I’ve had the first draft of this post, originally planned as part 1 of 2 for the Boundaries prompt, since January. I didn’t expect, then, to see LoveBlog take the direction it did. I also didn’t expect to find myself with an early visit from one of women’s many nightmares, setting me back 4 posts over the end of last week and the beginning of this one. Some of the titles I really liked, and I aim to catch up with them, even if it will be after the challenge ends. Others, I wasn’t as inspired, so we’ll see. I find that I tend to keep relationship-related posts for this challenge as if I’m scared of talking about something too much if I touch upon relationship the rest of the year and then according to the prompts. I realised, thanks to a comment from a friend, that maybe that’s the wrong strategy. Having said that, I am going ahead with the original topic for affection, which was chastity outside of marriage.
Since the last time I touched this draft, I have reached the 2nd week of the Total Consecration to Jesus Through Mary, which I’m doing using simultaneously 33 Days to Morning Glory and the Totally Yours app based on the original retreat by St Louis de Montfort. This is relevant not because I’m trying to appear holier than thou, but because the reading for today involved a reflection on St Maximillian Kolbe, who has it happens has been a saint that has stayed with me since childhood (and in fact a role model even at a time of deep atheism). As part of the reflection, there was a line about how purity was not just about the lack of sex, but purity of intentions.
“A person practices purity of intention when he directs his thoughts, words, and actions not to himself or another creature but to a divine purpose or mission, and ultimately to God.” And this sentence completely rocked my perspective to what it was even a month ago.
I have lost count of the number of people who made a comment to the extent that not having sex before marriage was a thing of the past and surely it’s not the case that Catholics have to follow this rule anymore. Only a minority of them were Catholics, in fact from the circles I move in it seems that people aren’t even grabbing a coffee unchaperoned. Still, Mr Knightley texted me an article from Our Sunday Visitor once where a priest laid out how to create healthy boundaries (Dating and Chastity). A lot of literature around chastity, especially coming from the purity culture, treat it as a list of dos and don’ts. While Fr Morrow has some don’ts to list, it isn’t all actions that would qualify as the physical touch love language. Morality isn’t as black and white when judged from the point of view of intention rather than the result, and even for actions that seem to be completely innocent from the point of view of results may not be so for someone.
People are aroused by different things. A tender kiss can be innocent for someone, but just enough to bring sexual feelings into the mix for someone else. Sometimes, such a disparity happens to be between the two partners themselves, and it can create conflict if one doesn’t accept that something that is fine for them is a near occasion of sin for the other person, and crosses a boundary. For a relationship to work, there needs to be the willingness to restrain oneself if necessary to respect the other person’s boundaries. You shouldn’t even ask why the boundary is there. What made this advice interesting the most was that it came from a man who came late to his vocation, and so can rely on his own experience of dating for advice that is practical, realistic and rooted in the struggles that are often taboos. That’s not something that can be said of everyone sharing their two cents on the scene of purity talks, especially not the now semi-repentant author of I Kissed Dating Goodbye, who admitted in a recent documentary that he wrote a book sounding like he knew all his stuff when frankly he had hardly lived at all.
Still, even as good as this article is, it doesn’t break the mould of purity culture discourse: it’s all about the other person. The impact that choosing to display affection chastely has on someone’s relationship with God is mentioned in passing. However, looking at purity from the point of view of the purity of intention rather than action puts God back at the centre. The reason we think of living a relationship chastely nowadays is a thing of the past is because too few go for the narrow gate. The displays of affection that the world tells us are necessary for a couple’s health and happiness are easy. We are meant to want those things, and for that reason, they were made really pleasurable things. And unless you fall in the asexual 1% of the population, you really cannot avoid being sexually attracted to the person you love. Talking about respecting the dignity of the other person as a God-living creature is, in my opinion, not a strong enough reason to prevent people from following the lures of the world: yes, the sacramental nature of marriage affects a person, but otherwise the same person with the same dignity is the person who will be in the marital bed after the rite is performed. If you can love them in a way that cherishes their dignity once married, the reason to avoid sex is not that it does not respect the dignity of the person. What keeping sex for marriage does is honour God because God commanded so: it is an act of self-sacrifice that should start from the desire to empty ourselves so that God can be glorified through our lives. The dignity of the other person is secondary, in fact, another person is not necessary for us to live chastely.
If you read widely in the Christian blogosphere, you’ll see plenty of people who did not choose to remain chaste until marriage and all shades in between. I don’t presume to judge where a person stands with regards to God, and their sins (repented or otherwise) are none of my concern. To me, choosing to show affection to the other person chastely is the beginning of the work of sanctification that takes place within a marriage, whether or not that person will end up being your spouse: it orients you towards helping the other person get to heaven, and letting the other person help you get to heaven. It isn’t about sex at all, but about giving up something we want for the sake of the Kingdom: like a gorgeous slice of Peggy Porschen cake on Ash Wednesday or that extra episode of whatever you’re watching on Netflix when really you should be getting ready for Mass. It should be looked at not as deprivation, although in a way it is, but as spiritual abundance. The world may say that you are lacking, but your relationship will be richer than you ever thought possible.
This post is part of the LoveBlog challenge on the topic of Affection.
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Brita of Belle Brita
Brita Long is the pink and sparkly personality behind the Christian feminist lifestyle blog, Belle Brita. On her blog and social media, you’ll discover more than authentic storytelling–she’s brutally honest about pursuing a fulfilling and joyful life even with Crohn’s Disease and depression.
Sarah of Sarah Nderi Blog
Sarah is a 22 year old Digital Content Creator who loves reading, writing, fashion, music, travel, coffee and a blank screen (page). Her favourite things to do are reading, swimming, making animation films, hiking and listening to music.