Saturday, September 24, 2005

Practicing Abstinence


"So, does

abstinence

mean that

we can't

take care

of each

other...in

other ways

...you know..."

I'd never really paid much attention to the words abstinence or celibacy till about the year 2000 when God came a-calling. I've been a Christian all my life, but I've recently come to realize that baptism, attendance at Sunday School and Sunday morning worship, ushering, singing in the choir, and participation in any of the various offices to be had in the church do not constitute or replace one-on-one time (read: relationship) with God.

In 2000, I was on the fast track at work. I was in a middle management position, making a good salary for someone with a degree--in my case, a great salary for someone without one. I had also begun a business in my "spare" time. At church I was the choir president and director of the Youth Choir. On the home front, my daughter was away at boarding school, my mother's health was stable, and my fiancé and I were busy tussling over wedding arrangements. All was well with my world.

In the midst of this, God began speaking to my heart and my situation. The message was simple: "You know you wrong." I was like, "What? Oh you mean that...but we're getting married next year!" Silence. "But...we've been doing this for twelve years and now, now you want me to stop?"

I tried to shrug it off, but it seemed as though every sermon for the next three months was directed at me! Forget stomping on my foot, the Pastor was stepping on my whole leg! She preached about the body being a temple, she preached about fornication, she cited examples of officers laying up in bed the night before and coming to church the next morning, carrying on business as usual. I actually did look around the sanctuary during that sermon, wondering who she was talking about, because I just knew she wasn't talking to me...cause I never, ever had sex on Saturday nights.

After another three months of this, I couldn't take it anymore. I spoke to my fiancé about the cessation of intercourse until our wedding in six months. You know that went over as well as Bush's election in New York and Pennsylvania, right? I mean how do you convince someone, when you're reluctant yourself, that something you've both been doing for twelve years needs to be stopped... for six months?

Anyway, I gave it a shot. It entailed weeks of discussion back and forth. Finally, although he couldn't resist the urge to warn me that I was putting a strain on him and on our relationship, he agreed to give it a shot. Strain? Heck, we'd weathered so much in twelve years I was confident that, though those six months would be a mild to moderate annoyance, we'd be alright. I had faith enough for both of us. After all, we were doing the right thing...

Week one was a gosh-durned struggle, but with reassuring phone calls three to four times a day, we were alright. Week two, the coaxing and questioning reasserted its head. Oh don't play; you know what I'm talking about. "So, does abstinence mean that we can't take care of each other...in other ways...you know?" For once in that relationship, I held firm. I actually said no. Why? Although I daily endured physical symptoms of frustration, something strange was happening to me mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

I began seeing things more clearly than I had in years. In fact, I began seeing my fiancé, myself, and our relationship with more clarity than I had in years--or perhaps more than I ever had, period. I realized that he manipulated my emotions to avoid discussions, to provoke guilt, to win arguments etc, and I had been unaware of it. Well, not unaware--I just thought he didn't realize that he was doing it. But with my newfound clarity, I realized that it was a deliberate act. Wow...

I also began to realize that I, in part, had helped to create my monster. I had begun to treat him as God, and he had taken to the roll better than any Academy Award winner ever could. So now I was taking away his God-like authority without warning, and he didn't know how to react to my new purpose or my burgeoning self-confidence.

At that point, abstaining no longer became a reluctant obedience, but a necessity. I wanted to discover what else I'd been blinded to...unfortunately, I found out.

###

The Bible is clear that fornication is a no-no, and that the body is a Temple, a house for the indwelling Spirit of God, and should be treated as such. Just as we enter the Temple with reverence, ready to worship, the same should be upheld for our bodies. Powerful thought.

However, in what I call God’s sense of humor, He gives us the end result but not all the little steps in between. Some call it faith building, which it is, but sometimes to me it’s just plain funny. Why? Because there surely isn’t a chapter that tells you how formerly married folk are supposed to abstain.

With long-term abstinence staring me in the face, I decided to do what I usually do when I want to know something: find a book about it. I looked up some books online. Of the few that caught my eye, I bought three. Well let me tell you, what a waste of money! I wasn’t expecting much from the Caucasian authors but the sistah, she just plain let me down! By the time I got through reading her book, I was checking my Christian membership card to make sure I was still a member of the body of Christ. I was like, these people lying! Where’s the angst? Where’s the keeping it real stuff? I could write something better myself!

A light bulb went on, and I began to do just that. (Don’t be too surprised if this is an excerpt.)

In questioning friends and acquaintances, I began to realize that the word “practicing” was really apropos. Folks seemed to be practicing abstinence until they could get it right, myself included. There is a program for teens wherein a teen is fitted for a silver ring that will symbolize a commitment to sexual abstinence until marriage; so right off the bat, they have a support group. No such thing for adults in the secular world or in the body of Christ.

I know in the body of Christ we’re supposed to be able to talk these things out, but I’ve been in church all my life and I’ve never been a member of a congregation where I could call someone up and say, “Girl! It was close last night!" or “Girl, pray with me, so I don’t end up with my drawers on my head saying, 'What’s my name again?'”

So what’s my point?

  • We can’t be so busy playing church and putting up fronts that, when we hit upon a sensitive area where we need the support of the body, we have no where to turn.


  • Although practice makes good, surrender is a better thing. Surrender it to God. He can take it from you, but He waits on your surrender; for in your surrender, you obtain His strength to deal.


  • Realize that nothing worthwhile is ever a popular or easy choice.


  • The tenets of AA still hold true. Stay away from people, places and things that will encourage your addiction (in this case sex), and replace them with positive things (not that sex is not a positive thing--it’s just not a positive for you, outside of matrimony). So, dinner at his/her house…? NO.

9 comments:

Jeff said...

You did the right thing by not only standing for abstinence in your pre-marital relationship but also seeking to be pure from the heart. God bless you.

Bill said...

Bravo! There's a wonderful site that helps those who choose to abstain at http://www.abstinenceonly.com/ - I highly recommend checking it out. It got me through a rather long engagement, and it was so worth it. Keep up the good work and God bless.

smalltownhick said...

Abstinence is such an awful word.
It gives the act an air of martyrdom, of depriving yourself for your one and only.
In reality, as you discovered, abstinence allows you to create a non-sexual relationship before clouding it with the mysterious emotions of sex. Since you will spend more time with him out of bed than in, abstinence is a very good strategy, and should be marketed as such. Labelling it as a duty against sin is just asking for it.
Congratulations on your discovery, and God Bless.

Pamela Foreman said...

Well written! Makes me want to read more. I'm glad that you were able to do the right thing and put your foot down. I did that during my entire engagement (3 years) and as I watched my friends screw up their lives, we stood firm and waited until marriage. It was the best thing for us. Anyways, great post! I'll be back to read more!

Jer said...

With all due respect to your position, sex has been great for me since I started having it, pre-matrimony. You are entitled to do what you want with your body and you're more than entitled to express your beliefs as you wish on your own site. But I believe it's arrogant and prideful to tell others that what they choose to do is wrong for them. It's wrong for you and that's fine.

Cheri said...

I am celibate and have been for a couple of years. I haven't even dated much and have found this period of time to be the most productive in my life. I've grown in self-confidence and in my spiritual walk with Lord. If God sends a partner my way, I believe I'm ready this time...

Kelly"kgem" said...

I Think one of the most important aspects of this writing, and what you have relayed to me..is to open your ears to God, when he is speaking to you. That was number 1. I viewed God, as defintely working in a mysterious way during your relationship, with the significant other. That being, he allowed you to stay with him endulging for 12 years, but yet, 6 months before you were to "committ" your life to him, God, removed you from the situation before you did so. And one would have thought that God would want them to get married, but yet, your relationship was so close with GOD, you couldn't ignore him telling you to abstain from sex, thereby giving you clarity in seeing the true relationship you were in with the ex! I could comment for hours on this piece-DEE..but i'm going to try and wrap it up.. The other piece of your writing, experience, that hits close to me is the fact when you stated.."Stay away from people, places and things that will encourage your addiction (in this case sex), and replace them with positive things".. Great Job!

Dee said...

Hey Gem!

Thanks for the props and insightful comments. I look forward to hearing your view on other pieces.

Books for Learning said...

What a powerful testimony! I appreciate your honesty and insight.

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