The last few weeks I have been doing a lot of thinking about dating, romantic relationships, and marriage. One of the results that came from all my thinking was a desire to re-confirm my commitment to sexual purity. I decided that one way I could do this was by getting a ring and a chain which I would wear around my neck as a symbol to remind me of the commitment that I was making.
As I was looking at purity rings online I came across a ring that wasn’t a purity ring, but it conveyed the desire that was in my heart. It was a Celtic heart, and like most Celtic art everything was woven together, and as I looked at the ring I knew that was the essence of what I wanted to symbolize. The ring made me realize that the issue of commitment goes beyond sexual purity to include every aspect of my life.
If I want a healthy God-honoring marriage then I need to make a commitment that is larger than the commitment to sexual purity. Sex is just one area of marriage, so my commitment to marriage must include the other areas of my life. Basically the commitment I am making to marriage and my future wife is the same commitment to follow Jesus in every area of my life. The best way I can prepare for marriage is to adjust my life to God’s will. The husband my wife needs is the husband who is following Jesus and knows what it takes to obey God's will, even when it is difficult.
I will bring into marriage, not the man I hope to be, but the man I am. I bring with me all the baggage I have accumulated in life. I bring with me whatever family problems that I might have (thank God I have a wonderful family and so this really isn’t an issue at the moment), the financial debt I have obligated myself to, the emotional and physical health that I have, and the list could go on and on. The bottom line is that we bring all of ourselves, all of our history and experiences, into marriage. The wise Christian will use the time of singleness to prepare their lives for a healthy marriage and to begin the work of becoming the person God created them to be.
I think we begin to do this through prayer. If we want a marriage that is built on a foundation of faith, then we have to be praying for our marriage right now. This is part of the prayer that I have been praying daily for my future wife: “Lord fill her with a knowledge of Your will and with spiritual wisdom and understanding so that she will live a life that is worthy of Your Son Jesus. Help her to put down roots into Christ Jesus so that He will be her source of life.” If we want faith to be part of our marriage, then we need to take the initiative right now and pray for it.
We also need to establish the spiritual disciplines of Bible Study, prayer, service, and worship right now. If these activities aren’t a crucial to our lives before marriage there is no reason to think they will become crucial to our lives after marriage. If you desire to have a marriage that honors God, then you need to establish a life that honors God before you get married. Take advantage of being single to establish your life in Christ Jesus and pursue His calling for your life.
Besides making a commitment to live a spiritual life right now in order to build a marriage on a solid spiritual foundation, I want to share with you four commitments God has revealed to me that I need to make in order to have the marriage I that I desire to have.
The first commitment is the commitment to get out of debt. The only debt that I currently have is student loan debt, and while it is not a huge amount it is something that I need to pay off rather than obligating my wife to take on that extra responsibility. We singles need to remember that the financial decisions we make right now we will carry into marriage. If we want a marriage that is on strong financial footing then it is crucial that we start getting our financial house in order right now. We need to make a budget and figure out how we can pay off our debts as quickly as possible. One of the reasons debt is terrible is because what debt is using tomorrow’s money to buy the things we want today. Debt will only cause problems later on in our marriages and that is why we need to do what we can right now to eliminate it from our lives.
The second commitment is to emotional health. We all have junk in our lives which effects our behavior. One of the sad realities of living in a broken world is that we get hurt, and because we are hurt we find different means of coping with the pain. Many addictions and personality traits are coping mechanisms we have developed to deal with the pain in our lives. This is why, for the sake of our relationships and our marriages, we need to identify these things and do what we can to find help, healing, and understanding. The reason I have been to counseling is to help clarify those emotional issues in my life that affect the way I live life and how I can overcome their negative effects. When we are emotionally healthy we are in a much better position to relate to other people in positive and encouraging ways. When we are unhealthy emotionally we become a burden to those all those around us, and that is certainly not something we want to bring into a marriage.
The third commitment is to physical health. When we are young most of us take our physical health for granted and we don’t cultivate the habits we need to maintain a healthy life. A healthy life is important because it allows us to be more effective in the work God has called us to do. Being healthy also helps us to enjoy life as much as possible right now. Relationships are difficult if one or both people are struggling with health problems. While we don’t have complete control over what happens to us (hopefully we are all aware that sickness can come and rob us of our health at anytime) there are things we can do to promote our physical health. A very important thing we can do is to learn to eat correctly: what and how much we should eat. We also need to be active. Our lives should include times of physical work, exercise, and play. When we lead a balanced life we will find that we are better prepared to lead the life that God has called us to live. What I have also found is that when I am eating right and exercising regularly then my emotional life is also in much better shape.
The fourth commitment that I feel God has lead me to make in this time of singleness is the commitment to sexual purity. Sexual purity is about keeping sex in its proper spot, and that spot is marriage. We can be married and still be sexually impure, so it is vital that we start to instill in our lives right now the type of behavior that will lead us to honor the marriage bed (Hebrews 13:4) the rest of our lives. There has been a lot written on this subject, but let me give you two insights I have gleaned along my journey. The first insight is that I have no right to fantasize about a woman. The way she is dressed or how she acts doesn’t give me permission to use her in an unholy and ungodly manner. I have found that one of the best things I can do in this regard is to say, out loud, “No, I am not going to go down that road” when the temptation to fantasize appears in my head. When we allow ourselves to fantasize about women we turn them into objects for our pleasure, which will lead us to treating our wives in the exact same fashion, rather than treating them as daughters of the King.
A second insight is that I have to take precautions and set up boundaries which will guide my behavior. For instance, one of the reasons I don’t have TV in my house is because I don’t want to be tempted by the garbage that is on television. I use an internet filter which blocks objectionable content and limits the time I spend online to lessen the temptations which come by being online. This also requires us set strict boundaries for our behavior when we find ourselves in a dating relationship. I think guys have to take the lead in this area, and we have to set those boundaries before things start to get hot and heavy, other wise we will never establish the boundaries that will protect us from sexual sin.
My entire life is bound to the life of my wife, even though I have yet to meet her. The decisions that I make today will have lasting consequences, and so it is my responsibility to make positive God-honoring choices right now to lay a solid foundation for the marriage I hope to have. To do anything less is to dishonor my marriage before it even begins. That is why the ring that hangs around my neck is not a purity ring but an honor ring, for it reminds me that I have a responsibility right now to honor and cherish my wife.