthians 7:29-31

The gift is the “get-to”—to experience and participate in God’s kingdom here and now and to know that you and I are living for something beyond Valentine’s Days. Dozens of roses droop as February fades into March. Half-eaten boxes of chocolates go to waste, melting in kitchen trashcans or backseats of vehicles. Spouses disappoint when workdays are too demanding. Texts fade out with realizations of incompatibility. Husbands and wives are taken too soon. Disappointment stirs and stews as well-meaning extended family tells you your biological clock is ticking. Companions fall short when they don’t fully know or understand you.

But there is a Valentine who is a sure and steadfast anchor for both the single and married soul (Hebrews 6:19). There is a God capable of fully knowing yet fully loving you and me. This is the identity of the single and married souls in Christ on Valentine’s Day and every day.

And still, theology takes time to travel from the head to the heart.

But this is what I know:

Your season—single or married—is no holding place for future fairytales or children or ministry opportunities. It is a giving space for God’s present love and promises and purpose for your life.

Your spiritual stature is not defined by your relationship status with some one but by your relationship with the One who spoke the stars and galaxies into existence yet speaks into your soul today.

Yeah, theology takes time to travel from the head to the heart. This is why Paul recognizes both the mourning and rejoicing that we will inevitably face, even if we know what we see isn’t all that is.

One of my favorite gifts is a beautiful bouquet, and I am an all-out celebrator of Valentine’s Day. But isn’t it ironic that we honor a saint by the name of “Valentine”—martyred in his pursuit of following Jesus—with cheap chocolates and stuffed animals that oftentimes find their way in our cardboard boxes with “Goodwill” written on their sides.

Singleness is not the gift, and marriage is not the goal. A soul undivided in its affections for the One who unfailingly loves it back? This is the gift. And it’s the sweetest gift, even when theology feels inadequate on Valentine’s Day.

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