I am seeing someone. If you know my dating history, this statement in and of itself is quite an accomplishment. We met at a coffee shop, and he’s charming, spontaneous, and significantly smarter than me.
Like any “good” Christian couple we decided on setting physical boundaries early on in our relationship. When we asked the question, “how far is too far?” we settled in on some pretty simple dos and don’ts.
Though we had the best of intentions, our plan simply didn’t work. We had the rules in place, we reviewed them often, but we had a hard time following through. Suffice it to say, I learned that my heart is deceitful above all else, in very tangible ways: I continually circumvented the rules and blurred the lines.
This failure left both of us feeling empty and guilty. We were ashamed at our lack of resolve and frustrated that we couldn’t get it together; we weren’t being good Christians.
How far was too far? Well, we were seeing just how far we could go while still holding our heads high on Sunday mornings. As long as we checked certain boxes and didn’t check others, then we were good to go. Through past experience, I can attest to the fact that having sex outside of marriage isn’t the only way to leave someone broken and messed up. Emotional and spiritual lines can be crossed without ever taking off clothes. Simply creating a system of rules and regulations set us up for feelings of shame and self-righteousness: shame because we broke our rules, and self-righteousness because our identity was in them.
In a moment of divine clarity I realized that, like my relationship with Jesus, my relationship with my boyfriend shouldn’t be defined by rules; but it’s just that — a relationship. Instead of being consumed with whether we’ve crossed the line, we have decided that our main goal should be to leave each other in a better spiritual condition than when we found each other. It’s less about rules and more about relationship. Isn’t that what we’ve heard time and time again concerning our Christian walk? Our focus shouldn’t just be on avoidance of various sins; it should be on being present with Christ. So why do we treat our interpersonal relationships with God’s creation any differently? I’m realizing that I need to be thinking less about my performance and more about His presence, less about being right and more about being with.
So what does this all look like for me? As a Christian in a dating relationship, leaving a guy in better shape than when our hearts first met means leaving him more conformed to the image of Christ. When (or if) we part ways, he should look more like Jesus, sound more like Jesus, be more like Jesus. This is my new goal.
These days, instead of stressing out about where our hands are, we’re more concerned about where our hearts are. As a result, the relationship feels freer. There’s a lot of honest communication, a seeking of grace, and a fierce commitment to not contribute to each other’s sexual brokenness. It means being very intentional and putting in more effort rather than taking the easy way out.
And the most beautiful thing in all this is that I feel my relationship with Christ has grown deeper and fuller through the struggle.
Photo by (Flickr CC): Kevin Cortopassi