Protecting (and running from) the Past

Seems like ancient history (almost) since I first blogged on K-I-S-S-I-N-G.  Well, a couple of recent conversations with friends have provoked me yet again (aren’t you glad).  In that first post, I gave as some reasons to stray from PDA (premarital displays of affection) the following:

If you have any sexual history, it will become alive again; you will be battling old temptations and practices

Your significant other’s sexual history may become alive again

Each time you meet, you would be fighting not to be consumed with each other physically; it will dominate your thoughts

Let’s talk through these.  Maybe an analogy could help with this.  The other night, we ate dinner meal at our church.  As usual, I surveyed the tables for dessert and there they were: red velvet cookies with cream cheese frosting.  I was transfixed on that large plate of cookies.  (Actually, I was thinking about how I could sneakily put other food back so I could make more room for those little fat pills.)  I didn’t notice until several minutes later that there were actually two other (wonderful) desserts.  I didn’t notice because I LOVE red velvet cake, cookies, brownies, etcetera with cream cheese icing.  I’ve had it and I love it.  I’ve had it and I notice it when it is around.  I’ve had it and I look forward to having it again.

OK.  It’s obvious right?  But it is as true as it is obvious. What is at work in this situation as a representation of PDA is the human tendency towards memory-based attachments (read: worship and slavery).  We were made to worship – there are no cultures in the world of any kind of development that lack worship structures.  That’s not a product of evolution or expediency; it’s a result of how we are created.  Yet, in our current condition, our tendency is rather than to worship the one true God, we divert our affections and attention to other things; especially those things we’ve enjoyed before.  We give those things power over us.  They become our masters by our own choosing and we, their slaves.

Our bodies are preeminently involved in this.  Feed the body (in any way) and the body becomes the + side of a magnet and the feed the and what do you have?  Attraction that borders on inescapability.  (We see this in any number of addictions to food, fun, sex, drugs, etc.  This is why the body experiences “withdrawal.”) It is inescapable outside of a controlling and vibrant relationship with Jesus Christ.  There is explicit slavery involved when the lusts / passions are excited.  The lusts of the flesh – about which we are all too familiar – have no competing conscience.  What is there to stop my hunger, thirst and pursuit of these things but situational limitations (fear of getting “found out” or of being scorned, etc.)?  Reading Romans 6:12, we see, “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to obey its passions.” This is the experience of a non-Christian.

As Christians, these passions / lusts / excitations are NOT inescapable.  We saw that in the verse I cited above.  Far from being an explicit, deterministic slavery it becomes an implicit slavery.  There is a war on, now, and each day we wage it on one side or the other.  Wave a red velvet cookie in front of my nose and watch me and you’ll see who’s winning the war. In speaking of physical hunger, the implications of tasting once are obvious.  Tasting again is as inevitable as it is planned, “I WILL ask T.C. to make those cup cakes again!  Oh Man!”  We were made to eat and so this is normal.  This is the means that God uses to incline us to eat.  (Maybe more healthy than red velvet, though.)

Physical hunger is symbolic to other types.  Ask anyone one of us who are married about other types of hunger and you’ll eventually hear “It is so enjoyable, I look forward to it again.”  That’s perfectly normal.  We’re made that way.  We see that in physical hunger as in any other type.  So, having kissed, you’ll want to kiss again.  Having held hands, and you’ll look for reasons to grasp hands.  Having had sex and the hunger for it will resurface with a vengeance.

The last reason cited above, the “preoccupation of purity” is a significant issue.  If you are in a serious relationship with another, there is so much to know.  Intimacy presupposes revelation – one goes as the other goes. Growing intimacy presupposes growing revelation; it is required.  The inverse is also true: problems come in relationships because of ignorance.

If physical touch is a part of the relationship, then, because we are human and built for physical relations with the opposite sex, that becomes a dominating part of the relationship.  Growing physical intimacy leads to diminished revelational intimacy; less knowledge.  Why?  The risks become too high.  The more someone finds out about another, the greater chance they will like the other less.  That will lead to less physical intimacy and that’s risky (if that is a key component of the relationship).  On the other hand, the more someone finds out about another, and the more they like what they find, the less likely it is they’ll keep from more physical intimacy and that’s risky.  Holiness is out the window, then.

Consider an example: two young people are physically touching each other as a part of their relationship.  At some point, they have a conflict.  Now there is a fear that because of the conflict, physical touching will end.  Physical touching is really good so that becomes a major motive for resolving the conflict.  Is resolving conflict for the sake of unimpeded physical touch a good thing?  Whatever happened to resolving conflict for the glory of Christ?  Or, for the good of the unity of the church?  Or for the witness of sound church-family relations to the watching world?

Seems to me that if you excite the past you’ll likely wreck the present.

2 thoughts on “Protecting (and running from) the Past

  • Hmmm…haven’t been to your blog in 2 ½ months and then I come here and see this article so I must comment again.

    1) This almost sounds Gnostic. Is the body always evil and bad for REDEEMED Christians who live by the power of the Holy Spirit and walk in step with Him?

    2) What ever happened to Gal. 6 and the fruit of the spirit as in self-control? I hear this all the time at work: Certain people with addictions to pornography will stumble if we show in our magazine a fully clothed women in a tight dress. Yes, maybe for that person but not for all Christians who formerly struggled with that. All Christians have addictions? For the person who does have a sexual past that would cause them to stumble they should not engage in pre-marital kissing. For others who had a sexual past who are spirit-filled mature Christians it MAY NOT lead down the slippery slope of “addiction” as you are defining it. What about the person who is not addicted to red velvet cake/sugar/drugs/sex/alchohol/shopping/fill-in-the-blank? They can walk by that table of desserts/a store in the mall/a girl in a bikini on the beach and not be tempted by some gluttonous binge/sinful thoughts/the urge to buy something. (And are you sure you should eat all the red dye in red velvet cake—isn’t it rumored to cause ADHD? Ha ha…)

    3) Your statement: “If physical touch is a part of the relationship, then, because we are human and built for physical relations with the opposite sex, that becomes a dominating part of the relationship. Growing physical intimacy leads to diminished revelational intimacy; less knowledge.” This makes no sense. Are you saying that this domination of physical touch applies if one is single and then suddenly when one is married and it is OK to have sex then you will get addicted to physical touch and thus result in “diminished revelational intimacy” with your spouse because the physical is now dominating? How does change of status suddenly change the mindset in a relationship?

    As human beings we are not compartmentalized like this. This “apologetic” you have approaches the subject in an almost clinical fashion. Where is falling in love with your future spouse in your paradigm? Two mature Christians, walking by the power of the Holy Spirit, who are in a relationship moving towards marriage, who are involved also with other mature Christians who are encouraging them in their relationship who keep them accountable. AND who do not struggle with the “slippery slope” of pre-martial kissing as you see it, can they hold hands? Kiss? I think they can. Sexual past or no sexual past, a Christian needs to be walking by the Spirit and it does not always mean sexual past or no sexual past you will be engaging in grievous sin. What about growing in sanctification?

    Relationships grow and mature. AND relationships are more that just physical. They are emotional. What about the unmarried “couple” who never touch but are involved in deep marital type emotional bonding with someone who is not their spouse and there is not a clear intention of moving towards marriage by one of the parties? Is that OK? (I think not.)

    • MMC, “growing physical intimacy leads to diminished revelational intimacy; less knowledge.” I think you’ve identified a good test case for this assertion: marriage. I don’t think a change in “status” suddenly changes the risk of diminished revelational intimacy. It increases the risk because physical touch is now an acceptable part of the package. And because it is acceptable, it is expected, and, if it is not forthcoming the risk of diminished intimacy (in other ways) grows.

      Though not the basis of this post or this viewpoint, years ago I counseled a couple that had problems sexually. Those problems led to divorce in part because of the expected nature of physical touch. As time went on, sexuality became harder and harder and correspondingly, communication decreased more and more; they grew farther apart in every way. The two work together and, unless there is a proper understanding of the place of physical touch in a marriage it will work like this.

      I think you misunderstand three things. First, the worshipping nature of the human heart. Secondly, the weakness of human body. And, lastly the pressure of the physical body upon our hearts’ decision-making. For the first, we look to Ezekiel 14, Jeremiah 17, Matthew 12, Romans 7, Galatians 5, and James 4. In each of these places you’ll find covenant people battling the lusts (cf. 1 John 2:15-17) of life that are active in their hearts. James even goes so far as to call fellow believers “adulteresses” because of how they stray from their one true Husband, Christ. Secondly, briefly, the body is inherently weak and succumbs to both pains and pleasures (consider Psalm 32). The locus of true “feeling” is our physical body. Each time the body “feels” something, it has an effect on the whole person. This leads to the last point. To “succumb” in this sense means to be affected or swayed in such a way that the body becomes not an ally of holiness but an enemy. It is bad enough that we are inclined to sinful idolatry in our hearts but then when our body jumps on board to pressure us to decide for sin rather than Christ it is worse. Physical touch as well as body-addicting substances are strong here.

      You may not want to look at our built in “compartmentalization” but it is present. To say that we are compartmentalized (in the sense I mean it) doesn’t mean that one has no effect on the other. Quite the contrary: the body can be an ally or an enemy to holiness and that makes us compartmentalized and unified.

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