Being a virgin in my 20s was easy. Mostly because it’s easy not to have sex when you’re dating life looks like the Sahara Desert.
But then I moved to New York City. Guys came out of the woodwork to ask me out — on the subway, after church, online, at bars, and at dinner parties.
In one year I had more dates than I’d had in an entire decade. And suddenly the struggle to wait became a little more real. It was one thing to make a declaration as a high school senior in front of my youth group. But at 30, sex seemed like an expectation – even from Christian guys. Waiting until marriage seemed like an uphill battle, one I had to fight alone.
During this time I fell hard for a great guy. We cared for each other deeply. After one especially amazing date we started kissing, and things began moving fast. My resolve felt as sturdy as a house of cards. Within minutes we crossed an invisible line. We didn’t have sex, but we got close, and it surprised me how easy it was to get there.
Shortly after that, things ended. I was heartbroken and confused. I realized I had forgotten why I was saving sex for marriage. There had to be reasons other than the promise I had made in high school. But I just couldn’t remember what they were.
I embarked on a personal journey that lasted the better part of a year, in search of the reasons behind my decision. Through my dialogues with others and thinking about my own heartbreaks I discovered some practical reasons to hold back on the physical.
1. Becoming physically involved blurs my vision as I’m trying to discern if we’re even a good fit. Kissing is fun, but do we like each other as friends, and can we have hard conversations? Physical compatibility is not nearly as important as our actual relationship and our level of spiritual compatibility.
2. When I’ve been physically affectionate with a guy – even just holding hands and kissing — I feel closer to him than I actually am. A false sense of intimacy develops before the other parts of our relationship have caught up. True intimacy with another person takes time.
3. Being physically affectionate has an impact on my heart. I’ve noticed that when I’ve dated a guy and we haven’t kissed or even held hands, a breakup is still painful, but we’re able to walk away with less mess and heartache.
However, as a woman who loves and follows Jesus I was still missing something important: What is God’s intention for sex? Having practical reasons to wait feels significant, but is there more? Does He want me to wait? And if so, why?
I started to search the Scriptures, and I began to see that God’s heart on sex and sexuality is expansive and sacred. It turns out He has a lot to say about sex!
We don’t even get through chapter 1 of the first book of the Bible before God starts talking about sex.
He creates Adam and says, it’s not good for man to be alone. But before God brings a partner for Adam He puts him to work managing Eden and naming all the animals. It’s as if Adam needed to see for himself the value of hard work and being a leader, while being able to experience that he still longed for more. What he longed for was companionship, partnership, and love. God puts Adam to sleep, takes a rib from him and begins designing an altogether separate being: woman. He creates a woman for Adam with breasts and curves, and God says all of these things are good.
Adam awakens to discover Eve. I imagine his jaw dropping to the ground. He is so taken with her that he immediately bursts into song: At last this is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.
And so begins the first marriage:
Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed. Genesis 2:24-25
At a glance these verses may seem small and even insignificant, but they are jam-packed with historical meaning. In Old Testament Hebrew culture to leave home was a massive rite of passage. When a man did so it made a public statement to his family, friends, and community. In our culture we simply move out to go to college, but in this context you moved out once. Moving out meant something; it was taken seriously, and everyone knew about it.
With this in mind, God fleshes out how this type of relationship can look. He says a marriage between a man and a woman is so powerful that incredible things should happen in response to it. The groom boldly goes public with his love. He’s willing to do whatever it takes to be with his bride. He leaves his home, family, friends — perhaps even his career — to cling to her. He doesn’t do this out of obligation; he is compelled by love and adoration. No one is going anywhere. They’re 100% all in this relationship. The man is serious about his woman.
Scripture then says they become one flesh, and he holds fast to her…a.k.a. they have sex. They’re naked and unashamed. And God is in their midst. Shame is nowhere to be found.
Can you imagine the type of trust, unconditional love, and acceptance these two have for one another in order to be wholly naked and unashamed — not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually? It must feel so safe, freeing, healing, connecting, and inspiring. It’s the type of love movies should be made about.
Their physical expression of sex points to an internal commitment. Sex is the manifestation of the collision of their souls, spirits, and minds. Their souls become one in marriage, and their bodies follow suit.
This reveals God’s holistic view on sex as an invitation to something much deeper than a physical transaction. It’s a part of a much grander whole.
And isn’t that just like God: to invite us to on a journey of wholeness, healing, love, and freedom through relationship. It’s never just about the physical with Jesus. He’s always about all of our mind, body, soul, and spirit being connected to Him.
All of this uncovered, and I haven’t even left Genesis 2. My mind is blown.
So do I want to have sex? Of course. But I want more than just sex. Because the physical is never just about the physical – it’s always an invitation to the spiritual.
And I want the whole thing. I want to experience sex within a Genesis 2 type of relationship. I want a committed marriage to a man who loves Jesus and has integrity. A man who is intentional and sees all of me, who loves people well, has vision for his life, and respects and honors me. A man I can dream with, go through heartache with, adventure with and laugh until the tears come. I want to experience all the parts within the whole.
xo, Kat Harris