I remember picking up the phone and calling my mom to share a struggle I had. I was in seminary and had just started dating my husband Jeremiah. I had a strong attraction to him spiritually, emotionally, and physically and I felt like temptations to compromise my purity were all around me.
I shared with my mom how I couldn’t wait to get married so those struggles would disappear. She paused for a minute and shared a very important truth:
“Samantha, even when you’re married, you’ll have to work hard at your purity.”
She went on to say how new and different challenges would surface in marriage. I didn’t know exactly what she meant since I wasn’t there yet, but I took her wisdom to heart. As we closed our conversation, she prayed that I would live a life of holiness, obedience, and purity in my relationship to Jeremiah.
Seeking Accountability & Revisiting Boundaries
I got off the phone determined to work hard at holding to our standards so our relationship would be set up for success void of any regrets. I felt like we were constantly revisiting our purity and it was frustrating, but necessary. We were weak and needed strict boundaries and accountability.
One morning Jeremiah and I were meeting with one of our mentors in his office. He asked how we were doing and I always knew by the smile on his face that he meant, how are you really doing? We shared how we were struggling with passionate kissing and wanting to go places physically that were dishonoring to God. He encouraged us that many couples struggle but don’t talk about it and he told us to keep fighting against it. While it was intimidating to share such personal struggles, it was freeing to have his support and accountability.
A few months before our wedding day, I suggested to Jeremiah that we fast from kissing for 40 days. In 40 days, it would be our wedding day. He thought it was a wise idea and we told our friends about it so they could check up on us. That kind of fast was one of the best decisions we made, especially as temptations grew as the day drew closer.
By God’s grace, we stuck to our commitment up until our kiss at the altar. It was such a joyful time knowing we had saved ourselves for each other and we’d soon be able to give ourselves fully to one another. We had waited our whole life to experience the sexual act God had created for us to enjoy.
Purity Challenges in Marriage
After an incredible wedding night and a few days into our honeymoon, I quickly learned that in a similar way I had to work hard at being pure in our dating relationship, I’d now have to be committed and faithful to sexual intimacy with my husband. It would be a life-long journey of learning, growing, and being imperfect at times.
A few days after we returned from honeymooning in Hawaii, we had a big fight after being intimate. I stormed out of the door and took a walk around our apartment complex to cool off. We were upset from misinterpretations and unmet expectations. Eventually, we communicated and confessed where we were wrong. Before marriage, we would have never imagined arguing over our sexual relationship.
After the newlywed phase settled down, I learned that switching gears in order to connect and be intimate after an exhausting day of work was really difficult. Our conversation would often go like this while lying in bed:
“Do you want to tonight?”
“Me either. I’m tired.”
We’d say a quick prayer; I love you, and turn out the lights.
Sexual Intimacy Requires Sacrifice and Selflessness
Right now, we have two children under two. My husband is working full-time, taking classes in seminary, and interning at a church plant. By the end of the day, I’m typically worn out from taking care of my children’s needs. Intentionality is key in our sexual relationship. I’ve had to learn what it means to give up the rights to myself and be selfless no matter how tough my day has been.
In the book, Becoming One: Planning a Lasting, Joyful Marriage, Don Meredith says:
God steps boldly to the point, finishing any faint-hearted commitment to the sexual relationship once and for all. My body is not mine, but my mate’s. I am here to please. Hereafter, to demand rights over my body is to disagree with God’s instruction. God makes sex a sacrificial act that is redemptive, in that it gets my eyes off my needs and onto the needs of my mate.”
Watching out for Jeremiah’s needs, rather than my own, is a daily discipline because my thoughts are often about me. But when I sacrifice for his sake, I find great joy. I absolutely love fulfilling his needs and seeing him delight in fulfilling mine. And it’s beautiful to see how God intends the sexual relationship to be—vibrant, exhilarating and fun!
Honoring the Marriage Bed
In Hebrews 13:4, Paul says, “Marriage must be honored among all and the marriage bed kept undefiled, for God will judge sexually immoral people and adulterers.” Paul isn’t saying to keep your marriage bed pure when you feel like it or to treat it casually. He’s exhorting and urging couples to do whatever it takes to protect their relationship from outward and inward temptations.
Those temptations might include inappropriate relationships with the opposite sex, emotional unfaithfulness, pornography, adultery, masturbation, or rejecting your spouse’s physical and emotional needs to name a few. Sex is a picture of oneness in marriage and God takes seriously any sin that could sever that bond and destroy what He ordained.
As followers of Christ we’re called to persevere in our purity, no matter if we’re single or married as 2 Timothy 2:22 says: “But keep away from youthful passions, and pursue righteousness, faithfulness, love, and peace, in company with others who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” Our responsibility is to surround ourselves with believers who will spur us on towards holiness and godliness.
Was the difficult work of pursuing purity within my dating relationship worth it? Absolutely. It was a constant battle I was determined to fight in order to love and obey the Lord. I can say with full confidence that the fruit I see now in our sexual relationship and marriage is because of the seeds of commitment and discipline that were planted many years ago.