Picture Credit: Eric Roberson
Picture Credit: Eric Roberson

Heart Language

Posted on April 16, 2014

So last week, I had an article appear in the NY Times blog, Motherlode.  What an incredible opportunity and one that has taken me on quite a journey this past week.  First and foremost, I’ve received an outpouring of support, which has amazed me.  People telling me how much they appreciate the article, and how I have articulated their own experience of being young adults who love Jesus, love their faith but don’t necessarily agree with the stereotypes around their faith.

There was the e-mail from Grant, a hospital chaplain, who felt moved to write me and encourage me and who literally brought me to tears with his kind and generous words.  Largely, these types of comments and e-mails have been the rule.

However, a few stray arrows have found their way to my inbox.

Like this gem: “If you wouldn’t tell your non-Christian friends that Jesus came down from Heaven and died on the cross for their sins, are you sure you’re Christian at all?”

How does one answer a question like this?

What has fascinated me is the way in which my article has raised such ire in the Christian community.  I have touched a nerve; I have spoken to a fear.  I wonder exactly, what is that fear?

Why does taking my friends’ feelings and perspectives into consideration when I share my faith, mean that I’m not Christian?  Why does my unwillingness to proselytize my friends mean that I don’t have a personal relationship with Jesus?  Some people don’t want to be converted and I respect that.  In what way does my respect for a person’s unique spiritual journey compromise my own salvation?

In the end, I am who I am, and my faith is a part of my identity.  Anyone who wants to be my friend learns this about me.  I don’t hide my faith but neither do I have an agenda for my friends.  If they want to talk about faith, we’ll talk about it.  If they have questions, I answer them.

I believe that my life as a missionary kid has prepared me well for this conversation.  You see, growing up overseas has required me always to be aware of two cultures at once.  I always have one foot in each culture.  Missionary work is about building bridges, about empathy.

My husband’s family lived in Haiti for ten years and he remembers his father always telling him, “Dwayne, everywhere we go, we learn the heart language of the people.  Not the national language.”

You see, French, the national language of Haiti, was the language of the oppressors, of those who came and colonized. Haitians developed Creole as a way to speak to each other in the midst of their oppression.  Creole was their own.

Dave understood that in order to reach the people they were there to serve he couldn’t fly in from Canada and start speaking the language of those who had captured, abused, and oppressed the Haitians.  Yes, they would understand Dave on a literal level, but he would never truly reach them.  He had to get down on the ground level, learn the language of their hearts, and meet them on their terms.

In a similar way, I learned as a little white girl in an amalgam of cultures that I would not get very far if I always demanded that everyone learn to speak my language, learn to understand the world through my eyes.

I think Christians in America find themselves at a similar crossroads.  For so many decades, Christianity has been the majority voice in this country, the defining religious worldview.  It has shaped politics and social mores. Christianity has been the national language. But that is changing, shifting.  The majority is broadening, diversifying.

I think a new generation of Christians are taking the scene.  We understand that we can’t demand everyone speak our language, and meet us on our terms.

This new generation of Christians value relationships above proving ourselves right and we are dedicated to learning the heart language of our culture, not so that we can compromise and lose our roots, but so that we can better communicate the Truth.

Picture Credit: Colors 'N Spirits
Picture Credit: Colors 'N Spirits

On Not Being Christian Enough

Posted on April 3, 2014

At multiple turns this week, I’ve been reminded that I may not be “Christian enough.”  My family worries that I’m losing my roots.  My church community worries about my viability because I am open and affirming.

To be fair, I do tend to dive head long into topics on my blog that perhaps are out of my depth.  I do tend to wrestle with topics that make us all nervous: sex, the queer community, and Christian privilege.  But I do welcome any and all dissenting voices.

I welcome the corrections because I worry too that I’m slipping away from Jesus in my theology, that I’m compromising something eternal by wanting to be accepting. Funnily enough, my knee-jerk reaction when I face these concerns is to run out and convert someone, just to prove to everyone (and myself) that I am a solid Jesus follower.  Twisted motivation, I realize.  I’m learning to slow that roll down.

This week, the doubts and worries from the critic in my brain, as well as those closest to me, finally got to me.  After a particularly difficult conversation with a loved one who hinted that perhaps my worldview is too naive, and another loved one who told me that if I can’t handle the heat of these topics I just shouldn’t write about them, and after being told by our pastor I should read a book to help me see the Truth, I doubled up with anxiety.

I slumped through the day feeling my chest seize with each breath.  Am I naive? Am I compromising? Am I allowing myself to be duped?

That evening, Dwayne and one of our dearest friends, Eli, took the dog for a walk.  When they came back, they found me curled up on the couch, reading my Bible and praying — pleading desperately with Jesus to help me know if I’m walking away from Him.

“Can we join you?” Eli asked.  I nodded and he sat across the room in our old leather recliner.  I’ll tell you now that Eli is a transgender man.  That is to say he was born female, but a few years back transitioned to live his life as a man.

From the moment Dwayne and I met Eli, we were won over.  He is gentle, thoughtful, kind, and intelligent.

Over the last two years, Eli and I have had many conversations about religion, faith and Jesus.  Understandably, he’s never felt comfortable at church, but has always been intrigued by Christianity.  We meet regularly for lunch and talk about life, writing, and faith.

So it was natural for me to share with him that evening about my anxiety over not being Christian enough.  I shared with him and Dwayne about the concerns my family and my church community have about me.  Because I love these people and respect them, their concerns immediately make me doubt myself.

Am I compromising something eternal?  Am I sliding away from Jesus?

“I’m afraid of being duped into believing something that’s wrong,” I confessed, thinking of all the questions I’ve been wrestling with these last several months.

Eli sat quietly and then asked, “But you know you’re not, right?”

Suddenly, I was crying.  I hardly knew the tears were there until they hit my cheeks.

The next day Eli sent me a letter.  In it, he told me what I already knew: that he has never felt at home in Christian communities and had given up on ever being able to have faith in his life, aside from talking to God every night before he goes to bed.

But then he went on to share something that I didn’t know.  He told me that he thought his faith conversation was over until he met Dwayne and me.

“You open me up to the possibility of connecting with something that I long ago concluded wasn’t really going to happen. You make me want to explore faith more deeply and to allow it to become more of my life than the conversations I have with God every night before bed.”

I will ride on these words for the next several years. I may not be Christian enough, but at least my questions have made it safe for Eli to engage faith — and Jesus — again.  And I think in the end, that’s all I really want my family and my church community to see and know.  I’m okay.  I love Jesus.  And God is using me.

Shipwrecked in LA

Hard Learned Lessons from the Business of Writing Books

Posted on March 12, 2014

Okay, so my business acumen is nil.  Truly.  And oh, how this nips me in the behind when it comes to writing books.  We all know that writing books these days is not about going up to the mountain, writing to your little heart’s content, then passing the manuscript onto publishers who will make you all kinds of money.

Nope.  Doesn’t work that way anymore.

Now we, the writers, are responsible for marketing, promoting and selling our own books.

Case in point, I got my first royalties check from my publishers this past September.  Even though I had sold over 500 books by that point, I still got a check for a whopping $0.  Why?  Because the publishers keep your royalties until they recoup their advance.

“Oh yeah, that’s normal,” said my office mate at Gettysburg College.  He’s written a book.  The same was true for him.  I asked a handful of colleagues who have also published books and they all said the same thing, “Yep.  That’s typical.”

Suddenly that old mantra that nearly everyone who works in publishing has ever told me came ricocheting out of the depths of my memory.  “You don’t write books to make money!”

Suddenly, a new realization came crashing down on me with the force of a boulder.  I’m going to have to sell over 3000 books before I make any money off my 12% royalties.  Then this second realization clipped the tail of the first: the only way to make money from my books is to buy them from the publisher at my discounted author’s price and sell them myself. Duh.

I had known that I would make more money selling my own books, since I can buy them at a reduced price from the publishers.  But I hadn’t paid much attention to this knowledge, nor planned for it.

I bought 50 books as soon as Shipwrecked was published.  But wouldn’t you know, because my business acumen is nil (as mentioned before), I gave away most of those books and didn’t make enough money in order to buy another batch of books. Humfph.  I vaguely remember Dwayne warning me as I was giving away my books, “Don’t eat your seeds, Christin!”

So here I am, with pennies in my book account and no books to sell as I go out to do all my speaking engagements. Nor do I have any money to do additional marketing things like updating my website.

Yes, that is me rolling my eyes at myself.

I sat down with Dwayne yesterday over lunch to talk about this conundrum.  He fancies himself my manager, which would be great, except I haven’t listened to him or his advice until this point.

“Okay, tell me what to do,” I mumbled.

After a few moments of gloating, “I told you so,” he played it straight with me.

“You need to sell an article or two, then use that money to buy more books.”

Well, that seems simple enough.  Why didn’t I listen to him sooner?  So, I’ve spent the last hour researching publications that pay for articles, and that might fit my writing themes.

Now, all I need to do is decide what to write about….

IMG_1496.JPG

Love is a Drive, Not an Emotion

Posted on March 10, 2014

Get this: the passions associated with romantic love actually come from the same location in the brain as our drives for hunger and sleep?  Isn’t that interesting? Because of these findings, Dr. Helen Fisher, a biological anthropologist from Rutgers University, argues that romantic love, just like sex, is actually a “fundamental human mating drive.”  In other words, our desire to fall in love is actually more akin to the drive for food and water, than it is an emotion.

Let’s break this down because I think the implications of this shift in thought about romantic love as a drive versus an emotion are fascinating and also life changing.

First, let’s look at a basic definition of a drive: Neuroscientist Donald Pfaff defines a drive as a “neural state that energizes and directs behavior to acquire a particular biological need to survive or reproduce.”  If this is true about romantic love, then our brain and our body compels us to pursue romantic love like we need food, sleep, and drink.

Here’s how Fisher lines it up:

- Like a drive, romantic love is “tenacious”, where as emotions come and go, even sometimes hour by hour.  We can be angry in the morning, and then happy by the evening.

- Like drives, romantic love is focused on a particular “reward”, the beloved. Similarly, hunger is focused on food. On the other hand, emotions pin themselves on many different objects or ideas.  For example, we can be disgusted by certain types of food, and living standards, and people all at once.

- Like drives, romantic love does not have a stereotypical facial expression (well, except for the googly eyes of cartoons ;-).  By contrast, just ask my two year-old what the facial expression for anger, excitement, fear, and sadness are.  He’ll be happy to show you.

- Like drives, Fisher points out that romantic love is “exceedingly difficult to control.”  She offers as an example, that it’s harder to curb your thirst, than it is to control your anger.

- And finally, like all drives romantic level is associated with higher levels of dopamine in the brain.

So if we understand romantic love as a basic human drive, how does this change the messages we internalize about our romantic lives?  How does this change the start of our now decade long journey to find a life partner?  Well, I think the first shift in thought comes with the realization that unlike emotions, we can not control or repress romantic love anymore than we can control hunger or thirst or the need for warmth.

Think about this for a moment.  Because really it’s a radical shift.  If we understand that we have an innate compulsion toward falling in love, it changes entirely the way we approach relationships.

Now, I can hear the objections already, the voices of fear rising out of the crowd. “Are you suggesting we throw our hands up in the air and be controlled by our drives?” they ask.  No, absolutely not.  I believe that acknowledging our drive to feel the warm fuzzies of romantic love does not actually leave us at its mercy.  On the contrary! I think education about our drives liberates, where as mis-education devastates. When we know what we’re dealing with, we’re actually empowered to make wiser decisions.  We can take charge of our live and our circumstances in new ways.

For example, Helen Fisher points out that drives fall along a continuum.  Some drives, like thirst and the need for warmth will not be satisfied until we are given a drink or a warm blanket.  But other drives like sex, hunger and the “maternal instinct”, Fisher says can often be redirected or even quelled. In other words, we may not be able to control or even repress our drive for romantic love, but we can definitely channel it!

Let’s take this back to hunger.  All too often when we repress or deny our hunger, we end up binging.  And what do we binge on?  Usually on what’s easiest and most accessible: junk food — pizza, chips, soda, Doritos (those glorious little triangles of neon orange).

I think this is the same with our romantic love drive.  If we ignore it or repress it, it will come barreling out of the dark pit of our brokenness, and all too often the consequences of satisfying that drive will be devastating and life altering.

Like hunger, I think we can channel our drive for romantic love toward healthy options.  When we’re hungry, we can choose to eat fruits, vegetables, whole grains, clean meats.  We can practice this same sort of holistic nourishment with our romantic lives, all the while satisfying that basic drive for romantic love.

If this is true, what would it look like to channel this drive in a healthy direction?  To recognize that we are going to feel compelled to fall in love no matter what we do or don’t do?  What does acknowledging this drive mean for people who are going to remain single?  Or what does it mean for those who will eventually settle down and commit to a life partner?  Either way, what would it look like to meet this need for romantic love with soul nourishing and body nourishing choices?

I love thinking outside of the box in these ways!  I love the subtle, but polar shift it brings to our lives.  

If I know that I have a basic drive to fall in love, then why wouldn’t I choose to channel that drive toward partners that I know are healthy, toward relationships that I know will edify, and toward people with whom I can set healthy boundaries?

And for those who are going to remain single, if I know that I have a basic drive to fall in love, then in what ways can I seek to channel that drive outside a relationship, rather than repress or deny it?

In the end, we all know what happens when we try to ignore our drives.  As these things go, we find ourselves at the mercy of such drives, driven into the arms of a culture that is all too happy to oblige with an array of “junk food” for our hearts.

on the beach_2

How Do You Know When You’ve Found a Soul Mate?: More Reflections on Young Adult Love

Posted on February 20, 2014

Sometimes I marvel at how Dwayne ever decided he liked me.  If you see pictures of me from college, you’ll see a frog of a girl.  I was skinny with acne, eczema on my eyelids and a bad hair cut.  When I ask Dwayne now, “How were you ever attracted to me?”

He says, “You were really nice.”

:-)  Well, here’s to nice girls getting their guys!

The truth is, as I’ve been doing more research on how young adults fall in love today, I’ve been reading about how we pick and choose our mates, the ones we think we want to be with forever.

According to Jeffrey Jensen Arnett’s studies in emerging adulthood, 94% of young adults want to be married eventually.  So despite all the freedom we have now in relationships — the freedom to date frequently, the freedom to pursue education, the freedom to work, the freedom to engage in premarital sex, the freedom to bend gender roles around dating protocol — nearly everyone still envisions a future wherein they are married and “settled down.”

Arnett went on to ask young adults what they looked for in a potential spouse, and the list was pretty consistent across the board:

- Someone with similar interests and hobbies

- Someone with a similar worldview and beliefs

- Someone with whom they are physically attracted

- And above all, someone who is a soul mate.

The editor of the NY Times Modern Love Column, Daniel Jones, has a thing or two to say about soul mates. He has read tens of thousands of love stories over the last decade, and in his book Love Illuminated, he explores all the expectations we have around love today, particularly our expectation of finding a soul mate.  In an interview with Katie Couric, he spoke to this soul mate obsession.  He said that having a soul mate is a great thing later on in a relationship, but in the beginning, no body is going to get us on that deep level.  He argued that we can sabotage relationships if we’re looking for someone to get us so intimately, right off the bat.

I totally agree with Jones, and I would add that we also run the risk of conflating sexual attraction with soul attraction, if we come at a relationship expecting to find someone who intuitively gets us immediately.

So the question shifts.  It spins and slides along the continuum of expectation.  The question becomes, not how do we know when we’ve found our soul mate?  But how do we know when we’ve found someone with whom we can grow into a soul mate?

Ah, now there’s a question worth chewing on.  Again, I don’t know that I have the answer for this.  I suspect that we all have some great insights on this.  I mean, how do any of us know when we’ve found something of quality?  Something of value?  Something worth investing in?

Over the years, Dwayne has always stood by his answer that what first attracted him to me was how nice I was.  To me, this has always seemed kind of lame.  I want him to have wanted me in that sort of electric way, that two-live-wires-touching sort of way.  But the truth is, Dwayne has always been a really good judge of quality over trendy.  I see this in his day-to-day taste in clothes, music, food, etc.   And he was right, I come from a family that isn’t flashy, but we’re solid, we’re healthy, we’re good people. Lucky for him, the Wrights also have a history of aging well. We just get better with time, like good wine. ;-)

The second thought that hits me about this whole growing into your soul mate business, is that once you find someone who has the potential to be a good soul mate, then it’s important to be intentional about creating the kind of adventure that allows you to know each other in intimate ways, and I’m not just talking about sex here, people.

I mean, it’s the shared experiences that you have with someone that allows them to get to know you at an intimate level.  It’s seeing each other under duress.  It’s seeing each other dealing with new and exciting experiences.  It’s experiencing vistas of great beauty together.  It’s sharing moments of pure adrenaline together.  That’s when you see someone’s inner self emerge, that’s when you get to see who someone truly is, what makes them tick.

A year after we got married, Dwayne and I packed up our things, left our family behind and moved across the country to LA.  We were so out of league, and yet so alive with adrenaline and excitement and hope.  I’ve always thought that we moved to LA so I could work in the entertainment industry. Which is true. I’ve always known that in moving to LA, Dwayne and I grew up, we found ourselves.  But I think, now, that another thing is true.  I think that by moving to LA, by embarking on such a wild adventure together, we not only found ourselves, we found each other.

The Waiting Game — Reflections on What You Shared With Me

Posted on January 22, 2014

After posting my article, “The Waiting Game: Sex, Singlehood and the Changing Time Table for Marriage,” you all sent me some of the most amazing e-mails and notes.  In all, I had about 500 hits on that post. Thank you all so much for reading, as well as chiming in and putting flesh and bones to my questions.

Because the questions I posed in my post are so difficult to answer, I thought it might be valuable to share (anonymously) some of the responses I got, to sort of give us all a picture of just how varied and nuanced this topic is.  I read recently that there are as many sides to an issue as there are people, and I think the stories I heard from you all definitely prove this to be true of sexuality and singlehood.

Here are some of the reactions and insights you all shared with me:

One single woman shared her experience that after 38 years of singlehood she’s finally found peace and freedom.  Truly, it was inspiring reading her story.  She has not always felt so good about being single. But finally, she has reached a place of not just acceptance but empowerment in her singleness.  She leads a really great, enriched and full life, with a strong network of friends.  And as far as sex and sexual urges goes, she likened it to when you feed your body sugar, you crave sugar.  But when you stop eating sugar you don’t crave it anymore.  She said the thought of having sex is about as foreign to her as living on Mars, because it’s just not an option in her life right now.

Meanwhile, two other single women in their thirties shared with me that they have not been able to leave their sexual desires behind.  One woman revealed that physical touch is a top love language for her, and the lack of physical intimacy in her life is an enduring source of pain.  The other woman wondered about the viability of masturbation as a way to meet these sexual desires, but still felt hung up on whether or not such a thing could be honoring to God and a future spouse.

Now, on the relationship front, I heard from a lovely young woman in her twenties, who is currently in a committed relationship with her boyfriend of four years.  They are both living at home with their parents while they finish school, and in her words, marriage is still a long way off.  As a Christian young couple, they both desire to be abstinent, but of course, they feel that tension of growing closer emotionally, spiritually, and mentally, while simultaneously having to hold their physical intimacy back.

Two married women, both from varied religious backgrounds, voiced their concerns that it isn’t healthy to wait so long to have sex.  One woman shared that her parents got married young in order to be able to have sex, and went on to have a very rocky first 20 years of their marriage.  She wondered whether or not her parents were really that suited for one another, and if they might have been able to find better life partners had they not placed such a high value on abstinence.

The other woman, shared that most of the women she knew who had waited to have sex until their thirties, regretted such a choice. She also pointed out that none of the men she knew had arrived at their wedding nights virgins.  “There’s that double standard,” she pointed out.

Which brings me to the one and only male I heard from.  He acquiesced that “some battles have to be lost in order to win the war.” In other words, that most men who are virgins until their late twenties and thirties, are going to lose the battle against pornography.

Finally, I heard from one mother of grown children, who pointed out that sexual urges are not necessarily “needs.”  We don’t die if these sexual urges are not met.  She conceded that they are desires, and very strong ones, but not “needs.”

So there you have it: a quick overview of some of the highlights of the stories I heard.

As I said, these personal experiences put flesh and bones on the questions I asked.  It’s easy to make sweeping judgements and assumptions about what the answers to these questions regarding sexuality and the changing time table of marriage should be, until we actually hear the stories of people living through it.

In the end, I’m reminded of the research of William Perry, the groundbreaking educational psychologist.  He talks about the moment in our young adult years when suddenly we realize that there are several viable answers to each question.  This realization can leave us dizzy with panic.  If there are so many more questions for every question, if there are so many reasonable perspectives, how then am I to make up my mind?  How then am I to find where I stand in this world?

Perry writes that the central burden and joy of adulthood is taking responsibility for our convictions.  He says, “The commitment we are talking about is of a special form.  We have called it personal commitment in a relative world.  By this we mean to distinguish it from commitments which have been taken for granted to the extent that they have never been questioned, never compared to alternatives which could be ‘thinkable to the self’” (emphasis mine).  In other words, we live in a world with many perspectives and many experiences.  As we venture out into the world, we will encounter these other perspectives, and we will be mighty rigid human beings if we don’t at least listen and consider the gradient of color and thought in our world.

In the end, our convictions, will never truly be ours if we just take them for granted and never think critically about them.

The key is not to get overwhelmed and throw out our entire compass, but to discover, take responsibility for, and commit to the convictions that will guide our life and best honor our values.  The key is to know why we do what we do, and to make sure our actions and decisions line up with the guiding principles of our lives. For me, as a person of faith, I want to make decisions, difficult or not, that honor my relationship with Jesus, and honor who I believe God has created me to be.

My hope and prayer is that we will find in the midst of these difficult questions about sex and singlehood, no easy or sweeping answers but the courage to stand on personal conviction in a vibrant world full of shadow and light.

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The Waiting Game: Sex, Singlehood, and The Changing Time Table for Marriage

Posted on January 14, 2014

Let me throw some statistics at you about marriage and singlehood over the last half Century. In the 1960′s the median age for marriage was 22 for men, 20 for women.  These days, according to scholar Jeffery Jensen Arnett, the average age for men to get married is 28, 26 for women.

As Amy Rauer points out in her study on romantic relationship patterns in young adulthood, marriage used to be the first step to becoming an adult, but now for many young adults, marriage has become the last step.

In her article, “Mating Games: Changing Rules for Sex and Marriage” Stephanie Coontz raises the interesting insight that the culture of hooking-up has evolved as a way of meeting a very real challenge young adults face: the challenge to meet sexual needs when we don’t necessarily plan on getting married anytime soon.  

You see, because we’re waiting longer to get married, we’re left with more years to explore these sexual desires. Arnett and Rauer both point out that the “period in which individuals are having premarital relationships has lengthened to over a decade for many young adults”.  In other words, the time between when we start feeling attraction to when we finally get married, has spiraled out into a stack of time.

This poses an interesting quandary, I think, for young adults who want to be virgins until they get married, especially Christian young adults.

First, how reasonable is this expectation? Vance Rains, chaplain at Florida State University says 85% of students on his campus are sexually active.  How different are these numbers from a private Christian college?  I don’t doubt that kids at Biola University are having less sex than kids at Gettysburg College, but still, we know sex is happening.

So, what do we do? If we tell young adults to WAIT, then they will likely be waiting ten years longer than their parents did to meet those same sexual needs.

You know, this just raises all kinds of questions and internal arguments for me.  On one hand, I hear the voice for celibacy:

“Life is not all about sex,” it says.  “We are more than our sexual desires.  They do not define us.”

With my whole heart, I can get behind this statement!  Yes!  Yes!  Lord, may we be free of the over-sexualization of this culture.  This society.  This media.  It’s enough to make me want to leave the country all together.

But still, another voice says inside, “But we are sexual beings.  God created us to be such.  He created what turns us on and what delights us, when he wove us together in our mothers’ wombs.  It’s folly to ignore these desires and urges in our kids, and teenagers and young adults.”

So what do we do?  What do we do with this generation of young adults who love Jesus, who have healthy strong sexual urges, but will likely not get married until their thirties?  We’re looking at 15 years of abstinence now, tops.  And if we’re honest with ourselves, how many twenty-somethings will arrive at their wedding night virgins, even when they want to?

So how do we talk to young adults about this seeming no-man’s land of singlehood and sex?  What expectations are realistic?  How do we teach ourselves to connect with our spirituality, our Creator, our bodies, and our partners (both present and future)?

I have no answers here.  Just questions.

I remember a conversation with a close friend just a day or two before her wedding.  She and I were behind closed doors, alone in a bedroom.  I was helping her get into her wedding dress for a fitting.

The conversation inevitably turned to nerves and excitement and the wedding night.  “I’m so worried he’ll be disappointed with me.” My friend said.

“Don’t worry,” I chirped. “He’ll just be so excited to see a naked woman.”  I grinned from ear to ear, but my friend crashed suddenly into silence.

“Actually, that’s not true,” she said.  “He’s seen naked women before.”

My face contorted into one confused question.  Here’s a testament to my level of naivete: pornography was not the first thing that jumped to mind.  I stood there trying to figure out where and when and how this upstanding young man, for whom I felt quite a bit of fondness, had landed himself in a room with naked women before his wedding day.

“He’s looked at pornography.”  She went onto to explain that her fiance had struggled with it in the past, but since dating her, he hadn’t had any desire to look at it.

My heart began pounding in my chest.  I wasn’t sure how to take this new information about my friend’s fiance.  How would his past struggles with porn impact their current sexual intimacy?

“Honestly, Chrstin,” my friend looked up at me with puppy dog eyes, “I don’t know how any guy who’s made it to their late twenties as a virgin could go without looking at porn.”

There it is again: that looming question — how do young adults seeking abstinence, and healthy sexual intimacy, face down a stack of years of singlehood, while circling their sexual needs in a kind of holding pattern?

Sure, we could do this when we only had to wait two or three years out of high school to get married, when, according to Coontz, most dating relationships lasted around 3 months before ending in engagement.  But what does it mean when we end up waiting over a span of ten years?

Is it possible, to leave our sexuality on the shelf for so long, without it falling prey to time, and temptation, dust and frustration?

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