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Relationships: Creating Physical Boundaries

Photo Credit: Image Catalog, Creative Commons

Photo Credit: Image Catalog, Creative Commons

Temptations are enticing and hard to reject when there are no established boundaries to guide your decision making, especially when it comes to relationships. The heat of the moment will bring you places you never imagined possible if you aren’t prepared. It seems that talking about how far you will go as a couple is often too awkward to handle, so you leave it unspoken. In other instances, discussing boundaries seems not needed as Christians because they have been preset by parents’ opinions and what the Bible says. Living with these assumptions is deadly—no boundaries leave an opportunity to engage in activities that are unexpected, unwanted, and unGodly.

The drive for men and women to desire one another is normal and God created. When in a relationship the fluttering of your heart, long stares, wandering thoughts, and magnetic attraction are God made. God designed man and woman in the beginning to have attraction to one another, to become one. But, it is the long dating process before marriage, which may involve more than one significant other, that we must be prepared to resist temptation and honor God with our decisions. This requires the formation of physical boundaries.

The attraction we have towards the opposite sex is Godly as long as we don’t act on it before marriage. The Bible is clear on relationship boundaries, but often we choose to ignore the truth behind it:

  • “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his or her own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God.” 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5
  • “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
  • “For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” Galatians 5:13

These verses often make us squirm–especially if we have slipped up once or twice. Does it really have to be this way? Wouldn’t it be alright to experience it for a moment? God will forgive me later, right?

The temptation of sex and lust is not easy to deal with. I’ve been there and struggled with it before. And as a single man, I understand how easy it is to have impure thoughts and want to act on them, but we (both men and women) must uphold our physical bodies to honor the Lord and our future spouse. There are no “ifs, ands, or buts,” it is a command and one that our culture fails at following.

Here are some scary statistics for single males and females today:

  • 42% of 15–17, 72% of 18–19, and 84% of 20–24-year-olds have had oral sex
  • 30% of 15–17-year-olds have had sex
  • By age 19, the percentage of sexually active teenagers is 70%
  • Then, at age 24, 84% of males and females have already participated in premarital intercourse

I gave these statistics to a Christian friend once, and their rebuttal was that the statistics wouldn’t be the same if you took the poll in a group of only Christian young adults—they’d obviously do a lot better at not falling into the temptation of premarital sex. Sadly, he was wrong; the statistics hardly change whether in a secular or Christian group. This is obvious evidence that our culture has enlightened the idea of sex into a leisure activity instead of a holy one, and that the usage of physical boundaries is nonexistent. Sex is a uniting, God made activity for married couples. It is a bond meant to seal two lives together for a lifetime. Every time you have sex outside of marriage you are making a bond with another for a lifetime. Yes, it is that serious. No, lots of bonds is not OK.

We’ve lost respect for relationships. We take action for what we want and often forget what the other may want. We confuse our desperation for finding meaning and purpose with the physical realm, thinking it will make us feel better or draw us closer to the other person. But the more we search for a sense of belonging within physicality the more we damage our spirit and future relationships. Furthermore, we forget that we are disrespecting not only ourselves, but our parents and God. We, as Christians, are better than that. Are you really willing to trade holiness and purity for 10 seconds of pleasure? That’s all your gaining, all the moment has to offer you.

Here are two truths: 1) If you’ve failed in this area before, know you’re not alone. There are others just like you who are looking to change their lives and renew their minds and bodies. You don’t have to keep repeating the same mistake, and 2) You have a choice every time physical temptations enter your life. You know what’s right or wrong. Choose God or choose yourself.

Our culture promotes sexual promiscuity from every media angle imaginable and we have begun to accept pushing physical boundaries as a norm before marriage. If we want to change our lives, our culture, or the generations coming after us, we must start to establish Godly, physical boundaries in our relationships right now.

What are physical boundaries: It is a mutually, thought-out agreement between an unmarried man and woman to not go beyond a certain point in the physical realm of a relationship and includes accountability and honesty to others.

Here is how the step by step creation of boundaries may occur:

  1. How far will we allow ourselves to go? (What is the boundary?)
    example answer: Nothing more than kissing. No clothes off, ever. Hands off private areas.
  2. What type of atmospheres must we stay away from?
    example answer: No sleeping together in the same bed. Door always unlocked. Not alone past midnight.
  3. Who will help us stay accountable? (The accountability partner needs to check in on the couple and their condition of following the boundaries)
    example answerSpiritual Mentor, Pastor, best friend, older sibling.
  4. What do we do if we cross our physical boundary?
    example answerConfess the mistake to an accountability partner. Set-up a process to keep it from happening again.

Sexual mistakes are the biggest heart breakers and the hardest part of trying to get over a past relationship. If we establish pure, Godly boundaries we can honor God, our significant other, and our future spouse. Make the formation of physical boundaries a priority in your relationship and be as detailed as possible in the creation of them. Loose ends or ambiguous boundaries only lead to them being easily broken.

Who You Are, Is Who You Aren’t

Photo Credit: CUMBUGO, Creative Commons

Photo Credit: CUMBUGO, Creative Commons

I’ve spent 3 days detoxing at Lake Gaston on the Virginia, North Carolina border now. Not from drugs or alcohol, but from stress and restlessness. My heart had grown weak, passion had begun to blubber through my soul like a nonchalant donkey in a pasture, and to get anything worth while out of myself I had to kick it or forcefully spur it alive.

Lake Gaston is a place of peace. A patchy grass lawn sprinkled with pine needles and gumballs rolls smoothly over subtle mounds, diving into a rippling water. A connected dock isolates itself as a precipice, allowing you to see for miles both to the east and west. The early morning soaks the water with dancing oranges and fairy pinks as a spectacular light blooms above the tree line.

But it’s not peaceful because of the special aura that lingers about it, it’s peaceful because I’ve finally been intentional with myself to find rest. Other places could do the same possibly, but Lake Gaston is familiar, it’s detached from the world that knows me, and I allow it to speak to me in ways that are impossible at home.

What it’s been saying the loudest is that who I am is mostly made up of who I’m not, and the same is true for you too.

I think we all have the freak-out moment of asking “who am I?” Sometimes it’s spawned by failure or mistakes or other times enters our minds in moments of fear or hesitation—but it’s a frightening question to ask ourselves.

As men, we are often told what we are and our entire being unintentionally molds to that supposition. Being labeled as a failure or let-down grows waves of instability in our hearts, thinking we’ll never be good enough. Praised as a person of success or leadership stirs up blind pride that allows us to believe that we can’t be wrong or are “too good for that.” Men are stamped with limiting attributes from every relationship in life—family, work, friends, and outsiders—and sadly, we believe them and lose vision of who we truly are.

We allow ourselves to be those labels. We sink into the deadly trauma of being just who we are told we are, or who we think we are. We unknowingly tread water in a pool of mediocre filth that withholds us from being anything more than we’ve been.

I think it is a “dude catastrophe” to believe that we fully know ourselves and there is nothing left to discover. You know that feeling that you’ve arrived, that there’s nothing left to do or grow or become? Or the non-feeling of just being comfortable with where you’re at emotionally and spiritually? It’s deadly.

Socrates, a brilliant Greek philosopher, was once asked who the wisest person in Athens was. Socrates known for his normal humility surprised the crowd with his answer: “I am the wisest man in Athens, because I know that I do not know, whereas others believe that they do know.”

Socrates understood that he was nowhere near the genius people made him out to be and that he had an endless amount of knowledge to discover for the rest of his life. He wasn’t content with only knowing what he knew at that point, nor was he willing to be chained to complacency by people’s labels of him being “unmatched.” He was always going to search for more, more of himself and more of the world.

We are ignorant to think that we know ourselves to the extent that we are unchangeable. The truth of our souls lies in who we aren’t, not in who we are.

Life is about pursuing the unknown, pressing the boundaries of ourselves in order to stumble upon revelations that we could never have imagined before that illuminating occurrence. We must be relentless in that endeavor—to unlock ourselves from our own and others’ expectations, in order to blast off not into who we are, but who we aren’t.

How to Apply Your Faith Beyond the Written Word

Photo Credit: Eric Angelo, Creative Commons

Photo Credit: Eric Angelo, Creative Commons

As a young student, I thrived on memorization. I could take any list or page of facts, put it to memory, and be able to rock the test the next day by regurgitating it onto a piece of paper. I was pretty smart in that way, but when end-of-the-year exams came into play, I didn’t fare quite as well.

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What You’ll Get If You Dare to be Vulnerable

Photo Credit: Allison, Creative Commons

Photo Credit: Allison, Creative Commons

Three years ago I was caught in the complexity of my own web of lies. For years I had sported the “perfect Christian” image for the viewing of the world while failing miserably beneath the cover. I thought I was expected to be perfect. So, I hid every mistake and buried every sin until I couldn’t remember where I had put them all.

The fallout from the discovery scarred my heart permanently; I can still feel the ghostly pain from that period of my life. It was because of the unauthentic lifestyle that I venomously lived in for so long that I vowed to live transparently inside-out. My deepest secrets, my former irreligious habits, my every shortcoming as a man was to be put into conversations with everyday people, weaved into my writing, and unraveled on stage in my speaking.

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Encountering and Overcoming the Emotional Void

Photo Credit: Patricia Snook, Creative Commons

Photo Credit: Patricia Snook, Creative Commons

There seems to be a cataclysmic cliff hindering the process of emotional recovery. We’re all wounded individuals, encountering and suffering under the writhing of this world–the attacks that come from no where, wounding our hearts, destroying our lives. Because of this battle we find ourselves stuck, squirming in the quicksand of indecision–how do we fix the problem?

Emotions rule our lives.

A simple sway of attitude can change an entire outlook on a day. Happiness promotes smiles while sadness endures frowns, but daily events influence each. Ice cream falling from a cone in the hand of a four year-old results in wild blubbering, a break-up in a relationship leaves an individual numb, and losing a loved one brings about endless tears. 

The moment negative emotions are encountered a void forms itself, separating you from positivity, health, and new life. 

To overcome this void there needs to be a “fix.” For the four year-old it is as simple as buying a new cone or consolation from a loved one. In the midst of a break-up or loss this emotional void is much harder to cross. The only way to cross it is to fill it. 

The world wants you to fill it with wild living, non-typical choices, and spontaneity that separates you from your morals. And unfortunately, this is often the route we take. When the void is filled with worldly activities, it works like a funnel and only cycles out, never to be filled. This results in more devastation and emotional heartache.

The only way to efficiently fill the void and be able to walk steadily over it is to choose God. Desperately cry out for love, throw your anxiety and worries at his feet, and stay true to his Word. God is a firm foundation, one that re-instills happiness, joy, and peace–items that become unavailable when emotional hardship is met.

How do you fill your void? Are you recycling through wayward emotions and life choices that leave you helplessly lying on the floor, or are falling at the feet of Jesus, who will lead you to peace and happiness? Relying on ourselves has only ever resulted in more destruction; choose the filler of your void wisely.

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