Remember playing that childhood game Hot Potato, when the object of the game was to quick hand it to someone else because you didn’t want to get stuck with it when the buzzer sounded? The last person to get rid of it was the winner.
In childhood, it was kind of fun. However, as single adults, there is a subject that we still treat like a hot potato. Everyone starts off with it, but no one wants to keep it. We are as quick to hand it off as we can. I mean the “A” word: Abstinence.
Our genes determined when our hormones would start raging to prepare us for physical adulthood, which was usually during older elementary or junior high years. Depending on our family and where we went to school, we were encouraged either to be abstinent or to explore our sexuality. If we went to a secular school, we were often urged to express our sexual desires in “appropriate ways” but not hold back. Sex education, birth control, alternative lifestyle support groups, pregnancy counseling, abortion services, and a host of other resources were ours for the asking. Abstinence was not usually offered as a sensible, reasonable, and viable option.
When we left high school and went to work or college, our hormones continued to rage even harder. We were free to do whatever we wanted, and we sure did! Many of us were so free, we couldn’t find a way out of the quagmire. No matter how many people we seduced or were seduced by, how many people we lived with romantically, how much information we researched, how many times we masturbated a week, or how much pornography we watched, we were not satisfied. “The eyes of man are never satisfied.” Have you reached that point yet?
Some of us took a different route. We realized that abstinence could be a sensible, reasonable, and viable option. We saw what promiscuity was costing our friends and decided, “All that drama, heartache, and disease are not for me. I’ll save myself (secretly to yourself: ‘as long as I can!’).” And we kept scanning our horizons for a viable partner we could share our lives with permanently.
Many of us got married to someone we loved with all our hearts and found out, one day, that we could no longer stay together for whatever reason. Now you’re single again and as horny as can be. “I didn’t sign up for this!” screamed your body and soul as you tearfully walked away from the funeral or angrily left the courthouse and sat in your car. What good is abstinence when your hormones are raging and your body and soul are aching and lonely?
You’re the Christian here. So you got stuck with the Hot Potato. “Now what? I still don’t want it!” you say.
STOP. Breathe in deeply and slowly. In through the nose, out through the mouth. Listen to the sound of the air going in through your nose and go out your mouth. And think about this:
No matter where you’ve been or what you have done, Jesus loves you.
2 Corinthians 5:17 declares that if you are a true believer in Christ, your past is past and you are a new creation because of your standing in Christ. I’m no Greek scholar, but “new” in the “new creation” in that passage is the Greek term “kainos.” According to the online Blue Letter Bible, Classic Version, kainos is “something recently made, fresh, recent, unused, unworn, of a new kind, unprecedented, novel, uncommon, unheard of.” As a Christian, you are now, today, no matter how long or how little you have been a Christian, fresh. Recent. Of a new kind. Unprecedented (I think that’s my favorite word in this bunch!). Uncommon. Unheard of. http://www.blbclassic.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G2537&t=KJV
This is you we’re talking about. Pause for a minute and let that sink in.
Jesus is alive. He saw everything you have thought, said, and done, in real time, and He loves you. With a smile and His arms open wide. Outrageously, not reluctantly. “We love Him because He first loved us,” says I John 4:19. We’ve got to start with His love for us.
Now, let’s get back to Abstinence. There is a reason why the Bible teaches us that abstaining from sexual activity is the best way to live as a single person.
He’s not here to rip all the fun out of our lives. He’s not here to make us repressed hypocrites. He’s not here to beat us up for sinning; usually natural consequences do a good enough job of beating us up. If the prodigal son had tweeted the day he was heading home in Luke 15:11-24, he might have said this:
Hey guys I was all wrong about the free life the way I lived it I wasn’t free Now paying for it Heading home to Dad Hope He’ll take me back
Brothers and sisters, He wants us to enjoy life. He wants to help us maximize our time and our lives in every area of our existence, including our romantic relationships and our sexual expression.
However, because He loves us and because of how He created and wired human relationships, if we chose to live outside of the boundaries of His guidelines, we will not experience the fullness He wants us to experience in those relationships. According to 1 Corinthians 6:12-20, sexual sin involves our entire being in a way that nothing else does. Indulging in sexual sin will tear our hearts to shreds and leave nothing left to fulfill. If you have ever tried to tear apart two sheets of paper that were completely glued together, you know what I mean. The paper, not the bond, will tear.
Does this all make sense?
Let’s go back to that Hot Potato for a minute. If you hold it in your hands too long, it’ll burn you. If you stick a fork in it, put it on a plate, and split it with chili or some butter, sour cream, shredded cheese, and chives, it’s not so dangerous. In fact, it’s very tasty!
Takeaway: abstinence, given away in the right time and place, which is within God’s guidelines of a legal and legitimate marriage (living together and same-sex partnerships don’t count), is the most deeply satisfying way to live romantically. There’s an immense satisfaction and powerful testimony in accomplishing something the Lord wants you to do, His way, in His time, with His power http://www.imom.com/poll-shows-sex-within-marriage-is-more-fulfilling/ ). (BTW secular research has already observed that deeply religious people seem to be having the best sex, according to studies such as the landmark study conducted by the University of Chicago http://popcenter.uchicago.edu/data/nhsls.shtml).
If you are having extreme difficulty managing your hormones and emotions, try telling Jesus all about it (Newsflash: He already knows!). Tell Him how you have messed up (or how you’ve been waiting somewhat impatiently for the right person a really long time now). Ask Him to forgive you and it’s Done. See 1 John 1:9.
Ask Him to cleanse and heal you and fill you up so you can start over. You can always start over, my dear friends.
Start going back to church, a church that is alive and full of love, wisdom, and supports healthy boundaries.
Get back to reading your Bible on a regular basis. A hardcopy Bible seems to make His speaking to you more real mentally and less like digital entertainment or social media that you can pick and choose from. It’s refreshing to hold a real book in your hands and feel the pages, smell the new book smell (or old one, if you have one). I recommend easy-to-read but accurate versions like the New King James, the New American Standard, the New Living Translation, or the classic Amplified Version. The Message is more of a paraphrase, but relatively accurate and very down to earth. Start in the book of John, the fourth book in the New Testament.
Make clean and sober single friends, friends who have sobered up from using sex as a substitute for love, peace, fulfillment, happiness, stress relief, intimacy, connection, and identity.
Ask Him to put your hormones “on ice” so that you can redirect your energies and your focus on something else He may want you to do.
Ask for His strength every. Single. Day to do what He wants you to do. Get to know Him in the process. We call this prayer.
I can’t promise anything, but I’m sure He’s not going to “keep you single” for the rest of your life! You take care of all the regions you were put in charge of and let Him take care of the timing. He will do some amazing things in your heart and life if you will let Him.
Joe Hadfield, BYU News. Good things come to couples who wait. 12/21/10 https://news.byu.edu/news/good-things-come-couples-who-wait accessed 3/6/16 (original article available at http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/fam/24/6/766/ Journal of Family Psychology, 2010, Volume 24)
David Popenoe, Ph.D., The National Marriage Project, Rutgers University. Ten important research findings on marriage. http://www.foryourmarriage.org/ten-important-research-findings-on-marriage/ accessed 3/6/16
Ed Stetzer, blogger for The Exchange. Marriage, Divorce, and the Church: What do the stats say, and can marriage be happy? Valentine’s Day, 2014. http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2014/february/marriage-divorce-and-body-of-christ-what-do-stats-say-and-c.html accessed 3/6/16