I promised a second post on Biblical Womanhood. In it I wanted to address the last two subjects: What guy and girl relationships should look like, and physical touch.
(Click here to read Biblical Womanhood Part I)
A Standard of Purity
While recently talking to a young woman I was asked why I wouldn't hug young men and why I wouldn't become a close friend with a guy. She mentioned that physical touch is actually a health benefit. She also wondered at how I could consider myself friends with guys and yet not be willing to spend one on one with them or treat them like any of my girl friends.
This is my answer. And as Christian young woman you too need to have an answer.
Every person has a boundary. A line in the sand. For many Christians they draw it at marital relations. Most Christian woman, that I know, wouldn't have sex outside of marriage. Why? This is their standard of purity. You too have a standard of purity...but do you know why you stand there? Do you know why you draw the line there? If you don't know why, you most likely will not be able to remain standing when you are challenged or tempted.
I desire that my standard of purity be based off of God's standard of purity. Ephesians 5:22-27 describes this for us. Marriage between a man and woman represent the church's marriage with Christ. We are His bride. And His standard for his bride is that we be holy and blameless, having no spot or wrinkle.
Christ said to men that “Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Matthew 5:28) God demands purity of heart and mind. Our hearts, just like our bodies are to be saved for one person.
Physical relationships with a man before marriage obviously does not fit God's standard of purity. But why not hugs? Why not close one on one friendships?
With a little research you can find plenty of scientific reasons on health benefits for physical touch. Giving hugs supposedly lowers blood pressure, relieves stress, boosts oxytocin which benefits the heart and more.(http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2014/02/06/hugging.aspx)
I believe it, and don't condemn hugging. I hug my mom and dad and sisters and brothers and girlfriends often. I also realize that we young women are hard-wired with a need to be held and cherished and protected and wanted and touched. It's God-given and it's natural and it's good. We just need to be careful where we find fulfillment in this. My family definitely helps with this need. They love me and cherish me and protect me. But I usually find I need more. And I turn to Jesus who loves to hold and cherish and protect. But I do not hug young men because of God's standard on purity.
God tells us to keep our hearts. That would infer that our hearts can be given away. Proverbs 4:23 It also states we are to do this with diligence. This infers that it is imperative, and in need of active vigilance.
This is a difficult task but with Jesus who is our strength and with our God-given authorities He has made it possible. Read my post on Temptation.
The Bible makes it clear that He knew us while we were yet being formed. That He holds an expected end in mind for us. That He knows our future and has a will for it. (See Psalm 139; Jeremiah 29:11 and Ephesians 2:10 for a few examples).
Knowing this, I don't think it's too far of a stretch to say that He knows and has planned a best for us. That He knows our man and is molding him into the perfect spouse for us. I believe He has a plan for our future children. I don't have it all figured out, it's still a mystery as to exactly how God brings husbands and wives together, but I firmly believe that we are created to be one man's helpmeet and should use serious guarded caution about the men we get close to. Read my post on Heart Strings.
Not only in physical contact but in actions! We should behave as if our husbands were in the room watching us. We are sisters in Christ to every young man that is a believer and that is the extent to which we should act. As sisters with all purity. (1 Timothy 5:2).
“But test-driving someone romantically, whether for kicks, for science, or for strategy, is not how we keep romance in the context of marriage, where it belongs. We can invent a thousand excuses, but at the end of the day, we don’t do it because it’s wise. We don’t do it because it’s loving. We don’t do it because we’re pursuing purity. We do it because it’s just so much fun.”
(Anna Sofia and Elizabeth Botkin in It's Not that Complcated)
Saving our first kiss, our first hug...our first holding a guy's hand, for our future spouse is a beautiful thing. I have talked to many couples who followed this standard and they have no regrets. In fact, they encourage every single person they know to do the same.
Physical touch with a man is intimate and stirs the emotions. Intimacy and emotions that will easily lead you to compromising your purity. Physical contact (cuddling, caressing, hugging, holding hands...) actually awakens emotions and thoughts that aren't evil in and of themselves, but are inappropriate outside of marriage. I'm not the only one that thinks this! I have spoken to young women and young men on this topic. And believe me, it's not only “perverts” who think this way. This is a natural response.
But this aside, it goes beyond what is beautiful, or preference or what others have said. This is an issue on what God thinks, what He asks of us, what He expects. The Bible gives us many clear commands. We are to guard our hearts, love selflessly, thinking on that which is pure and true. Not to covet or lust. To be temperate. To take every thought captive.
Can we obey Him in this while being intimate with a guy outside of marraige? I don't think so.
So is it Wrong to Date?
In a recent conversation, a young woman told me she was curious how I could believe that without dating, and living in the middle of nowhere, in a small social sphere, I was ever going to get married. She really doubted a guy was going to fall out of heaven on my doorstep.
Well, she's right. A guy, most likely, isn't going to fall out of heaven on my doorstep and marry me. But I know I will marry someday, and that I don't need to date in order to do so. What she was really asking is “How are you going to get to know someone?”. Read my post on "The One".
That's actually a really good question.
Firstly, I know plenty of people. Hundreds. Though I do live in a tiny town and my social spheres are limited to church, our friends from a like minded church in Canada, and work; I'm really not concerned. God doesn't really need my help. I don't need to go looking for eligible men. In fact, I know that I am to be faithful with what He has already given me and called me to do. He will do the rest. Read my post What to do as a Single?
I am acquainted with dozens of guys, nice and not so nice ones, whom I'm sure I won't ever marry. And you know what? I didn't have to date them to find out. It is quite easy getting to know someone without dating them. Read my post "Holding out for a Fairy Tale"
Joshua Harris wrote an excellent book called “I Kissed Dating Goodbye”. In it his gives 7 reasons on the negativity of the Dating system.
#1 Dating leads to intimacy, not necessarily to commitment.
#2 Dating tends to skip the “friendship” stage of relationship.
#3 Dating often mistakes a physical relationship for love.
#4 Dating often isolates us from other vital relationships.
#5 Dating, in many cases, distracts young adults from their primary responsibility of of preparing for their future.
#6 Dating can cause discontentment with God's gift of singleness.
#7 Dating creates an artificial environment for evaluating another person's character.
Through what I have read and what I have seen in other's lives, and what many people have shared with me from their own personal experience, I have come to the conclusion that dating is not only less than the ideal, but actually detrimental. And thankfully, God's word describes something better than dating. We do have a practical healthy alternative. My family has labeled this “courtship”. For more detail on this please read my post on Courtship Defended.
What then does godly guy-girl relationships look like?
I want all my readers to know that I think it's okay to be friends with a guy. I actually have a few guy friends. In fact, my brothers and I are always going on adventures with our friends (guy and girl). One particular young man we seem to do everything with. I consider myself to be his friend. We sincerely enjoy each other's company, share ideas, have some similar interests, will joke and do things together. But always in a group setting.
I respect him and love him as a brother. And I know he respects me and loves me as his sister. I know this because of how he treats me. We can have fun and participate together in many of the same activities and pray for one another and encourage each other and laugh together but we have never spent one on one with each other. And this is because we respect each other's purity. We never would want to cause the other to stumble or be tempted. We would never think of hugging each other for this very reason. And yet we are good friends. There is nothing formal or stiff about our friendship. It is simple, healthy, pure, comfortable and clean. It is possible to have guys as friends without any physical touch involved. In fact, staying clear of all emotional or physical intimacy gives us the ability to be friends without any awkwardness. (I also want to add that it's true that men need hugs too, but not from us single women! We are not gypping men of the physical benefit from hugging by keeping ourselves pure. As in my example with my friend, he hugs his sisters, he does not need his girl friends to do that for him!).
I can safely have one on one time with girlfriends because there is no risk of temptation. To share your heart one on one is personal, intimate and bonding. We have no reason to bond to a young man unless they are our young men. And unless they are our brothers, father, grandfather (immediate family) or our man with our ring on his finger they aren't ours. Period.
Believe me, I know the battle to keep a pure heart. Especially in this day and age of impurity and with reaching the “old maid status” (past 18 years old!). I also know what it's like to find men fascinating, attractive and loveable. We are hard-wired that way. It's okay. This is a black and white issue, but I am not trying to come across without compassion or “preachy”. I know your struggles. I'm human....and a female on top of that. I get it. Ever since I was a little girl I have loved boys. I loved playing with them and found it easy to communicate and spend time with them. But we must remember God's standard of purity. We must remember to love our brothers.
How do we treat young men we admire?
It isn't wrong to admire and respect a young man, and even realize we would like to marry a man like him someday. Where we need to be careful is in these areas:
Our will. If God has designed our future and has a plan for us we must embrace His will for us. No young man should be more important that this.
Our claims. We cannot claim any young man as ours unless we are married to him. Being possessive or jealous of a man is selfish and unhealthy. If we start to feel this way we know we need to get our heart right and ask God for a godly attitude for this guy. We have no guarantee that this man is ours and cannot put any stake in emotions.
What we can do towards men we admire:
We can pray for him and his future wife. We can treat him as a sister in Christ. We can trust that God knows what He is doing and wait for Him to guide our future and the young man's future. Focus on what God has given us to faithfully prepare for and ask God to make us worthy, “above rubies” for the man we pray God will give us. Not treating our admiration as a secret or as God-given inspiration/intuition. For one, telling our parents, or a mature trusted friend, will hold our thoughts accountable and take away the “butterflies” and immature “crush” symptoms. Two, our emotions really can't be trusted. They are strong, they are real, they aren't all evil...but they aren't always correct. They can lead us astray.
What about guys that we don't really like and bother us and try to get our phone number or corner us at functions or try to flirt with us?
Something I want to point out is that most young men initiate these kinds of things, but they then wait to see how the woman responds. YOU set the tone of interaction. This isn't necessarily true for all situations but it's something that is often ignored. If you pretend to enjoy his attentions, if you are too bashful and remain neutral, if you won't establish boundaries, these kind of men will test you and push you out of your comfort zone (intentionally or not).
Parents are great helpers for advice and Dads are our protectors. But often you don't even need to get your Dad involved if you would do the guy the favor of not being an enabler.
You don't have to endure creepy questions, or inappropriate behavior or crude jokes or give your number or accept dates or be be friendly to these guys. This kind of thing will happen to you so you might as well realize that you can politely let them know you aren't interested. Please read my post on Defending Yourself.
As a Christian we act like Christ, and Christ was bold though without sin. We can do the same thing. We don't have to be haughty or self-righteous. But we also don't have to allow anyone to push us into anything uncomfortable. In love you can simply state, "I'm sorry I don't give out my information". Or, "I'm sorry I'm not interested".
I know a man that follows young woman around and tries to talk to them at church functions. He is a wife hunter. This kind of man can make any girl feel like prey. (If there is a predator, make sure to tell your authorities and brothers. They can take care of this for you). But if he is simply over board in his wife hunting methods you must be bold. If he is talking to you there is nothing wrong with having a short polite discussion and then excusing yourself. He isn't going to eat you. Don't treat him like a monster. Don't make fun of him by snickering to your girlfriends about him either. Some of these men are just lonely. But if he is pushing boundaries you may have to say something. It's okay to let a person know when you are uncomfortable. Most bold people who push can take it. Plus if there are other young men that hear you state your boundaries they can then easily defend you. My brothers have told me this several times. When a young woman says “Please don't, this makes me feel uncomfortable” they then have something to go off of and can easily intercede if the man continues. My brothers then tell the man, “Excuse me, but this young lady just asked you not to do this...”
Remember, your Dad has no problem protecting you. He's that secret weapon you can pull out if you can't handle it. :) Yet, most men get the hint if you do not respond to their flirtatious actions and simply treat them like every other young man. It's not our responsibility to make them feel good or welcomed or anything. We are to guard our hearts.
But what if I have already compromised my purity?
All of us have compromised our purity to some level. In this filthy world we all have been attacked mentally, emotionally if not physically in an impure way.
No matter how far you have fallen, or how how compromised your purity has become there is a hope. And it doesn't matter if your purity has been stained by your own choice of against your will. We all have the same hope offered to us.
The Savior, Jesus Christ offers us forgiveness and cleansing and healing. He is our hope. The same offering he gave to the woman caught in adultery, is the same hope he extends to us.
He already knows our need. We don't have to try to become clean before coming to Him because He knows (better than we do) how vain our own cleansing is. Some of us struggle to forgive ourselves. That's okay, because our forgiveness isn't what will heal us. It's His forgiveness. If we can accept His forgiveness we later will be able to forgive ourselves and others.
Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but [this] one thing [I do], forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,
It's never too late to repent of our impure actions and do what is right. Let Him take your thoughts captive. Think on pure things (Phil. 4:8). Don't put yourself in tempting situations (ie: one one one with a guy!).
Jesus knows how to keep your heart and also purify it. Sometimes this isn't easy. Sometimes it requires a lonely stand. Sometimes He allows fire to “try” us and burn off our dross. But it's worth it!
No man owns your heart. As a Christian you know that Jesus does. No matter how many shreds of your heart you have given out, Jesus can make you whole. Of course there are always consequences to our actions. Of course we most likely will have scars. But when Jesus forgives He does it all the way.
“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” (Ps. 51:10)
If you don't have a dad that protects you. If you naturally are emotionally impulsive and give your heart away to every eligible guy; if you are vulnerable to romantic thoughts, if you have regrets, if an impure past haunts you – God still mercifully offers His forgiveness and love and healing and atonement.
He knows your hurt. He knows your anxieties. He hears your cries and prayers. He will forgive you. He will keep you. He makes purity possible.