Spiritually and Emotionally, How Far Is Too Far Before Marriage? (Ask Pastor John)
ESPN analyst Chris Broussard on homosexuality. C.S. Lewis on joy. Choosing a seminary. Processing a tragedy. And how far is too far in dating. It’s all in a fortnight of Ask Pastor John episodes.
What follows are excerpts from each episode (click on hyperlinked titles to listen).
A man especially needs to stay awake to what is happening emotionally and spiritually and personally in the relationship. Don’t take yourself into a depth of spiritual and emotional bonding that will not consummate in marriage and sexual union. Be alert that every step deeper into emotional and spiritual union with a woman’s soul is a step toward physical union, that is, towards marriage. Don’t take her there if this is not moving toward a marriage relationship. It will deeply wound her and you if you awaken depths of oneness in each other emotionally and then try to just walk away from it. Those depths are meant to lead somewhere, namely sexual intercourse in marriage.
The first assumption here is this: when I see tragedy, and believe that God is totally in control, or say to myself instinctively, “God controlled that, God ruled that, God either planned or permitted or ordained that,” this is in conflict with my compassion. Feeling compassion and feeling the sovereignty of God in its fullest sense are at odds. That seems to be an assumption. And here is the second assumption: that God, being the ultimate cause, would somehow exclude our feeling hurt or our weeping or our helping or our outrage at the sin involved. God’s sovereignty implicitly in their minds is excluding that or pushing that aside. Now I don’t share either of those assumptions. Let me explain why ...
C.S. Lewis and Clyde Kilby, my lit professor at Wheaton (1964–68), put the intellectual and aesthetic kindling in place. And it was a very big pile of dry and unbelievably flammable sticks: the sticks of logic, the sticks of aesthetic awareness, the sticks of longing and aching and yearning, the sticks of awareness of beauty and the desire to see it and know it. All of those sticks were put in place so that when the fire of reformed theology — namely Dan Fuller, Jonathan Edwards, and the Puritans — fell in the years 1968–71, they had sticks ready to burn.
C.S. Lewis is a good guide for us in cherishing the eternal, cherishing the unseen, cherishing God as the source and goal of all things, as well as being able to see the this-ness and the beauty of this world. God had brought him to faith through an appreciation of the this-ness of things, and then showed him that they were all thick with God, they were all pointing toward God, they were all created by God. They were ways of knowing God. And unless you saw deep enough into them to get to the bottom of them, and saw high enough over them to get to what they are pointing to, they will always disappoint you.
I remember standing at a book table in the fall of 1968 on Colorado Avenue in Pasadena, California, looking down at a little blue paperback called The Weight of Glory. Author: C.S. Lewis. I never picked it up in my life. I picked it up, opened, and read the first page. And the impact of that page on my Christian Hedonism is huge, because that is the page where he basically says everybody is questing and pursuing joy. The problem, he said, is not that we are pursuing happiness, but that we are far too easily pleased. And I thought, yes, yes! That is right. The problem is not that I want to be happy. The problem is that I am settling on happinesses that are — to use his language — like a little child making mud pies in the slum because he can’t imagine what a holiday at the sea is like.
Don’t look for a building. Don’t look for a campus. Don’t look for a library. Don’t look for a location. Look for a faculty.
In the home I grew up in, my dad was away two thirds of the year. My mother did everything. She was omnicompetent. She taught me just about everything I know when he was away, and she never once gave me the impression she couldn’t do anything. She could paint the house. She could push a wheelbarrow. I watched the sweat drip off the end of her long nose as she weeded the Bermuda grass out, and showed me how to take care of the yard. She taught me how to make French fries in deep grease and wait until it is hot, otherwise they are going to get soggy. She taught me how to flip pancakes and wait until the bubbles appear around the edge. And when my dad came home, my mother beamed with joy that he could now lead in prayer at the table. He could now say, ‘Let’s go to church.’ He could now say, ‘Let’s go out to eat.’ He could pull the chair out for her when he sat her down. He would open the door for her when she went through. And I watched that dance, that choreography, and I marveled at my mother. In his absence, she could be everything, and in his presence, she loved it when he took the initiative.
This is a calamity for this man. Nobody is going to minimize it. It is huge. It is painful. You cry about it. You ought to cry about it. Your wife is going to cry about it if you are married. Your kids will cry about it. All that crying is appropriate because it hurts. But if Christ is supremely valuable, then our affections are transformed and we love his glory, his grace, and his presence more than we love this life.
I listened to the excerpt. I didn’t hear the whole program. And my answer is yes, he is right. And I think he would agree with a few clarifying comments. So let me expand the simple yes answer, just so that people can hear my heart and I think his heart behind that and, I think, a richer, fuller, biblical understanding. ...
The upshot of this for the Church is that we not become embittered or cranky, but that we return good for evil, that we love our enemies, that we boldly proclaim the gospel and make the main thing the main thing, and that we expose the darkness. Ephesians 5:11 says, “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.” And I think the exposure happens not mainly by having a website that is totally negative and points out problem, problem, problem. Mainly darkness is exposed by light, by contrast.
The Ask Pastor John daily podcast is a series of 3–8 minute conversations released on weekdays at 10:30am (EST) via the DG Facebook and Twitter feeds. You can tune in to the new episodes through the new Ask Pastor John iPhone app, which can be downloaded for free here. We’re currently hosting all the recordings on SoundCloud, a website that makes it easy to listen to several of the podcasts in one sitting. They’re also archived on the DG website and syndicated in iTunes.
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