The Bags We Pack

A Note from Stephanie: In recent years, my husband and I have had the opportunity to lead engaged couples through premarital counselling. Inevitably there is a portion on sexual intimacy. As we prepared for the conversation that would ensue at that session, I realized the simple discipline of do and don’t failed to satisfy the underlying desires. I felt like God was impressing upon my heart, You cannot convincingly communicate my way if you do not understand my why. I began to ask God to help me understand the why behind His way.

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I’m so thankful for the way God uses stories to communicate His truth in a way we can understand. Recently a friend was sharing what she was learning about God’s design for in a book called Swipe Right: The Life and Death Power of Sex and Romance. The fact that I was puzzled by the title dates me slightly. Regardless of if the term swipe right is foreign or familiar, you are likely no stranger to the all out war in our culture against God’s design for sex and relationships. And this war does not discriminate based on age, generation or marital status. It’s coming against our marriages, our friends, our children and grandchildren.

Whether you  are dealing with your own wounds from the past, struggling to know how to live today without adding the regret you’ll experience tomorrow, desiring more passion and intimacy in your marriage, or wanting to begin a dialogue with your children, grandchildren or friends that will lead to wise choices, there is something here for you.

I asked my friend to share her story here and together, we crafted it. I know you’ll be blessed by what God has done in her life!

Have you ever experienced hanger—irritability as a result of hunger? The physical and emotional emptiness leaves us vulnerable to reach for the quick fix— chips, crackers, fries, or cookies. They offer temporary satisfaction at best, and a junk food hangover at worst, and over time, this pattern —anything to quickly satisfy this craving, would compromise physical health.

But as I’m sure you know, a quick fix never satisfies the way a nourishing meal does.

I grew up thinking that God’s design for sex and relationships could be summarized in a few do’s and don’ts. As long as I saved sex for marriage, I could check the box of keeping His way.

Like most women, I longed to feel cherished and adored but a combination of degrading situations and poor choices left my heart lonely, fearful and insecure. The past had taught me it was safest to never relinquish control, and control could be maintained by manipulating relational situations to my liking. As long as someone loved me that way I wanted to be loved, I was lovable.

Relationships continued to disappoint as the deepest need of my heart—to be securely loved and cherished— remained unsatisfied. As I grew more lonely, afraid and insecure, I became needier, more controlling and more manipulative.

When these left me empty, I believed that it was sex—the thing I wasn’t allowed, and marriage, the relationship I couldn’t seem to secure— would fix my struggles, cure my conflict, and offer the security and love I desired.

In my mind, baggage would simply disappear once I was married. I did not understand that the baggage I packed before my relationship would eventually need to be unpacked in my relationship. Marriage was the answer.

Doing relationships my way left me with a lingering emotional hangover— a deep sense of unworthiness that I could not curb. My heart, soul and mind were starved and severed.

I was challenged by a friend to consider why save sex for marriage. My initial response was simply that I am supposed to. As I continued to ponder the question, I realized that answer didn’t satisfy the desire of my soul. Fighting the battle simply with “don’t” was losing ground to my increasing need to feel securely loved.

As I journeyed to find the why to support the way, I came across Swipe Right: The Life and Death Power of Sex and Romance. Author Levi Lusko identified the lie that left my heart hungry:

It is easy to think that God can be a killjoy or doesn’t want you to enjoy sex but in reality God actually created it. He isn’t saying, “not ever.” He’s just saying, ‘not now, not yet.’

God’s rules are there for a reason- not to kill your joy but to enhance it. He has so much more in store for you than you could ever know. But to get there you must relinquish your desire to navigate on your own, lest you lose your way. When you put your trust in the instruments God has given you, you set yourself up to soar.
— Levi Lusko, Swipe Right

Thankfully, the invitation to turn the keys over to God and His way, was still available. And it’s available because Jesus Christ lived perfectly, died innocently, and rose from the grave victoriously for me. By trusting in Him, I exchange His life for mine. Spotless for stained. I gave up control to the only One who could truly cleanse, satisfy and be fully trusted with my heart.

"Salvation is a non-stop flight and Jesus paid our whole way.”

I am overwhelmed by God’s relentless pursuit of me as I relentlessly pursued my own way. When I was angry at Him, He loved me faithfully. When I ran away, He chased after me. He let me sit at the bottom of the pit until I reached up in trust. He graciously withheld engagement until I surrendered the desire only He could satisfy. He brought me to the end of myself so He, the only perfect lover of my soul, could do what only He can do. I was enjoying my newfound freedom in an intimate relationship with God when the question I longed for was finally popped. 

The consequences of sin haven’t disappeared completely, but the condemnation has. God is writing a new chapter, because the Creator is also into re-creating. The present is the perfect time to receive God’s gracious gift of a new beginning. He can find the masterpiece no matter how many messy layers it is buried beneath, if we will only ask.  

"Just because you can’t unreap what you have already sown doesn’t mean you can’t start sowing something new."

My desire to keep God first in my relationship with my now fiance, is greater than my desire for physical intimacy. Waiting is intentional work, but through prayer, grace, forgiveness, and a whole lot of dates accompanied by siblings and friends, it is within reach.

Nourishing my heart and mind with God’s truth, and choosing to trust and obey Him even when it doesn’t seem possible or worthwhile, is the only way to fight the desire for the quick fix.

A wise friend shared with me that ultimately, we always do what we want. So, why not ask God to flood out lesser desires with a greater desire to know and love Jesus.

“If you think it’s taking forever, don’t get impatient, get praying.”

I look to the past with this in mind:

“Next time you think that you’re too messed up for God to use you, remember that He became one of us so he could make us like Him. No matter where you have been or what you have done, Jesus is your family.”

My story is His story. Your story can be His story too.

“God has a funny way of using what’s monstrously difficult in our lives to be monumentally helpful to other people.”

I look to marriage with this in mind:

“Marriages are like saving accounts: they have only what you put in there through sacrifice over time, but the more you invest and the more patient you are, the more it will pay off. If you abandon your marriage to start a new relationship, all you are doing is walking across the street to a different bank, opening a new account, and starting at square one with someone else; your finances stay the same.”

No matter how many times you or I have swiped wrong, today, through Jesus, you can swipe right. He came so that we might have life, including relationships, in the fullest sense. Let Him nourish your heart and mind with His truth. You might even find the quick fix loses its appeal.