In This Series:
Parents are big believers in waiting. Do you remember any of these? “Wait for your little brother!” as you ran off with your friends. “Wait a half hour before you get into the pool” just as you finished your lunch. “Wait until your father gets home!” as mom caught you pummeling your sibling for being such a nuisance.
Of course, it’s not really that they saw virtue in waiting itself. It’s just that waiting ensured something more important — loving your little brother, or protecting you from danger, or impressing on you the consequences of your actions.
There’s one other kind of waiting that parents try to teach — the patient waiting involved in delayed gratification. From staying in school because of the better job we’d someday get, to working hard at practice every day, so we’d be ready for the competition that was weeks or months away, to saving the money we earned mowing lawns or babysitting so we could pay for college or buy an engagement ring (I can’t tell you how many lawns are sitting on my wife’s finger right now!), we learn to wait patiently to maximize our future gratification. It’s a good lesson, as far as it goes.
But it doesn’t work for everything. Some things are best when done as soon as possible — like eating an ice cream cone on a hot day. And we can delay other things too long — like the vacation of a lifetime that comes too late to be fully enjoyed.
And then there’s sex.
At first, the argument to wait makes sense on the grounds of protecting yourself from something you’re not emotionally or physically ready for. Later, it makes sense because it will be better if it happens in a committed marriage. But what about now? You’re in your 20s or 30s; your career is taking off, and your body and emotions are about as developed as they will ever be. And though you’re not married, your relationships with the opposite sex are mature and adult-like in every other respect. So why keep waiting? You’re not a kid anymore. And even if sex is marginally better inside of marriage than outside, what if your prospects for marriage aren’t that good? Isn’t sub-optimal sex now better than no sex at all, ever?
That’s where we come to the limits of the “wait, because it’s better in marriage” argument. And it’s one reason so many of the single men and women I counsel in the local church find themselves in tears in my counseling office, telling me that after years of waiting, they just couldn’t wait any longer.
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