The lips of an adulteress drip honey and her speech is smoother than oil; but in the end she is bitter as gall, sharp as a double-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps lead straight to the grave. She gives no thought to the way of life; her paths are crooked, but she knows it not.
…for a prostitute is a deep pit and a wayward wife is a narrow well. Like a bandit she lies in wait, and multiplies the unfaithful among men.
Reading the many warnings against loose women in the Proverbs could give a woman an inferiority complex. The woman always seems to be the “bad guy” – the seductress that lays a trap for innocent young men. Don’t let that get you down – it’s just allegory, a writing tool to help people get the point. And that point is that sin is a seductress and today it is trapping young men and women in much the same way. The adulteress is a symbol that represents the sin of promiscuity, or sex outside of marriage. Don’t take it personally that Solomon used a woman to be the bad guy throughout these lessons on promiscuity. He evens the score by portraying wisdom as a woman too.
As we read the Proverbs in this book, we will often reverse the gender choices Solomon made and understand that these teachings against sex outside of marriage apply equally to women and men. Today women are as able to sleep around as men are. There is still more stigma attached to a woman’s promiscuity, but feminine promiscuity is clearly widely acceptable. The standard in movies and television is sex by the third date, if not on the first! This may not reflect our reality, but the rock-bottom standards the media portrays as “normal,” along with pressure from peers and our culture in general, are worming away at our resolve and higher standards even now.
In Solomon’s day and right up until about a hundred years ago, when a person married early in life, sex before marriage was probably just as tempting, but certainly not as accessible. Most cultures had strong prohibitions on sex before marriage. For the few years a woman was eligible for courtship, dates were few, if any, and highly structured. Sex before marriage was a scandalous departure from the norm – particularly for a woman.
In the past 100 years, this aspect of our society has taken a 180-degree turn. Now young people are encouraged to wait until they are much older to marry – even into their 30s. Dating starts at about the same age it did centuries ago, but it lasts a lot longer, sometimes decades. Sex before marriage is the norm and marrying as a virgin is the almost unbelievable exception. Men and women alike are encouraged to “sow their wild oats” and “get it out of their system” before they marry so that they can be faithful and satisfied when they finally marry.
Yet infidelity and divorce statistics are alarmingly high, indicating that “getting it out of our system” clearly does not work. Apparently, what happens instead is that restlessness in the dating years creates patterns that continue after the initial novelty of marriage has worn off. The disastrous consequences of our new norm range from rampant sexually transmitted diseases and other women’s health problems to children without fathers, 1.5 million abortions annually (in the United States alone), and a cheapening of the sexual experience that was meant to bond a man and woman in marriage. This, in turn, results in high rates of divorce and infidelity, disintegrating the family unit and leading to a whole other list of woes including juvenile delinquency and higher crime against women.
Why does society not recognize how detrimental our new norm is? Because this crooked path is coated with honey. We may have had the experience before of eating something delicious that later made us very sick. It’s the same with sex before marriage. Sex is good. It is a gift from God and certainly enjoyable; comparing it to honey is quite accurate. But sex outside of marriage is like that delicious meal that we so enjoy, not realizing it is swarming with salmonella microorganisms. Just as poisoned food can taste very good but will surely leave us in pain, abusing the gift of sex feels great while it’s happening but will make us regrettably sick later on, as the experience digests itself in our life and soul.
Unlike food poisoning however, the lag time between sex and its ill-effects makes it difficult to trace the negative consequences back to the error that caused them. This extreme disconnect is the only explanation I can see for why so many people would enthusiastically engage in an activity from which no good can come. Sometimes the incubation period of negative consequences is a matter of years, such as in the case of AIDS or the woman who finds out she needs a surgery to remove cancerous cells from her cervix – one consequence of too many sex partners. Other negative consequences are so prevalent that we have accepted them as normal. It is not until we experience them ourselves that we recognize the very real pain and regret involved in each abortion, in raising a child without a father, in a divorce and in infidelity. These trials that fictional characters on television go through and get over in one episode take years and many tears to resolve in real life.
Of course, the way to avoid all this heartache is to remain pure until marriage. The only problem with that is how very difficult it is in the world today. It’s like going to Golden Corral on an empty stomach and having nothing but a cup of tea!
Marrying earlier in life certainly shortens our exposure to the temptation of sex before marriage, but it is hardly advisable. God may have it in His plan for us to marry young, but it is not within our control to determine when we will meet our true love and marry. Love is not an event we can schedule. Besides that, there are very few young people equipped to survive an early marriage.
The same forces causing young people to wait until their 20s and 30s to marry are slowing down social maturity in other ways too. We have traded social and emotional development for higher education in the sciences and humanities. Two centuries ago, by age 18, most teens had learned the skills needed to successfully run a family. Today, we don’t focus on those skills; we focus on education, career-skills and how to succeed in business and the community. Even if a young person has the 19th-century skill set, in general, he or she does not qualify for jobs that pay well enough to sustain a family today. Without the social and emotional tools and financial resources needed to succeed in marriage, the chance for a successful marriage is slim.
Don’t believe yourself to be an exception and think you can beat the odds and have a successful marriage from the age of 18 or 19. I’m about to give you a hard pill to swallow, and if you don’t believe me, research it on your own (see Bibliography): Thinking you can overcome the odds where others have not is typical teenage thinking. One of the hallmarks of the brain’s last stage of development in the late teen years is a feeling and belief that you can succeed at anything. This blind optimism aids the emerging adult to integrate into society – where great things are at work already – without feeling insignificant or overwhelmed. That same survival optimism can fool us into believing that somehow we have achieved a level of maturity our same-age peers have not. Even if we and our spouse had all the maturity and resources we needed to succeed in marriage, we still live in a time and culture that is completely hostile to marriage at an early age.
So what’s a gal to do? We probably shouldn’t marry young; holding out is next to impossible… Help!
There’s no sugar-coating it. Remaining pure is one of the most difficult tasks for any young adult. Sex is the devil’s most successful lure of our times and even many Christians, recognizing the mismatch between the expectations of purity and our entire culture, have rationalized a compromise, which is, of course, also a victory for Satan.
God’s one will for our life in this matter is purity until marriage.
Yes, this is possible but only through total nonconformity – actually, all-out rebellion – against the societal norm on dating, physical contact and sex. Want to be a rebel with a cause? Here’s a good one.
If we are already sexually active, God’s will is that we refrain from further self-destructive sex. Regaining purity is more of a challenge than maintaining purity but can be done. Satan will infiltrate our mind and tell us that we’re just drawing lines in the sand, we’ve already done it and there’s no harm in doing it again, particularly if it is with the same person and even more particularly if we plan to marry this person. Those are very effective lies. I repeat: God’s will is that we refrain from further self-destructive sex.
OK, OK – but I for one am tired of hearing this without getting any practical suggestions on how to go about it! Here are some nitty-gritty strategies for all-out rebellion against premarital sex, whether we’re holding out for marriage or resolved to refrain from further sex.
Set firm boundaries for being with the opposite sex, particularly in a dating relationship. I recommend the following: 1. Stay upright at all times when you are alone with your boyfriend. 2. Allow your boyfriend to touch only parts of your body that would be exposed if you were wearing shorts (not short shorts!) and a t-shirt. Do not allow your “shorts and t-shirt zone” to be touched even through clothing, except for your “pat-on-the-back zone.”
A couple of good strategies to help maintain these boundaries are dating in groups and having an accountability buddy: 1. Time alone with a boyfriend is time you can expect to be tempted. Try to always stay in public or have a friend around. To get to know your boyfriend in ways he cannot express in group situations, spend time talking on the phone or on IM. 2. Share your desire to stay pure with one close friend and ask that person to help. Promise to always be honest with her and tell her if you do cross a boundary. In advance, tell her some things that will help to motivate you to keep your purity goal if your resolve starts to weaken.
Hold yourself accountable by writing yourself a letter. Do it now while you feel confident and full of faith that you can remain pure. List all the reasons why purity is important to you. Write convincingly about your present clarity of mind and purpose. Say things to yourself that can jolt you back on track should you start to lose perspective. Give the letter to your accountability buddy and ask her to present it to you if she feels you need it.
Why do we need an accountability buddy? Notice the end of our proverb: “…her paths are crooked, but she knows it not.” If we give in to temptation, we cannot count on our own ability to realize we have erred. A faithful accountability buddy can tell us when we’ve taken a wrong turn. And when that time comes, we must trust that person in the same way we trusted her on the day she became our accountability buddy. We’re not going to believe we’re on the wrong path. It will feel wrong to stop, turn around and go back in the other direction. We mustn’t trust our own sense of direction in these times. Trust the buddy; trust the clarity of mind we had on the day we wrote ourselves that letter; trust in God’s perfect will for our life – That perfect will is now, and always will be, to remain pure until marriage.
The key to success in this endeavor is never to cross our boundaries – at all, ever! If we should, we will find it is the first step on a slippery slope; one broken boundary will lead to another and another until our resolve is completely undone. Don’t let that happen. Maintaining our boundaries requires the triumph of mind over matter – it’s a mental discipline and no one else can do this for us. Nonetheless, don’t go it alone because we can’t succeed that way either. We are fighting against forces of evil that want to poison our life. Fight back – not with might, not with power, but with the Spirit of God. Call on God’s power every day to help remain pure. Call on God before every date. Call on God when the boyfriend is walking us to the door. Call on God when he wants to come in. Call on God when he doesn’t want to stop at our boundary line. The Spirit of God will rise up behind us like a wall to keep that boundary firm.
Sex outside of marriage is a sin that separates us from God. When we lose our resolve and begin to cross our boundaries, if we would take the time to reflect on our spiritual life, we would see that our slide down the slippery slope corresponds to a weakening of our faith. We have questions we didn’t have before and doubts about God and whether there even is a divine will for us. We spend less time on our relationship with God – it’s crowded out by constant activity and a barely perceptible chaotic feeling. All this is because it is simply not possible to allow sex as our one exception to a healthy relationship with God. Sex outside of marriage is the one bad apple that will rot the whole barrel.
OK, so I’ve made my point, right? How many ways can I say, “Stay pure!” I hope you don’t feel like I’m preaching at you, because that is not what this is. I’m the guy who is hollering, “The road is blocked up ahead. You won’t be able to get through that way.”
Remember him – he knows what the conditions of the road are because he just came from that direction. I am sharing lessons with you that I have learned through my experiences, regrettably. I had high expectations of remaining pure until marriage. I went off to college with them and there, very slowly, my resolve wore thin until there was nothing left of it.
They say if you place a frog in a frying pan and put the pan over a fire, the frog will not jump out, but will sit there and heat up until it has cooked to death. The frog adjusts to the warmth of its environment, never realizing it is becoming dangerous to the point of death. I was that frog in the frying pan. I was so slowly violating my boundaries that I had no perspective of being in a downward spiraling motion. And when I lost all resolve and began having sex, my life was too fun and busy to stop and contemplate what I had done and where I was going. I recall a vague feeling of knowing I was doing wrong, but Satan had control of my conscious thought and had my vision locked-in on the good times.
I had a lot of “good times” and the consequences of those times have been the greatest heartaches in my life. Among many other regrettable things, I brought a child into this world without a father to guide her through life. From outside appearances, you would never know how much we both have suffered because of it. God is gracious and has protected and blessed that child in the way He cares for orphans and widows. And like an eagle swooping down and rescuing a fallen chick, God picked me up off the wrong path very quickly and set me back down on the right one. I’m very content now to stay under His wing of protection and guidance.
I pray that maintaining your purity will be your goal and your achievement. It requires much attention because it is Satan’s favorite trap of our times. With the same caution with which we lock our doors at night, we need to beware of attacks on our purity – before and after marriage. It is a new challenge each day. Each day, call on the Spirit of God to make you the winner.
Excerpted from On My Own Now: Straight Talk from the Proverbs for Young Christian Women who Want to Remain Pure, Debt-free and Regret-free by Donna Lee Schillinger.