(This post discusses a more mature topic, so little eyes and ears, beware!) Today’s first reading is taken from Romans:
Brothers and sisters,
we are not debtors to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die, but if by the spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
For those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, “Abba, Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.
– Romans 8: 12-17
I needed to read this verse. We are not debtors to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die, but if by the spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. Galatians 5:19-21 tells us, “the works of the flesh are obvious: immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, occasions of envy, drinking bouts, orgies, and the like.” It continues to say, “In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”
Many of us become annoyed after realizing we have to say, “no” to the desires of the flesh, especially when it comes to physical, sexual temptations. In my life, I have fought very hard to not only abstain from sexual activity but to avoid getting into relationships with people that I knew would lead to destruction. Have there been occasions where I failed at this goal? Absolutely, but more often than not, by the grace of God, I succeeded. Was it easy to run away from guys I have been interested because I knew they looked like they were about to kiss me and we weren’t even dating much lest contemplating the idea of marriage? No, both because part of me wanted to give in and kiss them and because I probably looked like a weirdo running away so fast at the end of the night before they had the chance to kiss me. Was it easy when I was feeling lonely and in need of companionship in college and a guy asked me if I wanted to “come over and cuddle” and I had to say no because I knew it would likely lead into giving into physical temptations? No. Was it easy passing up dating nice, attractive, Catholic guys because I knew in my heart I didn’t want to marry them all while wishing I had a nice, attractive, Catholic, boyfriend? Absolutely not. I am so beyond glad I resisted those many temptations though, as it created much less baggage for me individually and less baggage to bring into my current relationship with my fiancé.
Even now that I am preparing for marriage, I must practice avoiding the desires of the flesh. Though overall my fiancé and I have been doing a fantastic job in terms of maintaining our purity standards, we made an observation that kissing each other too much right now threatens our goal of staying chaste. So, we are trying to avoid kissing for longer periods of time. Is it easy? No. Do I like it? Honestly, no. When you love someone, you are attracted to them, and you are planning on marrying them, of course you are going to want to be close to them in physical ways. It is our human nature and not a bad thing. We are called to reject those desires. Luckily in my case, I only have 200 days to go until I can be closer to my future husband, physically, but the truth is that chastity is carried out into a marriage as well. In marriage, purity doesn’t get thrown out the window just because sexual activity is permitted. As children of God we still need to be pure of heart, not look at one another in a lustful way, or be concerned with our own desires, pleasing ourselves. The way we express ourselves and our love for one another must still give glory to God. I found a helpful little list of guidelines online:
Guidelines on Sexual Purity in Marriage
1. Regularly evaluate your relationship with your spouse. Beware of poor communication, inadequate conflict resolution, poor sexual relationship, discontent, and other red flags. Keep your fingers on the pulse of your marriage!
2. Spend regular uninterrupted time together to communicate on all levels: spiritually, intellectually, emotionally, and physically. (Date your spouse. If it’s not happening, put it in your schedule!)
3. Share openly with each other—don’t harbor secrets or withhold personal struggles. (Every adultery begins with a secret.)
4. At work, surround yourself with reminders of your spouse and children. (Reinforce the connection to home.)
5. When away from home, make frequent contact with your spouse and children. (Call daily if possible.)
6. Be sure your relationships with the opposite sex are either casual or, if close, familial (sister/mother, I Timothy 5:1-2). Discern the subtle signs of attraction, and back off when you see them.
7. Be fiercely loyal to your spouse; speak highly of her/him and never downgrade her to anyone.
8. Don’t share your marriage problems with someone of the opposite sex, unless it is in a familial or professional relationships. (Even then, be careful).
9. Be sensitive to your spouse’s sexual needs (they may be different than yours). Communicate honestly; don’t harbor resentment.
10. Get your info on sex from those with a biblical perspective—watch out for popular sexperts and the media.
11. Be careful what you feed your mind on—what you watch and listen to and read, how you talk about sex, and what you laugh at. Guard your mind!
12. Anticipate, and then act to prevent, avoid and resist sexual temptation.
13. Be quick to confess and repent when you have engaged in mental impurity. Beware of cloudy thinking and rationalization!
14. When your sex drive is activated, mentally transfer it to your spouse.
15. Take time to cultivate your inner life. Take care of your spiritual health. You need internal strength to resist external pressure. There is no substitute for character.
16. Pray with and for each other.
17. Take care of your physical health; be as attractive to your mate as you can.
18. Be modest with others in public and sexy with your spouse in private—not the opposite!
19. Ask to be held accountable by a Christian friend or prayer partner.
20. Rehearse in advance the devastating consequences of immorality and a broken marriage. Count the cost of neglect and unfaithfulness!
( Taken from: http://www.epm.org/blog/2010/Jun/21/pursuing-sexual-purity-your-marriage )
I also love this quote from one of my favorite Saints, Pope JPII.
When we avoid being debtors to the flesh, we aren’t exactly saying, “no” to all the things we want to do, instead we are saying, “yes!” to love, joy, peace and all of the other beautiful and good fruits! It may be difficult, but it is worth it.
Any advice from married people, I would be eager to hear! Feel free to leave a comment below!