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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Just Don't Call It "Waiting"

Image source.
I have mixed feelings about this article at Christianity Today: When True Love Keeps Waiting. First of all, the writer, Amanda McCracken, has some much-needed criticism for the way the church treats singles. It's like the church has no idea what to do with single people in their 30s, 40s, and older. McCracken writes, "When I offered to share my story with the women’s ministry at church, leaders suggested I speak to high school or college students instead." Come on, church.

Also, she writes about people telling her to stop it and just have sex already. Okay, whoa, not okay. You have no business telling other people how to live their life- you don't know their situation and the reasons they've made the choices they've made.

Which is why I'm not going to judge her choices either. It's her own life, and I trust that she knows herself best.

But. I have some concerns about her reasoning and the language she uses, particularly the word "waiting."

Based on my own background in purity culture, here's what the word "waiting" means to me: We have no choice. God has picked out one specific partner for you, or maybe God didn't, because God has ordained that you should be single forever. We have no choice in any of this. Well, let me rephrase that: Yes, you could go ahead and date, even without getting the go-ahead from God Almighty. But that would be THE WRONG CHOICE and as a result, it will end badly. Maybe it will ruin your whole life, or maybe it will just be greatly inferior to whatever it was that God wanted you to do instead.

When you're "waiting" there is only one right answer. It doesn't matter what you want- God knows what you're SUPPOSED to be doing. God knows who you're supposed to be with, and if that person's not available at the present time, you must do ABSOLUTELY NOTHING romantic or sexual at all.

You have to "wait."

Your love life (or lack thereof) has already been planned for you. And if you haven't gotten to the part where God decrees that said love life will start, then you are to do ABSOLUTELY NOTHING with your romantic/sexual desires. (Well maybe you can pray for your future husband, but that's it.)

That's what "wait" means, to me and to purity culture in general. I don't know if that's what McCracken means by it, but I am highly suspicious of the use of this word.

Image source.

Instead, of "waiting," I believe God wants us to live in freedom. Your body is yours, your sexuality is yours, your choices are yours.

Think about what kind of partner you want. (Or don't want. If you don't want to date, that's cool too!) Think about your standards. Think about the risks and benefits of dating/ having sex/ etc. Think about the likelihood of finding someone who meets your standards, and whether it's more important to you to have a relationship now or to only accept a potential partner who meets a higher standard.

There has to be a balance between all of these aspects, and each person's priorities/needs/desires/etc will be different. It's something you have to decide for yourself. Personally, I think people need experience and maturity to be able to make good decisions about it- it's generally not a good idea to have sex or get married when you're too young. (But, like I said, your life is yours, I'm not judging.)

You're in control of your own love life. Don't wait for anyone else to tell you what you're supposed to do. If you're single, it's not because you're "waiting", it's because you haven't found anyone you feel is worth pursuing at the present time. It's your choice.

(And of course, it goes without saying- you have to respect people. If someone clearly doesn't want to date you, don't keep pursuing them. Yeah, that happens, and it feels awful. I'm not saying finding love is easy; I'm saying you don't have to fear the unknown. I think I heard somewhere that perfect love drives out fear.)

Umm... no... because that's not what "cheating" means... Image source.

To me, this all sounds incredibly freeing. But back when I was in purity culture, it would have sounded terrifying. What, God's not going to give me a perfect marriage as a reward for my obedience? I have to make my own choices? I have to navigate the romance minefield myself? There are no guarantees? What if I screw up? What if I choose a guy who's okay but I could have done better? What if I could have been having sex this whole time and I've missed my chance?

Hey, it's okay. Calm down. The world is not as scary as they told you. Romance is not a minefield. Yeah, of course there is heartbreak. Sometimes it doesn't work out. There are sad parts. That's normal. (That's why I said you have to weigh the risks and benefits and make an informed decision.) But oh my goodness you guys, nothing is as bad as living terrified of making a mistake that ruins my life, repressing all my desires and still feeling guilty about them, praying for weeks about whether a particular guy is "the one", scared of how my own emotions could make me "impure" and permanently damaged. (Alternatively, breaking up is not nearly as bad as spending years and years in an unhealthy relationship.)

Don't be afraid. You're good, your body is good, your desires are good. There is no "right answer"- you are free.

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