I had a close friend once tell me that there are two times in your life where those you know will really show up to support you, at your wedding and at your funeral.
When my wife and I were married, it was a party, but it didn’t come easy. We paid for most of it out of our own pockets. We had the right music, the right cake, and had waited for the right moment to kiss each other for the very first time.
Yes, before our wedding day, my wife and I had never kissed.
It wasn’t because we didn’t want to. Trust me, we REALLY wanted to. I certainly wanted to. I would consider myself as much of a man as any guy, so when I say I wanted to kiss the woman I loved, I really wanted to kiss her. In fact, there was plenty more I wanted to do too. (Cue Marvin Gaye music).
But before I say too much, you need to know something about our story.
If you’re like me, then you know when you find something you love in life, something that you’re passionate about, you don’t like waiting around for it. When I first met my wife, Casey, I wasn’t even looking to fall in love with someone. We both had just walked out of some pretty hard relationships and about the last thing either of us wanted was to step back into another serious, long-term relationship.
Casey and I first met in the company of mutual friends. Now, I’m a pretty tall guy, so when you see a tall girl like Casey (who is 5’11” to be exact), they tend to stand out. (Shout out to all of you not as tall people. You’re great too and we like having you as friends.) We didn’t talk too much, but we certainly noticed one another. Our first conversation didn’t occur until sometime later. It was among the same friends, while enjoying coffee and pancakes, that we had our first, real conversation.
In the weeks and months that followed we would have more conversations, even serious ones. Once, while sitting at the dinner table with my family, I looked at Casey and very genuinely said to her, “You’re pretty.” She turned several shades of red, but did manage to muster a “Thank You,” as I recall.
The more time we spent together, the more we realized that we wanted to stay together. We wanted to be together for as long as life would allow. But this kind of passion for another person can easily overwhelm you and in our case, it was starting to make things difficult. Honestly, I was starting to go crazy.
We both had come from pasts where we were willing to take risk romantically, but with no real sense of longevity to the relationship we were in at that time. Yes, we were both still virgins, but let’s all take off the blinders here, as there are many compromises that can be made while still maintaining one’s “virginity.” As much as I hate to admit it, it’s practically the standard for Christians who are dating to press the boundaries of what virginity really is. It almost becomes a game of how much can we “sex” each other up without actually having sex. Thankfully, and by grace alone, the virginity boundary was a line neither of us had crossed.
It was consentual that we would do our best to hold each other in high regard and maintain some healthy boundaries. In fact, these were decisions we had both decided upon before actually meeting. We wanted our next relationship to be pure. With these thoughts in mind and hoping it would make a difference, we set up the following boundaries for ourselves:
• Rather than spending time alone, we would spend time together with groups of friends.
Traveling in the car was the only exception (emphasis on traveling, as parking or sitting in the car for extensive amounts of time can lead to fogging up the windows).
• Hugs were cool, but no super-long embraces or extensive hugging.
Long hugs tend to lead to really long hugs…in the bed…under the sheets…all night long.
• No kissing on the lips.
As an expression of endearment, I would often kiss Casey on the forehead and I’m sure I kissed her on the cheek a few times before we were married, but we both agreed not to kiss each other on the lips because once you ignite a passion or start the car, you tend to want take it for a permanent test drive.
So, why such rigid boundaries? Why not just enjoy the idea that God has given you one another and be content in that love?
What compelled our decisions wasn’t the love we had for one another, but our love for God.
What if we had failed? Would God have forgiven us? Yes. As two consenting adults, we really could have done anything we wanted, but that’s just it, what we wanted was first to please God, and then to find the freedom to enjoy one another. We didn’t set these kinds of boundaries because we’re prudish or because we’re stronger or better than others. Really, our reasoning was quite the opposite. We set boundaries because we knew the limits of our humanity. We knew that in moments of passion we would fail and as opposed to finding the joy which God intended between and man and a woman, we would instead find pain, shame, and regret.
We didn’t trust ourselves to be strong enough or disciplined enough. If by design, kissing and touching are made to make you want more of the same and each other, we knew that this is what time together could lead to, and it wasn’t what we wanted…yet. We also didn’t want our relationship to be more defined by the mistakes we could have made, rather than the glory God could receive.
Our reasoning went something like, if the backlash of sin can be so ruthless, how do we love each other, while maintaining integrity and respect for one another?
The words of King Solomon read as follows:
In essence, your heart is a container. Like a glass, it fills with the contents poured into it. When your life is poured out before others, the contents of your heart become obvious. The contents of your heart are your character, so guard what you put in, because life will squeeze it out, and content of your character will be plain to see.
Regarding my relationship with Casey, I sought to protect her integrity first and then my own. I wanted to guard her character, and mine, too. So we set up boundaries to honor God and one another. Did we love each other? Yes. Deeply. We wanted each other.
In relationships, one of two things is certain, you either stay together or you break up. I mean, this is the stuff that fuels 99% of what is heard on the radio. You may even have a few lame, emo poems written and inspired by your first break up. I’m pretty sure I do too. Still, the biblical approach to staying together is called marriage. So, being the man in the relationship, I took the initiative to speak with Casey’s parents about having her hand in marriage. They both approved. I danced a jig and in June 2007 we were engaged. Three months later we were married, almost a year from the time we had first met. Our first kiss was awesome. It was special; shared in the company of friends, family, and those we love. It was a celebration of the union of two people God had brought together.
We’ve been married now for more than 7 years. We have a family that includes two amazing little girls of our own. We celebrate God’s preservation in our lives, knowing that our virginity wasn’t something we lost, but a gift we willingly gave to the person we love.
Maybe like us, you find yourself in a position where compromise seems easy. It is. I'm not proposing this as a mandate. This is something that everyone has to do and it doesn't have to be done the way we did it. The real question to ask is how are you safeguarding yourself from the perils of sin?
Perhaps you’ve already pressed matters too far and you’re struggling through some bad decisions you’ve made. Maybe you’re single now and it just hurts to be alone. Whatever the case, God's forgiveness is ever-available upon our repentance. Ask God to forgive you. Ask Him to help you. He will. It might mean that you and the one you love need to really talk about maintaining or reviving the integrity in your relationship. Do it. Let God’s word and His Spirit lead you. No matter the joy, a life conquered by compromise, can never compare to a life lived in the pursuit of God’s holiness and the satisfaction found in Him.
What’s your story? We'd love to hear it. Let us know in the comments below.
P.S. A friend of ours put together this video of our wedding. You'll find that it paints a much better picture of what that special day was really like.
P.P.S. Did I mention that Casey walked down the aisle to sounds of "Explosions in the Sky?" It was pretty great.