Note: This is part of a series on Love, Sex, & Relationships from a Christian Perspective. It was inspired by "No Ring, No Ting".
"An ounce of behavior is worth a pound of words." - Sanford Meisner
Actor Sanford Meisner was referring to the field of acting in that quote above, but it applies to life as well. Cathy, a single, 21 year old Theatre major and Youth Ministry leader, is well aware her behavior- on and off the stage- many times outweighs what she says.
Also, known as Rising Phoenix, Cathy has had her share of ups and downs. But like the mythical bird of fire, she is determined to continue to rise. Extremely busy, between a full class load, theatre productions, trips to New York City and her role working with inner city youth, I managed to get her to share some of her journey as a Christian single.
I asked her about chastity and abstinence, if there is a difference, and (gulp) if she practices abstinence. She answered, "I've never really thought about it, but in my mind, chastity means choosing to never have sex in a lifetime, and abstinence means choosing not to have sex until you are married."
Okaaay, so are you abstinent? Why or why not? (I think in asking these questions, like with April, I feel like a creeper. Thankfully, like April, she had no problem answering. Phew!) "I do practice abstinence because I believe that sex is a gift that I want to give to my husband to show him that I am trusting him with ALL of me. If I had sex with other men, what would I do to make my husband feel any different from them?
"Mind you, I save my kisses for ONLY my boyfriends and roles for a show. I don't give kisses or myself freely. Plus, it really makes my life easier because I don't have to constantly think of fulfilling that urge, and it doesn't add on extra stresses- disease, even tougher breakups, pregnancy, etc."
Before I married K, I stuck to kissing, too. Unfortunately, that kissing led to some below the waist action, which led to major regret and guilt. Although I gave my virginity to my husband on our wedding night, I felt in many ways, I had given up my integrity long before. Speaking from experience, it's hard to live a life of purity, especially in a world that tells you there's something wrong with you if you are NOT giving it up. Even the conservative "The Rules" book counsels woman to wait for a certain amount of time, not until they've swapped vows.
I asked Cathy if she had experienced any slip-ups. "Fortunately, I have never had sex, and I am very thankful for that. I admit that I had compromised myself in the past, but it never lead to sex. Even though I didn't go all the way, Yes, I felt guilty, and yes I sought out repentance. I have learned from those mistakes and didn't make them again."
But is it even possible to have a relationship, let alone casually date without, shall we say, taking the car out for a test drive before purchase? Plenty of people say "no". Actually, a resounding "no." Witness these comments left about an article on "Thrill of The Chaste" author Dawn Eden, a pro-purity author on Salon.com. Virgins and those who abstain aren't just nerds, but weirdos. (By the way, I've read "Thrill of The Chaste" and loved it. I highly recommend it to everyone, single, married, guys, but especially girls. I wrote about my anticipation just getting it here.)
Cathy thinks otherwise, "Yes. The longest relationship I ever had lasted almost three years, and the break up had NOTHING to do with sex." I did two and a half years, so I second that motion. Don't believe the lies. It can be done.
Some Christians have remained celibate by, um, how shall I put this... giving themselves a hand. The debate rages about this. Some say, "Well, it's not expressly forbidden in Scripture." Others say, "No it's not, but what of the impure thoughts? Jesus said to just lust after a woman is a sin!" Countless others just remain mum about it, unwilling to enter the fray. When I asked our sweet actress if she thinks it's okay, she point blank, flat-lined it: "No."
So, no sex, no masturbation. Some Christians say no physical anything, like famous Christian writer Joshua Harris, who "Kissed Dating Goodbye" but refused to kiss his wife until the minister marrying them told them to do so. What's the line then? Or is it one extreme or the other? "It all depends on what the individual's weaknesses are," she explained. "I think that when you've gotten to heavy petting/touching, you are playing with some serious fire. Even though there aren't any black and white rules for what you should or should not do, we need to know God's Word and be close to Him so we can know when He places those convictions in our hearts." Ultimately, it all comes down to the heart of the matter: God. A famous quote by Maya Angelou goes, "A woman's heart should be so hidden in Christ, that a man should have to seek Him first to find her.”
Like Joshua Harris, Cathy does see a difference between just dating and courtship. "Dating is getting to know someone on a level that is more than just your average friendship (WITHOUT the 'benefits' stuff), getting to know someone with the intent of something more in the future. Courtship is when you are involved with a person with the intent of marriage. I guess then dating is the move before courtship."
Okay, dating->courtship->marriage... which brings me to my next question. Do you want to get married? Hey, there are some people who feel St. Paul's call to singlehood. But if you do want to get married, any fears? "I would like to get married one day. Since that day seems very far from me at the moment, I don't have any fears. I'm not afraid of being "alone" though, but it IS difficult sometimes. However, I trust that God will take me to where He wants me to be, and whether that involves being married or single, I'll still follow Him."
Do you have a list of qualities you want in your future husband (I did, long before K and I went on our first date)? "Yes, and even though a lot of my non-Christian peers think they are 'unrealistic,' I know that God put expectations in my heart so that I will not be easily swayed by a pretty face with nice words." Good, cause as I mentioned in the opening, she is a Theatre major, meaning she is in college, and there are a whole lot of pretty faces looking to sway, and a whole lot more with a girl.
While we're on the subject of marriage, what are the roles of husband and wife? "A husband and a wife are meant to COMPLIMENT each other. Where the husband may lack, the wife thrives, and vice versa. Both are to be friends, love each other and do their best to help the other person be the best that they can be."
How do you think marriage will be versus being single? "Well, you lose the excitement of the first date, first kisses, crushes, etc. However, with a marriage, you gain things that will replace those that you are 'giving up.' I know that marriage is not easy, and it takes a lot of work. I expect my husband to respect me, be my friend, lover, companion and treat me like the princess I deserve to be treated as. He should encourage me and I will do the same for him out of love. He will give me 150% and I will give him 150% in return."
First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby, in the baby carriage. Okay, not for a whole lot of people these days. But do you want kids? And how important are they to marriage? "Kids would be fun to have. I don't think they MAKE a marriage, but kids definitely add a new layer or responsibility, experience, and memories to the mix."
In the story of the phoenix, she rises from ashes, remnants of a past gone. Not too long ago, Cathy had to deal with the end of that nearly three year long relationship. But, she is resolutely positive about it. God has given her beauty for ashes. "After the breakup, I clung to God tightly, and really tried to learn lessons from the relationship. I used the time after to discover more about myself and who I am. I believe that it made me a better Christian, actress, and most definitely a better leader. I don't think it's wise to immediately jump into the arms of another person as a rebound (even though it may be very tempting) because you lose what you could have learned from the last relationship.
"Also, you don't know if you are involved with the person because you care, or if it's to find a quick fix way to heal your heart. I don't feel bitterness about it, but accomplished, because I really love who God helped me become. Immediately after the breakup, it's hard to say these things, but it takes a lot of time to grow/heal/learn. However, not focusing on the 'Oh no! I'm single, I have to start over, etc.' mentality and having true Christian friends really helps too."
Being in this world but not a part of it, can be hard, especially for a Christian single woman. Society often runs afoul of what Scriptures teach regarding marriage. I asked Cathy her take. "I believe that the husband should be the spiritual leader of the home, but the wife must also help him/encourage. I don't think the 'submitting' thing is in a negative way, as some people who like to start arguments or twist the scripture think. I mean, we submit to the LORD, and we go on an incredible adventure. Part of Submitting is trusting, and why would you marry someone you don't trust?" Great question. Awesome point. Ladies, if your boyfriend is not imitating Christ, why would you want to marrying him, thus promising to submit to him? The Church, as Christ's Bride submits to Him... this is the model for the Christian marriage. Food for thought...
In courtship, physical acts aren't black and white, but what about in marriage? Are there any areas that are no-go's? "I really wouldn't know, but as far as I can think, I would say that would go under the whole relationship with God. You can't try to justify something if in your heart, you feel the tug that says it's wrong."
I couldn't end an interview about sex and marriage, without asking about divorce. With nearly half of all marriages- Christian and non- ending with a decree of dissolution, I asked Cathy why she thinks people don't follow through with the whole "til death do us part"-part of their vows.
"Because people get married for the wrong reasons, which could include:
A) Getting married because you feel that "you're not getting any younger."
B) Getting married because you wanted to have sex without the guilt.
C) Getting married because you wanted to give your parents grandchildren.
D) Getting married because you thought it was a good idea at the time/that you could change a person eventually.
E) Getting married because you thought "I'm done with college, so the next step is to find a man."
The list could go on, but I wont. =P"
Her list ended but her warm attitude regarding relationships hasn't, despite a break-up. I commented after she gave her answers, that I found her to be spiritually positive. And I suppose, that's why her behavior- full of commitment to God- speaks volumes, without her ever muttering a word.
Confidential to Cathy: TCA girls will always rule. ty4this.
If you are interested in talking about sex and relationships from the Christian perspective, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.