Episode 71 – Pulling down the Idols of Romance, Marriage & Sex
Join Josh and Kit as they discuss this longing we have to worship, to hope in, to set our eyes on.
We don’t like unresolved longing, we just can’t deal with it.
An immature approach at dealing with a very mature problem, which is what do we do with desire?
…we are trying to shortcut the resolution to the longing…
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Original music by Shannon Smith. Audio engineering by Gabriel @ DelMar Sound Recording.
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I expected a marital relationship down the road and I was afraid of ruining my chance at a perfect one. So I took a vow to abstain from sex until marriage and I wore a ring on the fourth finger of my left hand. When I started hanging out with a guy in high school. I refrained from holding hands with him because I believed it was short. It was a short road from Inter twining fingers to winding up in bed together. Josh Glazer Kit Elmer here. We’re gonna talk today about, uh, Wharton. This, the article that are the the, that I just read is from an article called both purity culture and hookup culture failed me in Christianity today and it’s by Abigail Mirisch posted on July 29th, 2019 and her, her article is really, it’s a stoop. It’s well-read when we’d actually read some other quotes from and as we go, but we’re going to talk kind of not just about purity culture and the, what’s, how the, you know, the backlash of that happening in our culture today. But we want to talk just in general about this phenomenon that happens both for singles and for marrieds in the church where we idolize romance and idolize marriage and idolize sex kit. What do you think about that?
Oh, I think it’s true. I mean, we’ve talked about this before. I mean, it’s kind of pathetic when I think back on my early years sitting at the piano and singing some of these really just emotionally dependent songs. You know, about how I’m going to find my true love and then everything’s going to be fine. And this longing, this sort of just this longing that, that all that I ever wanted would be fulfilled by a guy, you know, and it’s just it, and you know, all the movies and all the songs, they, they really absolutely feed into that, to have in the past and still do in a lot of ways.
So there’s a lot of conversation these days about kind of backlash against the purity ring, the purity movement that it was in the 90s. Um, Joshua Harris wrote a book called why I kissed dating goodbye or something like that. Um, and it’s since renounced that, that book, and, and he’s going through a turbulent time of his own right now. We’re not gonna get into that, but, um, uh, and there’s a lot of people coming forward saying, hey man, that, you know, I kind of bought into that whole idea when I was a kid and it was even pushed on me by some of my Christian leaders and it’s really hurt me. It really messed me up. Anything from, you know, I like this woman wrote in your article, I kind of expected that. What this meant was if I follow the rules, if I abstain from sex, if I do the right, God’s going to give me a boyfriend who’s going to turn into a husband and we’re going to have the happily ever after that that I really long for. Right
sex and yeah, it’ll all be, it’ll all be good.
And so many people who, whether it’s the marriage never came or the marriage came, but it was not the happily ever after or marriage came and loved my husband. I loved my wife, but our sex life really struggles, really painful, really difficult, not what we anticipated or nonetheless, I, you know, I did not have sex for, I got married, but I struggled all sorts of sexual sin in my life before I got married. And that stuff’s just wreaking havoc on my life today. So a lot of people pointing to that kind of purity movement. But I think the purity movement was not, didn’t come out of nowhere. I think the purity movement, um, came as a, as a reaction to our struggles with sexual desire as a whole and not quite knowing what to do with it. Right. It was a, I think, uh, if I could be so bold, maybe an immature approach at dealing with a very mature problem, which is what do we do with desire?
Yeah. And said romantic sexual desire specifically. Yeah. So I want to read another quote from this article. Um, again, I just commend the article to you. I think, I think she does a nice job of talking about it, but she says this at the end. She said, um, in the end, one central truth became clear to me both purity culture and the libertine culture, the culture of my college campus. So the hookup culture that she was experiencing in college, both the purity culture and the libertine culture of my college campus, even though they advocated very different behaviors, had the same exact problem. They centralized sex and romantic relationships and gave the impression that both are essential for true fulfillment, both purity culture, and the hookup culture told me that sex and romantic relationships with satisfy my loneliness and did that. God said not true. I have something better. What? What’s not true about that?
You know, this longing that we have, I’m trying to remember, I read something the other day, but you know, we do have this ache, this longing, some of which will never go away because we have a longing to be with God, one with God and heaven. That’s what we were created for. That’s not going to happen here. And so we are always longing to find that thing that’s gonna fix that. And so we’re, we’re deceived. We’re, you know, when we believe that there is something else, God’s going to be able to fill some of that in ways that nothing else can. And some of that is going to be with us until, you know, we’re, we’re not here anymore.
Yeah. I was thinking about, I mean just on a practical level, so in, in a, in the groups that we run, for men who are struggling with sexual addictions, it’s a really common occurrence that for a lot of those guys, they’ve never let anybody really know them before beginning with their, their sexual struggles. So a lot of them come in, this has been a secret part of their lives. Maybe their spouse, if they’re married, knew about it, but they’ve kept it quiet because they were ashamed. And then they find a group where they can begin opening up about it. And it’s just like this, you know, the light bulbs go on and they just, oh my gosh, this is so much better. And these, and all of a sudden it’s like they’re in the trenches with these brothers and they’re feeling this closest with these other guys, pockets that I’ve kept to myself and they start opening about those [inaudible] that that’s, that is a great example of what we’re talking about in two ways.
One, men need other men that they can be intimate with. And I mean intimate relationally, emotionally with [inaudible] because there are some aspects, even even though in a marriage you want to be emotionally and relationally intimate with your spouse, uh, your, your, your other sex spouse is not, is not going to get some of what somebody, the same sex is going to get. And so, um, so the idea that one person is going to satisfy all my needs or this person plus my family is gonna just, you know, I, I will be relationally and emotionally and sexually and physically satisfied because I’ve got this family that’s not fair. It’s too much pressure to put on on one person or one family, but then extend that further. Even those relationships with the other people, like you’re saying, there comes a point where all of us, I mean you see two roads here.
One is you don’t really plumb the depths of your heart. You don’t really face those places inside that are still lonely and longing. Or if you do, you’ll reach a spot where you realize nobody satisfies this. Yeah. Like, nobody gets me in this way. Nobody can really understand this. Yeah. Some people go pretty, you know, further than others. Some people go further down some tracks than others, but ultimately, like I think everyone of a stands alone and there isn’t isolation human being feels from other human beings that can never be bridged. Yeah. Um, and that’s a place that God only is meant to fill. Yeah, I agree with that. That’s pretty powerful statement right there. No. Okay. I, you know, I just preached on and on, you know, they, you Josh Glazer, I don’t like that. And I don’t, I think on a day to day basis, like there’s something in me that resists that like that, that doesn’t feel like great news. It feels like, like, like bad news. Why is it, why is that or how is that good news and how is that bad news and what, and what does that news do for us in regards to this whole question about idolizing romance or idolizing marriage?
You know, one of the thing that’s I’m thinking about is we, we just do not like unresolved longing. We just can’t deal with it, you know? Well, um, what is God trying to teach us about that? Like do we have to have every need satisfied right now? Is that the goal or is the goal to actually, you know, or there’s many goals I’m sure, but is one aspect of the goal that, you know, how do we get comfortable with, with incompleteness and longing and waiting, you know, so that, that we actually can understand who god is and what he can, he alone can do. And in that waiting, I just wonder the kinds of things that God is saying to us. Like you’re not, if I fixed that for you right now, that’s not really going to do what you want it to do. Like there’s something I’m trying to grow in you and help you understand about who I am and, and what life really means that you, you aren’t going to get if you just have all your needs satisfied the way you think. What do you think about that?
Geez, that’s really good. I mean it’s hard. It’s a hard word. I think when you say we’re not comfortable with, with waiting with the unresolved pain or conflict or loneliness or longing, I mean like, I mean if you, if you were to ask me to, you know, to teach about it or talk about in a podcast, I would say amen. If you were to watch my date, my daily life, you know what, what I’m like at 11:00 PM after a rough day, like, well, why am I putting more food in my mouth? Why am I doing another crossword puzzles or watching TV or, and I think for so many we have whatever that drug of choices, you know, and it can look really Christian, you know, Christian service or going to church or whatever, but it’s really like, oh shit, I don’t want to feel this.
Melanie. Yeah. Christopher West and his book, um, fill these hearts and this is not an original idea to him. He actually makes that very clear, but he says that the longing, what, what feeling are longing and being with our longing is meant to do it actually stretches us. And, and he, he, he uses really like sexual metaphor. You know, like, uh, as a, as a, as a bride is stretched to receive her husband. If I can go there, I’m going there anyway. He says that, that, that, that longing is meant to stretch us. That we would be able to receive more of God. And if we don’t allow ourselves to be without longing and to feel the longing then that w we in essence are doing is we’re, we’re keeping ourselves from being able to receive more of who God is for us.
Is that similar to um, you know, this idea that, and I, and I believe this is just, you know, that we, the amount of joy that we’re going to feel is the m is equal to the amount of pain that we felt like there has to be some in life. You have to experience some deep issues of some deep experiences of pain in order to, um, fully understand and receive joy in those things go together.
I think it probably depends on what, what you mean by experience the pain. Because I think, I think there are ways that we can experience pain and walking pain that actually harden us and we become hardened kind of calloused people, um, in reaction to our pain.
So allow pain to, to not hardness, to, to experience pain in a way that we allow it to teach us, allow it to grow us, stretch us.
Yeah. So what was that? You know, the person recently on a John Elderidge said something to the effect of you you can have understanding about why you’re in pain or you can have God but you can’t seek both at the same time. So what do you choose? And, um,
so I just think there is something that happens in that, in that waiting, longing, stretching, IX embracing, accepting pain that that prepares us to receive deeper fullness of God, deeper understanding of him. It’s mysterious, but I think it’s true.
Yeah. I think you’re right. I mean, uh, so coming back to the I this kind of idolizing romance or idolizing marriage that in essence what we’re doing there, if what you’re saying is true kit, what we’re doing with that is, is we are trying to shortcut yeah. The resolution to the longing. Yeah. We’re trying to say like, you know, I can show I can wait another five years or 10 years. And I think what happens for so many people is I wait and I wait and I wait and say, you know, I’m still single or I’ve got married and it’s not, it didn’t happen. Now you become disillusioned. Like, yeah, this is not what I signed up for, what I signed up for the, you know, the Christian version of Christianity where I obey you and do the right thing. And then I get married and have a happy, happy life that I can post on Facebook.
You know, and this isn’t where I am. And um, and I think that’s, that, that’s it. That’s us trying to, again, to steal from Christopher West, it’s as us taking our, our arrows that, that long, it’s meant to point us to God and inverting it and any Aimee is something that’s, that’s temporal. Yeah. And it leaves us, yeah. Still longing for the hookup culture and the purity culture of the same thing in common. Right? It’s like, okay, let me just find, you know, some formula. Right. So the hookup culture is, you know, I’ll just, yeah, I’ll just satisfy my needs and that’ll be it, you know, or the period as well follow this formula and that’ll be it. We were just not comfortable with complexity and mystery and waiting and, you know, we just want to fix it. We want to find, you know, three easy steps.
And I think if I could be so bold, I’d say that there’s a, you know, it may be a third example of that would be in, in, in Christian, uh, Christianity in our Christian culture. Maybe there’s a better way of saying it. There’s a, how you do these three things and you won’t ever feel longing, you know? Yeah, yeah. I remember I was kind of trained, you know, you show your testimonies how you do it. You, you talk about what life was like before Christ, about how you came to know Christ and then you talk about how wonderful life is now that you have Christ. Yes. And I get that. I mean that there are certainly things that have changed my life, but there are some things in my life and there are some aspects of my life that have that got harder after I started following Jesus and we don’t talk enough about that.
Yeah, that’s so, so critical. And it’s, and I think it’s pertinent to this discussion because we want to, we want to circumvent the pain and the longing and the waiting. And so we look for these things when in reality the pain and the longing in the waiting can be very, there can be some very important things there.
And what we’re, and what we’re not saying, we have to be clear about this too. We’re not saying that there is, that there is no real value and help in close intimate friendships or in marriage or in, in, in a healthy sex life within marriage. Uh, I mean we, we are placed in the body of Christ and some of us placed in marriages and families as God’s provision pointing us to that ultimate connection with him. And I think there’s, there’s this, um, this element of, of like, we, we’re not supposed to reject those things. We’re supposed to receive them gratefully as a part of not, not as a full solution to the longing, but as a maybe as an hors d’oeuvre.
Yeah. Yeah. I think that’s so important. Like I think, you know, I’ve learned the hard way with my marriage. Like, my marriage is precious to me and it’s been an eye. I’m so grateful for it and I can’t put on my husband or my marriage what it can’t give me. It’s unfair. It’s won’t work. It’s burdensome for everyone. But, but there is something that I get from God that my husband and my marriage cannot give me. Right. And it’s important to know that.
So going back to the conversation about suffering, like, so the response to that then is not to harden ourselves to those relationships is that, you know, you disappoint me and I’m just going to harden myself to you because only God can satisfy me, me and Jesus alone. Like, I don’t need you anymore. That is not because are we are called to community mean God’s heart is for community from the very beginning. That kid’s not good for man to be alone and he didn’t respond to that. It’s not good for man to be alone by saying, so we spent some more time with me. Adam, you know, he, he, he made eve. So we’re, we are called to both and of this. Yes, yes. Both. And both. But, um, yeah, I’m, I’m just kinda intrigued by some of these ways and I think, I think it points to the hearts, the hearts proclivity, the hearts maybe even god-given, um, proclivity towards finding something to worship.
You know what I mean? We, we want to find something that, to put our hope in. We want to find something that, to set our eyes on and we want like, you know, nobody wants to, to run a race where there looks like there’s never a finish line, you know, like dear God, have mercy, you know. Um, and I think that that life can be, can be long and, and I also don’t want to suggest in this podcast that what we’re saying is there is no ultimate connection with God in until you die and are with him face to face. I think there are sweet moments of experiencing how much he knows us and cares about us here. Um, they’re not on demand, at least not in my experience. I mean usually sweet surprises. Yeah. But, um, but, but certainly, you know, practicing spiritual disciplines doing, showing up for him I think are, are some of those ways that we can, we’re more likely to experience that again, again, as opposed to hardening ourselves to, to these appointments of not experiencing all the times we want to.
And if we can get free from all these other things that we’re trying to like, you know, fix it, then we will be more likely to find it in those, in those moments. Yeah. Yeah. So the author of this article, I mean, her experience is really like as she waited and waited and had kind of, you know, some failed relationships in college and she really began pressing into, um, some discipleship relationships and reading scripture and finding that God really actually honors singleness. It’s a, and, and so purity is not an end to reach some other goal as in marriage, but it’s, it is, uh, it is a good end unto itself. Um, and uh, and she, she didn’t end up marrying, but she’s very clear in the article that, that, you know, her husband and child do not ultimately satisfy her. And she closed the article and I want to close it with this and this is really, really good.
Um, she actually quotes, um, Joshua Harris in, I kissed dating goodbye. She says the world, this, this is a quote from the book, the world takes us to a silver screen on which flickering images of passion and romance play. And as we watched the world says, this is love. God takes us to the foot of a tree on which a naked and bloodied man hangs and says this is love. And she goes on to say, I’m, although Harris is no longer a Christian, I still believe what he wants. Believed true love comes in the incarnation. When Jesus entered our suffering world to make all things new, as I look to the naked, bloodied man on the cross, I see someone who loved me so much that he died in order, that he might call me daughter. He never promised me marriage, but as he calls me his child, he assures me into a new family, the body of Christ that loves me and meets me in my deepest loneliness.
And I’d add to that, that it’s not just that he calls us daughter, it’s that we are called bridegroom or the bride that we are his bride and he, his plan is to be United with us eternally beginning now and for the, for all of life. And so anyway, we’re talking about mysterious things here. We know this is not all wrapped up in a nice, neat bow. But, um, I think, I think if I could sum it up, I want to say is we really, we want to renounce idolatry of romance and marriage. Not so that we just kind of, you know, do the right thing, but because God is something bigger in store, in the larger, um, body of his, the body of Christ and, and also in our relationships individually with him. So, so Lord, you know, um, the longings of our hearts, the longings of our hearts, because you placed them there, Lord.
And if you place them there, it wasn’t because you’re cruel and it Lord, it wasn’t also just to point us to something in the here and now, earthly marriage or relationships. But Lord, you placed them deeply in us because you long for us, you long for those longings to send us on a search to find you. Lord, help us to do so or give us grace for the journey and I pray, especially for those listening who, who do feel the ache and the loneliness and the longing in an acute way today or that somehow through this podcast and maybe even after it’s over that you would meet them, encourage them on the journey, let them know you’re with them. I pray that for kit and me too, and the name of the father, son, Holy Spirit, we ask it. Amen.