I’ve been trying to think about how to write this out. I’ve actually spent a lot of time thinking about this subject in general. Thinking about how to act this out, what to do, what to say, what not to do or day or think… How to make this work. How to make celibacy work again.
An active sexual life has come and gone for me over the years. When I was very young, I drew a line in the sand and said “no sex” and meant “no intercourse.” So when I was a teenager, for a couple of years, I did most everything else. Then for a couple of years I avoided sexual contact again… Until I descended into a very long, dark period where -among other things I did that I oughtn’t have- I didn’t treat people with the respect they deserved, and found it easier to make friends and get laid (still no intercourse, but otherwise quite promiscuous for a time). Then, as being an asshole wore thin, I gave it -and sexual conquest, generally, and most social contact- up. And for a few more years, there was nothing, though … not always by choice. Somewhere in there I blotted out my childhood line in the sand, thought it might be okay to have sex someday if the situation was right. ((There is an undercurrent in that of wanting to someday have another chance with Sara, and her expressing that she didn’t want to be my first, that she couldn’t stand the idea of my waiting for her in that way, even if it wasn’t for her as much as for marriage. Looking back now, I’ve known for a while that the decision to allow myself this option had a lot to do with wanting to change the way Sara looks at me, thinks of me.)) The situation just never came up. And then I moved to the mountains for a couple years, became depressed (due mostly to watching my grandparents fall apart, rot from inside), and became disillusioned about companionship (people I love don’t want to reciprocate, it seems), and it became a choice again, of a sort. And for a year or so, things just went on.
an interlude, a backgrounder:
Whether because it is inherently true, or because it is written in a book I use to guide me, or whether it is because of how I was raised, or because of ‘traditional American values’ (whatever that means), or for some other reason: I believe that sexual contact outside of marriage is a sin. That any sexuality that occurs outside of a covenant relationship is immoral.
I believe that this includes overt sexual activities, sure, but also activities that stand in for, lead up to, or serve to remind us of those more overt activities. So when we kiss passionately, that is sexual, and without an appropriate relationship it is immoral. And when we dance (most modern dancing), it is a pantomime or sometimes just a clothed re-enactment of a sex act. And when we engage in necking, petting, fondling, caressing, manual sex, oral sex, any of it, it’s all sexual. And sometimes even holding hands can be, if you mean it to be, or if that simple contact encourages you to think of sexual contact, of skin on skin in other ways. Somewhat vaguely: If you wouldn’t do it with your brother, your sister, your neighbor, your pastor, you probably shouldn’t be doing it with anyone (except perhaps your spouse).
There is even an interpretation of scripture -which I am not sure whether I want to try to hold myself to right yet- which says that the appearance of evil is the same as evil itself… Which in this context means that if, for example, you were ever behind closed doors with someone of the opposite sex unchaperoned, there is no way of knowing whether a ‘sexual event’ has occurred, and that it is thus the same in the eyes of the world as though a sexual event had occurred. And perhaps in the eyes of the Lord, even though He does know what actually happens behind closed doors. So if two people sleep together (literally), it could be seen as a sort of sexual immorality whether or not any sex occurs. (Not to mention that Jesus basically said that looking at someone with lust in your heart (often read as fantasizing about them) is the same to God as committing adultery. That really widens the ‘sexual immorality’ playing field.)
Anyway, to summarize, I’m not married, so: Sex is immoral, sexual contact is immoral, ‘sexual events’ may be immoral, having sexual fantasies is as much a sin as adultery, and oh- did I mention? -I want to live a moral life. It is difficult, it is too late for a lot of my life, but I can try, I can do my best, going forward. Right?
And then Jennifer Muraca came into my life. That’s a whole story unto itself – perhaps several. For this context, let me say that I fell in love with someone who (seemed, at the time to have) reciprocated that love, that we shared a very special relationship that culminated in mutual personal vows of love and commitment. That after discussing it for weeks, we were both as certain as we knew how to be, and I gave her my ‘virginity’ inasmuch as I had any left to give (she was the first person I had ‘actual’ sexual intercourse with). It was amazing. Beautiful. In that afternoon, all was exactly as it should be, the two of us here in this room, and I didn’t regret it at all. And then things began to fall apart, began to go sour very quickly, and I ended up alone and hurt and tortured and hating myself.
And for a year, I was the walking dead.
And then, still dead, I began acting out – mostly against myself, though I couldn’t see it clearly at the time, or lied to myself about it – and interacting with people again. And there was sex. Bad sex at first, though whether that was because I wasn’t present, wasn’t experienced, or had selected a bad partner to begin with, we will never know. Then intentional ‘practice sex,’ a couple of one-night stands, a series of conquests where I just bedded whoever sat down next to me at work for a while… Part of it I know came from that terrible feeling of “well, I’ve already failed to remain a virgin, I may as well…” Part of it was my desire to become a sort of ‘expert system,’ to get out of terrible and into seeming quite experienced as soon as possible. With most skills I can go from zero to advanced in a day or so of effort, and sex was no different (after the first 24 hours’ worth of practice, there’s very little trepidation due to inexperience left). More central, I think, was an undercurrent of self-abuse, of punishment.
Doing what is wrong, what is immoral, hurts me. Not literally, not physically, but in perhaps a more meaningful way. So that every time I engaged in sexual immorality, it hurt me just a little more. And as time passed and I continued to make these ‘wrong’ choices, to do what I knew I ought not to do, I was hurting myself. Punishing myself, in a way. Punishing myself for losing my virginity to Jennifer just days before she turned on me. Punishing myself for not waiting. Punishing myself for all the opportunities for a better relationship, perhaps even marriage, that I had missed or lost due to my own action or inaction. Punishing myself for never having taken the initiative to go after Sara. Punishing myself for each previous sex act I had engaged in; for my teenage years, my asshole years, and even up to the current act I was engaged in. Sometimes what I was doing made me feel so bad I wanted to throw up; at first I thought it was a circumstance (what I’d eaten, for example) or a person (or a smell), but I think it had more to do with how well I lied to myself and how convincingly I pretended to want to be marring my soul with new sins.
And beyond the immediate displeasure at my own wrong choices, there was also the knowledge of final judgement; the knowledge that I could punish myself eternally by forcing these sins onto the record of my life. Whatever I did wrong times the nature of my own self-abuse. Obviously this is flawed logic, emotional accounting, because God will surely punish me appropriately if punishment is due – I have no business judging my life or anyone else’s, only God has the right and the wisdom to judge. I don’t need to pay the price now as I see fit; God will ensure I pay whatever is due at the right time.
Oh, and that’s part of why I’ve given it up. I’ve given up trying to punish myself. It’s not my place, and even if I tried i couldn’t do it rightly. I’ll leave that up to God. So that’s a factor.
Along with which, I’d like to try to avoid doing things that I oughtn’t to do. To avoid things that may be deserving of punishment. To avoid sin, immorality. I already do my best not to be dishonest, to honor my parents, to avoid worshiping false gods and idols, to avoid coveting, to avoid cooking a young goat in its mother’s milk. This is just another thing to try to avoid. Something I know I am able to avoid; I didn’t have intercourse until I was 26. I just need to draw the line in the sand a little further out this time. No sexual immorality.
See, so this has been a long time coming. Probably a year of this should have been enough – if Mandy and I had broken up back in February or March, I would have come to this decision without the current additional difficulty of dealing with a breakup. As it was, my decision to give up sexual immorality was not the end of my relationship with Mandy – we were not quite that shallow. But almost. There had been, over the months, a lot of holding back from each other, a lack of connection, and in the end it was that which drove us apart. Taking sex out of the equation just shed light on how little depth was left without marathon sex sessions and multiple orgasms. We’ve been talking about maybe trying to work on more depth, on trying not to hide so much, hold so much back, and we’ll see where it goes, but … not back to sex. I won’t do that to myself again.
Maybe if there’s another beautiful situation, with reciprocated love and commitment, hope and faith in a future together and all that … maybe with something like that it wouldn’t seem immoral. I don’t see that first time, that afternoon with Jennifer, as sexual immorality. Somehow that doesn’t feel right, never has. So maybe that’s in my future. But until such time as I see things differently, it’s celibacy.