One of my most embarrassing soft spots during adolescence was my desire for a romantic relationship.
After my parents divorced when I was 11, my outlook of life changed to adapt to the painful brokenness of the trauma. My parents’ divorce altered the way relationships appeared to me and what they represented, since my parents’ relationship represented all of relationships to me. The ensuing disaster of my romantic life starting with the pernicious seed of a lie: Relationships don’t last.
Mom and dad weren’t fulfilled by each other during their marriage, but I didn’t understand that until later. At that time, I was too young to understand what a healthy marriage looked like. I witnessed my parents and their marriage, and I translated what that I saw and heard as a “healthy marriage,” despite their arguments and (now discernible, in hindsight) emotional distance from each other. When my parents sat with me to explain the tragedy about to unfold, the shock hit me like a tornado throwing me through the opening of an Earthquake. Mom’s words didn’t just catch me off guard, they floored me and sunk me through the abyss of the worst thoughts my mind could conceive.
During the following year, through all the domestic changes that took place, what kept repeating itself in agonizing consistency was when my dad would take me to the Catholic church we had gone to as an entire family unit—though post-divorce, we would go as a partial family unit—and the message was much clearer and more penalizing: “You’re a sinner. Christ died because of you. Repent and go home.” That was the message I gleaned from church, leading me to choose the spacial emptiness of atheism the following year. My church life leading up to that point had been as impersonal as it could get: No life groups, no Bible studies, no prayer life between me and God or Jesus; no Jesus-talk at home, and no sermons about the hope of Christ saving us from our sins as we confess with our heart and mouth that He is Lord. I didn’t find any of that until I was 22—after I’d moved away from my home (and all my memories) to attend college in Florida (where I met a Christian the first week of class, who invited me to church for the first time in years). Needless to say, my atheism, in hindsight, was not nearly a newfound anti-faith as it was an embracing of what had been planted in my heart all along: Nothing.
Witnessing their divorce and all that followed drastically shifted my concept of relationships, and that was before my three siblings began dating and displaying yet other versions of relationships, the majority of them ultimately short-lived.
The message that kept driving through my mind was, “Relationships don’t last long, but those that happen should be romantic or sexual before they end.”
What a twisted lie of the Devil, looking back. In my teenage mind, sexual discovery was a huge temptation, also influenced in part by the relationships happening in my family. What I saw were boyfriends or girlfriends coming over, but their relationships didn’t foreshadow unconditional love; only excitement, romance, lust, and infatuation. What I wouldn’t learn for many years is that any healthy relationship meant to last would be founded on openness, vulnerability, selflessness, unconditional love found and inspired in Christ, trust, and constant (effective) communication. None of the relationships I witnessed displayed these qualities except my dad’s second marriage, which is still going strong even today.
Through a few romantic relationships of my own, I discovered by my mid-twenties, about three years after Jesus had been more intimately revealed to me in a personal way—how lust had encompassed the part of me that was meant to be devoted to Him.
Where lust activates in our body (lust is merely planted in the mind, but it invades, permeates, and survives in the body, aching for what isn’t needed and driving us to search for what we don’t realize (until hopefully later, rather than never) will only harm us and others), spirituality activates in our soul. For men and women who are introduced to lust before Jesus, sex appeals to the body in the same way love appeals to the soul. Lust, of course, does not provide any space for the love that relationships require to thrive on, and infatuation is inept of the selflessness of unconditional love; the narcissism of infatuation is merely the first clue that our bodies are taking part in more of the relationship than our soul is.
What follows, without much confusion, is that the marriage relationship is the Earthly foreshadowing of our Heavenly relationship with Jesus—where sex no longer has any purpose; the unconditional, impenetrable, unfathomably deep love of Christ completely saturates through all that sex could ever encompass, enabling an ecstasy that hardly be described with any words. Lust concedes to taking and giving back when the giving from our partner will continue; the love of Christ, on the contrary, when invited and welcomed into the marriage relationship, creates the space needed for the promise of selflessness, honesty, trust, and openness. The promise of tomorrow—hope itself given to us as a gift from Jesus—is the hope of the marriage relationship every night when marriage partners go to sleep, and every morning they wake up together.
Where one-night stands and promiscuity could never promise one minute in advance, marriage promises “till death due us part.” That is a promise that commences with the soul of unconditional love, birthed from the sacrifice of Jesus for the people of this world who believe in His sacrifice; the very promise of our future hope in Heaven.
The lesson of lust is that it does not foreshadow anything godly. Where sex and infatuation are fun, the excitement of lust is ephemeral, catered by appearances and racing hormones rather than anything empirical, spiritual, emotional, or well-developed. In order for anything relational to last beyond the bedroom, two hearts must be in one place together, choosing to push through the relational adversities thrown at the relationship by means of the promise of Jesus’s love for each person, as well as His love for the relationship itself (particularly marriage). Without Jesus, all hope dissolves quicker than we can reach for our partner’s hand to mitigate the sheer blindness of our emptiness.
Why am I writing you this? Because I experienced trauma growing up—trauma that completely devastated me and left me questioning every single aspect about me for over 10 years, especially the aspect of love versus lust, and I don’t want this to have to be you, too. For those of you who haven’t entered into marriage yet, I hope you will read this with careful eyes, taking in the reality of entering a relationship with anything but Jesus in your heart. For those who are already married, I hope you will turn your gaze to Him who saves—if you haven’t already—and that this article will be an eye-opener for you who haven’t even considered how Jesus’s love is the promise for every marriage to last till death.
I wasn’t a believer until I was 22, and I didn’t take my faith very seriously until I was about 25. The contrast of my life experiences before and after receiving Christ is drastic and obvious (to me, and anyone who has known me both before and after conversion); my hope is that by writing this article, you will understand and believe that someone who didn’t grow up with Jesus in His heart was able to be found by Jesus, was able to accept and receive Jesus, and most relevant of all—that after years of depending on the fallacious love song of lust, I finally learned and understood the lesson that sex and lust could never be fulfilling without Jesus in my heart and the heart of the woman I’m with. If an atheist-converted-Christian can have these revelations, could this not shine some hope on you, too?
People have asked me, “Why is someone like you still single?” My only response can be that I haven’t found the right woman for me yet. And after a history like mine, I’ve truly learned what it means to be careful, take my time, and let Jesus breathe into the relationship so that any romance that comes to fruition will have something strong to stand on and last for more than a few days, weeks, or months. Jesus is at the core of who I am now, and I’m not going to allow lust to speak lies into my heart the way I once did. I pray you would find these words insightful, encouraging, and a sign that you can do the same thing for yourself right now. You don’t need to wait for years and years to understand how important faith is; I was an atheist for most of my life—you don’t have to live in denial, thinking faith is for the naive. I truly believe you would have to be closed-minded and naive yourself to not consider faith. I believe you would be truly unwise and headed in a nightmarish direction if you let your hormones and body speak more to you than your soul. And if you’re not letting your soul speak, I think that problem speaks for itself.
The love of Jesus was meant to be our reason for everything, especially marriage. Over 50% of marriages failing now speaks for the large number of marriages not founded on a strong relationship with Christ. If you don’t believe me, look up the failing marriage statistics in society today and look for the problem of spirituality; are couples praying together, going to church together, spending time with friends who believe in Christ together, or putting Christ ahead of every decision they make together? If not, you might consider what that means about marriage success.
Take my story, take the history of marriage facts for yourself, and see what conclusion you come to. I’d like for this to be a nudge in the right direction for you.
Jesus is all that matters, and if I never get married, then I will translate that in faith that it was never in God’s plans for me, or that perhaps the person He had planned was just never ready. Either way, to live is Christ, to die is gain. Marriage doesn’t define my life. I have much to do—this blog is certainly on that list. I want to inspire, encourage, challenge, motivate, and uplift others with the hope of Christ! So, if nothing else, be lifted in His name, readers! Be inspired because He loves you, and He died and ROSE AGAIN so you could be free from a life where lust was more important than His Lordship. Don’t listen to the lies of this world telling you that you need sex in order to be happy and satisfied. Those are lies meant to keep you searching forever. Sure, sex may give you temporary happiness, but not lasting happiness; not joy. See, chocolate makes me happy, but Jesus’s love gives me joy. Basically, joy is a state of mind and soul, whereas happiness is only a transient experience until Heaven, where happiness will be experienced the same way joy is here, on Earth. You will never find joy through sex. Look for Jesus, accept His love and His hope, and then find your purpose in your faith. That’s where I am today, and I want others to believe in this truth for themselves, too. Let this be you!
May God bless you, may He keep you, and may He turn His face to shine upon you. He loves you more than you could ever imagine, and there’s nothing you could ever do to make Him want to love you; His love is unconditional, free, and it’s overwhelmingly satisfying. Fall into the love of God and let go of this world. It was never looking for you the way He always has. My past was hard, but Christ brought me through the darkest of painful memories so that I could tell you it’s possible to receive His love in faith and hope. Let this be your story too; let go of the things in this life that keep you clinging to the world; this world will pass, right after trying to rob you of your soul with transparent duplicity like the lie of finding joy and ultimate fulfillment in sex—but Jesus and His words will never deceive you. He will pick you up out of the muck and mire of life, sticking you right where you belong: His loving, perfect presence. He will save you and keep you going. Cling to that Truth. Cling to His love.
It’s all you’ll ever need.