Dentists have a way of asking questions at all the wrong times. Last summer as I was reclined on a chair with a mouthful of dentist tools and liquids, my hygienist decided to make small talk about my summer. I attempted to explain that I had recently started dating someone. To my great surprise, her immediate response was, “Do you guys live together?” I stammered a “no” in reply, mentioning something about how we had only been dating a few weeks and “were pretty G-rated.”
But as time went on, my (now) fiancé and I continued to get asked that question. I was astonished to realize that people just expected it — cohabiting was the norm.
A recent Barna study found that nearly two-thirds of adults (65 percent) either strongly or somewhat agree that it’s OK to live with one’s significant other before getting married. Among those who identify as having no faith, 88 percent believe it is not only OK, but that it’s a good idea.
So why don’t my fiancé and I live together?
It’s not because it doesn’t sound fun. Or because we are old-fashioned or super strong Christians who don’t face temptation. It certainly isn’t cheaper to live apart.
Because we want the Lord to be pleased with us. Most likely if you are living together, you are also sleeping together. But the thing is, sex is not just physical, but also spiritual. When you have sex with someone who is not your spouse, you are not only taking something from that person that isn’t yours and sinning against your own body, but you are ultimately sinning against God. He created sex to be an act of worship to Him, representing the union of a man and woman who love each other the way that God loves the church and has covenanted with her. Outside of marriage, you can’t reflect that picture; in fact, you actually defile it. So my purpose in saving my virginity is not to simply give a nice gift to my husband on my wedding night, but to please my greatest love — the Lord God who made my body and my soul.
It is better for the relationship. As Tim Keller once said, “cohabitation is like one long audition.” You have to constantly prove that you will make a good mate, and if you mess up, it’s likely game over. But with marriage, you are committed to stick around no matter what. You don’t have to prove your value — there is less pressure. Family Studies recently found that men who cohabit have “higher levels of depression and anxiety symptoms than those who don’t.” They also found that “women have greater abandonment anxiety, and for both men and women, greater negative interaction and lower relationship confidence were significantly associated with cohabiting.”
In addition, the time prior to marriage is essential in building trust with one another. When you both throw your rules and values out the window just to do what feels good in the moment, it can come back to bite you later. You may wonder if your partner will do that again with someone else in spite of their marital vows, or vice-versa. So living together can actually, scientifically and philosophically, be harmful to your mental state and your relationship.
But while refusing to cohabit is a great start — and a higher standard than that upheld by much of society — it still doesn’t reach God’s desired mark for you.
Just committing to not live together doesn’t make you pure. As my fiancé and I have discovered, purity is a constant battleground. It is one thing to decide not to live together or sleep together. It is another to fight for purity in your mind, in your “innocent” kisses and touches — to fight for purity in the gray areas, in the times when no one else is watching.
In her book “Passion and Purity,” Elisabeth Elliot said, “If there is an enemy of souls (and I believe there is), one thing he cannot abide is the desire for purity. Hence a man or woman’s greatest passions become his battleground. The Lover of souls does not prevent this. I was perplexed because it seemed to me he should prevent it, but he doesn’t. He wants us to learn to use our weapons.”
One of the biggest things I have learned through dating and engagement is the power of using the armor God gave us in Ephesians. The belt of truth, which holds everything together and leads to right thinking, the sword of the Spirit to instruct me in the midst of temptation, and the shield of faith when it seems like God’s rules are hard and unfair, have been some of my greatest allies in overcoming temptation.
And for those moments when I didn’t fight the battle well, those moments that I gave the enemy ground, I have learned anew the beauty of grace and the power of salvation to free me from bondage. Oh, Satan is good at lying, arguing there is no hope for temptation’s escape, piling on guilt and shame. But we must remember there is true purity for no one except by the blood of Jesus. And when we place ourselves back under the yoke of sin’s bondage, we must remember that God already broke the chain of slavery and we are free to come out from under it —free to be forgiven and made whole.
Wherever you are on your journey for purity, let me leave you with this encouragement: You are not alone in it. As 2 Chronicles 16:9 says, “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth to give strong support to him whose heart is blameless.” While none of us are blameless on our own merit, we are made blameless because of the forgiveness we find in Jesus. Friend, keep fighting for what is right! The Lord is looking to support you in it.
Ashley Mazelin is a publicist at Focus on the Family. She originally hails from northern Indiana and graduated from Grace College with a degree in Journalism in 2013. In her free time she likes drinking coffee, exploring the Rocky Mountains and reading interesting books