God is Not a Cosmic Chastity Belt
Tiny ice balls pelt the windshield and bounce off the car. Sidewalks and roads glisten slick. Three-to-four inches of heavy snow loom in grey clouds overhead, and evening traffic snakes red along the highways and frontage roads. Sirens and ricocheting blue lights careen down dark streets.
|Photo Credit: Flickr user Paola Kizette Cimenti, Creative Commons cc license
In this last post in our series, Let’s Talk about Sex, I turn words inward towards my former twenty-year old self and to all my single friends, no matter their ages. All this talk of snow reminds me of the confused messages I’ve heard — and sometimes accidentally implied in youth lessons. God is not a cosmic chastity belt. He is not a frowning father shaking his head, trying to keep his kids’ bodies snow-pure, as if sex or sexuality shocked him. God is not scandalized and disgusted by sex. Rather he is the inventor of nerves and neurons, of sensations and senses. He holds the patent on pleasure and neural pathways, on endorphins and oxytocin baths.
God’s guidelines on sex are not archaic restrictions to stop our fun. Rather his desire is for our good, and his boundaries are for our safety. Throughout history, God has been the hero stepping in to say, “Enough!” at each new horrific warping of sexuality that the evil one and a cruel world wrought: Child-sex trafficking — not okay. Incest or abuse, not okay. Destitute men or women forced into a lifestyle of prostitution — not their fault and God advocates for their rescues. Single moms or dads raising kids on their own — God cares for them and knows how hard they work. His perfect plan is a shared load, raising children in community. Spouses divorced cruelly, unfairly, for no reason, left as paupers with no financial or social support in society — God calls foul and sets up parameters for their protection and care.
In my twenties, I wrestled with forgiving myself for physical forays and failures, and I see that in many of my teens’ or former teens’ eyes now. Girls across restaurant tables who have said, “I’m afraid they’ll look at me differently now they know I’ve had sex.”
“No!,” I urge. “God’s love is unconditional, and he is so forgiving. Everyone wrestles with sin at times. No one is perfect. If you’ve had a chance to ask God to forgive you, it’s gone. God says, ‘he is faithful to forgive and to cleanse us from any unrighteousness.’ You can start fresh right now, a new day, a new start, saying, ‘God, from now on, I wanna try to do things your way.’ God’s love is so big.”
With the teens and twenty-somethings in my life, we talk about how hard the physical can be. We talk about how God’s ways of saying, ‘Not yet. Just wait until marriage’ are for our good. We pull out the statistics on co-habiting and how it drastically increases one’s odds of divorce. Looking around at the prevalence of divorce and eroded marriages around us, I reason, if we really love this guy/girl, let’s give this relationship the best odds and chances we can, right? We talk as well about how much this choosing to delay sexual play until marriage is about growing habits of self-control for later in life too, not just now. There will be weekend business trips for you or your spouse someday. As you practice being able to walk away from temptation now, you are building that habit for later in life. With the large number of affairs happening around us, don’t we owe this to ourselves, to practice this habit and build it in each other?
My worry with the snow analogies, with junior high abstinence pledge cards, and with the hyper-focus on technical virginity, is the danger that we’ll miss the bigger picture. Yes, I want to honor God with my sexual choices before and after marriage. Yes, God talks about saving sex for marriage. Indeed he talks bluntly and cheerfully about a wide range of sex topics impacting single and married people. He does this not because he is uptight and shocked, but because he created, invented, and made sex. As the inventor of it and us, he knows how it best works, and what brings the most joy and benefit.
God is not your cosmic chastity belt. Instead, he holds the instruction manual and keys to a fabulous invention he patented. In our desire to protect young people from the pains and fall-out associated with sex outside of marriage, and after generations of muddled, awkward, inadequate “birds and bees” conversations, we have left them thinking sex was dirty or something to be ashamed of. And dozens of newly-weds have since wrestled with the fallout of changing their attitudes of “Sex-No!” to “Sex Now.”
It’s complicated, yeah? I agree, but the good news is that we can start over. Look deep and see all that God has to say about sex and marriage. The Bible drips with it. In marriage, sex is a delightful gift. So to my single friends trying to live out their Jesus-life convictions, it’s not “Sex — No!” It’s “Sex, Not Yet…” and I’m cheering you on from the side and available to talk anytime.
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