18 April 2007

Protracted Singleness and Rampant Promiscuity

Why should one not forestall immorality by means of marriage? For if special grace does not exempt a person, his nature must and will compel him to produce seed and multiply. If this does not occur in marriage, how else can it occur except in fornication and secret sins?

But, they say, suppose I am neither married nor immoral, and force myself to remain continent? Do you not hear that restraint is impossible without special grace? For God's word does not admit of restraint; neither does it lie when it says, "Be fruitful and multiply." . . . You can neither escape nor restrain yourself from being fruitful and multiplying; it is God's ordinance and takes its course . . .

[W]hoever finds himself unsuited to the celibate life should see to it right away that he has something to do and to work at it; then let him strike out in God's name and get married.

--Martin Luther


One of the most important points one can make about singleness in our culture is that it is not the same thing as celibacy. Maken makes this point throughout Getting Serious About Getting Married, and she focuses all of chapter 10 on this thought.

Chapter 10 contains a small section on the sexual education debate that goes on in this country, and I thought her observations were too astute to miss mentioning. The debate generally consists of abstinence-only proponents on the one side and "safe" sex advocates on the other. Maken concludes that both side are right and both sides are wrong:
Those who preach safe sex are correct that human sexuality will run its natural course toward expression; they are wrong to conclude that sex should be condoned and subsidized outside of marriage. Those who preach abstinence are correct that sex outside of marriage is destructive; they are wrong to believe that we can convince kids to delay sexual fulfillment indefinitely. Both positions have proved the other's failure.


Before I go on, I want to make the point that I do, in fact, know single people, both male and female, in their late twenties who have managed to keep their purity intact. So please do not think I am saying there is no hope here, or that I am excusing immorality. But a friend of ours did recently tell us that it gets harder with time, not easier, and I believe him. If the Bible says that he was created to have a wife and "be fruitful and multiply," why wouldn't his very being be driving him that direction?

This whole idea of singleness being different from celibacy is connected to the constant refrain of, "Why buy the cow if you can get the milk for free?" The question is most always used to tell ladies not to give that milk away for nothing. But I have yet to hear it used to tell men to go out there and buy a cow, even though, unless they are eunuchs of some sort, they are all dying for a drink of milk. This is how God made them.

When Christians have young teens in their homes, much of the time spent discussing sex is spent discussing how to avoid it, how to protect their hearts, etc. Precious little time is spent developing a plan of action that moves the teen toward not only adulthood in general, but healthy sexual expression within marriage as God intended. We are told, for instance, that "teen pregnancy" is a terrible thing. But my own grandparents had three children before the age of 21. Teen pregnancy is not wrong if it occurs within the confines of marriage.

Okay, so back to singleness as compared to celibacy. Maken explains it this way:
Celibacy and abstinence are not the same. Celibacy and singleness are not the same. Celibacy and self-control are not the same. Celibacy is a gift of God in which he has removed the drive to pursue sex. . . .It is irresponsible to preach celibacy to a group of people when very few of them have that gift without preaching the pursuit of marriage in the same breath.

The idea here is that we must not preach perpetual abstinence. We preach abstinence until marriage and marriage sooner rather than later.

Now, I know what the response to this is going to be. Teens aren't ready to get married. Back in the Good Old Days teens were more mature, and this is why it was okay. These things are mostly true. But I have two thoughts on this:
  1. As a parent, I need to be raising a child that is more mature than his peers, because the peers are, on average, spending an extra ten years in childhood. I need to realize that history proves time and again that teens are capable of far greater maturity than is expected of them in today's culture. I need to make sure that I am deliberately raising an adult and not just an overgrown child. For my son, I need to be sure that his father and I direct him in the proper career path so that marriage is not unnecessarily delayed, and he will be able to provide a reasonable life for a young family. Maken mentioned that the Puritans did not view their parenting as completed until their children were settled into their own families.
  2. This one begins with a somewhat rhetorical question. How mature must one really be to get married? I am much more mature today than the day I got married. I am not saying that completely immature people should be encouraged to get married as is, but I think the culture is propagating a lie that one must be almost perfect in order to be "ready" for marriage. But a lot of the maturity required by marriage is also cultivated by marriage.

    I will go on to connect this a bit to birth control. When we were married five months and needed to begin telling folks that we were going to have a baby around the time of our first anniversary, we got a lot of the "you're too young" responses. And I felt too young. I only really became mature enough to be a mom by becoming a mom.

    I have one married friend in particular who is pregnant with her first child {no, she does not read this blog and you do not know her so stop guessing}, and I have heard some under-the-breath comments about her seeming too immature to become a mom. Almost every time I respond by saying that some people have to become moms first and mature through the process of becoming a mom.

    I think culture has it backwards. Instead of acknowledging that major life experiences mature a person, it is now believed that maturity is required for said experiences. I think that the best thing one can require is a heart that truly wants to obey God and live life according to His calling. That is all. If the heart is genuinely following the Lord, the maturity will come as the soul submits to Him in every new situation.


So where does the promiscuity come in? I thought you'd never ask! The promiscuity is God's design gone awry. As we squelch young men, giving them no direction on how to grow up in a timely manner, and no proper outlet {marriage} for their passions, they are set aflame. Instead of directing them to find a wife in their youth, and that finding a wife is a good thing, we tell them to abstain from immorality indefinitely. I do not seek to excuse immoral behavior, but I do think we must refer back to Luther's very realistic teaching above. Man is designed in a certain way, and if we do not teach him and free him to live out his sexuality in the way that God wills, the results may be devastating.

As Maken points out, we shouldn't end the teaching from Song of Solomon at "don't arouse or awaken love before it so desires." Rather, we should explain the beauty of love properly expressed within the bounds of marriage, and then direct a young man to go take a wife.

2 comments:

  1. I am a 34 year old Christian woman. I have managed to remain a virgin but my sex drive is killing me. I desire a husband and a family. I daydream about sex all day long. I was addicted to porn and struggle not to look at it. I cry almost everyday because of loneliness!!! But the people at my church tell me I need to be content because not everyone is going to get married. I even said why would God give me such a sex drive and leave me to be single? Then I am told that being a Christians requires self denial and I need to pray to God for control. I am told this by other women that are my age, married and have kids!!! I get so angry!!! I cannot be content unless God kills me and puts me out of my misery!!!

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  2. Dear Anonymous,

    I have been anguishing over my response to you. On the one hand, I want to confirm what I wrote in my post back then: that remaining single when not possessing the gift of celibacy is a tough and difficult road, a lonely road, and that the church shouldn't act like the two (singleness and celibacy) are the same thing, nor that celibacy and self-control are the same thing.

    I affirm Martin Luther in this regard, and I think we are failing our women by allowing our young men to remain infantile.

    At the same time, I am not sure that God gave you the magnitude of sexual drive you are talking about. My guess is that your mind was greatly influenced by pornography. I know these are hard words to swallow, but I'm not sure what else to say.

    Let me put it this way: you sound more to me like you desire sex, than that you desire to be a wife. A good wife is a crown to her husband, and the Bible says she is a rare jewel--quite hard to find. Daydreaming about sex all day long is not cultivating the vibrant inner life, the inner beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, or anything else that would encourage you to become that type of rare jewel, the type of woman a mother would be pleased to see her son marry.

    I once had a friend whose husband refused to have children with her. She was dying for children; she was truly in anguish. My advice to her at that time was to cultivate the qualities of a good mother--show her husband that she wore motherhood well, that it'd be an asset to her life, rather than a detriment. I'd say the same to you. If you want to be a wife someday, you'd do well to cultivate the qualities that make you just that sort of rare jewel.

    I am not telling you to deny your nature, and my post was really about that sort of thing: the Church, broadly speaking, spends more time telling people to control themselves than creating and encouraging new vibrant marriages.

    However, even though this is true, on an individual level you are facing a reality: it is in your nature to marry, you were created for such a thing, and yet you do not have it. We see this sort of pain throughout Scripture in the barren women: they were created and designed by God to bear children, and they are in anguish that the children do not come.

    These women cry out to God. Over and over in Scripture they, while living virtuous lives, cry out to their Lord. Daydreaming will only grow a corrupt mind. You require a renewal of your mind and a crying out to the Lord.

    One more thing before I go: you can be content, my sister, and it is a lie of the devil to believe otherwise. The mark of the Christian life is learning to be content in every circumstance, because we, unlike the world around us, have access to unimaginable joy which transcends circumstances. I know that this is a big thing, a huge thing, to be denied. I do not want to minimize your pain. However, as your Christian sister I must encourage you to find solace in your Lord. Marriage has its own lonely times. My husband was in a coma this summer, and spent many weeks in the hospital, and it was the Lord I had to lean on. For the first time in eight years, my husband couldn't be there for me. You will need your Lord when you are married, when you are a mother, throughout your life. Growing in contentment is an art which, if you cultivate it, will make you a superior wife.

    I will pray for you, sister. Yours is a hard road to travel, and the church's failure to encourage their men to take wives does not help you. But the Lord is able to bring about all things for your good.

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